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Environmental Divers Clean Up the HMS Perseus

The Ghost Net divers are at it again, this time liberating the wreck of a downed British WWII sub from those deadly nets.

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Header photo by Cor Kuyvenhoven.

PRESS RELEASE
28 July 2020

While shipwrecks and reefs are hot spots for biodiversity by providing food and shelter to extensive marine life, at the same time they are deadly traps. Lost and discarded fishing nets, also known as ghost nets, often get snagged there, capturing animals such as sea turtles, dolphins, seals, birds, and also fish that die because they cannot free themselves. 

…And he’s free! Photo by Konstantina Kostoulo.
Freeing a small crab from the net. Photo by Konstantina Kostoulo.

In the area between the Greek islands of Kefalonia and Zakynthos, the wreck of the British submarine HMS Perseus lies at a depth of 52 m/170 ft in the Ionian Sea.  Not unlike other wrecks, this one also comes with a fascinating story about its lone survivor, a British Navy stoker by the name of John Capes who escaped from the submarine’s hatch after it hit an Italian mine during WWII. He survived not only the journey to the surface, but also the five-mile (8 km) swim to the island of Kefalonia during the night, where he was hidden by islanders for 18 months before being smuggled in a caïque to Smyrna, Turkey. He was subsequently awarded a British Empire Medal. 

A small diver next to a massive wreck. Photo by Giorgos Kolikis.

The HMS Perseus is one of the biggest submarines of World War II and a cultural heritage site [2]. Between July 22nd and 26th, after long preparations, six specifically trained volunteer technical divers from Ghost Diving, who have long been allured by the mystery and historical value of the wreck, finally made it their mission to dive at the HMS Perseus to remove the fishing gear that was covering the submarine. By doing so, their goal was to protect the marine inhabitants of this biodiverse area, such as the loggerhead sea turtles, dolphins, and monk seals that just so happened to make an appearance in the area while the divers were working. It is estimated that millions of animals die each year by getting trapped in lost fishing gear.

Lifting the nets. Photo by Giorgios Kolikis.

The team performed three dives on HMS Perseus lasting 65 minutes each.  After a thorough survey dive, the divers decided to focus on the conning tower and the front outer hull. Following the second dive, the conning tower is now almost completely free of fishing nets, and the wreck’s original structure has been unveiled. During the third dive, a large piece of fishing net that was covering the outer hull and reaching all the way to the bottom, was also removed. The difficulty level of the job was escalated by the many long lines that had been mixed up with the nets over the years. However, the operation went as planned and without any problems thanks to the professional support of Aquatic Scuba Diving Club. The underwater cleanups lasted five days targeting also other wrecks in the area, at 50m/163 ft depth and recovering a total of 500 kgs/1102 lbs of lost fishing gear.

Spreading awareness to all visitors, big and small. Photo by Cor Kuyvenhoven.

The event was organized by Healthy Seas, and besides the sea clean ups, also included a public awareness event in the capital of Kefalonia. Local groups and various artists participated in the event, attempting to highlight the importance of the marine and coastal Natura 2000’s three sites around the island and raising awareness about marine pollution and ghost nets. The public event was organized within MIO-ECSDE’s ‘Mediterranean Action Day 2020’, supported by the LIFE+ Operating Grant for NGOs and made possible thanks to the support and hospitality of Aenos National Park, the Kefalonia – Ithaka Geopark, the Kefalonia & Ithaca Port Fund, and the Municipality of Argostoli.

A donation check from Healthy Seas. Photo by Cor Kuyvenhoven.

To further support endeavors for the protection of the endangered Caretta caretta, native to the Mediterranean Sea, Healthy Seas handed over a donation cheque to Kateleios Volunteer Group. Recently, Healthy Seas also released “A Turtle’s Fear”, a short and poignant film narrated by AJ+ and National Geographic journalist, Gelareh Darabi, about the ghost fishing phenomenon and its deadly effects on this majestic species.

The nylon fishing nets that were recovered during this mission will now continue on a journey from waste to wear and will be regenerated, together with other nylon waste, into ECONYL® yarn, the basis for new sustainable products such as socks, swimwear, sportswear or carpets. 

Barrels of nets lifted from the wreck. Photo by Cor Kuyvenhoven.
Heavy barrels being carried off to be recycled. Photo by Cor Kuyvenhoven.


Footnotes:

  1. The discarded, lost, or abandoned fishing nets are sometimes called “ghost nets”, since they continue to catch fish and other marine animals without human involvement. Millions of marine animals, including sharks, dolphins, seals and turtles suffer because of entanglement in these nets which leads to serious injuries and death eventually. Every year, some 640,000 tons of fishing gear is left in our seas and oceans. It is plastic waste that remains in the seas for hundreds of years and doesn’t biodegrade.
  2.  Unbelievable Submarine Escape Proven True – John Capes’ Story of Unsung Heroism in WWII – Wreckage Video

    PERSEUS SUBMARINE 1928-1941 – WRECK WRAK EPAVE WRACK PECIO

    Submarine escape: A WWII survival tale from Kefalonia

    HMS Perseus: The story of the sole survivor of a British submarine sunk in 1941 off Kefalonia, Ionian Sea, Greece
  3. Natura 2000 is a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species and some rare natural habitat types which are protected in their own right. Stretching over 18% of the EU’s land area and almost 6% of its marine territory, Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the World. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats, listed under the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.

Additional Resources:

  • Healthy Seas
    The mission of ‘Healthy Seas, a Journey from Waste to Wear’ initiative is to remove waste from the seas, in particular fishing nets, for the purpose of creating healthier seas and recycling marine litter into textile products. The recovered fishing nets will be transformed and regenerated by Aquafil into ECONYL® yarn, a high-quality raw material used to create new products, such as socks, swimwear, sportswear or carpets. Since its founding in 2013, Healthy Seas has collected over 510 tons of fishing nets with the help of volunteer divers and fishermen. https://healthyseas.org 
    First Healthy Seas Mission in the Ionian Sea – HEALTHY SEAS
  • Ghost Diving 
    Ghost Diving is a registered charity organization of volunteer technical divers specialized in the removal of lost fishing gear and other marine debris since 2009. The organization was formerly known as Ghost Fishing foundation. Ghost Diving is the biggest international diving team working on this topic with a track record in a significant variation of countries and international waters.
    Ghost Diving: Home

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Finding Zen During A Pandemic: Open a New Dive Center

Who would be crazy enough to open a dive center in the midst of a global pandemic? A triumvirate of trimix-breathing GUE divers, that’s who. What is the sound of one fin back kicking?

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By Amanda White

Photos by zen dive co. [correctly spelled with no capitalization]

January, 2020—Zen dive co., a Pasadena, California dive center, just opened in the midst of the global pandemic. Who are these crazy people? Kian Farin, Alex Caillat, and Francesco Cameli co-opened the shop after the concept had been in the works for several years. Each of them brings a different perspective as each is part of a different generation.

Kian, in his twenties, has been working in the dive industry for five years and has been an instructor for several agencies. He is a GUE Instructor Candidate. Alex, in his thirties, is a scientific diver and has worked on Ghost fishing projects and clean ups.  Francesco, in his forties, is the self declared grumpy one and brings the tekkie side of things to the team as a GUE instructor and rebreather diver. 

What possessed this trimix savvy trio to open a dive center in the midst of a viral tsunami that has claimed over two million lives and has impacted nearly every industry on the planet and most certainly diving?

zen dive co. opened on January 15th, 2021. From left to right: Kian Farin,  Jamie Mitchell, Alex Caillat, and Francesco Cameli.

“Initially, we realized there was a bit of a slowdown with COVID but,” Farin said, “at least here in Southern California, scuba diving is one of the sports people can still practice somewhat freely, though there have been restrictions of course. Boats have smaller loads and people can’t gather in big groups, but it’s one of beautiful things. Once you’re underwater, that’s it. And it’s helping with people’s stress.” 

The team of three said the pandemic has given them the time they needed to sit down and create a plan for their business, build the shop, and then also have the opportunity to fix any bumps that come up along the way without being too busy with the day-to-day operations. 

So why did they choose the name Zen?

“In the craziness that’s going on at the moment in the world,” Cameli mused, “there is one place where I can picture myself where I am truly calm, at peace, and relaxed. It’s in the water. So it seems fitting.” 



See a Need, Fill a Need

The three divers have set out to fulfill a need they see in the California area for an innovative dive shop that inspires and supports the community. A self proclaimed “club house” for divers, equipped with its own espresso machine.

The fancy espresso machine for the divers’ clubhouse.
Zen’s rental BCDs are not like the others.

This team of hilarious and dedicated divers are trying to break all the preconceptions of dive shops and the industry. A major one is the color of their rental gear, which—GASP—has stepped outside of the black and grey scale. Their rental wings feature bright blue and orange. But also of interest, they rent only backplates and wings.

“We put a lot of thought into the experience that the diver will have at Zen,” Farin explained. “And additionally, everything in this building within these walls has had a lot of thought put into it as far as its modularity and its multiple uses. Just like our backplate systems that are very mission specific, you can put a different wing for a different dive and a different plate for a different dive, we can rearrange our entire space to accommodate anything from a West Coast GUE conference to a yoga class, to a diving course.”

Zen stocks items such as backplates, wings and longer hoses for recreational divers—no jacket BCDS here— as they believe its the best option for divers.
The unique set up in Zen makes it easy to see the gear, try things out and hang with the staff.

So Is Zen Really That Different? 

All of their introductory courses, whether it’s through PADI, NAUI, or GUE, are taught with a backplate and wing and are taught with nitrox (They only breathe air at the surface.). The courses, regardless of the agency, are taught to the shop’s standards. But what is the most interesting is their approach to instructors. Anyone is welcome to teach there, but they must meet the shop’s standards, not only for teaching and watermanship skills, but also in being stewards for the environment. Like GUE, all of their instructors will go through requalifications to teach at Zen.

Zen’s classroom can be rearranged to accommodate instruction, meetings, or even yoga.

“It’s not just what material is the agency teaching, it’s does the instructor fit what we are trying to do with diving here,” Caillat said. “It’s not just, is this person teaching proper trim, but it’s are they also being stewards of the environment? Are they teaching good ethics? So anybody can teach with us, as long as they meet our quality standards.”

The shop has also brought in distance learning to accommodate for COVID-19. Their classroom has state of the art technology that allows students to video conference with their instructor and a virtual black board. 

Along with their approach to teaching. Zen has started a different process for gas fills that makes the life of a diver so much easier. They bank standard GUE gases, but also can blend you any mixture you would like on the spot. The coolest part, you’re paying by the cubic foot.

“It was something I drew inspiration from Extreme Exposure in Florida,” said Cameli, the gas blender. “Basically where you just back your car up, and we come and fill your tanks. You can even text me what you want. Don’t get out of your car, just pop your boot and I’ll make sure you get what you need. I can even make it on the spot, so I can just connect a hose and just fill you up and sell you the gas per cubic foot rather than, by the tank. It’s like filling up your car at the gas station.”

Zen’s gas blending station. They can do any mix you wish and have the standard GUE gases.

According to Cameli, designing and building Zen’s gas blending station was one of the most consuming tasks that the guys undertook to get the center up and running, that and, of course, selecting a suitably high-end espresso machine to fuel Zen’s coffee bar. Did I mention that Cameli is Italian? Ah, the diving dolce vita.

Other challenges?

According to the team, the hardest part of opening during a pandemic has been keeping everyone healthy and safe. The second hardest part has been dealing with shipping, both incoming and outgoing.

Zen is also a partner with “Malibu Scuba Repair (MSR)” owned by Karim Hamza. Zen is now open by appointment only. You can find Zen here, and make an appointment: zendive.co. Soon you will also be able to shop their online store.

Take a Walk Through Their Shop

Additional Resources: 

Follow Zen on Social: Facebook, Instagram


Amanda White is the managing editor for InDepth. Her main passion in life is protecting the environment. Whether that means working to minimize her own footprint or working on a broader scale to protect wildlife, the oceans, and other bodies of water. She is a GUE Recreational Level 1 Diver.  Amanda was a volunteer for Project Baseline for over a year as the communications lead during Baseline Explorer missions. Now she is the Marketing Director for GUE. Amanda holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, with an emphasis in Strategic Communications from the University of Nevada, Reno with a minor in creative writing.

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