Both the opportunity to dive and the time we have under the surface is very limited. Our desire to take advantage of as much diving time as possible is reflected in our choice of equipment.
Our chief maxim is “always have a backup” and therefore to us, diving redundant is just as important as diving with compressed gas. We choose to dive redundant because we choose to deal with our problems our self instead of relying on someone else. You know how underwater photographers can become separated or just plain oblivious at times.
The gear we prefer is gear that we can configure in any way we need and also provide a host of operating options. We chose Dive Rite Trans Pac II as harness and BC. This is a system that can grow as your diving needs grow or adapt for changing scenarios.
We dive with doubles, that is two 12 litre steel cylinders joined with a manifold that carries an isolation valve. The tank valves are DIN/K fitted. DIN was our choice because we don’t like exposed O-rings or seats.
When we use our doubles we also use our Dive Rite Superwings that have double bags and inflators, each one fed from a separate first stage. The Superwings provide plenty of lift for us and our gear when the going gets heavy or if we want to sit high in the water when the surface conditions are a bit rough. The style prevents side and chest squeeze when inflated – most comfortable.
Naturally with two tanks we have two 1st stage regulators, one each to feed the 2nd stages. We use only first class gear for both stages (no dinky occy here) and the spare 2nd stage is worn as a necklace making it always instantly available (no fumbling either). The primary 2nd stage has a 1.5m hose making it easy to assist an out of air diver. Additionally the 2nd stages are attached to the hose with an articulating ball swivel for maximum comfort and adaptability. Gary uses Oceanic Omega regulators because he prefers the exhaust bubbles vented to the side when taking photographs plus it can be used on the left or right side. David uses his favourite ScubaPro MK25T with both adjustable venturi and adjustable inhalation resistance.
So just imagine the possibilities: Twin tanks, joined by a manifold with an isolator, twin 1st and 2nd stages, twin BC bladders, twin inflators.
Uwatec is our choice for dive computer. Gary prefers the wrist model whilst David favours the air integrated model. Both are Nitrox compatible. We use Nitrox. Nitrox is our preference not only for longer bottom times due to less nitrogen uptake but it can provide an incredible buffer between bottom time and deco time which significantly reduces the risk factors for older divers (er, not that we’re that old – really). Anyway it means more time down there looking for nudibranchs!
Fins – We use ScubaPro Jetfins. Gary likes the classic style while David has opted for the more recent Jet/split combo. We have retrofitted them with springs in lieu of straps providing an easy on easy off action and they don’t break or snag a line. They work well when frog kicking, especially the classic style, and for manoeuvring in tight places. Also being negatively buoyant is an advantage when you want to keep your legs down.
The Cressi Matrix (big eyes) is our mask of choice. Besides being a low volume mask the deep lens shape combined with its backward slope provides excellent downward vision which is a real advantage when inspecting gear and attachments clipped to our harness.
We have custom made magnifying glasses that we fit over our mask once submerged allowing us to adjust the area magnified to suit the task.
With wetsuits we have a number of options depending on conditions. Cressi 3mm or 7mm semidry with vest are our warm water options. However once water temp drops below 23C (in winter it can get to 16C here) we switch to our Dive Rite drysuit. To ensure the seals work under all situations of flex and stretch we add Apollo seals at the wrists and neck as the key to staying warm is to stay dry. We also have a choice of single or double teddy to wear as the undergarment. A hood as well as gloves is mandatory on every dive. Once you become cold it is impossible to warm up again and as we don’t move around a lot underwater and have long bottom times it essential to start warm and stay warm. Cold not only saps your physical strength it becomes the only thing you think about and all we want to think about is NUDIBRANCHS.
Ancillary equipment carried on every dive include: torch, reel with 40m of line, safety sausage and a small knife clipped to our inflator hose and whistle.
Gary has invested in a Canon G10 and Ikelite housing, but is utilizing one of his original Inon Z220 strobes. The G10 has 14.7 mega pixels on a 1/1.7” size sensor, 5 x optical zoom, and a large and very bright 3’’ screen. For nearly all of his sea slug photos he also uses a slip-on, wet close-up lens for optical magnification.
He is particularly impressed with the viewing screen which makes subject composition and review a delight, and also with the size of the image that this camera produces. While the G10 is not the latest from Canon it is definitely a better camera for our purpose than the more recent G11.
Our original camera gear consists of Nikon Coolpix 5000 digital cameras. We house them in a Subal housings and use twin Inon strobes for even lighting supported by Ultralight arms. A 512MB card provides plenty of picture capacity. A brass scissor clip attached to the housing enables a hands free ascent.
“Mischief” is the latest addition to our research fleet. She doesn’t replace reliable old
“RV Godiva” but complements her being more suited to the longer trips required across Moreton Bay and to its outside reefs.
“Mischief” is a production Voyager power catamaran, a V930 Sports Cruiser with extended hardtop, customized during construction specifically for our purposes. At nearly 10 metres long and powered by twin 200HP four stroke Yamaha outboards it delivers us in comfort, quickly and safely to our destination and back. Read more...
Our research vessel the “RV Godiva” is a 4.3m centre console semi- rigid inflatable Stingray Predator designed and built in South Africa. It has twin fibreglass hulls and a 4 compartment inflatable tubes with protective covers and self draining cockpit. The catamaran style, together with the tubes, provides extreme stability. It is powered by twin 30hp Yamaha outboards connected to twin fuel tanks and a dual battery system. (In 40 years of boating David has only once been offshore in a small craft with a single outboard motor. It belonged to a friend and yes, it broke down. What a drama.) “RV Godiva” cruises nicely at 20 knots with 2 or 3 divers aboard and all their tanks, gear and camera boxes.
In order to take photographs of very small specimens and egg masses with sufficient detail we have a photomicroscope system. A stereoscopic trinocular microscope that can accommodate a digital camera on the third tube was our choice. We control the shooting of the Canon Power Shot A640 digital camera remotely with software from a laptop computer. This enables us to compose and focus on the screen and instantly record and review the results. The eyepieces are 10 x magnification and the objective zoom ranges from 0.67 to 4.5 x giving us up to 45 x magnification.
We currently use a slave strobe off our underwater assembly to light the subjects. Detail on the opposite side can be lost unless it is used from directly above, but this then tends to give a very flat image. We are therefore working on a system of 2 digital slave strobes mounted on miniature tripods to solve this problem. A selection of black grey and white specimen dishes is used to obtain the right contrast.