Second Giant Sea Creature Washes Ashore

Second Giant Sea Creature Washes Ashore Along Santa Monica Coastline – Alarms Sound Over Radioactive Gigantism

For the second time in recent months, a giant sea creature has washed ashore in California. First it was a rare oarfish that had grown to a freakish 100-foot length. This time it was a giant squid measuring a whopping 160 feet from head to tentacle tip. These giants look different but experts believe they share one important commonality: they both come from the waters near the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in the Futaba District of Japan.

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[quote style=”dark” author=”Martin L. Grimm, PhD, Santa Marino College”] These creatures give us the chance to study radioactive gigantism.  Imagine a tuna fish that could feed a city the size of Austin, Texas, this is the possibility of radioactive gigantism. [/quote]

Scientists believe that following the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant an unknown number of sea creatures suffered genetic mutations that triggered uncontrolled growth – or “radioactive gigantism.”

Unfortunately, this cadre of mutant giants seems to be drifting towards the continental U.S. Local officials in Santa Monica, CA – where the creature drifted ashore – tried to calm residents. “This creature appears to be deceased and even if alive only thrives in water,” said Santa Monica Parks Manager Cynthia Beard. “We intend to move the creature in pieces to Scripps Research Institute so that they can study it,” she noted.

Radioactive Gigantism

Although not yet well understood, radioactive gigantism is said to result when radiation causes changes to the growth regulating portions of the DNA of affected organisms. When growth regulators fail to control cellular growth, an organism may reach many times its regular body size.

Local radioactive gigantism expert Santa Marino College biology professor Martin L. Grimm, PhD said that the nuclear disaster may have had some unintended benefits. “These creatures give us the chance to study radioactive gigantism,” he said. Grimm believes that harnessing radioactive gigantism may be like harnessing the atom to create atomic energy. “Imagine a tuna fish that could feed a city the size of Austin, Texas,” he said. “This is the possibility of radioactive gigantism.”

Others find the giant sea creatures to be a potential safety concern. Even before the giant squid washed ashore, the U.S. Coast Guard had issued a “blue alert” for residents in central and southern Californian coasts “to remain watchful.”

Yesterday Admiral Sandy Duncan-Roberts said that she would need to raise the awareness level to a “yellow alert” which asks resident to “exercise caution” along the shoreline. Are giant sea creatures really a threat for those on land? “Take Jaws but make him the size of a Manhattan skyscraper,” said Bruce Kenner, a marine biologist at UC San Diego. Kenner thinks that gigantism might distort sea creatures’ navigational systems. “If that guy took a wrong turn onto the coastline he could level 40 city blocks thrashing before he comes to rest,” he said.

Residents are anxious now that a second creature has surfaced. “Before we only worried about parking when we went to the beach,” said Marquise Griffon. “Now we have to worry about Godzilla coming after us.”

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Taravana: Can free divers get bent?

Can free divers get bent?

Can free divers get bent?

The classic study by Cross in 1965 looked at Polynesian island natives of the Tuamotu Archipelago,who habitually free dive many times in quick succession, usually for food or pearls and may make 40 to 60 dives a day to 30 or 40 metres. Taravana means to ‘fall crazily’ and his report listed 35 male divers. Twelve of them suffered from vertigo and one died. The ages ranged from 19 to 62, and the greatest depth dived was about 45 m. The islanders usually dived from a canoe or an outrigger and descended using a weight of about 4 to 6 kg attached to a line and wore goggles or a face mask. Divers would hyperventilate for 3 to 10 minutes before diving with a deep inhalation, followed by deep expiration accompanied by a long drawn “whoooeee” sound. Before the dive, the diver lowered himself into the water and continued to hyperventilate at a faster rate. Just before he dived, he raised himself out of water to the waist, took a deep breath and descended feet first holding the weight. Time on the bottom ranged from 30 to 60 seconds. Ascent time was no more than 20 seconds from depths of 30 to 39m. As soon as he reached the surface, the diver hyperventilated again for 3 to 10 minutes and then dived. The maximum duration of a dive, from surface to surface, was 2 minutes and 35 seconds. The average however, was 1 minute 30 seconds for a series of timed dives. The most common symptoms of Taravana were vertigo, nausea and ‘mental anguish’. Occasionally, vertigo was the only symptom. Some of these symptoms could be due to hypoxia, hypercarbia (high CO2 in the blood) and drowning, but are highly suggestive of decompression illness, especially the neurological symptoms.

Breath hold diving causing decompression illness was then reported in 1965 by Paulev, a Medical Officer in the Royal Danish Navy, after he spent 8 minutes at 20m as an attendant in a recompression chamber and then performed a number of breath hold dives in the submarine escape training tank (SETT) to 20m. Each descent took 20-25 secs, he would then sit or walk until he felt the need to breathe, at about 2 minutes, then he ascended to the surface, which took 10 – 15 seconds. Surface intervals were short (between a few seconds and 2 minutes) and he was in the water about 5 hours. During the last 2 hours, he experienced nausea, dizziness and belching and during the last 30 minutes, he developed pain in his left hip and right knee, with the right leg and the right arm weakness. Two hours after leaving the water he had chest pain, abdominal pain, pins and needles and numbness in the right hand and blurred vision. He was treated with USN Table 3 which was partially successful although a residual weakness of the right hand persisted. Three further cases have subsequently been treated in the Norwegian SETT and each one had been compressed in the hyperbaric chamber before breath hold diving. All experienced neurological symptoms and were successfully treated, which supported the diagnosis of decompression illness from breath hold diving.

 Question 1

Can I freedive after scuba diving?

Freediving after scuba is not safe. Although there are no clear guidelines, it is generally agreed that freediving can result in decompression illness after scuba diving, as a result of the above examples.

Question 2

Is it escaped gas or evolved gas?

The clinical pictures described above are more in keeping with the slower onset and less profound neurological problems associated with evolved gas decompression illness, that are dependent on the amount of absorbed nitrogen. Rather than the sudden onset severe neurological problems associated with escaped gas arterial gas embolism.

Question 3

Can submariners get DCI?

Submarines are pressurised to around 1 atm so there is no risk of decompression illness. However, if there is a breach in the hull, any ingress of water will pressurise the remaining space and make decompression illness more likely, especially if there is then escape to the surface. I have described how submariners can get decompression illness from evolved gas after repetitive breath hold dives in SETT, however they are actually more likely to get decompression illness in SETT from escaped gas from pulmonary barotrauma if they hold their breath on ascent.

Question 4

Can cetaceans get DCI?

There have been reports in Nature journal of bubbles in the tissues of cetaceans that have been stranded, suggesting that decompression illness is a problem in these air breathing mammals. Although the truth is more difficult to ascertain, as the stranding and the bubbles could be caused by cavitation from military sonar.

Question 5

What is the difference between deep water and shallow water black out?

These 2 terms cause confusion but are caused by the same thing, except for the depth at which it happens. The urge to breath is driven by the level of CO2 in the blood. That is, until the O2 drops to a low level, when the urge to breath is driven by O2. At depth, the level of O2 and CO2 are raised due to the increased pressure and breathing can seem comfortable. But on ascent from 10m to the surface (or 30m to 10m), the levels of both halve. If the O2 levels drop beyond that required for the brain to function, then black out will occur.








To come up with guidelines for scuba diving safety, the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) in the past decade conducted a study analyzing a database of incidents for a period of 12 years covering 1st January 1998 to 31st December 2009 (UK Diving Fatalities Review – BSAC). These incidents were categorized and ranked according to their level of gravity:

Moray eel with scuba diver

Moray dancing

1. Fatalities

2. Decompression illness (DCI)

3. Surface or boating incidents

4. Ascent-related incidents

5. Technique-related incidents

6. Equipment-related incidents

7. Illness (non-DCI) or injury

8. Miscellaneous


In 2012, the National Diving Committee released their Diving Incidents Report (http://www.bsac.com/page.asp?section=1038&sectionTitle=Annual+Diving+Incident+Report), which placed DCI on top of the list.  Fatalities, on the other hand, were significantly low — which is a good thing.

Still, when it comes to dive safety, it is worthwhile not only to know the most common – yet easily avoidable — causes of dive incidents but, more importantly, to try to prevent them from happening at all costs.  Following these 5 safety rules in scuba diving will not only ensure your well-being underwater, but even that of your partner’s.

 Be Physically Fit

Diving is a physical and strenuous activity. Based on the 2012 report, 65% of the fatalities involved divers over the age of 50.  The underlying cause of death is often traced to heart attack or circulatory problems. This is because health and fitness normally decline due to increasing age. Divers therefore need to pay more attention to these factors as they grow older.  By being physically fit and well conditioned, your body will be more able to handle the stresses of this activity.

 Equipment Check-Up

Most accidents can be avoided by doing a pre-dive safety check between buddies. Often, by becoming too familiar with one’s equipment, it is easy to overlook a loose strap, a disconnected inflator hose, a close tank valve, or forgetting to put on a weight belt. But with the help of a buddy, this oversight can be corrected before it develops into a problem and results in an accident.

Also by having your regulator, BCD and your tank serviced regularly, wear-and-tear problems of the equipment can be detected long before it can cause any major damage or accident.

 Buddy System

There is a higher percentage of diving incidence when diving alone. That’s because in an emergency situation like a diver going out of air or becoming unconscious due to narcosis, such incidence will render a lone diver totally helpless. But with a buddy, access to an alternative air source is readily available and assistance for whatever need or predicament is always on hand. Also, having a buddy allows you to run through your pre-dive check with one another, help each other in and out of the water, and share the fun and experience of the whole dive together.

 Ascend Safely and Do a Safety Stop

As mentioned, DCI has often been at the top of the list of diving incidents in the past years. That’s primarily caused by the residual nitrogen in the body due to the compressed air being breathed. To avoid or minimize DCI, never ascend more than 15m/min up to 6m depth and 6m/min for the final 6m to the surface. Also to increase out-gassing in your body, make it a habit to do a safety stop (3min at 5m below the surface) at the end of each dive or a decompression stop when doing a decompression dive.

 Proper Training

Finally, nothing replaces proper training. Make sure you get your training from a legitimate club or a certifying agency. This ensures that the training you receive covers all the basics of scuba diving as well as the safety aspect of it.  It also helps to continue practicing the skills you learned until they become second nature to you. And remember, never dive beyond your level of training and experience.


By following these rules you would have addressed and safely avoided the majority of untoward incidents that occurred in the past decade.

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Dangerous Marine Life 2


Dr Oliver Sykes  In the dangerous marine life series, this month I will cover injected toxins.


Cone shells or snails have attractive shells, and may be picked up by children or visitors to the reef who may be unaware of the danger. The cones possess a detachable, dart-like tooth, with venom that can cause sustained muscle contractions, numbness and weakness.

Symptoms: Small puncture wound with localized blanching, cyanosis and swelling. Severe pain, numbness, and tingling of the mouth and lips. Sometimes there is difficulty breathing and paralysis.

Treatment: Immobilize the limb, apply a pressure dressing, administer CPR if needed. Cleanse the puncture site, give analgesics and give tetanus prevention. Be prepared to support and monitor rate and depth of breathing. There is no anti-venom.



The salivary glands of the blue-ringed octopus produce venom.

Symptoms: The bite is usually painless and is followed by painless paralysis. Beginning with abnormal sensations of the mouth, neck and head, then nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and sometimes lack of respirations. There can be visual disturbances, impaired speech and swallowing, and generalized weakness and paralysis. The duration is from 4 to 12 hours.

Treatment: Immobilize the limb, apply pressure dressings, cleanse the bite, treat for tetanus and monitor rate and depth of breathing.



These possess a serrated bony spine at the base of the dorsal surface of the tail. Most injuries occur when the ray is stepped on.

Symptoms: Intense pain at the site; there is local loss of blood supply and swelling. Edges are jagged and may contain pieces of spine. Therefore secondary infection is common. Systemic effects include salivation, sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps, low blood pressure, and fast heart rate.

Treatment: Irrigate and remove remaining spine. Immerse in hot (50 C) water until pain subsides. Give local or systemic pain relief. Cleanse, debride and suture the wound. Give tetanus protection, infection prophylaxis and monitor heart rate, blood pressure, rate and depth of breathing.



Catfish are a common and widespread group of fish, found in rivers, estuaries, seagrass flats, mud flats and reefs. They are furnished with three venomous spines – one on the back and one on each side. These spines are very sharp and easily effect a serious injury, resulting in severe pain at the site. The pain usually only lasts a few hours The fins have a complex toxin which is believed to be destroyed at temperatures above 40 C.

Symptoms: Intense pain out of proportion for the physical injury, generalised symptoms are rare, including muscle cramps, tremor, fatigue, syncope and even cardiovascular collapse.

Treatment: Immerse in hot (50 C) water, cleansing of the wound and liberal irrigation with hot water. Give tetanus protection and antibiotics that cover Vibrio vulnificus. Severe allergic reactions can occur.



There are many species, including lionfish and stonefish. The venom is similar to stingray and is destroyed over 50 C. An antivenin is available through the Australia Commonwealth Serum Lab.

Symptoms: Immediate intense pain, redness, swelling, cyanosis, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, delirium and cardiovascular collapse.

Treatment: Irrigate and remove debris. Immerse in hot (50 C) water. Give analgesia, antibiotics, tetanus and antivenin if available.



The sea snake is an inquisitive but usually non-aggressive air-breathing snake. Sea snakes are readily identified by their flattened tails and valvular nostrils. The venom is extremely toxic and, while not destroyed by heat, many bites are not envenomated.

Symptoms: No symptoms for10 minutes to 6-8 hours post bite then there is malaise, anxiety and stiffness, aching and paralysis, especially of the jaw and eye lids. Ten percent of untreated cases are fatal.

Treatment: Immobilize the site of the bite. Hospitalize, obtain the antivenin and give CPR if needed. Try polyvalent land snake anti-venom if specific anti-venom is not available. Haemodialysis can be helpful and respiratory support is often needed.


Question 1

What is venom?


Venom is made up of poisonous chemicals called toxins. Many animals have developed ways of injecting venom into other animals. When the toxins in the venom are absorbed into an animal’s body, they have a harmful effect on that animal. Venom is part of some creatures’ survival kit-they use their toxic weapons to survive. Some animals inject venom to gather and kill their food. Other animals use it to repel their attackers. Some animals use venom for both attack and defence.


Question 2

How do anti venoms work?


Anti-venoms are purified antibodies which act as a kind of molecular sponge to soak up venoms or venom components (toxins). The most commonly used animal in the production of Australian anti-venoms is the horse. Sheep, rabbits and dogs are also currently used in Australia. Venom is obtained in a number of different ways. Snakes and funnel web spiders are milked for their venom. Stonefish, red back spider and box jellyfish venoms are extracted from dissected glands and tissues. This can be a dangerous process


Question 3

What is a pressure dressing for?


The principle of pressure-immobilisation bandaging as a first aid measure is to prevent the spread of toxins through the body. This is done by applying enough pressure to compress the lymph vessels, and by preventing movement of the affected limb. Correct application of the technique can buy valuable time to get the patient to medical assistance.


Question 4

Which antibiotics should be used initially?


Tetracycline deriviatives, chloramphenicol, penicillin and aminoglycosides are useful broad spectrum antibiotics that will also cover Vibrio vulnificus.


Question 5

What do the blue rings on the blue ringed octopus mean?


The usual colour of this animal is a mottled brown, but when disturbed, bright blue rings appear on its skin, warning of the danger of a bite.


Question 6

Where can I find more information?


Australian venom research unit


A key activity of the Unit is to provide medical advice on envenomations, anti-venoms and related issues to doctors, veterinarians, paramedical staff and poisons information centres, as well as zoos, reptile parks and keepers, various workplaces, government departments and the military, Australia-wide and internationally. A 24 hour consultancy service is available for DOCTORS AND PARAMEDICAL STAFF ONLY. The Unit also aims to increase public awareness of the dangers of venomous creatures, and the first aid measures for such bites and stings. It also works closely with the World Health Organisation in matters of anti-venom standardisation as well as patient care.




Cool Diving Apps For Your Mobile

The mobile phone – essential, indispensable, practically ubiquitous in our modern world. Wherever we go, whatever we do, a mobile phone is usually within reach. And it’s just the same for those of us in the diving community.

Most, if not all, divers carry a mobile phone on a dive trip. While the majority may want to keep their smart phones handy at least for emergency purposes, smarter owners actually use them as tools in their favourite outdoor hobby or sport – including diving. These days, a regular smart phone with the right mobile app can serve as a dive calculator, an electronic log book, a tide chart, a wreck locator, a reference guide, a book or a magazine. It can even transform into a dive computer, an underwater still and video cam, a compass or an emergency light rolled into one. A huge plus, as far as versatility and convenience go.

So what type of apps could be beneficial to you as a diver? Here’s a list of items you may want to consider acquiring for your mobile:

1. Wreck Locator – Wreckfinder (iOS and Android)
This app provides the GPS location, size and depth of over 12,000 official wrecks found in UK and Irish coastal waters. Wreck data is obtained from the UK Hydrographic Office database.

2. Dive Calculator – ISCUBA Plan Lite (iOS) and Dive Planner Pro (Android)
This calculator helps you compute the no-decompression limit, pressure group, surface interval, residual nitrogen and equivalent air depths and dive times for any type of mix (air or nitrox).

3. Weather – MET Office (iOS and Android)
When is a good day to dive? This app allows you to track the weather by providing blocks of three hours for the current and next day, and then day and night predictions for the next three days. It shows sunrise, sunset, wind direction and speed, and actual weather.

4. Tidal Chart – anyTide (iOS) and UK Tides (Android)
Part of planning a dive is knowing when to dive on slack. anyTide is a new app developed by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Liverpool that allows the user to obtain tidal predictions for any point around the British Isles including major estuaries. Although this is currently limited to iOS users, android users can make use of UK Tides instead. This app covers seven days of tide tables and charts of 700 UK locations displaying sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset and moon phase.

5. Electronic Log Book – Dive Log (iOS and Android)
At the end of the dive this app enables you to log the dive along with the GPS coordinates while still at the dive site and the experience is still fresh in your mind. You can also sync with your computer at home or view overall diving statistics.

6. Dive Theory and Exam Guide – Scuba Exam (iOS and Android)
Planning to upgrade your certification level? Or perhaps you are still a student diver preparing for an exam? Or you just want to brush up on your diving knowledge. This is a handy app that provides a practice quiz on scuba diving principles and theories and has a dictionary of diving terms and expressions.

7. Magazine – Dive Magazine (iOS and Android)
Want to read on the latest trend or current news in diving? Why not subscribe to this digital magazine. Its free!

8. Travel Guide – Dive Traveler (iOS)
Are you a diver who travels all over the world seeking the best place to dive? This app delivers up-to-date information on a travel destination by featuring local experts from each destination and dive experts from around the world. It shows not only the world below water but also provides you with top side information such as hotels/resorts, restaurants, bars, etc.

9. Social Log Book – Diving Dude (iOS)
Available only on iOS, this app allows you to interact and share your experiences with diver friends around the world. Log your dives, follow other divers’ logs, explore popular dive spots from around the world and find dive shops near your current location.

10. Multi-purpose – iGills (iPhone)
This is by far the coolest tool you can have. It’s an underwater housing and app that’s designed to convert your iPhone (models 3GS, 4, 4S & 5) into an underwater still and video cam, a dive computer, a compass, a log book and an emergency light all rolled into one. It has a rated depth of 40m and can display your dive info even when you are snapping stills or rolling video. As soon as you surface, you can send and show your experience to friends and family online in real time. And it automatically logs and inputs your dive onto your dive log. Truly an innovation!

These are just some of the many features that current dive apps can do for your mobile. Many more are on the pipeline. So don’t be surprised if, not many years from now, the regular smart phone becomes a regular part of any diver’s gear.

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Tips for Reducing Pre-dive Nervousness




You had been saving up for it for many months, have upgraded your gear, may have travelled overseas, and finally made it to the dive site you’ve been dreaming of.

Yet, with the big wide ocean now in front of you, and your dive buddies all excited and gearing up next to you on the boat, all of a sudden you start feeling funny.  Butterflies in your stomach? Sweaty hands?  Having a little difficulty breathing, perhaps?  You’re not alone.  Many divers experience this once in a while, from beginners to old-timers — especially those who haven’t gone underwater for a long time.  So you wonder how others deal with pre-dive jitters and still manage to enjoy a great dive.

One can easily recognize a diver who is uncomfortable or nervous before a dive:


  1. A friendly or sociable person suddenly becomes withdrawn;
  2. One who’s quiet becomes too talkative;
  3. Somebody normally upbeat and enthusiastic becomes negative about the dive;
  4. One who’s relaxed and easygoing stiffens up and starts to turn pale; and
  5. The person keeps going to the loo too often.


These are just some of the outward indications of pre-dive jitters.  But much of the problem lies internally, within the person’s mind.  He or she may have had problems in the past that he hasn’t overcome yet.  Mishaps like getting entangled, getting lost or trapped while doing a wreck penetration, getting separated from one’s buddy and going out of air, being swept by a strong current or being hit by a boat, perhaps.  Others may have had traumatic experiences outside of diving – such as drowning while on a regular swimming trip.


What can we do to reduce the pre-dive nerves, and get the most amount of joy and satisfaction from each plunge?


  1. Keep your mind focused on the joy of diving and not on any possible problem. Most fears are psychological in nature – drowning or being eaten by a shark tops the list. To prepare yourself mentally, it would help to do these things:
    1. Watch underwater videos like those of the BBC, National Geographic and Discovery. Try to recall and think about the positive underwater experiences you yourself have had in the past.  By keeping your mind focused on the good things, you won’t be dwelling on the roughness of the sea in front of you or whatever dangers you perceive to be lurking in the water.  If you’re feeling some shortness of breath, take a deep breath and just imagine all the good stuff you will be seeing during the dive.
    2. Before the trip, read about the exciting marine life or wreck you will be exploring.  During the trip itself, talk to your guide, the boat crew or any of the locals who live, swim, sail and dive in the area.  Find out as much as you can about the terrain.  Knowledge is power, and with power comes much confidence.
    3. Share some of your apprehensions with other — more experienced — divers.  They can give you tips on how they’ve overcome their own fears, reassure you about the concerns you have, and even quell any unfounded fears.


  1. Buoyancy is crucial. Most divers are over weighted. You need to make sure you are neutrally buoyant at the surface. That means your weights are enough to make you float at eye level with an empty tank and no air in your BC and drysuit. Doing so will allow you to move comfortably underwater, consume less air and, most of all, you will be certain of your equipment’s ability to keep you afloat.


  1. Make sure your regulator is properly serviced — it will give you the added assurance that your gear will always function properly during the dive.


Above all else, be excited! You have been waiting for this for a long time, so relax and just DIVE!


Scuba Diving opens a whole new world.

Scuba Diving opens a whole new world.

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When it comes to wreck-diving, UK is probably one of the best dive destinations in the world. With thousands of ship wrecks scattered all across the isles, there is always a wreck an avid diver can explore in every known dive destination in the Kingdom. Some sites offer even more scenic spots and unique animal encounters under water that no other destinations can provide. Here’s a list of the top 7 dive sites in the UK.

Weymouth and Portland, Dorset
Weymouth has more than 120 wrecks within a 20-mile radius. The wrecks include warships, submarines, steam ships and freighters, among others. The most popular are the M2, the Salsette, the Avalanche, and the Aeolian Sky. Situated in the centre of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, the area has an abundance of reef and ledge dives and are home to an amazing variety of marine life.

Plymouth, Devon
Plymouth is where experienced divers often explore the wreck of the HMS Scylla, a Leander-class frigate, sunk as an artificial reef in 2004. Also visible is the James Eagan Lane, a US Liberty ship that was sunk by a U-boat in World War 2. The area also has a smattering of shoals and reefs, in case divers opt for a change of scenery.

Porthkerris, Cornwall
Located on the eastern side of the Lizard Peninsula, the Drawna Rocks in Porthkerris boasts of the best shore dive in England. Just a short ride to nearby Manacles are numerous wrecks such as the Mohegan, the Volnay and the Spyridion, among others. Apart from the wrecks are pinnacles, drop-offs, reefs and an abundance of marine life. During the months of May to August, Porthkerris is visited by the second largest shark in the world, the Basking shark.

Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales
This is a marine reserve with a sharp drop-off that goes down to 45m. It is the site of the Lucy, a 52m intact coaster that sunk perfectly upright in 40m of water. It’s also home to frolicking grey seals, rare gorgonian fans (found in only a handful of areas in the UK), and various crustaceans.

Isle of Man
Located in the southwest of the Isle of Man is the islet Calf of Man, which hosts a dive site called the Burroo. This is rated as one of the top 50 dive sites in the world. Due to the strong tidal currents in the area, the marine life is abundant and diverse and may possibly be the best in all of the British Isles. There is an intact wreck of a Manx trawler, the Fenella Ann. Other wrecks worth seeing are the Ringwall, SS Liverpool and the Thracian. There is also an interesting cave worth exploring in the nearby Sugar Loaf dive site.

Farne Islands, Northumberland
This area is famous for its colony of 5,000 grey seals that often accompany divers. It offers scenic wrecks such as the Somali, Chris Christianson, Abyssinia, and Britannia. It also has a pinnacle, a wall, some reefs and rocks covered with soft corals and a huge, deep-water anemone, the Bolocera.

Scapa Flow, Orkney, Scotland
This is a natural harbour offering the best wreck diving in the UK. In the area are three battleships: the Markgraf, the Kronprinz Wilhelm and the Konig; and four light cruisers: the Coln, the Brummer, the Karlsruhe and the Dresden. These are popular wrecks among the 52 ships of the German High Seas Fleet that were scuttled near Cava at the end of World War 1. Due to their sizes, it usually takes several dives to view and appreciate just one wreck. Aside from these Dreadnoughts, there are also several wrecks of fishing boats, trawlers, cargo ships and a host of others scattered all over the harbour.

Divers will have their calendars full just navigating these 7 spots in the UK. There isn’t a lack of places to explore, and definitely not a shortfall in exciting things to see.

M2 submarine.

M2 submarine.

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Dangerous Marine Life

 Dr Oliver Sykes

Marine life in tropical waters that pose hazards to man can be divided into four general categories: Contact irritants and toxins, Injected toxins, Ingested toxins and Predators . This month I will cover contact irritants and toxins.



All these animals possess nematocysts, a stinging apparatus that discharges on contact. Floating tentacles can retain active nematocysts, even after drying and there is a wide range of toxicity, from mild to severe.

Symptoms: Rapid onset of pain, varying from mild to severe. The rash is red, hot and swollen, usually linear. There is frequent pustule and vesicle formation and severe stings may cause muscle cramps, abdominal pain, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, respiratory distress, and cardiovascular collapse. Fatalities are increased if there is pre-existing cardiac and respiratory disease. Box jellyfish (aka chironex, irukandji or sea wasp) may cause death in healthy individuals in less than 15 minutes.

Treatment: Use topical vinegar to neutralize undischarged nematocysts or sea water if copious volumes of vinegar are not available and then removal of remaining tentacles. Apply topical analgesics and steroids or intravenous versions if available. Treatment for shock or cardiac arrest may be required and therefore monitoring of pulse and blood pressure is required. Box jellyfish anti-venom is not universally available at all dive sites or smaller hospitals or clinics. Avoiding box jellyfish contact is of paramount importance. When diving in remote resorts in south-east Asia it is wise to ascertain the availability of anti toxin.



This is the only known venomous starfish, its arms having large spines with venom producing integument.

Symptoms: Rapid onset of swelling, redness and pain.

Cleanse the wound and apply topical antibiotics. Give tetanus protection.




Multiple slender spines puncture the skin and break off.

Symptoms: Immediate pain, joint pain, swelling and numbness.

Treatment: Remove spines, cleanse, topical antibiotics and tetanus protection. Soaking in hot water for 60-90 minutes is said to offer relief from the pain and swelling. Surgery is indicated for a foreign body reaction and if a joint capsule is punctured. Topical antibiotics and tetanus protection should be offered.



Some species eject a visceral liquid.

Symptoms: Redness, itching and pain. If eyes are involved, symptoms are similar to chemical burns and blindness can occur.

Treatment: Copious irrigation of the affected area.



Three species of sponges produce a rash on contact, including the red-beard sponge, fire sponge and poison-bun sponge.

Symptoms include: redness, joint pain and swelling.
Treatment: symptomatic with soothing lotions and topical steroids.



Coral may cause abrasions that become infected but there are no toxins associated with coral. Fire coral is not actually coral. It has nematocysts and is more closely related to jellyfish. On close inspection, fire coral has tiny hair like tentacles, unlike coral.



Question 1: What is shock?

Shock is a medical term for poor organ perfusion. The casualty looks pale, has a weak pulse, low blood pressure and may be drowsy or confused. There are many causes of this, but severe decompression sickness, arterial gas embolism, severe bleeding or anaphylaxis are the likely causes in divers. The treatment requires intravenous fluid resuscitation and needs medical support urgently.


Question 2: What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a life threatening reaction which is rare but can occur due/ as a result of to medications, commonly penicillin or stings, such as bee stings. Therefore it is possible to have an anaphylactic reaction to any of the above sea animals. The symptoms come on within minutes of exposure and include wheeze, itching, redness, confusion, drowsiness and shock.


Question 3: How do I treat anaphylaxis?

This may be indistinguishable from a severe jelly fish sting, but the treatment is the same. Therefore remove the cause, apply oxygen and intravenous fluid resuscitation but also adrenaline. People who are known to suffer anaphylaxis often carry adrenaline around with them. Also known as epinephrine, the injection is known as an epi-pen. Steroids, such as hydrocortisone and anti-histamines, such as chlorpheniramine, are used to prevent the reaction recurring. This is a life-threatening condition and patient’s should be taken to hospital for stabilisation or observation if responding to emergency treatment


Question 4: How do I avoid getting stung?

Find out about the dive site beforehand. Jellyfish appear seasonally and most others are rooted to the spot or at least move slowly. The best plan is not to touch anything but a thin wet suit is very effective at preventing stings. Be careful when it comes to washing the suit afterwards, as the nematocysts will still be active!


Question 5: What is Irukandji syndrome?

Irukandji syndrome is similar to anaphylaxis and is produced by a small amount of venom from a box jellyfish. There are muscle cramps, severe pain, a burning sensation in the skin and face, headaches, nausea, restlessness, sweating, vomiting, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and psychological phenomena such as the feeling of impending doom. The syndrome is delayed for 5–120 minutes and the treatment is symptomatic, with anti-histamines and anti-hypertensive drugs used to control inflammation and high blood pressure; intravenous opiates are used to control the pain. Irukandji are usually found near the coast, attracted by the warmer water, but blooms have been seen as far as five kilometres offshore. When properly treated, a single sting is normally not fatal, but two people in Australia are believed to have died from Irukandji stings in 2002.


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fire box








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Decompression Modelling

Dr Oliver SykesScuba diving may seem a long way from the class room and the point of theory may not be obvious, but it can be vital in making important decisions, especially about decompression models (aka tables). This article will outline some important theory and hopefully remind you that no dive profile is completely safe. Bear in mind that a model is only as good as it has been verified to be and there are too many factors involved to guarantee prevention of DCI.

A fundamental problem in the design of decompression models is that the rules that govern a single dive and ascent do not apply when bubbles already exist, as these will delay nitrogen elimination and equivalent decompression may result in decompression illness (DCI). Therefore repetitive diving, multiple ascents within a single dive and surface decompression procedures are significant risk factors for DCI.

The ideal dive profile creates the greatest possible gradient for nitrogen elimination from the tissues without causing bubbles to form. However it is far from clear whether this is possible. Some decompression models assume that stable bubble micro nuclei always exist. However, the dissolved phase decompression models are based on the assumption that bubble formation can be avoided. The bubble models make the assumption that there will be bubbles, but there is a tolerable total gas phase volume or a tolerable gas bubble size and limit the maximum gradient to take these tolerances into account. A number of empirical modifications to dissolved phase models have been made since the identification of venous bubbles by ultrasound in divers soon after surfacing.

Building Bert’s observation that dissolved nitrogen causes DCI, the first model that was verified experimentally, was developed by Haldane and is based on the following principles and concepts:

  • Nitrogen dissolves into tissues and becomes completely saturated after a certain amount of time. (Henry’s law)
  • The degree of saturation is determined by the ambient pressure, so that a given tissue above atmospheric pressure contains more nitrogen than the same tissue at 1 atmosphere.
  • The difference between the ambient pressure and a tissue’s partial pressure is called the pressure gradient.
  • On ascent, the partial pressure may be higher than the ambient pressure. But the body can tolerate some amount of pressure gradient without DCI.
  • If the pressure gradient becomes too high, the dissolved nitrogen cannot be eliminated quickly enough (by exhalation) and nitrogen bubbles form.
  • Partial pressure is the fraction of the total pressure that a single gas exerts in a mixture.
  • Tissue compartments are areas of the body that absorb gas at different rates and are categorized by how fast they uptake gas. Haldane introduced the concept of halftimes and suggested 5 tissue compartments with half times of 5, 10, 20, 40 and 75 minutes.

Tissue compartments do not correspond to anatomic tissues but one compartment will on gas and off gas at the same rate. Fast tissues on-gas and off-gas in shorter half-times than slow tissues. Areas that are well supplied by blood, such as the lungs and abdominal organs, absorb nitrogen faster than other tissues. Slower tissues include fat, fatty marrow and cartilage and saturation is reached when the pressure gradient is 0. This means after one half-time a compartment is 50% saturated, but it is not 100% saturated after two half-times, since each time the pressure gradient is halved. After two half-times a compartment is 75% saturated. After three, 87.5%. Four, 93.8 and for simplicity, we say a compartment is 100% saturated after 6 half-times.

How large can a gradient become before it’s a problem? Haldane assumed from his observations that the gradient could be a maximum of twice ambient pressure for all tissues. He assumed that an ascent from 30m (4 bar) to 10m (2 bar), or from 10m (2 bar) to the surface when saturated would not cause DCI. This was very conservative for shallow dives and not conservative for deep dives. In the 1960s Robert D. Workman of the U.S. Navy Experimental Diving Unit revised Haldane’s model with further experimental work to allow each tissue compartment to tolerate a different amount of supersaturation which varies with depth. This required a standardised ascent rate, which he took to be 18m per minute. His work allowed greater flexibility and safety to be built into tables for a range of depths and he introduced the term “M-value” to indicate the maximum amount of supersaturation each compartment could tolerate at a given depth. There are M-values for each compartment for each decompression stop. In no-decompression diving, however, we only have to be concerned with the values for the pressure at the surface. The PADI recreational dive planner grew out of Workman’s work and this is the reason why 18m per minute is the ascent rate required. The precise algorithms used in dive computers and tables are proprietary and therefore not available, but the PADI recreational dive planner now has a long safety history and is a useful benchmark.

We now have a complete model for predicting how nitrogen moves in and out of the tissues and at what point this process becomes a problem. However it remains a model and is therefore not true for every dive for every diver. So keep it conservative and stay within the limits of your computer!


PADI Recreational Dive Planner