This expedition had all the ingredients of a fantastic Adventure Training experience from day one. The SADS (Sub-Aqua Diving Supervisor)/instructor team arrived with a combined experience of 15+ previous Ascension Islands (ASI) expeditions and over 4000 dives to draw on. Much of the experience was down to the SADS team alone: Tim Butt and Sophie Rennie.
The diving was challenging, with surges and up to Force 4 weather conditions to contend with, but also exciting with world-class dive sites to explore. The highlight of the expedition was the discovery and mapping of a new dive site, consisting of a wreck of four wagons/munitions named ‘Yorkshire Chariots’ after the Regiment and now publicized for all of the diving community to explore and enjoy.
In the course of 12 days, 262 dives were clocked up, mostly as boat dives. All members also appreciated the unique marine wildlife: huge turtles, octopus, a manta, gigantic moray eels, scorpion fish, ocean triggerfish and the ever-present black triggerfish that accompanied us on all dives. For adrenaline junkies there were the dives at depth, wall dives and various wrecks to explore. Probably most challenging were ‘Eddies Gullies’ and the ‘Triangles’ dive sites with a series of pitch black caves and swim-throughs, with resident crayfish and eels waiting to ambush you at close quarters as a torchlight beams in their direction. Several divers became temporarily jammed and one opted to be pulled out backwards by their fins.
In addition to the serious element of the dive training, there was comedy too. Two, in particular – Nick Drowley and Shane Mealor – provided the best comedic duo, including a case of forgotten weight belt and an unintentional drift dive, very effectively illustrating the utility of EPIRB tracking devices. Perhaps funniest of all occurred on the night dive on which the ‘night dive virgins’ navigated perfectly back to exit and the SADS (blaming a faulty compass) ended up beached on English Bay along with crabs stealing turtle shells.
By the end of the expedition there were six new BSAC Sports Divers (Clegg, Taylor, Cullen, Walkley, Rotchell, Fisher), and five new Boat Handlers (Clegg, Mealor, Walkley, Rotchell, Fisher), all of whom rode the infamous ASI Guano Jetty ‘V’ manoeuvre. The experienced instructor team – Tim Butt, Sophie Rennie, Jimmy Ellis and Lynn Forsyth – took 8 assorted divers of minimal to modest experience and turned each one into more skilled, safer divers and boat handlers, while also steering towards brilliant dive sites with great wildlife and lava rock formations.