May 2012 - The Sea Pen - DivEncounters Alliance Blog
When I was a new diver I was fascinated with depth – with deepness. I wanted to get as far away from the terrestrial part of our planet as possible. I wanted to feel like I was in another world, and the deeper I was, the more true that seemed. However, I was (and still am) a recreational diver. So my bottom depths were shallow compared to what my tech-diving friends would do.
In time I became absorbed in underwater photography, and if I stayed shallower that meant more bottom time to interact with more animals and take more photos.
Lately I have been hearing the siren song again. There may be some deep technical diving in my future. But there is another avenue to get way down there – and you don’t have to be James Cameron to do it. It may not be as deep as Ed Harris falls in the Abyss, but certainly a lot further than standard recreational limits (as deep as 1,500 feet) – and all while still holding no more certifications than a recreational diver needs.
Not only do I admire Sylvia Earle, but I admit that at times I have been quite jealous of her deep submarine adventures. But here lately it seems there are more opportunities for average people and rec divers to go to these depths. Case in point: The DeepSee, which is the custom-built one-atmosphere submarine capable of carrying a pilot and two passengers to a depth of 1,500 feet (450 meters). This work of art and technology is often available for clients. I can hardly wait…
The Undersea Hunter Group and Cocos Island
This week I’m introducing you to the Undersea Hunter Group and Cocos Island, where most of their operations are centered. Cocos Island, now its own marine park, is 300 nautical miles southwest off the coast of Costa Rica. You fly to mainland Costa Rica and take the boat to the island, so the trips are a bit longer in total duration to accommodate the transit time (32-36 hours one-way). And from what I hear, the island is spectacularly beautiful – the rugged coastline with steep walls jutting upwards covered in jungle, the fabulous array of biodiverse animals and plants.
The Undersea Hunter Group is its own small fleet that includes the adventure and research vessels Sea Hunter and Undersea Hunter and the addition in 2008 of the DeepSee submersible and her mothership Argo. Adventure diving is the mainstay of the group. And they have a second goal that I find very interesting: the support of major underwater film projects, with the ultimate aim of bringing producers and film production teams to the most remote and isolated areas of the hydrosphere. With the addition of the submersible, Undersea Hunter Group’s vision has been extended to the deep ocean environment and continues to encompass film as well as numerous scientific missions (and being a science nerd, I think this is super cool). You need only visit their News page to see story after story about the fascinating expeditions they facilitate.
Divers go to Cocos to see large animals and have dramatic dive encounters. If you go to Cocos, you will see the big stuff, period. There are no maybies about it. From the website: “This Island’s world-renowned waters explode with life, including innumerable white tip reef sharks, schooling hammerhead sharks, dolphins, mantas and marbled rays, giant moray eels, sailfish, and of course the occasional whale shark. Other common encounters are large schools of jacks and tuna, silky sharks, silver tip sharks, marlin, Creole fish, green turtles and octopus.” And if that isn’t enough, you might also swim with tiger sharks, silvertip sharks, blacktips, and Galapagos sharks, and you never know when special guests may make an appearance – Mola mola, killer whales, pilot whales, false killer whales, whale sharks, and humpback whales all visit Cocos with regularity. In fact, here is a news story so new it’s not even on their news page yet: it’s an article in a local Costa Rican newspaper about the newly moved-in Tiger Sharks. Speak Spanish? Read the article here.
Cocos, however, is not recommended for inexperienced divers because it is an open ocean destination that requires advanced open water diving skills. The minimum required level of certification to dive at Cocos is Open Water with the additional Specialties of Deep & Night Diver. It’s also recommended that divers have a minimum of 25 hours of diving experience. Plus the use of Nitrox is recommended in order to increase safety and bottom time while maintaining safe non-decompression dives the. Nitrox fills are free for Nitrox certified divers. And if you aren’t Nitrox certified, you can do that while on board…perhaps during the long transit steam to the island.
If you happen to be a rebreather diver, you will be pleased to know they can easily accommodate you. In fact, they can accommodate technical divers of all ilk. More info on tech diving support here.
The Undersea Hunter Group folks have a thorough and extensive website, and I don’t want to just repeat all that information here (which is kind of hard not to, because they really cover so much). For information about dive sites, the vessels, itineraries, biodiversity, climate on trips, as well as lots of news articles, which are continually updated, dig around in www.underseahunter.com. You might start with the Introduction to Cocos Island. Or maybe with the map of dive sites – once you get there, click on each little dive flag for more info about the site itself. You can also learn more about the people behind the Undersea Hunter Group on their main website as well as on DivEncounters Alliance website. And that stuff about going deep in the DeepSee? You can get an extensive introduction to DeepSee here and review DeepSee’s dive sites.