By Rosemary E Lunn,
If you think that prepping tech equipment for a local dive is a big deal, just imagine running a technical diving expedition to Bikini Atoll. It is no mean feat ensuring that visiting divers have all the sorb, oxygen, dil, stages, oxygen clean cylinders, twinsets and other consumables they require. Then add in the extra complication of diving a far-flung land – it is not the time to discover you have left a crucial piece of kit at home after 30 hours steaming. However this is all in a day’s work for PADI Course Director Pete Mesley of Lust4Rust Diving Excursions. Pete has quickly earned the reputation of being ‘that good’ that leading tech experts actively seek to dive with him when they explore remote locations.
As I write this Pete is organizing the logistics for an expedition to Bikini, and if you want to join this exped, then jump onto www.lust4rust.co pronto. For once he has got a couple of rare spaces free on the June 2013 trip. (Normally his holidays are booked solid months in advance). Unfortunately no matter how much my heart wants to say ‘yes do it’, my diary will not allow me to go and play on this particular exped. It is a shame because I will have to delay my in-water gratification with the expedition’s hyperbaric physician until another time. For the diving doc Pete is taking to Bikini is none other than Associate Professor Simon J Mitchell.
One of the unique benefits of diving with Lust4Rust is that Pete Mesley always has an experienced diving doctor on staff. “It makes sense to take the best of the best along to support advanced and technical divers”, Pete says. This year Dr Mitchell is the Bikini medic. “Who?” I hear some of you cry. For the uninitiated who have never attended EUROTEK, OzTek or Rebreather Forum 3, Simon is a renowned hyperbaric physician and anesthesiologist. He is in much demand and regularly talks at many medical and diving conferences and courses all over the World. If you ever get the chance to listen to him, grab it with both hands. Speaking from first hand experience Simon is a joy to listen to, because he is one of those rare talented speakers that can explain complicated issues such as CO2 retention (to a three year old), without patronising. You walk away from one of his talks thinking “that was so obvious, why on earth did I not see it before?”
I ask Pete what is so special about diving Bikini. “The Marshall Islands are no longer served by an airline, so the only way to dive this wreck mecca is from a liveaboard. Plus trips to this isolated destination are run at certain times of the year, so it means that this destination is rarely visited or dived. Little wonder it is on the top of most wreck divers bucket list!
The wreck diving is phenomenal and you have such a wide choice of ships to dive on. From heavy cruisers, to submarines. Then of course there is Bismarck’s escort, Prinz Eugen, and the aircraft carrier, USS Saratoga. You can get on her at 27 metres, which makes for some quite decent times without incurring punitive decompression stops. And because there is such a small amount of diving done here, less than 5% of the Saratoga has been penetrated. It’s like an 18 course banquet laid out in front of you. So much visual rust, you don’t know where to start first!
Bikini is 30 / 30 diving – 30 degrees centigrade water, combined with 30 metres plus visibility. Wreck diving heaven. Plus I love the relationship that we able to build with the wrecks on these trips. It is quite intimate because we dive each ship at least twice. For me this is last frontier diving at its very best.”