In February 2015, 16 members of the Club and some friends jetted off to Mexico to sample the delights of Cozumel and the Yucatan.  A comprehensive diary will appear in the Dive Trip section of the website in due course, but meanwhile here is an account of the trip written by Ali Bessel.  

Mexico - February 2015 – Ali Bessell

A trip was organised by Dawn Barnard, primarily to dive the Cenotes, but to include a few days diving on the famous Cozumel reefs. I have wanted to dive the cenotes for years, which prompted me to do an Introduction to Cave Diving with Martyn Farr quite a few years ago, just to check out how I felt about overhead environments and how it would feel if all the lights went out and it was a long way back to surface air. Thought a trip to Wales would be cheaper than getting to Mexico and finding out there that it might not go too well. So what I confirmed, is that dark and overhead is fine, but ‘silt out’ is definitely something I really am not happy about, despite that in effect, it’s the same as ‘dark’ in the great scheme of what you do about it. But diving in mine shafts in Wales was accomplished so I had no qualms about the Ceynotes.

We arrived in a lovely hotel in Cozumel, 16 or so people. All the standard stuff, bed, food, pool, beach etc, normal so far, and a pier from which the shuttle boats could pick us up in the morning to get to the dive sites. Dawn, our illustrious overworked leader, is a master of smooth manipulation, with a smiley sweet demeanour, that hides some serious fangs. You will buy those raffle tickets, attend that social event, and blindly support some charity you have no interest in, the money gliding from your wallet/purse to that collection jug/ticket purchase. We had not been in the hotel for one hour and these skills were called on, when a room for two of our party was not available. Despite the confirmation booking email, no room. However, the sweet fang hiding smile, those dulcet tones, could not get the desired result, and no room materialised. Well everyone has an off day! Turns out they regularly overbook, sometimes to the tune of 80 people,  and then just shuttle people about the island to the other hotels. And no-one throws a tantrum? ‘Oh well…this is Mexico’, a phrase I heard regularly. So the homeless pair, Phil and Trine, were split, and an extra bed was put up in two others pairs rooms, and the problem was sorted. Easily enough space and no-one really cared. Soon too distracted by iguanas, wild pigs, terrapins, crocodiles, and rich bird life, all in the hotel grounds, to really care about the sagas of beds and bathroom rotas. A few cocktails later…what room?

Breakfast, buffet, I had chillies; I’m going to regret that! Pier, small boats arrived, nitrox had been ordered, all of the nitrox ordered did not turn up, and some fills were under 200 bar. Wheel out our illustrious leader! Polite, sweet talking fang bearer wades in again on everyone’s behalf, with some team back up of course. All chilled but point made, promises that it will be rectified in the morning and the day begins. All the dives turn out to be gentle to not so gentle drift dives over lovely sponge rich reefs, with corals, small ascidians and apparently some fish, or ‘clutter’ as I call them. Actually even I looked at some of these fish…..but why when there are all these sponges?

Lunch on each day was spent at another small pier that just ended at the jungle edge. Fruit and cake were provided and we all wandered about on the 50 yards of wooden pier, along with the other 6 boat loads of people. You did not really notice the other boats at the dive sites, but here they all were during the surface interval.

One dive involved an over-interested large green/yellow moray eel, which I was happily videoing with my newly acquired Go-Pro, until it appeared to head straight for me from the seabed. From 2m away, evasive action involved using those famous force fins, jetting forward over it so I was no longer in its line. However, I turn around to see Dawn, illustrious leader and buddy for most of the trip, become the new focus for the eel, from which she back-finned away like crazy. I had a difficult choice. Do I turn my Go-Pro on the event, and catch for posterity and scientific research, the grizzly end of my friend in the jaws of the green/yellow denizen of the underhangs, or do I charge back to her rescue, so that we at least get to day two of our holiday without a visit to a morgue/hospital/police cell? As it turned out, we both headed down to a tunnel through the rock where the others had gone, lost each other looking for the entrance, found each other, headed off through the entrance with me leading, where I was apparently moving too slowly, which eventually drove Dawn mad, and I got stomped over as she hot-footed out of the tunnel. Well there was this nice sponge you see…so I got distracted. Got to admit, it did occur to me that if we weren’t happy about meeting a moray eel, why the hell had we chosen a series of swim-throughs and overhangs as our refuge? However, Dawn promptly got on Facebook and told the world I had abandoned her in a moment of need. Shockingly inaccurate!

The dives on the next few days, continued to be full of lovely reefs, sponges, corals, fish, barracuda, large parrot fish etc. We entertained ourselves one night by going to the main town of Cozumel for the carnival, apparently very famous. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a party and I wiggled and toe-tapped happily to the drumming and dancing. But really, no part of me actually ‘gets it’. The synchronised dancers who actually danced, really danced, that bit I get. The nasty plastic covered floats with lights and sequin covered, feather plume wearing, disconcertingly smiley men and women, mainly women, just wiggling about is totally lost on me. What are they all doing? And why are they doing it? There was an awful lot of bright pink and yellow polyester wigs, face masks and fluorescent candy floss. We were in front of loads of locals, also in sequins, along with their sequin covered dogs! It’s not Mexico, I feel the same about British carnivals. But I do fancy doing a Brazilian Mardi Gras…that is on the bucket list!

We all transferred to a fantastic boutique hotel on the mainland in Playa del Carmen. Cozy, beautiful décor, nice small pools set in lush greenery, (not that I ever got in, they were freezing), and a Jacuzzi, which I did get in, along with a few glasses of Sangria, brought to us by the guys from the small restaurant next door. And great…..the hotel borders a lovely open plaza with a nice building at one end, a raised green area at the other. Ahhh… plaza, of course, 6 or 7 nights out of the 9, an ‘event’ was held. A carnival outside the window on four nights, complete with stage performers in the square with the obligatory sequin covered wigglers, followed by military celebrations in the morning with drummers, flag waving, some religious worship another day, busy busy busy. But you got used to it and I would definitely go back there.

The cenote diving then began. Dave Purvis has written an account of the cave dives so I won’t bother adding more. Suffice to say, fantastic!! Claire and Lanny from Tulum Underworld did a fantastic job, smooth operation, relaxed, informative, and above all, CAKE! Personally, surfacing in the bat caves half way through the dives was very special, very passionate about bats, not sure why?

Interspersed with our Cenote diving, we took a day to dive with Discovery Divers, out of Playa, who took us to the ‘Green Wall’ and another drift dive. Both lovely reef dives but Cozumel reefs were noticeably better. Interesting day, lovely couple Cheryl and Geoff, Cheryl never to be forgotten, from the southern states of America, Texas maybe, complete with lots of whooping and hollering, and if she could have run around the boat and high-five’d us at every opportunity I’m sure she would have. Adored one of our party, Guida, whom she wanted to take home with her because she was soooooooo cute! She also seemed amazed to find out that we all had DSMB’s and could all administer O2 if needed. ‘Love you guys’ etc etc. Briefing given, in your pairs, follow on, stay as a group, all come up at the end of the drift together. Interesting. No. Get in, drift, scatter, my buddy (Cheryl), above me, in fact did not really see her the whole dive. One pair 30-40m behind me, another 30-40m in front of me, joined one pair for the ascent. Lovely dive though. A few days later, as the bull shark dive was organised by the same couple, with the same briefing, and I already wary of the bull sharks, I decided that the potential scatter-diving approach to a bull shark dive, was not for me!

Enjoyed a walk around Playa one night, round the built up bar/restaurant/souvenir filled streets. Day 1 in Playa you think, WOW, all this silver, and I must have one of those decorated skulls covered in stones, mosaics, gaudy colours, and maybe a wooden face mask! My house will not be the same without one! Day 3 in Playa, who the hell is buying all these skulls, masks, the silver now looks tacky, going slightly mad around street after street of STUFF! And I have not seen anyone wearing a white, embroidered puff sleeved hippy/ethnic top since 1975! WHO IS BUYING THIS STUFF! One stall holder apparently shouted at Warren ‘come and have a look at my crap, same crap as everywhere else, just cheaper!’ Now I might have bought something off that guy, for amusement value at least.

Achieved another wish list goal, having my feet eaten in one of those foot fish spa’s. Myself and Trine were the only two who wanted to do it. Was told ‘you can get aids from that’. Really? So I can die on this holiday from cave diving, bull sharks, and now aids spreading fish. Spoilt for choice. So now I’m on an aids catching night out! Interestingly the fish spa host said, ‘if you start bleeding, don’t take your feet out, leave them in there’. Why? So the fish get the first decent meal they have had in days? So you don’t kill all the fish by dragging them out of the water as they attach themselves to you in a feeding frenzy? No bleeding, and we really enjoyed it. We think we got an extra 5 mins because Phil distracted the spa guy by running around the souvenir shop it was set in, and playing the didgeree-doo for the passers-by. Most experiences with Phil tend to lean towards the surreal after a short period of time. Mean streak though. Kept sloping off to McDonalds for his double-whatever burger, as it was the only place in town he could find with whole chillies to eat. Brought a few back, happily chewing one, offered them to me, expected a manageable jalapeño. THE PAIN. I could have punched him. However I couldn’t see him through the tears.

Our last dive was a ‘turtle dive’ out of Akumal, just down the coast. Well worth the trip as a complete contrast to Cozumel, Playa and the Ceynotes. Beautiful golden beaches, nice open fronted bar on the beach, and bizarrely, absolutely mobbed by hordes of people in flotation jackets and snorkels, going off in groups of ten or more, each with a guide, to be taken around an area just offshore to see turtles and rays. Not us, we are going off in a tiny boat, past the breaking waves to where the real action is!

One, small, not so activity oriented turtle! Lovely reefs though. The shore diving members of our party were besieged by turtles ... fighting them off! Everyone went home the next day. Dawn, her husband Warren and I stayed on for an extra week to enjoy a tour about. So, first goal, straight back to Akumal, abandoned heat-loathing, non-diving water-hater Warren on the beach, shouting SEE YA, as we ran back into the sea, no guide or bright jacket, to find our own turtles. Few meters off the beach, huge turtle covered with remoras. Turtles, rays in abundance, all unbothered by our presence, despite the hordes of people there. Lovely couple of hours.


The rest of the week was interesting. Warren and Dawn went in one direction for their exploration, me in the other. Few historic Mayan sites, flamingos at Rio Lagartos, and a small old colonial town called Valladolid. Hidden charms, very VERY hidden! But after 3 days into my use of Valladolid as a base, the charm seeped in. It may be linked to the discovery of a lovely restaurant by an old monastery, which served the most amazing chocolate cocktails. Next to my table, the unrivalled attraction of a small cenote opening, from which small bats flew continually. Fantastic.

Presentation Title

The Normandy 70 Wreck Week took place between 13-21 September 2014.  Normandy 70 was an expedition by Southsea Sub-Aqua Club to dive and record wrecks associated with the maritime phase of WW2 Allied invasion of Normandy otherwise known as Operation NEPTUNE.  This expedition was inspired by a BSAC Southern Region initiative (NEPTUNE 70) which seeks to encourage branches to investigate and dive wrecks associated with Operation Neptune in British waters. 

Expedition Members recorded a daily account of the diving and other activity during the Expedition, and this informal daily diary with pictures, information on the wrecks, diving and other activity can be viewed by clicking the links below:  (Owing to the number of pictures, these files may take a few seconds to load in a new window)

Day 1 - 13 September 2015

Day 2 - 14 September 2015

Day 3 - 15 September 2015

Day 4 - 16 September 2015

Day 5 - 17 September 2015

Day 6 - 18 September 2015

Day 7 - 19 September 2015

Day 8 - 20 September 2015

BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic Training Course 2015_1BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic Training Course 2015_1

Graham Scott will be giving a talk on the loss of the Mendi at the club house on 13 November.  The evening will start at 8pm which is earlier than a normal club night.  It promises to be an interesting evening.  The event is open to everyone but to help with the organisation could any non-SSAC members planning to attend please contact Ali Mayor (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) beforehand.


Click the title page to see the whole plan


Project Aim:

A project to commemorate the role of the Mulberry Harbours and the 70th anniversary of the WW2 invasion of Normandy through the recording of elements of Mulberry Harbour in waters around Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and West Sussex.


Location of sites; 20+ sites primarily in the Solent / Selsey area.

Project Programme

Jan to Jun 14;             Detailed planning, training, historical research and site identification

16 to 26 Aug 14          Diving , ROV and Side-scan surveys.

Sept – Dec 14             Final project report and outreach.

Mulberry Harbour

Day 1 - Sat 16 Aug

Well done to everyone who took part yesterday and in particular Mark Rayiru who managed the day superbly. The first challenge was that the slip was a foot deep in shingle from the recent windy spell... Lots of kicking and pushing of stones around and some rubber matting meant that Martin could finally drive the trailer down the slip where we successfully launched the Rhib.  Some time was lost as a result but we managed to get back on track. Thanks to Trevor for helming the boat and setting up the lines for us to survey the first site.

On the Crumbly MulberryOur initial exercise was to search an area looking for a 'whale float' as described in the Dive Sussex (Book of lies). This was a real exercise of team work whereby 4 pairs of divers drifted to search an area 20m across for a length of 80m of seabed.  The must discussed theory worked well in practice and although we did not find the intended wreck target we did see a lovely large plaice about 50cm long.  All gained some valuable experience of this search technique which may be useful in the future. 

Our 2nd task was to dive the 'Crumbly Mulberry'.  Thanks to some time spent on the boat looking for sites we were fairly confident that we had located it on our sonar.  We successfully shotted the wreck and spent just under an hour swimming round the mini mulberry.  A lot of tangled steel and broken concrete.  There's a small wall with dead men's' fingers, conger eel and shoals of young bib, Ballan wrasse and two spotted gobies.  It was a light and colourful site - good slack water and vis 3-4m.  John and Neil took measurements, Mark and Ed sketched and got lost, Jim and Malcolm had a 90m swim off site to look for more adventure!

Max depth 7m! we managed 2 dives totalling 75mins on a single 12L tank and still came out with 90bar! 

Sunday 17 Aug

Weather unsuitable for diving

Monday 18 Aug

No diving while SSAC members attended the funeral of a well-loved and respected buddy, Dave Gilbert.  RIP

Day 2 - Tue 19 Aug

Nice day but wind picked up during the day. 

Cox - Tom Templeton Dive 1 - We set out to dive an unidentified obstruction - Dive Sussex site no 96 with a position of 50 42'31" N 00 37' 42"W (which we converted to decimal WGS 84.  Dive Sussex stated that no one had dived but likely to be Mulberry related.  Described as 'tricky to find'. The closest UKHO data was 20081.

What a surprise we had!  The site is a pile of rocks between 20-30cm high (granite?).  At one end there appears to be a very old anchor and other structures.  Some wood evident and a copper nail - head about 2cm across. We think this is an old wooden shipwreck which had lost all but its ballast and what remains of the hull beneath the seabed.  May not have been carrying cargo or if it was... presume perishable.  We took some photos and measurements of the anchor but visibility was poor and Martin and Ali were the only ones to find it despite only being a few metres from the shot. We had a rough guess of 12m by 6m and standing up 2m Martin thought slightly less which aligns with the UKHO data of 10x10m and 1.2m height. Certainly one for the archaeologists to examine.  More detail when we've had a chance to study images.  

Conclusion.... nothing to do with Mulberry! (Dive Sussex AKA 'Book of Lies')

Dive 2 - We looked for another Dive Sussex site - Page 61 Site 69.  2 Beetles? Described as 2 small concrete chambers 50 yards apart. 50 44' 09"N 00 41' 36"W.  We converted these to decimal WGS84 but could not pick up anything on our echo sounder and rather than waste the opportunity to dive we changed site to the Inner Mullberry at Pagham.  We had a nice dive here as this is one you can swim through from one side to the other as well as going round.  There is quite a lot of metal work over to one side, may be some kind of lifting gear? We will need to study photos/drawings to have a better idea what this is.  Joe Bater rescued Ed's weight belt which fell from Malcolm's hands.

Day 3 - Wed 20 Aug

Beautiful morning, light winds and mostly sunny.  Sun tan lotion and hat essential (photo to follow!)

Dive 1 - Whale Bridges.

WhalebridgeUKHO site 19988. This was our most demanding dive yet.  Just over 32m and very dark/poor visibility of 1-2m. We think we found 2 whale bridge sections but this is a site we need to dive again to get our orientation and look around more.  With such limited time on the site it was tricky to work out how the bridge sections were lying.  One in particular showed evidence of damage but they were obviously bridge section.  No obvious kite anchor but too early to say as there may be much more to the site... we just fumbled around what we did see.  Some video but again hard to establish some parts.  Did not see any beetles but that is not to say they are not there. Ed was delighted to successfully complete this dive which was his deepest UK dive and he was unsure how he would react in challenging conditions.  He did really well and was looked after by Jim and Doug.  All returned safely.  

Dive 2 - Unidentified obstruction

Reeling off to explore the siteThis was something we found whilst searching for objects last week with our echo sounder. We don't think it is in Dive Sussex or has a UKHO record (though we may be wrong).  This turned out to be a rectangular steel pontoon type object approx. 1.5m high and some 20m long and 8m wide. Steel construction with a criss-cross of uprights and supports throughout its length.  A shallow dive (8m), plenty of light and marine life although the current was a little strong. We will get the exact measurements from John Bohea and Ed tomorrow. 

All in all the survey is already proving to be a worthwhile exercise - with (as we always seem to find) some surprising results.

Weather looking a little rough tomorrow so may only get one early dive in.

Thanks again to everyone including Tom Templeton for helming the boat for us over the last 2 days.  The boat is proving to be comfortable, dry and reliable and a valuable asset thanks to Dave and Martin's efforts over the last year.  There are still one or two refinements to be made and work is on-going but not stopping the enjoyment of diving.

The days are getting longer, the wind and rain has eased off, spring flowers are out and the shops are full of Easter eggs. That's right Spring is on its way which means you can kick off that duvet, dust off the drysuit and GO DIVING! This month we have a host of events taking place to get you into the diving spirit.

To see the whole issue, click here.

Enjoy & safe diving!
Chris Cairns (D.O.)

On 28 May from 2030 to 2230 two SSAC stalwarts, Alison Mayor and Martin Davies will be giving a presentation on the D-Day related wrecks investigated by divers from the Club in some of our recent projects.

Attendance is free of charge and open to all.  Please let Alison know if you would like to come (by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) so that we can ensure that we have enough space for everyone.

A moray eel on one of the tanks  

       A moray eel looks out from a tank

The seas around the South coast hold the secrets of numerous wrecks with D-Day connections. In recent years Southsea Sub-Aqua Club have been investigating these wrecks to find more about them and how they came to rest on the sea bed. From Centaur Tanks and armoured Bulldozers to Tank Landing Craft and Mulberry Harbours the tragic events behind their sinking have been part of the fascinating story now told by the project leaders. The diving team have nominated a number of these wrecks for Historic Wreck protection.

As featured in the BBC Coast programme and the D-Day Museum Landing Craft display.

The presentation will be held at the Southsea Sub-Aqua Club HQ at Fort Widley, on Portsdown Hill.  There should be ample free parking and refreshments will be available at the Club bar.

Members from SSAC visited the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit (HMU) at St Richard's Hospital, Chichester on 16 April 2014. Dr Mark Glover and Nurse Sara Hasan hosted the visit with a presentation on the causes and treatments of DCI followed by a tour around the chamber which included details of the operation of the chamber.  Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the delivery of oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure and is used to treat decompression illness but the HMU is also used to help people with a range of conditions ranging from carbon monoxide poisoning to thermal burns.

The Type A recompression chamber has been modified with an arched doorway into the main chamber to make access easier for patients.  There are two compartments – the 19m³ main chamber where patients are treated and a 7m³ 'man lock' to enable staff to move in and out without decompressing the main chamber part way through a treatment.  It can accommodate either two lying down, for divers suffering from a DCI, or up to five people sitting for patients needing recompression treatment for other injuries.  Its maximum pressure setting is 8.5 bar – equivalent to a depth of 85 metres at sea although recompression treatment for DCI usually starts at an equivalent depth of 18m.  

 Chamber inside_1    Chamber inside_1Chamber controls_1Chamber controls_1

The visit was very worthwhile and divers left confident of what would happen in the event of a DCI incident, with a greater understanding of DCI.  It was stressed that divers must seek early advice in the event of suspected DCI and particularly listen to their partners who may well be more aware that something is not quite right following a dive. 

Chamber visitors_1Chamber visitors_1

Those visiting the chamber found it both an interesting and enjoyable evening.  If you have never visited a chamber before it is recommended to visit one whenever an opportunity arises.



















The weather has been truly awful recently but in true Dunkirk spirit that hasn't dampened our spirits. In this issue we have a trip report and a focus on recent work and other activities in the club.

To see the whole issue, click here

Enjoy & safe diving!

Chris Cairns (D.O.)