The aims of Calypso Tiger 2012 were to introduce ten novice divers to scuba diving while progressing six current divers to their next BSAC qualifications. The exercise was carried out on the Maltese island of Gozo, a short ferry ride from the main island of Malta. Gozo provided a fantastic environment for every diver on the expedition, with a range of sheltered bays for the novices to learn their basic skills along with a large number of unique wrecks, caves and underwater structures to stretch the more experienced divers.
Initially, the expedition provided a challenge to the novice divers as they were introduced to the methods of sub-aqua diving – learning how to use and maintain their kit and equipment, practicing the basic skills of mask clearance and mouthpiece retrieval while underwater but mostly learning how to control their buoyancy (a vital skill that only comes with practice and experience).
Once the novices had completed their practical Ocean Diver training (the basic BSAC Sub Aqua Diving qualification, allowing dives to a maximum of 20m) and passed their written exam, which proved to be a challenge for some, focus was switched to the experienced divers working towards their Sports Diver and Dive Leader qualifications.
Using the newly qualified Ocean Divers, the leadership skills of the experienced divers was tested as they were given the task of leading the novices on the remainder of their dives. Already competent and confident underwater, the experienced divers rose to the challenge of keeping control of the Ocean Divers in an environment where hand signals are the only method of communication. This challenge was pushed even further during a night dive in a pitch-black sea, with the success of the dive relying on confident compass navigation and closely managing the Ocean Divers, all by torchlight.
The final challenge of the expedition came with a long distance dive between two of the best dive sights on Gozo. Starting in the Inland Sea, the planned dive would take everyone through a 100m tunnel out into open water before following the coast around and under a huge natural arch, the Azure Window, before surfacing up through a 20m sink hole called the Blue Hole. As the dive was so long, success relied on the divers maintaining a calm breathing rate throughout to ensure they had sufficient air to make the distance, while keeping close control of their depth. For those that worked too hard swimming, or lost focus on their depth and burnt through air unnecessarily, a surface swim around the coast past the blue hole would be the only route back to dry land and the opportunity to complete the most popular dive in Gozo would be lost.
Throughout the dive, the members of the exped kept their cool, and everyone managed to surface within the Blue Hole to much excitement and stories of what had been seen and experienced. This further reinforced both the ability of the recently qualified Ocean Divers and the enhanced leadership skills that had been gained by the experienced divers.
Overall, the expedition qualified ten new Ocean Divers, four Sports Divers and a Dive Leader. The dive sites chosen catered perfectly for every level of experience, providing something new and challenging for everyone as they progressed towards their qualifications or simply built up their diving experience once qualified.
A huge thank you to the Ulysses Trust for their contribution which helped make the expedition a reality for the members of Bristol UOTC.