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Tom Zanes Award

By | Bahama Blue Holes, Cave Diving, Rebreather Diving, Sidemount Diving, Uncategorized, Underwater Photo and Video | No Comments

The “Abaco Blue Holes Expedition Live” video portfolio was selected by the judges for the Tom Zanes Award (Best of Show) in the 2017 NSS Video Salon held in New Mexico this week. The video portfolio was created for online audiences during the 2016 National Geographic Blue Holes Exploration and Outreach Project. My goal for the project was to shoot, edit and release one video each day of the expedition. It was a daunting task, but well worth the lack of sleep!

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Protect Your Noggin’ – Diving Helmets

By | All Posts, Cave Diving, Rebreather Diving, Sidemount Diving, Uncategorized, Underwater Photo and Video, Women Underwater | No Comments

I have never figured out why so few North American technical divers wear helmets. Perhaps helmets never reached the Pantheon of hip here. Divers in other parts of the world would never consider exposing their scalps to the ceiling of a cave or wreck without protection. Diving in an overhead environment, there is a high likelihood that you will bump your head. It might not be a major incident, but if you use a Diver Propulsion Device (DPV), contact with a rock or hull of a ship could knock you out. A helmet will not only protect you, it offers an opportunity to attach lights and even a GoPro in a handy location.

Not all helmets are ready to dive “off the shelf” and there are several important points to bear in mind for your DIY helmet project.

The Shell

Start with a basic helmet with adjustable, interior suspension straps. Foam filled helmets are very common for skateboarding, cycling and other sports, but they are unsuitable for submersion. The foam inside those helmets is extremely buoyant and will make it almost impossible to sink. I have seen some people painstakingly dig foam out of their helmets or add weights to the interior, but the end result usually destroys the safety structure of the helmet and even makes it un-diveable. Kayaking, construction and some styles of rock climbing helmets offer the feature of interior suspension straps that can be quickly adjusted with a small fly wheel using one hand. The adjustment wheel is a small round dial or ratcheting wheel that adjusts the circumference of the interior headband. This feature will be very valuable if you switch between differing neoprene hood thicknesses in various water temperatures.

Chin and Side Straps

Adjust the chin strap so it is comfortable and secure without feeling like it is strangling you. If the helmet strap is too short, you may have to replace it with a bungee strap. Any modification such as this may destroy its safety rating out of the water, but unless you have overhead risks such as those encountered by sump divers, this may be okay.

Vents

The air vents in the side of the helmet offer thermal comfort out of the water and bubble outlets underwater. These holes can also serve as mounting points for lights. It is far better to use these engineered outlets for mounting rather than cutting or drilling new holes in a way that might damage the structure of the helmet.

The Lights

I use Light and Motion GoBe lights. They are activated with a simple push button switch. Lights that require turning a bezel may not be suitable for this application. Bezels can be tough to operate with one hand while the helmet is on your head. You might find the entire light spinning in place instead of triggering the switch. I use a GoBe SPOT on the left side of the helmet and point it slightly downward. I want the left light to illuminate a notebook or wrist slate when I am writing with my right hand. My preference for the right side is the GoBe SEARCH. It is a little brighter and has a wider beam. I point that light so it illuminates the cave in front of me when I am in the horizontal swimming position. It acts as the best possible backup light and is actually bright enough to serve as a primary. The GoBe lights have one more important feature. They never need to be opened for charging. The charging cable snaps on the light in place on the helmet. It is quick and easy to charge without breeching any seals and is therefore unlikely to flood.

Attachments

Decide whether it is important to be able to remove your lights from your helmet. You can permanently mount the lights for best security or you can use some very snug bungee cord to hold them in place. In this case, I recommend a small bolt snap fastened to the back of the light. Snap the clip onto the bungee cord as a secondary point of security in case the light slides out of its snug sleeve of cording. If you ever have to deploy the light, you can clip it off as needed.

When choosing the attachment site be careful to consider your swimming position and ergonomics. Lights that are aimed effectively may not look symmetrical or level when the helmet is placed on a table. What is important is that they are well aimed for your swimming position. Before you commit to a permanent location for the lights, take the helmet on a few dives and try using the lights. Ensure your stream of bubbles does not cascade across the face of the light. Bubbles can create a distracting flicker that also appears as an emergency light signal to a dive buddy. I prefer Hollis SE500 side exhaust regulators since they are breathable in either a right handed or left handed exhaust position.

Primary Light

Some divers choose to mount their primary light on their helmet. That can make activities such as surveying easier. If your light is a canister style design, you can purchase a releasable or permanent saddle that can be affixed to the helmet, such as models manufactured by Light Monkey. Generally divers choose the releasable version for ease of gearing up. I prefer keeping my primary light in my hand for easy aim. The hand-mounted Sola Tech600 by Light and Motion is my preferred primary light.

GoPro Cameras

There are many great helmet mounts available for GoPro cameras. The stock mount accepts the male camera clip into a female receiver which is affixed to the helmet with included double sided tape. The male side of the mount pivots to enable you to point the camera in the proper direction. Once you are geared up in your new helmet, do a short test run of the camera and double check the field of view, otherwise you might end up with an entire file looking down the front of your chest rather than out into the blue.

Remember that if you use your head-mounted lights and/or camera, you need to think about being very stable with your head movements. If you are constantly looking around you may be creating unusable footage on your camera and if you blind your fellow diver with glaring lights, you may soon be looking for another buddy!

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Canadian Geographic Posts Explorer in Residence News

By | All Posts, Cave Diving, Rebreather Diving, Sidemount Diving, Uncategorized, Underwater Photo and Video, We Are Water, Women Underwater | No Comments

It has been a whirlwind week of activity surrounding Jill Heinerth’s appointment as the first Explorer in Residence for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Canadian Geographic Magazine offered this update.

Jill appeared on the popular television program on CTV called The Social. Jill Heinerth at The SocialThe lengthy segment covered everything form Jill’s genesis in diving to plunging deep under Antarctic icebergs.

Heinerth was celebrated at a VIP luncheon at Massey College in Toronto, where she was officially installed in her new role.

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Hidden Geography of Canada – Water Facts

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Roughly 8 per cent of Canada is covered by lakes, more than any other country in the world.

The Brookings Institute, a U.S. think tank, found in 2007 that investing $26 billion in restoring Great Lakes ecosystems would create economic benefits in excess of $50 billion (Health Waters, Strong Economy: The Benefits of Restoring the Great Lakes Ecosystem).

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Exploring Water Beneath the Desert

By | Cave Diving, Rebreather Diving, Sidemount Diving, Uncategorized, Underwater Photo and Video, We Are Water | No Comments

JillmountDSC_0081lBehind the scenes with Jill Heinerth and the National Geographic team searching for dive sites in the most unlikely places. Published here in Scuba Diving Magazine.

 

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Light Management in Technical Diving

By | All Posts, Cave Diving, Rebreather Diving, Sidemount Diving, Uncategorized, Underwater Photo and Video | No Comments

I carry a tiny handheld Light and Motion Sola Tech600 for my primary light while technical diving. I love being unencumbered. No cord. No canister. Lightweight for travel.SolaTech6000249

Some of my diving colleagues have asked about whether such a small light can have adequate runtime for two serious cave or technical dives in a day. The answer is unequivocally, “yes!” The Sola Tech600 offers up a robust nine hours maximum burn time. Better yet, you can easily monitor the remaining capacity as you dive. This feature alone provides an unprecedented advantage over other lights. It acts as a fuel gauge, letting you know when you should power back the light and conserve.

Here is how I make a dive. The light offers three power levels with 3, 6 and 9 hours of burn time respectively. When I start my dive, I test the light during my pre-dive check and turn it off until my team is ready to enter the cave. There is no risk in damaging the light by turning it on and off, as there can be with expensive HID bulbs. When I enter the cave, I use the lowest power while I do my underwater S-drill and get the reel into the cave. There is no need for blasting the  cave with light while I am focused on running line. When I reach larger passages, I turn up the light to medium or high depending on my buddy’s brightness. As the lead diver, I often turn it to medium so I don’t overpower my friends and risk missing a light signal from them.

While the light has more than 75% charge, I see three green lights on my fuel gauge. As it drops, those light change to yellow. Below 50% they turn red, but remember, the still means you have half the time remaining and that’s 1.5, 3 or 4.5 hours! At 25% you will finally see flashing red lights. I simply throttle the light strength to the appropriate level to get me through my dives and light the cave appropriately. When I reach the cavern zone or decompression, I either turn off the light or leave it low.

Let’s face it, there are not too many people who spend more than 3 hours a day in the dark zone of their tech dives, but knowing you can actually have up to nine hours with a really bright light, is very comforting. Manage your light resources and use the high power when you need it and you can enjoy the luxury of a tiny, comfortable and capable hand held light.

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Rosemary Lunn Takes on Rebreather Diving

By | All Posts, Rebreather Diving, Uncategorized, Women Underwater | No Comments

Women Underwater reached out to dive professional Rosemary Lunn of The Underwater Marketing Company to ask about challenges in learning how to dive a new rebreather. She offers some personal experiences and candid advice for others who want to take the plunge.

Rosemary Lunn:

My greatest challenge with equipment has got to be with rebreathers. I seem to be fortunate to be in the right place at the right time on many occasions when it came to rebreathers. I have a definate love / hate relationship with this piece of kit.

My first rebreather dive was in Stoney Cove in 1996 on a Drager Dolphin. It may seem hard to imagine now, but at that time rebreathers were rarely, if ever seen by recreational divers. Technical divers were all diving doubles / twins. Depending on which training agency you listened to, nitrox was considered a technical or voodoo / devil gas; and the first mass produced rebreather, the Inspiration, was still on the drawing board. The only people with access to rebreathers were the military for covert opreations, therfore you never saw them. A lot of heads turned as I walked down the car park to the water, as everyone oggled the Drager Dolphin.

Rosemary Lunn at InnerSpace in Grand Cayman. Photo: Courtesy of Peter Den Haan

Rosemary Lunn at InnerSpace in Grand Cayman. Photo: Courtesy of Peter Den Haan

I think it is fair to say that Drager created a game changer when they launched the Dolphin. A few years later they followed it up with the ill-fated Drager Ray. This was a 22 metre rated semi-closed recreational rebreather and was to pay a part in my rebreather education. It was one of those ‘right place, right time’ moments again. I was offered the chance of working for Drager Dive and given 24 hours notice to leave the UK and join the team. My boyfriend at the time gave me the choice of him or Drager. I cried all the way down to Dover. How could I turn up an opportunity like this? I spent the summer of 1999 as part of an international team taking divers diving on rebreathers all over Europe. It was an amazing job. I remember ringing my Mum with the news I had the job and saying “it was better than winning the lottery!”. Money could not buy this job.

When we were not travelling to incredible destinations in Holland, France, Spain, Italy, etc, we were diving. We stayed in everything from grand luxury hotels to wooden bunks in basic huts. We lived on chocolate, diet coke and listened to Cher’s ‘Believe’ album on repeat for three months. We spent our days building and checking units; going diving; and then cleaning and packing up units. I was in 7th heaven. Until the one day I was task loaded. The one day I made a mistake. It was my own stupid fault. I built and carefully check 12 Rays and then ran out of time to get my unit ready. I slung my Dolphin together. I thought I’d tightened down the scrubber canister properly. I hadn’t.

I took a caustic cocktail at 20 metres. It felt as though someone had poured liquid concrete down my throat and it had instantly set and changed into a steel scaffolding bar. My esophagus was rigid from throat to stomach. I was very lucky I’d ingested it, not breathed it in. At the time I didn’t know this. I must admit I was quite scared and not happy wondering just how badly I had damaged my lungs. (I hadn’t). I was escorting a pair of diving professionals whose idea of buddy diving was ‘same ocean, same day’. Trying to get them to dive in roughly the same area, let alone surface because I’d taken a cocktail, was hard work. The cocktail hospitalised me and destroyed my confidence in this amazing technology in one stroke. It took years to rebuilt my confidence.

Rebreathers are an amazing tool. They have opened up exploration and enabled certain dives to take place that would have been impossible on open circuit. Not everyone should be diving them however. You need a certain mindset and attitude and you need to dive them regularly. They require the three “C’s”. Checks, care and concentration.

Time passed and I did some training on a couple of other units, but I never trusted them. I couldn’t relax. And I have never really had a head or natural feel for maths. So when I checked my handsets I wasn’t always confident it was safe or about to kill me. I have lost too many friends and colleagues diving on rebreathers, so my first thought was, “so when are you going to kill me then”?

Photo of Rosemary Lunn by Karl Shreeves

Although I have not got hundreds of hours of diving time on rebreathers, I have a fair knowledge of them. I found this invaluable when I was asked to organise the logistics on an international safety conference called ‘Rebreather Forum 3’. This three day event took 3 years of development and organisation, and two years of editing the proceedings. The proceedings and a number of lectures are available online, for free, for anyone who wants to access them. If you have any interest in rebreathers then check out www.rf30.org.

It wasn’t until 2013 when I was working the renowned “Inner Space” week hosted and organised by Divetech in Grand Cayman, that I finally began to get my mojo back for breathers. I was fortunate enough to be trained by Matthew Addison on the Hollis Explorer. If truth be told I had no idea why Hollis had gone down the line of developing and building a recreational unit. There was so much choice in the market place, why on earth would you want to dive an Explorer? My head turned 180 degrees during my training. This unit was basic. This unit was simple. Above all this unit was fun! Even I could understand it. And now I see its place. If you want to get into rebreathers, this is a useful unit to learn how to dive one, and how to become disciplined in your checks, care and concentration.

Twelve months later I wanted to expand my rebreather education and trained on the Poseidon Mark VI with Steve Newman. My courage and my mojo returned in spades. I fell in love with the unit. This too was fun. This too was simple. But what this had over the Explorer was it had legs. Whereas the Explorer is a recreational breather and so therefore limited, the Poseidon is a marmite unit. “The growing up spread you never grow out of”. As your diving develops, so does this unit’s capability. I like the fact that one day I will be able to take it trimix diving and to technical depths. Am I cautious when I dive it? Yes. Do I respect it? Yes. Am I happy and relaxed diving this? Yes. It has taken me 15 years to find the rebreather I want to have a long term relationship with. Today I am proud to say I am an ambassador for Poseidon Rebreathers.

The moral of the tail. If you are interested in getting into rebreather diving, and you find that one unit is not to your liking, there is choice out there. You may well find that another unit suits your diving, and you too will fall in love with this extraordinary piece of technology.

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Boom Baby Boom – Volume One

By | All Posts, Cave Diving, Rebreather Diving, Robert McClellan, Uncategorized, Underwater Photo and Video | No Comments

I’m so proud to announce that my husband Robert McClellan has released his first book. It has been a real journey of discovery for him. I recall the day almost eight years ago, when he expressed the desire to share his story. The revelations he shares in Boom Baby Boom represent a lifetime of challenge, discovery and hard knocks.

BoomCoverFRONTWe’ve been married for seven years and he has been an incredible asset to Heinerth Productions as a writer, producer and talented audio engineer. We’re both explorers in life, but his unique social perspective was formed on the working class streets of Philadelphia, where sometimes, the most effective way to enforce the social contract was to give a guy a punch in the nose.

As a young man, Robert immersed himself in the vibrant Philly music scene. This led to several great opportunities to work as a concert production manager with some of the most acclaimed musicians of the time. The list of artists includes such well-known acts as U2, Ray Charles, James Brown, Cindy Lauper, Jimmy Cliff, Culture Club, The Four Tops, and dozens more. But, the rock and roll lifestyle, and all its excesses, eventually caught up to him, and Robert fell off the tour bus.

Fortunately, the bus stop happened to be at a Navy Recruiter’s office.

Robert became a U.S. Navy Combat Photographer, including duty with the famed SeaBees. His award winning photography and journalism gained attention, and he was assigned as a instructor at the U.S. Navy Schools of Photography, at NAS, Pensacola, Florida. He collected numerous service awards include the Naval Commendation and Navy Achievement medals. Brief missions in Operation Desert Storm left lasting scars that forever changed his outlook on life. After leaving active duty, and completing nursing school, Robert continued his service to the country in the Army National Guard. He was a Medical Platoon Sergeant with the 1/156th Armor Battalion. An injury ended his service, and today Robert is among the many fortunate veterans who receive excellent care through the VA health system.

Before we met, he continued life’s explorations as a long haul truck driver, concert promoter, music artist manager, afternoon talk radio host, and travel nurse. Those careers were intermingled with several attempts at drug and alcohol rehab and fortunately, Robert found himself sober. And broke.

His only possession, and old motor home, ran out of gas at Navarre Beach, with an Irish Setter and $26 in his pocket. He couldn’t have been happier. He got active in the local recovery community and landed a job as a detox nurse at a prestigious treatment facility. Continuing to grow in sobriety and trying to remain of some service to others, he began working part-time in the medical departments at some of the most notorious prisons in Florida.

robhappyJEH4288Again, growth and life changes came about, and he decided that the Black Hills of South Dakota would be a good place to explore. He became a nurse at the VA medical center in Hot Springs, and also produced music festivals and concerts in Rapid City.  After a few Dakota winters, Robert admitted the error of his ways and transferred to a VA hospital in north Florida.

We met online while I was working on a documentary in the Florida Everglades. Months passed and the email romance blossomed until we finally had a first date at a beautiful North Florida Spring. While he continued nursing at the local VA, we met for bicycle dates and dinner in town, but there was no turning back for either of us.

As Creative Director of Heinerth Productions, Inc., Robert gets to explore his boundaries every day. Whether it is a new documentary film idea or a book project, he embraces the opportunity to create something worthwhile, something that he can be proud of and that will resonate with people around the world. He’s also the customer service and shipping department, and rides his bike 14 miles round trip to our local post office to get our shipments in the mail.

The rest of the story plays out every day as a heart warming romantic comedy, where the planets have aligned and the best is yet to come.

Boom Baby Boom – Volume One is a remarkably candid and brutally honest collection of essays and short stories, told in the authentic voice of an American Baby Boomer. From the rough and tumble streets of North Philadelphia, to the glamorous world of rock concerts and endless lines of cocaine, Robert will carry you along on a journey that winds through his extraordinary life. With first person experience as a prison nurse, a combat photographer and recovering alcoholic, this book is full of interesting anecdotes, with plot twists that will leave you smiling, sometimes through your tears. It still chokes me up to learn of the things he has endured and overcome, but today I am incredibly proud of my husband and best friend!

Available on Amazon now!

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Catching a Lift

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LiftbagJEH3610lDSMB Skills for Rebreather Diving

Have you practiced using your Delayed Surface Marker Buoy (DSMB) recently, or is it stashed rotting in a pack attached to your backplate? Some divers use these devices every single time they go diving, but others are most accustomed to descending and ascending on an anchor line.  You owe it to yourself to ensure that you are well practiced in launching a lift bag in case you need it. Sometimes DSMBs are a routine part of a drift diver while other times, they are only used by divers who have become separated from the boat. My favorite lift bag is a DSMB made by Custom Divers. This device has a built in radar reflector (now they have luminous versions too) and creates a very tall, detectable orange mast on the surface. The bag itself can be filled with a CO2 cartridge or inflated with an LP inflator. This works well for me in terms of minimizing gas use and  getting the entire package well out in front of me for lift off. I use a spool instead of a reel so entanglements are less likely. Even if I lose control of the spool, I can let go of it and it usually unfurls right back down to me in a minute or so. Whatever your choice of marking device, practice it often, so when you need it most, you are proficient and successful in the launch.

 

Sedna Expedition Preparing to Launch

By | All Posts, Sedna Expedition, Uncategorized, Women Underwater | No Comments

Swimming the Northwest Passage 

In July 2016, a team of ten passionate women will embark upon an epic three-month journey, snorkeling through frigid Arctic seas from Pond Inlet, Nunavut, to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Supported by a mother ship equipped with two rigid hull boats, the snorkelers will scout, document and record the impacts of global warming on this fragile arctic ecosystem and on the aboriginal peoples’ traditional ways of life.

Tried, tested and blue 

But before tackling the 100-day Northwest Passage Snorkel Relay in 2016, the Team will mount a 15-day, action-packed proof-of-concept expedition in July 2014. Traveling aboard the MV Cape Race, along the Labrador coast to Baffin Island and, across the Davis Strait, to Western Greenland, the sea women will conduct team-building exercises, perform oceanographic studies, deliver educational outreach in Inuit communities and broadcast their findings to the world. Further, they’ll demonstrate that snorkelers—using diver propulsion vehicles—can successfully navigate ice-infested arctic waters.

Flying Snorkelers 

Using high-tech diver propulsion vehicles (DPVs) the snorkelers will cover great distances in frigid waters, traveling at speeds of up to five kilometers per hour. Divided into two five-woman teams, Team Narwhal and Team Beluga, the snorkelers will swim in back-to-back relays. Using one DPV per snorkeler, the women will swim in a rotation, immersed in the water for approximately one hour at a time and up to 24 hours a day.

Voices of the Arctic 

Team Sedna’s mission is to study the impacts of disappearing sea ice in the Arctic, and to educate and engage the public about the wonders of the Arctic and its importance to our global climate. Through cross-cultural dialogue and educational outreach, the expedition aims to exchange knowledge with Inuit groups and Elders about their home and the animals that live there. These first-hand accounts, broadcast through Sedna’s global social network and media channels, aim to inform and inspire conservation for the diverse marine life of the Arctic.