JOE ODOM
TDI Training Director
hspace=5 Happy 40th birthday, Diver! What a quandary, trying to isolate the best and worst moments of a diving career thats approaching 40 years itself. How to choose between solo-diving with humpback whales, the exhilaration of snapping the photo of the shark with mouth wide open, pecs tucked, or just the joy of helping a truly motivated student
Unfortunately, the worst moments have usually been at the end of a telephone. Lamar Hires calling, his words still ringing in my ears, Joe, we lost Sheck. The loss of Rob Palmer, Corey Bergen, Steve Berman, Robbie McGuire... a list far too lengthy.
And how can you describe your emotions when youre on the receiving end of a massive caustic cocktail at 70m, 200m back in a cave, upside-down in zero visibility, after removing the bail-out bottle to go through a tiny restriction
But as this is a birthday celebration and in honour of all my friends reading Diver, I offer the first published account of The Great BC Murder!
I was a fairly fresh dive instructor, upgrading a group of friends to Advanced Open Water and Divemaster. A popular training site was Blue Springs Orange City, which had a delightful clear spring about 35m deep - and an undeserved reputation for killing divers.
It was commonly used for the AOW deep dive. At the bottom a student would tie knots in a rope, solve a maths problem then ascend, all in a 12 minute allowable bottom time. Entrance was limited to four divers at a time.
I had dived and the next group was ready. All the students were very experienced and knew each other well. Buddy pairs were Tommy (DM) and Marcel (AOW), and Jono (DM) and Lee Ann (AOW).
Tommy was a big man and very capable; Jono, a spectacular woman diver well on her way to medical school; Marcel and Lee Ann both comfortable in the water. I had no worries.
As they descended into the hole, I admired Marcels new blue BC. It had a Kevlar shell to prevent punctures and resist abrasion. He was very proud of it.
Five minutes passed...10... 12! I was livid! Then Jono zipped up, wide-eyed, and screamed: Joe! Theres a problem at 70ft!
I started down, noting Lee Ann at the surface. At about 10m I saw Marcel emerge through the bubble screen, rapidly ascending, full BC, eyes wild.
I grabbed him, trying to signal: OK. He was shaking and didnt appear to recognise the signal, but he was breathing fine, so I let him go up. Where was Tommy
I screamed down and there he was. He looked confused, perhaps disoriented, but signalled OK, then pointed down! I could only imagine that in the darkness was a fifth diver - a body - that the others had unexpectedly seen.
I descended, looking in all the nooks and crannies. All I found at the bottom was a set of dive tables.
At the surface, I found Marcel coughing and gasping but OK. I asked about the body and they all looked at me questioningly. It was then that I learned about the BC murder.
The four had been at the bottom. Jono and Lee Ann had started to ascend, signalling Tommy and Marcel to hurry. Marcel added a shot of air with his power inflator - and it stuck! He did the only thing he could think of - he grabbed Tommy from behind (in that dark and scary chamber)!
This clearly shocked Tommy and they began to tussle, ascending the slope. At about 70ft, Jono turned and saw Tommy and Marcel struggling together so headed back down to help.
As she approached, she saw Tommy reach down, pull out his dive knife - and stab Marcel in the chest repeatedly!
She turned and surfaced to report the problem at 70ft. One of divings all-time understatements!
Tommy had simply been trying to puncture Marcels spiffy new BC to dump the excess air, but despite repeated thrusts and hacking strokes it still looked fresh from the box. Why didnt they just disconnect the hose Oh sure, easy for you to say here at the surface, Tommy sulked.
So, why did he point down Well, it seems that after he failed to puncture the BC, he had stuffed Marcel under a ledge to stop him ascending out of control! No, there was no narcosis on this dive, not them, not a bit!
Marcel, obviously unhappy, had wiggled out and shot to the surface behind Tommy, who hadnt seen him. A wonderful chain of misadventure that had a happy ending.

LEIGH BISHOP
Deep Wreck Photographer
hspace=5 My most memorable dive came during the Britannic 98 expedition, when Chris Hutchison and I in a single dive circumnavigated the largest ocean liner ever sunk. Britannic is intact, visually stunning and bigger than her sister Titanic!
Leaving the camera gear topside for once, we went for a ride on our big Aquazepp scooters in deep blue visibility of about 40m. With a 26-minute bottom time at 120m we rode through covered promenade decks across the dome-covered staircases, under broken masts to the huge props and back.
As we arrived back at the bow tip, we could see behind us the distant silhouette of a towering bridge. It was an awesome dive neither of us will ever forget.
Other great memories: the day emotions overtook me as I first laid hands on the grand Lusitania; looking up at the amazingly intact bow of Justicia; and the day that Richie Stevenson and I became the first men to swim the decks of the Flying Enterprise.
Bad memories are few, fortunately. Running out of diluent on my rebreather at 70m was a sticky situation that made my heart race. I discovered that anything much more than the odd mask clearance at such depth can cause you to get through your gas supply.
And I will always miss legendary dive skipper Andy Smith, whose loss remains a sombre memory to me, my friends and British wreck-diving as a whole.

TIM ECOTT
Author of international best-seller Neutral Buoyancy
hspace=5 The dive I chose for the end chapter of Neutral Buoyancy was my best: a good offshore boat ride on a perfect morning, perfect visibility, my wife Jessica as buddy, a baby turtle, a massive free-swimming moray eel and a magical encounter with dolphins and their leader.
The worst was a dive at Grouper Point on Mahe, Seychelles, a year after the coral bleaching. I had dived there perhaps 40 times, and I couldnt recognise a single feature of the site.
Everything was gone, with piles of brown coral rubble covered in brown algae swilling about on the bottom. I felt sick and couldnt speak when we surfaced. It was like witnessing a death.

INNES MCCARTNEY
Wreck-hunter/submarine specialist
hspace=5 Ive had very few bad moments, but Ill start with one. I was videographer on the Hallanyat expedition in Oman in 2001 and I was diving on the City of Winchester, depth 27m, greenish water, viz 8-10m. The only diver in the water, I was happily swimming around the bows, filming the fish life, when suddenly I felt very alone. Ah, I thought, here comes a shark or a large ray.
The next thing I noticed was a shadow ahead and above me, so large that at first I thought it was our diving vessel sinking! As it drew nearer I realised that a humpback whale was motoring along the wreck. I ducked down and it passed within touching distance - it seemed the size of a house.
I dont know whether it would have hurt me, but as soon as it was gone I rushed for the upline, only to have its mate do the same thing! It came up, then turned away broadside within a few feet of me.
The first time was scary; the second time was too much and I shot up the line (luckily I hadnt been in long) and swam to the boat. Steve Dover asked if Id seen the whales - I wont repeat what I said. A moment later one appeared on the surface behind me and blew. I clambered onto the boat pronto - all very bizarre.
Later that day we passed the whales as we were heading back to harbour. We drifted with them on the surface for about half an hour. These beautiful creatures looked far nicer from the boat.
Divers usually go looking for whales and I know of no other encounters which have taken place my way - it was a shock.
My camera was rolling throughout, and I still get the willies looking at the tape!
The discovery of new wrecks probably rewards me more than anything in diving. The first dives made on U2506 and U155 (Operation Deadlight), HMS Defence (at Jutland), and HMS M1 rate as my favourites right now but if asked tomorrow Id probably say something different. Ive videoed countless wrecks over the past six years, so when Im an old man Ill have many amazing moments to cherish.

MICHELE HALL
Film-maker
hspace=5 One of my worst diving moments came on 30 August, 1980, diving on the Marisla Sea Mount in the Sea of Cortez (Baja California). I saw a Pacific manta ray entangled in fishing net, which was wrapped around its mandible and cutting into its flesh.
Most of the mantas and hammerhead sharks have disappeared from this popular dive site because of fishing. And ghost nets (left behind by fishing boats but continuing to trap fish) are strewn about the reef.
One of my best diving moments came on 30 August, 1980, while diving on the Marisla Sea Mount. The same Pacific manta ray approached and hovered below me, allowing me to rest gently on its back and pull away the fishing net, releasing it from its burden.
The ray, which we nicknamed Grandad because it was huge and had cataract-covered eyes, stayed around the boat for days, allowing all the divers/film crew to swim with it.

BOB MARX
Treasure-hunter/archaeologist
hspace=5 The second richest Spanish galleon lost in the western hemisphere, the Nuestra Senora del Maravillas, carried more than 5 million pesos in gold and silver but was wrecked and broken on Little Bahama Bank by a storm.
Because of shifting sands contemporary salvors recovered only about 5% of her riches. I learned of the wreck in 1960 and eventually located more than 16,000 original documents, three charts and a book written by a survivor.
I searched for the wreck each year until 1972, from sunrise to sunset every day of the summer. We located more than 70 shipwrecks, three of which produced Spanish gold and silver coins.
My crew get a percentage of the finds and almost mutinied when I would see that the coins were not from the Maravillas and order them to continue searching for Marxs Phantom Wreck.
On 16 August we got news of a hurricane and I knew we had to head for port in Florida. Two of the divers pulled up the Danford anchor and, as it broke the surface, screamed for me. In the flukes were two ballast stones of the kind found on Spanish galleons.
We blew away 6m-plus of sand before I headed down. The sea floor was covered with ballast rock and several iron cannonballs.
I prised the coral growth and iron oxide off one of them to find it bore the British Tudor Rose mark. But something told me to dig another hole.
With the clock ticking away I rushed to see what we had uncovered. The hole was paved with thousands of coins - gold ones glistening like the day they were minted and 36kg silver ingots. I had found the ship of my dreams!
My worse moment involves Port Royal, founded after Cromwell captured Jamaica. The richest city in the New World, it was the base of pirates who preyed on Spanish shipping and settlements.
Visiting clergy predicted that this wicked city would be cast into the sea and in 1692 its 3000-plus buildings did fall into the sea or collapsed, following an earthquake and three tidal waves. I had dreamt of bringing up Port Royals riches since I was five, and in 1964 gained permission to excavate the 9m of soft mud using an airlift.
On the first day I uncovered a fallen brick wall about 3m down, dug by hand beneath it and grabbed a silver platter.
I suddenly felt movement and found myself under the wall. Underwater visibility was nil but luckily one of my divers bumped into my protruding fins, went for help and pulled me out with only a few breaths of my air left.
I switched to using a hookah with a reserve and had two divers always working with me. But in l968 I was buried under tons of mud for 14 hours when an area the size of a tennis court shifted. They kept the compressors working while I jerked the hose to indicate that I was alive.
I vowed that if I got out I would give up scotch and wild women (though once on the surface I soon forgot my vows!)
My three divers tried digging me out with another airlift but after four hours the mud shifted and their hole was filled in. They got three 10cm airlifts digging, with some 100 local divers helping to remove bucketfuls of sediment. Thousands of people on shore cheered and danced as a calypso band played.
I kept thinking about a big spaghetti dinner followed by chocolate ice cream. Even when youre close to death you get hungry.
Suddenly my head felt like it was grabbed by a giant magnet as it was sucked into the opening of an airlift. It never felt better to breathe fresh air. The spectators wanted to touch me for good luck as I was carried to an ambulance, while my wife berated me for choosing such a stupid occupation.
Hell, I said, I couldnt play hero if I was just a banker or engineer! The next day I was back in the water.

MARTYN FARR
Cave-diver
hspace=5 We had explored Pigeon Hole at Cong in Ireland in 1991 and returned 10 years later prepared for depths of 70m but concerned about the unbelievably strong current.
At the limit of exploration were two ways forward. One was a deathtrap, but metres off to the side lay a second pit, clearly deep but free of current.
After a number of close calls we decided we were pushing our luck, but a week later water levels had fallen and we decided to try again. Steve Marsh set off 10 minutes ahead of me with the deco gas and passed a vertical restriction where I had earlier somersaulted out of control.
My progress was suddenly arrested when my helmet was displaced along with my mask, which ripped my DV from my mouth.
I shut my eyes to protect my contact lenses, but had to remove my helmet to move my mask up from over my mouth and replace the DV. The handheld cylinder was abandoned and I pulled myself to dive base.
When I arrived, Steve was already down the hole, laying line. Water was pouring over a low step into the second sump, but it looked more like a Jacuzzi than the previous whirlpool.
Once through the foam I found myself in a calmer environment and descended to where three large boulders partially blocked the first drop.
The line was fastened to one of these rocks and I prepared to descend through the restriction. Then all three boulders collapsed, with a ton or more of sharp limestone falling into the space beneath.
It was the second close call of the day but luckily the movement threw the boulders to one side and a new way down presented itself!
I led the way. At 28m the shaft bottomed out and several passages led off. I followed the flow down the main tunnel and set what I regarded as a few solid belays. About 30m from the bottom of the shaft was a T-junction where the small passage merged with a much larger tunnel entering from the right. Depth was 32.5m. I moved out slowly along the left wall, feeling more comfortable.
Suddenly some invisible force snatched me and threw me down the passage. It was frightening. Both my hands were clamped on the outgoing line. I was spun round and swept backwards. The first belay broke and I was jolted back again a metre or so.
The current was as strong as anything we had encountered the previous week, swimming was out and, in the large, smooth-contoured tunnel, there was no chance of clawing a way back to safety. I prayed that my regulator would stay in and hauled my way back up the line inch by inch to the junction.
Without the clarity which helium instilled, and without a sturdy 6mm line, I would have been carried away with no way of getting back. Pigeon Hole is deeply etched among my worst experiences.
In 32 years of cave diving there have been so many fabulous times. To explore so many virgin tunnels all over the world; to make the very first cave dives in scuba gear in China and Borneo; to fly through the exquisitely decorated caves of Mexico and capture their glory on film.
To have the honour of meeting so many like-minded individuals - the likes of Graham Balcombe, Jack Sheppard, Norbert Casteret, Ken Pearce, Sheck Exley, Mike Boon, Jim Bowden, Bill Stone, Olivier Isler, Gilberto Menezes, Jill Heinerth and many, many more - all are associated with crowning moments, with many more, I hope, to come.

MARK ELLYATT
Deep-diver
hspace=5 The best time could be the exploration of the deepest wreck (the Baden off the Channel Islands), or simply relaxing while finning through crystal-clear caves in Florida. In 10 years Ive been lucky enough to make a living from diving, and that has allowed me to explore some of the most fantastic sites in the underwater world.
Eight years ago I was swimming along a shallow reef in Barbados and found some gold coins - pieces of eight. Four years back on a lone wreck-finding mission, I dropped onto the bridge of a massive cargo vessel perhaps 200m long in 100m-plus, with containers littering the seabed. The wreck is not on any charts and, I believe, remains undiscovered by others.
But the most memorable moment has to be the scuba sex session in 6m in the Caribbean during which a glass-bottomed boat stopped overhead. I suppose the photos are out there somewhere!
The worst time occurred recently. Coming back from a 260m dive, I was on the sharp end of inner-ear DCI. All was tickety boo until 40m, when my world started spinning and I re-enacted the vomiting scene from The Exorcist.
The deco software I had used had promised to cut a nine-hour deco to 180 minutes - this meant puking under water with stomach acid in my eyes for a mere three hours. Lots of things were learnt and will add a colourful chapter to my forthcoming book!

STAN WATERMAN
Film-maker
hspace=5 Best moment: At the end of our shooting for the film Blue Water, White Death in South Australia, I finally focused on a 5m great white shark from the safety of a cage. We had spent a half-year and gone around the world searching for the great animal without success. We finally succeeded at Danger Reef in Spencers Gulf, South Australia.
Worst moment: At the start of shooting Blue Water, White Death 100 miles out to sea off South Africa, we had our first experience with pelagic sharks in open ocean. I found myself alone, drifting away from the safety of the cages with dozens of big oceanic whitetip sharks between me and home. Ron and Val Taylor and the late Peter Gimbel were already home free. I swam hard against the current to reach my cage. I knew that the sharks must sense that I was scared and alone - and I was very scared.

REG VALLINTINE
Diving instructor and underwater historian
hspace=5 I have enjoyed great dives in all but the Antarctic ocean but my best was in the Med, where I spent much of the 60s running diving schools in Italy and Tunisia.
The island of Giglio was then still rich in untouched ancient wrecks and I dived on one which turned out to be the oldest ever discovered at the time, dating from 700 BC.
We swallow-dived through the clear, warm water, past holes inhabited by curious groupers, down to 40m, where broad sand valleys opened up among the rocks.
In the sand we found amphorae, plates and ancient cups and then, under a rock overhang, we discovered a sinister-looking helmet.
It was bronze and Etruscan, with eye-holes and a nose-piece. When cleaned up it was found to be decorated with etchings of wild boars and snakes. We felt we had found Atlantis!
My worst dive came on the island of Zembra off Tunisia. It had many vertical cliffs and one day towards the end of a dive with Ron and Linden Blake of Kingston BSAC, we came on a large cave with a sand floor at 30m.
Light streamed into it and we swam inside. As Ron finned towards a second grotto inside, I turned to check our way back and was horrified to see that we had been swimming over silt, not sand, and that it was rising, barring our exit.
I signalled to the others to get out, but Ron stopped to take a lobster. By the time he turned round he was engulfed in silt, with no chance of seeing his way out.
Calmly he conserved his air and tapped on his cylinder, hearing the comforting sound of our answering taps from outside.
I tried to re-enter the cave but visibility was zero and two of us fumbling about would have been disastrous. I rushed to the dive boat to get a line and more air.
Meanwhile Ron had used all the air in his cylinder and started breathing from the small cylinder on his Fenzy lifejacket. He breathed each breath twice and gradually became unconscious.
I arrived at the cave mouth again, frantically tying on one end of the line, and went along it, feeling for Ron with my other hand.
Eventually I felt an ankle in the blackness and started dragging him out. We reached the cave entrance but I could see no sign of life in his eyes. My worst moment!
I got him to the surface and started to breathe into him. After a few moments he groaned. That was a wonderful sound! He slowly regained consciousness.

FRANCK GODDIO
Underwater archaeologist
hspace=5 One of my best memories was a dive in very murky waters, four miles from the coast of Egypt, on the sunken city Heraklion, which I had recently discovered. I saw a superb intact black granite stele, covered with hieroglyphic inscriptions, which confirmed the identity of the site and revealed, for the first time, the Egyptian name of Heraklion which, according to Herodotus, had been visited by King Menelaus of Sparta and the beautiful Helen on their journey back to Troy.
I have a bad memory of a dive on which I saw the devastated remains of the recently looted shipwreck of the 15th century Santa Cruz in the Philippines. The seabed was littered with broken jars and shards of porcelain.
At that point I didnt know that archaeological excavation would soon uncover thousands of intact exquisite Chinese porcelains. They were hidden, carefully packed, into the well-preserved bottom of the hull.

KAY WALTEN
Cave-diver
hspace=5 My best dive was the one on which fellow-explorer Dan Lins and I found The Pit. It started at Tikim Ich Cenote in Mexico and was a multiple-stage scooter dive. We had swum about 1500m through big cave passageways, small bedding planes and breakdown areas. We tied the line off in a place called The Junction Room and began looking for new passageways.
Following our compasses we pushed along various walls, turning back when we had to, but before we lost visibility I saw a dark hole and motioned to Dan to give me the reel. Leading the way, I came to a big column and saw darkness beyond - if I could just negotiate around the rock. Dan saw a slot and I wormed through.
Another 7m and we emerged in an incredible room, with light coming down from the ceiling and, below, what looked like a cauldron of swirling hydrogen sulphide clouds. I felt tiny in this vast space as I hovered over an apparently bottomless pit.
We surfaced to see an arched ceiling overhead with a large opening to the sky. We tied off and decided that we should see where the bottom was. We dived to 73m but the pit was walled off. We had thought it was the bottom. We were totally stoked by our find.
Later Dan and I, Gary Walten and Jill and Paul Heinerth, with the help of Buddy Quaddlebaum, returned to the pit and found a passage down to 93m.
Paul and other divers have since found a horizontal passage at 137-146m. This is the deepest cave in the state of Quintanaroo, Mexico.
My worst dive came when my friend Velora Peacock and I set up a fun ocean dive to the edge of the wall in Akumal, planning to go to about 70m.
Velora was an experienced Florida Keys wreck-diver but I was in my cave gear, the only gear I own, less a reel or two and lights. As we boarded the boat the locals from the dive shop chuckled at us equipment-laden gals. They knew that I get very sea-sick and usually avoid diving in the ocean.
Our captain took us about seven minutes offshore. We had descended only to about 15m when we saw the bottom.
We surfaced and told him to take us further out. He told us to hold a rope on the side of the boat and he would tow us. As we took off, my little cave-diving line arrows were plucked off my harness, and I failed to catch them.
In deeper water we tried again, the sea getting a little rougher. We dived to about 60m to see that the wall was a wasteland - nothing but one sea cucumber. After doing our bottom time, we started our ascent.
As we approached our deco stop, we could see that it was raining on the surface and the waves were rolling. With the rolling came a storm of my own. Rocking with the waves, overcome with seasickness, I scratched on my slate that I didnt care if I got bent, I just wanted out - now!
Velora clipped her jon-line to me and kept an eye on me as my queasiness progressed. She wouldnt let me surface. After the deco stop we fought with the gear and the waves to get back on the boat and back to shore.
Generally, after being seasick, I am bedridden for the day, but doing deco on 02 minimised the after-effects. That was the highlight of the day.
That was the last deep open-water dive I did or plan to do. I learned that day that I belong in caves. Its much safer than diving in the Big Pond.

BRET GILLIAM
President & CEO of TDI/SDI
hspace=5 Id rate Cocos and Malpelo island as the most exciting diving with big animals Ive ever done. Ive just returned from a month there aboard the superlative Sea Hunter. This allowed me to dive with 14 whale sharks, pilot whales, aggregating silky sharks, marlin, sailfish, wahoo and the amazing schools of hundreds (maybe thousands) of hammerhead sharks.
Diving on rebreathers allowed us extremely close approaches to the marine life... less than a metre from hammerheads more than 4.5m long! These are the most adrenaline-inducing dives to be found anywhere and the photographic opportunities are unlimited.
Ive logged more than 15,000 dives since I started diving in 1958, so Ive been around the block, but if you can afford the price, dont miss the superb diving these two tiny islands offer.
Worst dive experience was getting stuck on a bad liveaboard in a boring dive area with a bunch of lousy divers and bad food back in the early 1990s. To make matters worse, the air-conditioning failed in the sweltering heat and my two roommates snored like a hurricane!
I ended up chartering a seaplane just to get off the boat. I learned to be very careful about accepting invitations from new operators after that.
Second worst dive experience: being introduced to that British delicacy known as Marmite!

DAVID BELLAMY
Biologist and broadcaster
hspace=5 My worst dive was my first open-sea dive. The location was Souter Point, almost within the sound of Sunderlands famous Roker roar, and certainly within the blare of local foghorns, because visibility was almost nil even above water.
My wetsuit was an old tracksuit with an ex-naval pullover. Dive leader was Jim Barnes, who went on to be my mentor and dive buddy around the world.
My buddy was Harold Wardropper, local pharmacist and one of those annoying divers who never appear to produce any bubbles. Not that I would see them in the zero visibility.
Down I went into total blackness, keeping as close to Harold as possible, when suddenly I was enveloped in what I take to have been waving fronds and stipes of kelp.
Then, bang, I hit rock bottom - only it wasnt rocky, because the substrate on which the kelp was growing was covered with tacky goo.
I could tell up from down only by the angle of dangle of my weightbelt. As the panic pit was close, I grabbed a stone to prove that I had reached the bottom and began a semi-controlled ascent.
I was greeted at the surface by the blare of the foghorn and Harold, who had been with me all the way. We began to fin to shore, where flotillas of turds rolled back and forth with the breaking waves. Not really a dive - we had just been going through the motions in the wake of our effluent society.
Then and there the idea of Operation Kelp was born, to use sport divers to study the pollution around our coasts through the vertical distribution of seaweeds and the things that lived on and in them.
It worked, and eventually pitchforked me onto TV in the wake of the Torrey Canyon disaster. Thank you Bernard Eaton and Triton magazine for making all that possible.
My best dive was in the clearer, warmer waters of the central Indian Ocean as scientific leader of a joint services expedition, the first to survey the pristine reefs of the Chagos Bank.
With legendary divers such as Commander Alan Baldwin and Chief Petty Officer Arty Shaw, I waited my turn to descend into an uncharted main reef channel. Big sharks were all around and giant mantas hovered.
Work finished on the transect and we looked longingly into the depths. The corals and other invertebrates were amazing, both for their colour, size and diversity. We could have worked there for hours.
A giant grouper swam into sight, appearing to dwarf us all. To our delight, an even larger humphead wrasse followed in its wake. Wow!
Alan called our attention to dive time and the fact that our anchor was nowhere to be seen. We bunched and started our ascent. Alan surfaced to find that a storm had blown up and whipped our dive-boat away. He came back and signalled us to surface. At that moment all the sharks that had been hanging around stiffened up, and for the only time I saw safety catches opened on the bang-sticks.
We surfaced in a maelstrom of white horses with no point of reference. Thank God Warren Blake, brother of Peter Blake of Americas Cup fame, was up in the cross-trees of the Four Friends and pinpointed us. Soon we were all safe on board.
The data gathered on that last dive of the expedition proved that the Chagos Bank was a giant atoll still alive and growing as it should along its most sheltered shores. Sadly, since those far-off days and thanks to gross overfishing and El Ni–o, the Chagos is a shadow of its former self.
We can only hope that the worlds governments come to their senses and overfishing stops to give this and all the other reefs and the marine life that depends on them a chance to survive.
Thank you Jacques Cousteau and Emil Gagnan for opening the eyes of the world to the wonders of Earths own inner space.

FRANCO BANFI
Photo-journalist
hspace=5 In 20 years of diving I had never seen more than a lone manta ray close up. I went everywhere you would expect to find them but never had a good encounter.
Then, last year, on a trip to Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea, they told me about a manta cleaning station and we went there on my last diving day. I could see the mantas from the surface. I jumped in with three cameras and finally enjoyed that good encounter. It was only 8m deep, so I stayed in the water for two hours and went back in for two more dives. Can you imagine how happy I was
The worst moment for a photographer is to miss an objective. Last year I went to South Africa to photograph tiger sharks. I was told that I would have a good chance of seeing them over a three-day period, better still a week. I decided to stay a fortnight to be sure.
Two weeks, two hour-long dives a day - and nothing. Each day I thought, this is the day, but after the final day I packed and went home thoroughly disappointed.

JACK JACKSON
Photo-journalist
hspace=5 Six silvertip sharks swam directly towards me as more than 50 other silvertip and grey reef sharks circled around me, but I forced these out of my mind, hoping that the lure of the bait was stronger than any interest they had in me.
The leading sharks senses were on the bait above my head but, confused, its eyes were on me. The strong current slowed this large females approach, giving me time to focus.
I fired the shutter just before it snapped at the bait, and immediately there was an eruption of thrashing sharks, cameras and me as the snapping jaws set off a feeding frenzy.
I cursed the slow recycle of the flashguns. In 30 seconds it was all over and I had managed only two more shots. The sharks resumed circling. I regained my balance, checked the cameras and prepared for another approach.
I have led or participated in hundreds of shark dives but this one at the South Point of Shaab Rumi in the Sudanese Red Sea in 1992 stands out as the best ever, because of the number of large silvertips that came within touching distance.
In more than 6000 dives, I have never had a bad one. I have had divers present me with a near-empty contents gauge at 40m, shredded my hand on sharp barnacles as I fended off a local fishing boat, had trouble with a belligerent silky shark, spent an hour drifting towards Vietnam hoping to be picked up, and regularly have whale sharks or manta rays appear while I am concentrating on macro photography, but my most disconcerting time was spent worrying about others.
God knows how, but Gunter Bernert discovered Gunters Cathedral, a cavern near Calis Point on Coron Island in the Philippines.
I squeezed after him into what looked like a dead-end cleft in the floor of an open cavern. We found a narrow, curving tunnel containing spiny lobsters, but suddenly I realised that I could no longer see daylight and it was too narrow to turn round. I must either continue or reverse out blind.
Continuing, I eventually saw a gleam of light, and was relieved to emerge at the bottom of a large chamber with a hole in the roof that allowed in surreal shafts of sunlight.
We were with some novices who managed to stir up the silt, as the tide changed to flood. Being used to zero visibility from freeing anchors in harbours, I made my exit, but nobody followed.
Thirty minutes later Gunter emerged and explained that the others were having problems finding their way out. We swam back to the boat, borrowed the anchorline and returned to the tunnel entrance, where I attached the line to Gunter and paid out the rope as he swam back into the cathedral.
Fortunately the others managed slowly to find their way out, using the rope as a hand-guide, but it was a worrying time. The next day I went back to get my pictures, making sure that I was accompanied only by one of Gunters divemasters.

PHIL HARRISON
BSAC Chairman
hspace=5 I had the privilege of joining the BSAC Iceland expedition in 1981. During that trip there were many moments, some memorable and some, such as emptying the chemical toilet, not so.
The most memorable was a long trip by inflatable to Surtsey, the newest island in the world. We dived to get samples of the lava for the geologists in the group for their research into sub-sea eruptions.
After the dive we were allowed to land and picnic on the beach, making us among the very few people who have been allowed to walk on Surtsey. What made it the best moment were all the things we did that day - the long boat ride, the dive and visiting the island itself. It was a fantastic day.
My worst moment occurred many years ago when diving the Aurania off Mull. We were at about 20m and, because the visibility was so good, my buddy and I were about 6m apart.
Then I heard a loud noise and saw that his regulator was malfunctioning and free-flowing dramatically - spinning round his head, and emptying his cylinder very quickly!
At this time alternative air sources were not used and we relied on sharing regulators. So I saw my buddy heading towards me, giving the out-of-air signal and, after thinking Oh no!, or words to that effect, my training kicked in and we started sharing, kneeling on the bottom.
Once we had calmed down, we started our shared ascent. That was OK, although all I could think about was breathing out on the way up so that my lungs didnt burst! I was very glad to see the blue sky and take a deep breath.

JACQUIE COUZENS
Film-maker
hspace=5 There have been so many best moments, starting with the first time I put a regulator in my mouth and was overwhelmed at being able to breathe under water! I have seen amazing things: wild dolphins swirling around, clicking and calling in the Red Sea; bull sharks feeding on tuna in Costa Rica; and even some sights that no one else has ever seen, like hundreds of Humboldt squid feeding on a mass of krill in the dead of night in the Sea of Cortez.
But the most magical moment has to be interacting with the worlds largest fish, far out in the Caribbean.
Sitting at 30m far from the shore, we were watching huge aggregations of spawning snapper spinning in a big ball as they rose to the surface to release clouds of milky white gametes, a magnificent sight in itself.
Looking down, I saw another white mass rising towards me and, thinking it was more snapper, stayed still, carefully focusing my camera.
Only when it was a few feet below me did I realise that this was a 12m whale shark, heading straight for me with its huge jaws wide open, filtering the snapper spawn through its gills.
Backpedalling a little, I suddenly felt like Jonah - I was about to be swallowed by a huge fish! I felt I could easily fit inside its mouth.
As it got closer, I reached out and ran my hands down its body. With a flick of its tail, it was up over my head and heading straight back down again. I could only stop and stare as goosebumps ran down my spine - and whos to say what the whale shark felt Perhaps it was as surprised as I was to encounter a diver sitting in mid-ocean, right in its path!
The worst moment is easier to choose. It always saddens me to dive in places once teeming with life and now depleted.
Over-fishing is having a huge impact on the environment and every kind of marine creature. So my worst dive has to be turning a corner and seeing two divers pulling a lobster from under a ledge. As I swam over to ask them to put it back, they ripped it in half and stuffed one half in a BC, leaving the rest of the still-alive animal on the sand.
It was not only the fact that in that marine reserve it is illegal to take animals on scuba, but the sheer wickedness and brutality of tearing a living animal in half that made me so angry.
We are privileged to visit a part of the Earth few people see, and our beautiful marine environments should be there for us to look at and enjoy, not wantonly destroy.
So please, lets not be hypocrites, dont complain about seeing less and less life on our dives and then eat seafood. Were all responsible for preserving the marine environment and the plants and animals that live there. We should never contribute to its destruction.

KENDALL MCDONALD
Wreck expert
hspace=5 I knew I was going to die. The dark walls of the narrow tunnel crowded in on me. My bottle valve scraped along the solid rock ceiling as it dipped, squeezing me down to scrabble along the floor of pebbles. Scraped-off sprigs of red coral from the roof fluttered down in front of my mask. My heart pounded. I felt sick and giddy.
I was 35m down, and 10m in, with not enough room to turn round and get back to the slit-like entrance in the floor of Sant Elmo Cove on Spains Costa Brava
Every story I had ever read about fools who died vomiting into their breathing tubes after heavy drinking and huge meals before diving swirled into mind. Yet here I was about to die the same way, but in my stomach was only a small coffee and a buttered roll daubed with the thin orange jam that the Spanish thought was marmalade. I kicked hard for the pale circle of light ahead.
Suddenly I was out of the tunnel. But as I rose, I still felt sick. My head span. I took deep drags on my mouthpiece and felt only surprise when air rushed into my lungs and my head cleared like magic.
The best moment of any dive ever came next. At 11 in the morning on that June day in 1960, I broke through the mirror of the surface and, spitting out my mouthpiece, floated on my back.
The sun was hot on my face. It was good to be alive.
I have been frightened on other dives, but I never held my breath again when diving. And I dont do tunnels.

DOUG PERRINE
Photo-journalist
hspace=5 My best and worst experiences under water occurred on the same dive. I was in South Africa to photograph the Sardine Run, a phenomenal migration of millions of baitfish in the process of achieving a higher trophic level of being, by undertaking a life-changing journey through the intestinal passages of every predator on the coast. In other words, a mass feeding frenzy.
The sardines are forced off the bottom by dolphins and turn into writhing balls of fear to be attacked by sharks, diving birds, seals, game fish, etc. These baitballs typically have a half-life of 10 minutes or so, and tend to form and dissipate in the dark hours of early morning.
Last June, however, I was treated to one that went on for four hours, well into broad daylight. Two video teams with their safety divers were already in the water when I arrived, so I waited them out. The safety divers, after all, were armed with spearguns, and who knew what they would do if a stills photographer swam into their frame in mid-sequence.
Once those teams started exiting the water, I slipped in, swam towards the big, dark, round silhouette, and found myself alone with several thousand sardines, a few dozen dolphin, several dozen tuna and hundreds of sharks of at least four species (bronze whalers, black whalers, Zambezi and raggedtooth).
At first it was a photographers dream. I fired off pictures as the sharks, dolphins, and tuna tore into the baitball, showering fish scales everywhere.
The sharks seemed oblivious to my presence, totally focused on the little scaly packages of energy-rich fish oil that flowed like quicksilver in a vain attempt to confuse and elude the predators.
Then I felt the first bump. Just an accident, I thought. Then came another bump and another, always from behind. At first I would turn and only see a shark speeding past me on its way into the baitball. Then they began the circling - close, tight turns while bumping again and again.
I had to abandon photography and use my camera equipment to fend off the persistent shark. Eventually it would head off to look for easier prey, and I could focus on the baitball again. I was in heaven! The swirling mass of fish would open up a passage and a shark would come sailing through. It was magic!
Then, bam! A hard whack from a shark pushing me out of the way as it charged in from behind me. Just a tail slap, I thought.
Then, bonk! An unmistakable head-butt from a shark that was still there in front of me. Elation melted quickly into raw fear.
And so I went, back and forth, from the good adrenaline to the bad adrenaline for about 90 minutes. When I dragged myself back onto the boat deck, it was several minutes before I could even stand up.