With technical diving becoming more popular every year, the boys and girls from Scuba Travel like to keep their skills at the forefront of technical diving… well Shem anyway!  So down to Vobster he headed last month and delved into the world of tek diving at TekCamp 2011.  We’ll let Shem tell the story…

Monday, 5 o’clock in the morning, my car is full of technical diving equipment and I am heading for one of the most interesting events in my diving calendar – Vobster Quay’s Tek Camp.  Tek Camp is a one of a kind event during which you can actually test dive brand new equipment but most of all, you can dive with one of the top technical diving instructors in the UK.

Happy divers splashing in!

Day one: After arrival and a briefing from Vobster Quay Manger we were assigned our instructor for the day.  I was assigned to Phill Short who is the Training Director for IANTD in the UK and very experienced cave diver. The topic for the morning workshop was mastering your trim and basic line laying skills.  During our lunch break we had a chance to listen to Duncan Price – one of the most experienced cave explorers in the UK. His talk was on Wookey Hole Cave Diving and Exploration. PADI IDC Staff Trainer Paul Toomer also gave a very interesting talk on an “Introduction to Technical Diving”.

During the afternoon we were up for some more diving with Phil and this time we were training all the safety drills on closed circuit rebreather including: bailout drills, shut down drills and emergency ascents.

After a lovely BBQ we headed to the nearby farm for a quick beer or a bottle of soft drink and another presentation. Evening presentation was by Scuba Travel’s TEK Guru Mark Powell and it was on the subject of Decompression Theory for Divers.  After presentation we headed to the campsite for a good night’s sleep.

Day Two: After an early morning and manager’s briefing we were assigned our instructor for today. Today I will be diving with Rich Stevenson – yet another very experienced technical rebreather diver. Rich has many expeditions under his belt including the one to explore the wreck of RMS Carpathia. Today we were test diving the state-of-the-art Sentinel Rebreather running some basics skills. For lunch we had a series of very interesting talks. First talk by instructor Howard Payne on emergency procedures – above and under water.  Second lunchtime talk was by a GUE instructor John Kendal, who recently took part in the world record breaking cave traverse from Turner Sink to Wakulla Spring.

In the evening GUE Training Director Rich Walker did presentation on wreck diving in Norway, where many of the wrecks have significant histories. All the talks were supported by multiple high quality photos along with some of the wrecks history.

Mark getting ready for a dive

Day Three: Yet another beautiful morning on our TEK campsite and a quick coffee from a stove and here we go again. Today I am assigned to Martin Robson who is introducing us to very interesting Poseidon Mark VI rebreather.  Martin is again one of the most experienced diving explorers in the UK but he loved sharing his vast experienced with us. After running a basic introduction on the unit we were off for the dive in mysterious waters of the Vobster Quarry.

During lunch time were up for a real treat as Mark Powell prepared a fantastic presentation on the first live-aboard expedition to the wreck of HMS Hermes – the world’s firs purpose build aircraft carrier. Mark is also running regular Tek diving trips with Scuba Travel in 2011/12.

HMS Hermes was launched in 1919 and after her distinguished career she was retired. The ship was returned to active duty in 1939 when the WWII broke out. After taking part in a strike against French Vichy forces in Dakar she was ordered to patrol Indian Ocean as part of the Eastern Fleet. During the Indian Ocean mission, Hermes was in harbour at Trincomalee, undergoing repairs. Advance warning of a Japanese air raid allowed her to leave port, but as she returned following the raid 09 April 1942, she was spotted off Batticaloa by a Japanese reconnaissance plane. With 814 Naval Air Squadron ashore, she was defenseless when she was attacked by 70 Japanese bombers from Admiral Nagumo’s Fast Carrier Task Force and ships Akagi, Hiryu and Soryu. Hit no less then 40 times by 250kg bombs, Hermes sank in less then an hour, with the loss of 307 men – 19 officers, 288 ratings including Captain Onslow. Other vessels HMAS Vampire, HMS Hollyhock and two tankers were also lost.

Mark’s presentation was followed by Jim Dowling’s slide show and HD video on Deep Caves of Ras Mohammed – a complex system of caves that rivals anything found in other parts of the world.

After another lovely BBQ we headed to our farm for an evening presentation. Explorers Rich Stevenson and Martin Robson provided a fascinating insight into the logistics and procedures that form the foundations of any successful expedition. It was a great presentation as we had the chance to look at both – wreck and cave diving expeditions.

Day Four: Hugely influenced by Martin Robson’s talk from the previous day I decided to try a side mount kit. Side mount is very often the equipment of choice amongst cave divers.  It allows superb trim and streamlined silhouette and is used mainly in overhead environments.  Diving side mount was a great experience and very different to the one I am used to. During our lunch time Martin Robson also gave an excellent talk on the rarely discussed subject of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide and how breathing gasses can be checked for this.

In the afternoon I signed up for more side mount diving. We managed to do a great one hour dive exploring all the attractions that Vobster has to offer like sunken planes, quarry crushing works, armoured vehicles and many more.

In the afternoon it was time again for BBQ and later most interesting presentation by the IANTD UK Training Director Phil Short. Phil recounted the adventures of caving and diving in some of the world’s true wilderness areas and closer to home in Europe and the UK over the last 20 years.

Girls tek dive too!

Day Five: Early morning we did a rescue session on a rebreather with few instructors. The Camp was almost over but we were still up for a treat as Phil Short and Kevin Gurr were doing their presentations on latest rebreather technology and Gurr dispelled some of the myths surrounding closed circuit rebreather diving. A pioneer in rebreather design and development, Kevin’s presentation allayed many of the fears, concerns and misconceptions that many divers have regarding rebreather.

In the end, TekCamp 2011 was a great experience I have tried new equipment including some technological cutting edge pieces like Sentinel Rebreather.  Most of all, I dived with some of the best technical diving instructors in the world and listen to inspirational presentations about underwater exploration. I am full of new ideas and I may join one of the Red Sea Tek Trips with Mark Powell November this year.