It is soon obvious that when you look at the headline speakers at EUROTEK.2016 – the 5th European advanced and technical diving conference – that perseverance is key. And deep photographer and marine biologist Laurent Ballesta is a classic example of this.
Laurent Ballesta had a vision. To photograph a Coelacanth in a cave in a specific manner. He wanted to use a strong light to silhouette the unique profile of this 65 million year old species. Ballesta captured the image in 1/15 of a second after taking 15 days, 11 divers and 120 hours to get the shot.
“Anyone can take a mixed-gas course and learn how to reach a target depth and safely return to the surface”, stated Ballesta. “It is a different matter to do so in a 4 mt / 13 ft swell with a 2-knot current and then perform a task when you get to the bottom.
In 2000 I heard that Peter Timm had actually seen a Coelacanth in South Africa off Sodwana Bay on a deep dive to 122 mt / 400 ft. This is dangerous for anyone without the necessary skills, and I did not have the skills to get the shot. I put the work in. By 2008 I was regularly doing eight or nine hour dives in rough seas to 201 mt / 660 ft. My goal was to run an expedition with Peter Timm to photograph Coelacanths. It was very successful – National Geographic ran some of those first images - there was a lot of excitement about the fact that we had gone so deep and got the shots.”
Ballesta was determined to return. After many rejections his gritty strength of purpose was rewarded when the luxury watch manufacturer Blancpain agreed to sponsor Ballesta's 'Gombessa Project' in April 2013. (Gombessa is the South African name for the Coelacanth).
Ahmed Gabr reached 332.35 metres
Laurent Ballesta is not the only speaker to demonstrate true grit at EUROTEK. The deepest scuba diver in the world - Ahmed Gabr – is also tenacious. On the 18 / 19 September 2014 Ahmed took 14 minutes to reach 332.35 metres on open circuit scuba. This extreme dive took 13 hours 50 minutes, 93 tanks, 15 in-water divers and a 10 person surface-support team to complete.
Ahmed Gabr's record breaking Dahab dive really began back in 2008. At the time the South African technical diver Nuno Gomes held the world deep scuba record at a depth of 318.25 mt / 1044 ft).
“I took two years to evaluate whether I could do the dive”, Gabr stated. “I then undertook a four year hardcore training programme to improve my metal and physical fitness – yoga, cardiovascular, cycling, running, swimming – whilst following a Pescatarian diet. (A plant-based diet with the inclusion of fish). I wanted to become a Vegan, but that is pretty challenging. I actually delayed the dive five times until the 18 September to ensure that everything was as perfect as it could be.”
It would seem that the Red Sea has a lot to answer for because in the late 1990's EUROTEK speaker Herbert Nitsch booked a holiday to the Egypt. Unfortunately his scuba diving equipment was lost in transit, so he went snorkelling instead, taking photographs of the underwater environment. Spurred on by a friend, he measured how deep he could go. He was diving to 32 mt / 105 ft without any training. Herbert was hooked.
“I was exposed to the oceans at a young age and when you’re diving it’s an experience that you don’t want to miss,” he says. “If you are a hamster living in a cage, you are happy to go in the hamster wheel. But if you explore the world, you don’t want to go back in the cage.”
Today Herbert Nitsch is the current freediving world record holder with the title 'the deepest man on Earth'. He was christened this when he set the No Limits freediving world record of 214 mt / 702 ft in 2007.
“Every time I think I have reached a limit, there is a door. It opens and the limit is gone”, stated Herbert Nitsch. He proved this five years later in 2012 when he dived to 253.2 mt / 830.8 ft again in the No Limits freediving discipline.
His dives were not without incident. He suffered decompression sickness, physically paying a high price. At one point the simple act of brushing his teeth with his weakened right hand was a challenge. It has taken time for his body to heal.
“I am really excited about the talks that are going to be given on the 8th and 9th October”, stated EUROTEK co-founder and organiser Rosemary E Lunn (aka Roz). “I know that deep wreck photographer Leigh Bishop has been sourcing some pretty amazing speakers.
As you can see we have already got some great headline acts confirmed for this year including Deep Sea Detective Richie Kohler, shark advocate Cristina Zenato and Ghostfishing founder Pascal van Erp.
One of the lovely things about EUROTEK is that you will often find that talks are given by divers you have never heard of. They are the ones out there, doing some remarkable diving in quite remote destinations.
And of course we have the top diving doctors speaking too. In 2014 Dr Neal Pollock talked about thermal stress before recording a special EUROTEK TEKTalk about gradient factors (and you can view this online). In 70 days time Neal is going to fly into Birmingham to discuss diving physiology.”
Diving research remains a hot EUROTEK topic with Drs Nick Gant and Simon Mitchell unveiling the latest intelligence in sorb research.
There is a lot of interest in strategies to optimise and monitor CO2 scrubber performance in rebreather diving. And the Auckland University team has recently completed two relevant investigations.
“In the first we studied the effect of storage strategy on the performance of partly used CO2 scrubber canisters on subsequent dives”, stated Simon Mitchell. “Specifically, we compared the effect of storing partly used canisters unprotected (exposed to environmental air) versus sealed in an airtight container on subsequent scrubbing performance. We studied two storage periods (overnight and 30 days).
“In the second study we investigated the performance of temperature sticks in predicting the breakthrough of CO2 from a failing scrubber canister under two conditions: a typical dive in which there is moderate exercise early in the dive followed by a longer period of relative rest; and a less typical dive in which moderate exercise is maintained throughout.”
EuroTek is also from recreational divers
Roz is often asked by recreational sport divers if they can and should come to EUROTEK. “Of course! You don't need to own an Aston Martin to appreciate the car. Not every diver is going to dive below 30 metres, let alone 100 metres. The fact you don't dive deep doesn't make you less of a diver. You are a diver. We all are. And your current diving qualification does not stop you from having 'a glimpse behind the curtain' and hearing real exploration stories that you normally would only be able to watch on television.
One of the lovely things about EUROTEK is that the speakers have time for you after their talks. I often find an explorer stood outside of their hall answering questions from divers long after their talk has finished. Getting this kind of interaction with experts is priceless.
If I had to describe EUROTEK to a non-diver I would say it is the 'Glastonbury of Diving'. You get unprecedented access to top talent across the world. The weekend has a packed programme of 30 different talks – none are repeated - covering everything from diving HMHS Britannic to finding the connection between salt water and fresh water cave system. EUROTEK has it all!
This is a great social weekend too, and it is little wonder. You really do need to be a friendly soul if you are going to be stuck on a small boat bobbing around in the ocean for several hours. Our popular black tie / long posh frock Gala Award Dinner is truly good humoured and great fun. Over 200 delegates including Analox, AP Diving, Dive Rite, Fourth Element, GUE, KUBI, Light Monkey and IANTD have already booked their tickets for this year’s dinner!
Tickets are still available at £65 per head for a four course meal. It's the perfect opportunity for you to socialise, catch up with old friends and meet new people and you'd be made most welcome. We're all divers! Incidentally we're going to be raffling off a fully loaded AP rebreather, Otter drysuit, Shearwater Perdix computer, Suex scooter and a Lust4Rust Holiday. The money raised will be going toward diving research.
Attendees won't go home empty handed either. We understand that divers need the right equipment to transport their gear, hence we have teamed up with Fourth Element and the respected Swiss watchmaker, Blancpain to create something rather special. A rugged bag, ideal for an adventurous diving weekend away. The first 400 divers to book a weekend pass will receive a gorgeous limited edition Blancpain / Fourth Element dry duffle dive bag worth £65!
This is the first time Blancpain has sponsored EUROTEK. Did you know they were the first company to incorporate a rotating bezel on their Fifty Fathoms watch? It has been really exciting working very closely with a company that helped create a small but significant piece of dive history.
It is not surprising there has been a brisk trade in weekend tickets (£80 each) and we have divers flying in from 15 different countries. If you want to guarantee your place I'd recommend that you book your weekend pass now via www.eurotektickets.com IANTD founder Tom Mount said EUROTEK is “...the best dive show I have ever been to...”. You don't want to miss out on the diving event of the year!”
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