By Rob Wilson
The date was February 23, 2014, and I was ready to launch my event, which I called “Fight for the Future.” This particular cleanup was totally inspired by the work of Cas Renooji and Pascal van Erp with their Ghost Fishing adventures in the North Sea. I had watched in absolute awe as these guys operated at 60 meters clearing enormous nets. As a GUE diver with a “Fundies” (Fundamentals) Tech pass, I knew I wasn’t ready for that. However, my enthusiasm would not be curbed. I wanted to make a difference. It wasn’t my first cleanup, but it was the first that I had taken on the organizational lead.
Call it New Zealand Dumpster Diving!
During our first event we hauled out everything from tires to hundreds of kilograms of bottles. All of the divers had a blast, and we were eager to clean up more dive sites. After the success and impressive haul of this first cleanup, we were hooked and consequently started to get more regular cleanups underway.
Our following also grew and we went from strength to strength. We soon affiliated our project with the international Ghost Fishing crew and began sharing information. Cas was coaching me behind the scenes in everything from team management to how to deal with the media.
Meanwhile, my Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) training also continued behind the scenes with Instructor Trainer Jamie Obern. I had undertaken various courses and expeditions with Jamie. Each course was like a piece of a puzzle from one grand image that I didn’t even know existed yet, until all of the pieces started to fit together. The skill set that the GUE training with Jamie gave me made operating in extremely low visibility environments a lot easier, so did having good buoyancy and trim. With that skill set, we were able to swim neutrally with multiple street cones and safely do ascents while carrying objects and managing loads of gear.
As Ghost Fishing New Zealand (GFNZ), we have learned a great deal of lessons and are constantly improving and streamlining our skills, including topside safety procedures. We also have an outreach program and go to local schools and businesses to talk about Ghost Fishing and what we do and how anyone can help. We regularly work with local groups and also the NZ Coast Guard to further improve the safety and awareness of our diver teams.
One Person’s Trash is Another Person’s Treasure
The things we have found beneath the surface have been amazing. We found a small section of a comet that fell in Russia in the 1920s, glass jars filled with coins, a Vietnamese whiskey bottle with a king cobra and scorpion in it, and four porcelain toilets—one is now a planter in my garden.
Photo Credit for gallery images: Rob Wilson, Ghost Fishing NZ.
Our team has come from all areas of diving and marine science. We have free divers and every level of diver from open water divers to trimix-certified CCR divers. And we’ve grown in both number and capability since our first cleanup. The feeling of bringing so many people together as a community, to fight for our shared future, is incredible.
We have also won some fantastic awards. We were lucky enough to win one of New Zealand’s most prestigious diving awards, the NZUA Leo Ducker award, for our work, along with multiple awards and recognition for the environment and heritage. For our team and volunteers to be recognized for the work we have done is incredibly humbling and a great honor. Our goal is to work toward making it more beautiful down under!
Interested in reading more aquatic conservation stories? Find more here.
Rob Wilson, one of the youngest scuba divers to certify in New Zealand at age 13, is a photographer by trade (specializing in astro and landscapes) and founder of Ghost Fishing NZ (GFNZ), a volunteer organization that removes more than a ton of rubbish from the capital’s waters every month. Rob got involved with cleanup dives in 2010 when the local dive shop needed volunteers. “That first time I got such a rush out of knowing the 25 plastic bottles I removed wouldn’t be able to harm sea life.” He has been participating in and managing cleanup dives ever since.
Gilboa Quarry Installs First Underwater Freshwater Farm in the US
by Stephen Luchon
Gilboa Quarry in Ottawa, Ohio, is considered one of the premier Midwest dive locations. Offering spring-fed clear waters, an impressive marine life population, and numerous underwater attractions to explore, Gilboa has long been revered among scuba divers since opening over 30 years ago. Part of Gilboa’s appeal is its variety for divers of all levels. Boasting depths ranging from 10-43 m/30-140 ft, Gilboa Quarry provides ideal conditions for both novice and technical divers looking to develop their skills further.
Adding to its impressive feature list, Gilboa recently achieved a US milestone partnering with underwater technology innovators OCEANREEF to bring its “Nemo’s Garden” technology and experience to Ohio. In 2012, OCEANREEF pioneered Nemo’s Garden to grow plants underwater in transparent “biospheres.” After achieving considerable success with this technology in Italy and beyond, Gilboa Quarry installed the first fresh and cold water Nemo’s Garden biosphere in the United States. Installed approximately 2.4 m/8 ft below the water, the Nemo’s Garden biosphere benefits from significant sunlight, easy access for marine farmers, and has already become a beloved and much talked about and photographed attraction at Gilboa.
Working closely with OCEANREEF, Gilboa Quarry is working to provide visitors with exclusive tours through Nemo’s Garden, immersing visitors in an underwater world where herbs such as basil and a variety of microgreens and produce thrive beneath the surface in a controlled and heavily monitored environment.
Visitors participating in the guided tours will experience various exciting activities including:
• Use of specialized diving equipment: With specially tailored diving gear designed to complement the aquatic biosphere environment, guests will fully immerse themselves in an extraordinary underwater adventure.
• Tending to the Plants: Tour participants will gain hands-on experience caring for aquatic plants, exploring all of its intricacies.
• Scientific Studies: Guests will document plant growth and participate in scientific studies that increase their knowledge of underwater ecosystems and sustainability.
• Underwater Photo Ops: Thanks to underwater FaceTime access through WIFI, visitors can capture unforgettable moments in this captivating environment.
• Live Stream Feature: Nemo’s Gardens @Gilboa Quarry will showcase some of its most breathtaking moments during tours, enabling visitors to share their unforgettable experience with others via various social media platforms and websites.
Ocean Reef’s innovative approach to underwater biospheres combined with Gilboa Quarry’s breathtaking natural beauty and bountiful marine life provides an unmatched, immersive scuba experience for aquatic enthusiasts seeking adventure, wonder, and a better understanding of the underwater world. With Nemo’s Gardens previously predominately installed in warm salt water, Nemo’s Garden @ Gilboa Quarry stands as an important milestone in underwater farming research as the technology tackles a new environment. Gilboa looks forward to welcoming visitors from across the globe who wish to witness how nature meets innovation in such stunning fashion.
Stephen Luchon, a 38-year-old web developer and graphic artist from Pittsburgh, PA, enriches the scuba community with his technical expertise and artistic flair. He is also the IT Director at Gilboa Quarry in Ottawa, Ohio. An avid CCR Mixed Gas Diluent Diver with a passion for deep wreck exploration, Stephen shares his adventures and knowledge on his YouTube, Dive Current, inspiring fellow adventure-seekers worldwide.