Your strangest dives
Divernet
We asked you to tell us about your most bizarre diving experiences, and the quirkiness quotient in your responses was impressive. We present tales of crazy buddies, humming monsters, mystery wetsuits, pond dives, well dives, scum dives, ghost dives, weird locations and discoveries, hotwater dives, colour-free dives - and one hell of a smart octopus

THE MAD RUSSIAN by Tom Smith
hspace=5 Imagine my luck! My first open-water dive after finishing my course, and who am I buddied with but a mad Russian
Its a sunny day in Malta but the water is cool, even cooler below the thermoclines. I was a mildly apprehensive 15-year-old diver and this man had a chest like Rambos, an aggressive crew-cut and a vocabulary limited to grunting.
It all started when we were getting our rental gear. The Russian didnt fit even the largest BC in the shop, and was crammed into an XXL with the straps fully extended. When offered a wetsuit, he said, with a curl of his lip: I dont need one, I am from Siberia!
The divemaster thought he was joking, but the mad Russian insisted that he was OK, so after fussing around with gear and putting together the worlds biggest weightbelt, we set off.
hspace=5 On reaching the dive site and kitting up, he revealed his choice of exposure protection, a pair of blue speedos that should have been locked up for their brevity. His buddy check consisted of a grunt, and without even bothering to breathe from a reg to check that his air was on, in he dived.
But he didnt make the normal walk-in entry that the DM and I did. He just leapt 2m off a slippery rock into the shallow water.
After he had retrieved his mask, which had, of course, come off in the mad leap and floated away, we started the dive.
Weighed down by enough lead to sink a small battleship, he plummeted to the bottom in 22m and grovelled about in the sand, stirring up the silt.
As I reached him, he decided to roll over on his back, let his reg drop out of his mouth, and blow bubbles - just bubbles, not rings. He was doing a very good impression of a drowned diver, and thoroughly terrifying me. I was wondering how I was going to get him back to the surface, when a judicious poke from the DM seemed to rouse him from his stupor.
After all of 20 minutes, the mad Russian informed the DM that he had sucked his 15 litre tank down to 40 bar, so it was time for a rather hurried swim back to the exit point, and ascent.
I cant remember what I saw on the dive. I was too busy trying not to panic as the Russian dude continued with some of the strangest dive procedures I had come across, including fully filling his BC to facilitate a Polaris missile approach to the surface.
The only enjoyable thing was watching Mr I Am From Siberia shivering away throughout the dive, and ending up the weirdest shade of purple/blue Ive ever seen. It complemented the skimpy speedos perfectly.

MONSTER by Rachel Frazer
hspace=5 We were off Cozumel in Mexico, enjoying endless visibility, lots of beautiful swim-throughs and interesting fish life. We were halfway through a dive when a beautiful eagle ray came flapping out of the blue, skimming over us and plunging into the sand to pick up some lunch.
The guide had said (as they do) that lots of big stuff passed through this area, and we knew it was the time of year to spot it. However, we were pleased with what we had seen so far and started looking carefully among the shallower corals at around 19m for anything we had missed.
We gradually became aware of a distant sound we had never heard before, like a faint calling. With this, there seemed to be a disturbance among the life around us, but scanning the area we were met only by the unending deep blue stillness.
hspace=5 The noise was getting louder. Turning to look at the same spot, my buddy and I started to make out a large shape gliding effortlessly towards us.
We had both worked in diving for a while but had never experienced anything like this before. We were in for a treat.
As the shape got closer, we finned towards it. Although we have both dived all over the place, Mexico was new to us. We were on holiday and didnt know what these waters could offer. Our excitement was too much. We finned harder, into the blue, aware that the noise was more piercing and the large grey shape in front of us becoming clearer.
It was now only seconds before we realised what faced us. As we got closer I felt my heart beat as I made out the massive grey shape - with its windows and lots of smiling Japanese faces.
Yes, we had stumbled across a tourist submarine! It glided slowly past us and at that point I was glad I had a wetsuit with a front zip to give the tourists a sight they had never seen at 19m before!

WHATS AFOOT by Russell Eyre
hspace=5 Debbie was a newly qualified diver and I was taking her on her first sea dive, a pleasant 20m wreck off the Farne Islands. As instructed, she swam on my right-hand side, occasionally moving out to pick up objects that caught her attention. She would then give them to me to look at, before her attention was caught by something else.
So during the dive I was regularly given little treasures to inspect; a shell, a shiny rock, an urchin, a small starfish, a human foot...
A human foot Yes, she had given me a complete foot, from toes to heel. Once I had got over the surprise and inspected it closely, I found that it was from a medical skeleton. All the bones were wired together and gently waving in the current.
I was howling with laughter - there were bubbles everywhere. Debbie carried on enjoying her first sea dive, unconcerned, as if we found body parts on every dive.


THE ABANDONED WETSUIT by Alistair Nash
hspace=5 It was typically sunny, calm Red Sea weather. We were diving off Jackson Reef in the middle of September, in viz of about 30-40m and the water a balmy 28ÂC.
With the usual mixed group of abilities off the Sharm dayboats, the plan was to follow the reef to the north-east before returning along the same wall at a shallower depth, with everyone buddied up and following their own route.
After a pleasant but slightly unimpressive hour-long dive, my buddy Neil and I were 50m or so from the underside of the boat, following our mooring line back to the platform, when we encountered the worst viz I have ever seen in the Red Sea. It was about 10m, just a tan-coloured mist enveloping everything.
Most unusual was the mass of fish - it was like being part of a mass baitball. Ubiquitous fusiliers massed by the thousand, with blue triggers, dozens of needlefish and swarms of other smaller reef fish.
Strangest of all, in the middle of the feeding frenzy was a wetsuit - no diver, just a wetsuit hanging in midwater about 10m under the dive platform, with fish zooming in and out of the head and arms.
hspace=5 Back on the dive deck, the whole strange episode began to come clear. A certain novice diver - we shall call him Mr X (or Brian for short) - had got kitted up before the dive and then decided he needed the loo. Not wanting to hold up his buddy, he had asked the DM what to do and got the usual answer: Do it in your suit - the water will flush through it on the dive, and its hired anyway. So into the water they went.
Not until the two finished their dive and started to de-kit did the rest of the boat realise that Mr X had done more than just a pee in his suit. During the dive, the result had worked its way down his legs, up his back, neck and arms and he had been forced to strip on the dive deck, jump in with a brush and clean himself down, with the wetsuit attached to fishing line and left to dangle below the boat during the surface interval.
The two of us had spent eight minutes on a safety stop right in the middle of it - and to this day I cant decide if watching the feeding frenzy was worth it!


AMELIA by Steve Hancock
hspace=5 I was with a party of divers from RAF Marham in Norfolk on a week-long expedition, using the Joint Services facilities at Fort Bovisand in Plymouth. It was our first dive, the weather was good, the sea calm and not one of us was hung over from the night before (honest!).
It was around 10am and we were doing a shallowish wreck called the Amelia at 18m. We landed on top of what was left of the wreck and, after the usual checks, headed off to explore this unfamiliar site. There was a slight eeriness about this particular piece of sunken history. I had never experienced anything like it before.
We had been down for only a couple of minutes when I suddenly felt nauseous and very disorientated, for no apparent reason. Again, I had never felt like this on a dive before. I signalled to my buddy to abort and we headed for the surface at a controlled rate, though I was feeling tempted to go a lot faster.
Back on board our inflatable I took my kit off, took several breaths of West Country sea air and felt fit as a fiddle. Very strange!
To be on the safe side, I sat out the rest of the day and had a kip back at the bunkhouse while the other lads carried on diving. I woke at around 6pm bursting with energy (strange for me) and a thirst to die for. I dressed and made my way to the bar, but the rest of the crew seemingly couldnt hack the pace and were still asleep.
I must have been bored with no one to talk to, so I decided to give the wife a call. As soon as she answered, I could sense that something was wrong. There was no and where the hell were you last night for forgetting to call her on arrival.
hspace=5 Whats the matter I asked.
Ive got some bad news for you, she replied. Your Nan died this morning, at around 10 oclock.
Very saddened by this, I told her I would be home the following day. There was nothing I could do and I couldnt leave just like that, because I had organised the trip and needed to brief those who were joining us the next day.
I drowned my sorrows with beer until the rest of the lads turned up one by one. Being a great bunch, I had several shoulders to cry on.
Later that evening, one of the boys suddenly asked me what my Nans name was. A tingle went down my spine: Amelia, I replied.
The more I thought about it that evening, the more the evidence stacked up. I had been on the Amelia wreck at the precise moment when my Nan had passed away, and experienced feelings I couldnt explain. To this day I get tingles down my spine when I tell this story.


IN HOT WATER by Tasseau
hspace=5 We did a dive in the Philippines just off Basaunga Island, north of Palawan, in an old volcanic crater, now flooded. Access was obtained by climbing over some very steep rocks with our gear on our backs. Fortunately you dont need a wetsuit and so very little weight.
The lake has a layer of slightly saline water at about 24C which is about 12m deep. Then you hit a thermocline with warmer water below it! The deeper you go, the hotter it gets - my computer was registering 36 at 30m!
On a good day the thermocline is so distinct that it creates a perfect mirror, which reflects the steep rocky cliffs above you. There are various critters and fish in the lake, all inhabiting their own niches. Mussels are found only below the thermocline, and the lakes only barracuda, a 1.5m monster, is found above it. That was a very memorable dive.


SCUM by Charles Stirling
Strange dives dont need to be deep, or on spooky wrecks, or with some wild, unknown beastie. Mine was in a situation we have probably all looked at and gone yuk! - a pond scum dive. Yes, that floating mass of dubious origins sitting on top of the water along the edge of some pond or river bank.
I was out with Captain Galen Clymer, cruising the Homosassa River in Citrus County, Florida in a proper river boat.
We had been looking for manatees and other good things to photograph. Just the two of us, on the sort of warm, sunny day Florida seems to have.
hspace=5 Having used a few rolls of film on the manatees, I was aware that these animals came into the river both for food and warmth. They feed on plants, with eelgrass a favourite. Along the banks, floating down the channel and in little bays, were patches of this gunge.
One deserted cove had great globs of the stuff floating over a reasonable length of shallows and I decided to explore. I went in with snorkel and fins, swam over to it, then into it, then went back to the boat for diving gear and camera. Beautiful.
Dive gear may seem excessive, as this was generally not much more than 1m deep - you could walk it if the bottom were harder. But the beauty came not from looking down on it but from looking through it and up from within it.
Gliding in the open patches, often less than half a metre wide, to find the passages between this vegetation was as much fun as navigating through a wreck. Individual curly strands of algae were vibrant yellow-greens, translucent and almost glowing from the sunlight. Open laceworks and more tangled masses defined visibility distances of 1-2m with windows extending for many metres. Snorkelling couldnt do it justice and I would have had to swim through those yukky surface layers.
The bottom was soft, an arms length of matted algae. Disturbing it meant a few minutes wait for the current to remove the newly suspended particles but it was possible to rest gently on this soft bed.
Buoyancy control was interesting, staying at the right depth with a quarter of the air cylinder above the surface or just centimetres below.
The fish were small and quick. There were larger fish near the periphery of the weed. The alligators were, thankfully, somewhere else downriver. Turtles were about but I saw them only from the boat. Though strange, this was an experience I would like to repeat.


hspace=5 RUMMAGE DIVE by Ben Dunstan
A couple of months ago I decide to dive in a small abandoned quarry near my fathers farm. The water goes really green in summer and visibility is very bad, but in the winter it gets quite clear. The quarry was once used for extraction of granite for building, but has long since been abandoned.
I was expecting to see lots of granite and perhaps the odd fish but instead stumbled across a Ford Sierra (F reg, if youre missing one!), a Volkswagen Beetle, three motorcycles, a park bench, the remains of a tent and an axe. I thought the axe would be handy, so I took it home.


WORLD OF MONO by Tanya Piejus
I recently spent four weeks in northern Mozambique, diving with a group from the Scientific Exploration Society. Our aim was to survey the coral reefs off the Quirimbas Archipelago and assess the human impact on them.
Our only guide to reef location was an old British Admiralty chart, little research work of any sort having been done there before. It turned out to be largely reliable and we managed to find plenty of soft and hard corals with attendant marine life.
However, one day we motored out from one of the islands on which we were camping to do a recce for the next days survey. The man in charge of the map, a strong-willed South African called Morne, directed our dive boat to where he believed there would be reef.
Having dropped anchor, we peered hopefully over the side, but werent convinced. Sand seemed to spread endlessly in every direction.
hspace=5 Morne insisted that there would be coral so the dive team, a little doubtfully, kitted up and hopped in. When we descended, the picture looked no more promising but we set off after Morne in the hope that wed soon come across some bommies.
Ten minutes later, we were still finning over flat, featureless sand. A few minutes later, as we peered through the heavily sedimented water, a large gathering of black sea urchins appeared. They were huge and brittle-looking, creating a chequerboard effect against the endless white of the sand.
We finned on, still waiting for the coral to appear. Soon someone spotted a massive, gelatinous white blob wriggling in the sand. At first it looked like a flatfish of some sort but on closer inspection turned out to be a particularly large and colourless nudibranch.
It oozed its way slowly along the sand, soft tentacle-like protrusions probing from its head end.
Monochrome sealife seemed to be the main feature of this strange underwater desert. We picked out a black and white banded shrimp, trundling along all alone.
Then a hermit crab marched past, holding aloft a pale anemone in its pincers as if to turn it into some sort of hat. The occasional bleached-looking goby darted into its burrow as we paddled over it.
We never did find any coral in the 40 minutes we spent submerged, just sand, sand and more sand. But it was oddly interesting in a surreal kind of way and Ive never before seen such a lack of colour in a tropical environment. It was like watching an old film with a cast consisting of the leftovers from a B-movie prop cupboard.


DIVER DOWN THE WELL by Howard Rosenstein
hspace=5 It was the winter of 1975 and there had been days of torrential rains. We had taken some of it down in Sharm el Sheikh but there were reports of considerable damage around the Santa Katerina monastery at the foot of the biblical Mount Sinai.
I was running one of two diving clubs at Naama Bay, then under Israeli administration. I had set up camp in an old wooden boxcar dumped on the south shore in 1971. The region was like the Wild West then, far from todays international divers paradise.
I was contacted by officials asking me to drive to Santa Katerina, three hours away, to dive into its ancient well and help extract a damaged pump. This sounded like the type of adventure which had brought me to the Sinai from my native USA.
As we were leaving, one of the European instructors asked me if I had taken along high-altitude diving tables. Like duh! My Sinai machismo wouldnt allow me to let on that I didnt have a clue what he was talking about, but once we were bouncing along Wadi Firan, I was busy using the Jeeps shortwave radio to find out about this high-altitude diving business.
By the time we reached our destination, I had garnered only minimal information, so I decided simply to halve acceptable times at any given depth.
The scene I created at Mt Sinai was probably the most bizarre since Moses saw the burning bush there. A curious crowd of Jebilliya Bedouins gathered to see the strange creature in the rubber suit disappear down the hole from which they usually got their drinking water.
hspace=5 With a big twin-set and no fins, I climbed onto a skimpy platform connected by ropes to a pulley and the Jeep lowered me into the ancient well. I was to descend to the first platform, where the pump normally stood above the surface, then go below it to disconnect all hoses and filters. The pump could then be extracted by the Jeep, which would later also pull me out of the well (I was praying that it didnt run out of gas first).
The water was gin-clear to begin with, but my excitement was quickly dashed as I started to stir up all the silt on the platform and uneven rock ledges of the inner wall. Day became night in an instant, and for most of the dive I had barely inches of viz.
The platform was only about 5m below water-level, which was about 10m from the top of the well. I felt the pump sitting on the wooden platform and had to find a gap at the side that would allow me to descend beyond this point.
The gap was too small, so I had to take off my tanks in the muck and darkness, push them through the narrow opening and then follow through to kit up again on the other side. Luckily, I was about 20kg thinner in those days.
I continued down another 5m to the bottom. The silt billowed up and it was total guesswork as I pulled out the tools and counted the minutes that seemed like hours until I could get the hell out of that spooky place.
I managed to saw through the hoses, filters and securing lines and climb slowly back to the platform, take off my tanks again, shoot them through, pull all the dangling lines up through the opening, rest them on the pump and then make for the surface. I had forgotten all about the high-altitude table by then.
Ill never forget breaking the surface and looking up to see at least 30 pairs of eyes surrounded by dangling Bedouin kaffiyahs (traditional white head-dresses) peering down. I couldnt wait to get down to Ras Mohammed to do a nice long, crystal-clear deco dive the next day!


ITS AN OCTOPUS, AND ITS ARMED by Dan Blyth
hspace=5 Last summer I was working as a divemaster in the Canary Islands. My main duties were assisting instructors with new divers and also taking qualified divers on underwater tours from the shore. The area in which I mainly dived was a small cove off the east coast of Fuerteventura, which has its fair share of large octopuses.
One day while with two qualified divers I chanced on an octopus sitting in a small fortress of pebbles, its eyes visible over the top. One of the divers had requested the chance to see an octopus free-swimming, so I decided to assist it in leaving its lair. The octopus always returns to its lair if the disturbance is minimal. I have handled hundreds and they generally always return within a minute or two.
hspace=5I took my diving knife out and, reversing my grip on it, started to gently disturb the sand in front of the pus, which is normally sufficient to persuade it to move out. But I discovered almost immediately that I had seriously underestimated the size of this one, as an enormous tentacle whipped out of the lair, around my wrist, and took the knife out of my hand before I could blink!
The octopus then gave an excellent impression of smugness as it placed the knife beneath itself and sat there looking patiently at me. Slightly at a loss, I looked at the other two divers, who both shrugged.
After checking air (we were at 12m) I spent a simultaneously amusing and exasperating 10 minutes trying to trick the pus into giving me back my knife.
I got it back in the end (with the assistance of an unsuspecting sea cucumber) and this particular octopus to the best of my knowledge still lurks in the area. They are definitely the characters of the ocean.


HANDSTANDS IN KEY WEST by Keith Legg
Water diver, I took a holiday in Key West in Florida with my wife and booked a dive with a local operator. I found myself on a crowded diveboat with nine other divers and a horde of snorkellers.
At the first dive site I found that most of the other divers were already paired off and I was buddied with Juan, a gay Mexican from LA whose boyfriend was also on the boat.
This in itself was not a problem. On the first, uneventful dive we were both underweighted and I noticed that Juan was not at all interested in maintaining contact with his new UK buddy. Back on the surface, I suggested that we add weight for the second dive and maintain closer contact during the proceedings. Juan decided that his weight was OK.
hspace=5 Back in the water at around 5m Juan, still underweight, made progress by grabbing a large piece of coral that had previously been broken off and, positioned vertically in the water head-down, walked himself across the bottom holding on to this rock.
I should have aborted the dive but decided to give it another few minutes and stay close before calling it a day. My attention was then drawn to a shoal of fish a few metres or so to my right. I signalled to Juan that I wanted a closer look. He responded and I moved off.
Reaching the shoal, I turned to check on Juan and found that he had made off in the other direction. I decided to call off the dive.
I was trying to signal Juan by banging on my tank when, from the corner of my eye, I spotted a large barracuda lazily swimming in his direction. Juan remained vertical, head-down and oblivious to the fish until it was inches from his face. He then took off for the surface faster than a torpedo.
Fearing the worst, I surfaced slowly and made my way to Juan, who was wide-eyed, breathless and more than ready to call off the dive.
Back on the boat, I de-kitted and looked for Juan, who had disappeared. I was told that he was OK and up at the bow being consoled by his partner, much to the chagrin of the divemaster who, it turned out, had never entered the water. What do you expect This is Key West, the skipper said.
I learned my lesson that day. I will never again assume that a dive operator will necessarily look after the clients.
I will ask around the local dive shops for a recommendation before booking and, if Im on my own, I will ask a lot of questions of my proposed buddy before the dive.


SWEET MUSIC by Martin Read
We were getting towards the end of the week up in Scotland and were off to dive the Breda. Its big, upright and intact, as all good wrecks should be, but I had dived it loads of times (today would be the fourth time that week) and was in the mood for something else. Unfortunately, the rain had put a stop to that.
hspace=5The ss Breda was an early 1920s cargo ship built in Rotterdam, although because of the war the P&O shipping company had taken charge of it. It was on its way to Bombay with 3000 tons of cement, 175 tons of tobacco and cigarettes, three Hawker biplanes, 30 de Havilland Moths, spare parts for the aircraft, rubber-soled sandals, military lorry spares, NAAFI crockery, copper ingots, nine dogs and 10 horses.
On previous occasions I had found all sorts of things, from gas-masks to shaving-kits. I had also found lipstick, makeup and some tennis balls, squashed due to the pressure. Knowing this to be a military ship, I did wonder about the cosmetics!
Looking for something different to do, and knowing that on the previous dive my mate Steve had found a perfectly intact porthole glass just lying in the mud, we were told to descend the shotline and then come off the wreck directly below the diveboat. Apparently a lot of divers drop things off the side of their boats while kitting up and theres a dive shops worth of kit down there.
I descended with my buddy, trying to figure out how far forward of the wreck we should go. The shot was at roughly 60Â. We dropped to about 25m and set off. I was hoping to come across the latest super-duper dive computer, or perhaps just a knife or two. Then, out of the gloom, I saw it. It was large. Boxed-shaped. Definitely man-made. Excellent!
It turned out to be a flat cabinet-top stereo system, the type that was popular in the 1970s, with the turntable on one side and the pop-up cassette door with piano key type buttons on the other, usually made by Phillips or some other European company. Completely intact, it even had the smoked-glass-effect plastic lid.
In keeping with the take only pictures, leave only bubbles philosophy, I decided to leave it where it was for others to enjoy.


IN SHIVAS SHADOW by Sean Crago
My strangest dives came about 18 months ago on a dive safari around Netrani Island, off the coast of Murudeshwara in the Indian state of Karnataka.
I had just been made redundant and had gone to India to visit friends and tour around. However, after a couple of dives with Barracuda Diving in Panjim, Goa, one of Indias few PADI centres, my visit turned into a diving holiday.
In the warm waters of Goa I completed my Advanced and Rescue Diver as well as many pleasure dives. Visibility was variable, but Netrani combines crystal clear waters with an amazing proliferation of sea life. As far as I know, only Barracuda dives Netrani - the island is not charted and the nearest town is not mentioned in the major guide books.
On four dives there we would see a hawksbill turtle, huge parrotfish, various morays ranging from massive to tiny, jack, snapper, batfish and numerous other species.
There was a massive cloud of spawning jellyfish (non-stinging, luckily), plus a constant swirling tornado of red-toothed triggerfish and a remora that fell in love with us and wouldnt leave us alone.
But the strange part of the experience was the journey and the setting. Venkat and Karen from Barracuda had arranged to take me and a couple from Newcastle on the three-day safari. Only the three men were diving and we took 12 cylinders with us on an arse-numbing five-hour drive down the coast.
Venkat skilfully avoided all the maniacs on the road, told the police at the state border that we were friends rather than customers to avoid paying hefty bribes, and we reached our destination, halfway between Goa and Kerala, as dusk was falling.
hspace=5 Venkat told us to look out for the statue of Shiva, but nothing really prepared us for the sheer scale of it. As we crested the hills surrounding the Murudeshwara basin we saw, from many miles away, a massive figure with four arms silhouetted against the flame-red sunset. It was like Clash of the Titans or Jason & the Argonauts, a man-made colossus that watched over the rolling coconut-palm-clad basin below.
We learnt that it had been built recently by a local who had made his fortune in Bangalore and spent a great deal upgrading the ancient temple of his birthplace. I was a bit disappointed to learn that this gargantuan statue was, in fact, concrete painted pale gold!
You had to go barefoot in the temple, and with food offerings on the floor the place was swarming with ants. Can those Indian ants bite! We learnt all about Ganesh, Shiva and Parvati while doing a kind of improvised tap dance, as the locals looked on in amazement.
Murudeshwara is a place of pilgrimage for both Hindus and Muslims, but well off the beaten track for tourists. Venkat warned us that we could be the first white people that some of these folks had ever seen.
Watched closely by the giant Shiva and the pilgrims on the beach the next day, we loaded our kit onto the traditional canoe-shaped fishing boat for the journey to Netrani. We headed straight out to sea, accompanied by wild dolphins, and the island became visible just as the mainland started to vanish.
After two fabulous dives, we headed back. And the first detail that could be made out as we approached the coast from the sea was the silhouette of that four-armed Shiva, like some B-movie totem placed to ward off casual callers. The experience was unforgettable.

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