by Mario Arena
Header photo by Claudio Provenzani. The port side light of the MS Lago Tana.
Unloading 1.5 tons of equipment from our “everywhere” diving van, back on our base at Favignana Island, marked the end of the 2019 campaign of the Battle of Convoys project, our tenth campaign based in Lampedusa island since the beginning of 2006.
The purpose of the project, which was run in collaboration with the Soprintendenza del Mare of Sicily, is to locate the wrecks of the Battle of Convoys and document them in different forms. One of the main goals is to create and collect as many documentary materials as possible in order to promote a multi-media exhibition dedicated to the intense and dramatic events of WWII Battle of Convoys in the Mediterranean. We hope that fascination with the wrecks will attract and raise public interest.
In the three weeks of this year’s campaign, we were able to accomplish four multi-day excursions onboard an 36 ft/11 m fishing boat and spent 10 days on the high seas of the Central Mediterranean.
Besides the fascinating details of their cargo and machinery, all these wrecks feature an astonishing amount of marine life, making the dives on them even more enchanting, special, and unique.
Team: Davide Dal Molin, Peter Brandt, Brian Schreuders, Josef Chroust, Jin Hui, Caterina De Seta, Keith Kreitner, Nelson Marciano, Marcello Iacca, Simone Castellini, Claudio Provenzani, Federico De Gado, Piero Labò, Chicco Spaggiari, Mario Arena
Special thanks to:
SOPRINTENDENZA DEL MARE and Department of Sicilian Cultural Heritage – Agrigento,
DAN, SUEX, HALCYON, EASY DIVE, GUE, PELAGOS Diving Center Lampedusa
Mario Arena is an avid underwater explorer; his passion for naval history, his research, and activities have yielded the location and identification of many historical shipwrecks. Mario has also organized and led a number of projects in collaboration with Italian and Croatian archaeological authorities. Mario is an Instructor Evaluator for GUE.
GUE 25 Anniversary Conference Round Up
Global Underwater Explorers held a conference to commemorate the organization’s 25th anniversary. Held at GUE headquarters in High Springs, Florida, where it was founded by a group of cave divers founded in 1998, the organization convened instructors and divers from all over the world to recall the people and diving technologies that shaped GUE, how they’ve changed over time, and how they’ll evolve in the future.
In addition to celebrating the occasion, GUE convened speakers to present on topics related to its three biggest priorities: Exploration, Education, Conservation.
Shipwreck explorer Mario Arena, for example, gave a presentation on the “Battle of Convoys in the Mediterranean,” his 16-year project discovering and documenting dozens of shipwrecks left behind by the three-year-long battle during World War II and how his team is bringing the wrecks back to life using new technologies.
Cave explorers Fred Devos, Julien Fortin, and Sam Meacham gave a presentation on their efforts to document Ox Bel Ha, the largest underwater cave system in Mexico, a project which is concurrently celebrating its 25th anniversary. The project started out with, as Meacham called it, “two chainsaws, a compressor, and a horse,” and has begun to resurvey 144 square miles of caves with advances in diving equipment. Advances as simple as upgrades to lightbulbs and batteries, for example, enable the explorers to see through new passages.
Bill Stone, a cave explorer and head of Stone Aerospace, discussed “Recent Advances in Machine Exploration,” chronically how he’s used machines to explore underwater caves farther than any human. Stone’s autonomous drone, called Sunfish, uses sonar mapping to produce 3D maps and models deeper than photogrammetry divers can dive.
Ulrik Juul Christensen, a founder and chairman of Bonaire’s Area9 Mastery Diving Research Center, is developing an adaptive learning education platform for GUE and has spent about as much time as the organization has been in existence building education technologies. Christensen’s talk, “Learning That Matters,” focused on how to create new systems to help educate learners at their own pace so that knowledge, and not speed, is the priority.
In a complementary presentation, Sean Talamas, a managing partner and executive coach at leadership development consulting firm, discussed “The Depth of Character: Cultivating Grit, and a Growth Mindset.” The presentation focused on research by Angela Duckworth suggesting success is not achieved through talent, but a combination of passion and persistence she called “grit.”
GUE Instructor Trainer Andrea Marassich gave a presentation on “Building Capacity for Extreme Explorations” about the Sa Conca e Locoli Cave Project in Sardinia, Italy. Learning, he suggested, happens when you go out of your comfort zone, but not all the way to what he called the “panic zone,” where you are overwhelmed to the point that you don’t learn but instead shut down and it becomes extremely dangerous.” “You need a mentor,” Marassich said. “Someone who knows you enough to push you when you need to be pushed and pull back when you need to pull back.”
These were just a few of the education- and exploration-focused presentations. Speakers also included Blue Green Expeditions Managing Partner Faith Ortins on how divers can support environmentally conscious destinations, Peter Gaertner on citizen science conducted in the Caves of Gulf of Orosei project, Daniel Ortego on the Marine Genome Project, and Neal W. Pollock on the physiological limitations of technology in diving.
Max Deco & Bubble Trouble entertained conference attendees at the Friday night social with a pre-dive playlist of classic rock. Band members: John Kendall vocals, Gary Franklin vocals, Bill Stone lead guitar, Andrew Dow guitar, Francesco Cameli bass, Michael Menduno bass, Jason Cook drums.
You can find the full conference photo album here.