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Getting to The Bottom of “The Fundamentals of Better Diving”

One of tech’s favorite dive impresarios, David Strike—think OZTek and ADEX—reviews GUE’s newly released, “The Fundamentals Of Better Diving,” and contrasts it with Jarrod Jablonski’s original 1998 edition classic, “Doing It Right: The Fundamentals Of Better Diving.” The difference is more than DIR. Absolutely no strokery involved!



by David Strike
All images courtesy of GUE Archives

Hopefully everybody who dives has—at some point in their training—pored over the pages of a “How To” manual in an attempt to better understand the underlying physics and physiology governing their safe enjoyment of diving, and the techniques that, when mastered, will add value to the experience. 

Often packed with simplified content to help speed the certification process, most entry-level diving manuals meet a one-time need. Having served their initial purpose of doling out the minimum amount of information necessary to encourage a novice diver, they’re seldom, if ever, regarded as meaningful reference works deserving of a permanent place on a diver’s bookshelf.

There are, of course, always notable exceptions to the above, one such being the recently published The Fundamentals Of Better Diving by Global Underwater Explorers (GUE), a revision of GUE’s earlier classic work Doing It Right: The Fundamentals Of Better Diving by Jarrod Jablonski. 

A controversial—and frequently misunderstood—concept that sparked vigorous and controversial discussion on the internet diving forums of the nineties was the term “Doing It Right” (DIR). This was a snappy phrase with origins rooted  in the equipment configurations, specific techniques, and rigorous training of the Florida-based, Woodville Karst Plains Project (WKPP), which was manned by a team of talented cave diving explorers and spear-headed by the WKPP’s then-Project Director George Irvine and Training Director Jarrod Jablonski, the founder of GUE.

George Irwine and Jarrod Jablonski giving a DIR workshop for the cave community in the mid-1990s.

More Than Doing It Right

First published twenty-one years ago in 2000, Doing It Right: The Fundamentals Of Better Diving, was much more than just another “How To” diving manual. The seminal guide was intended for an audience of certified divers prepared to embrace the GUE philosophy who also had “a basic understanding of scuba diving,” but who, perhaps, lacked sufficient mastery of the basic fundamental skills, one of the foundation stones on which DIR was built. The earlier book was a practical guide to proven diving techniques and practices that were based on the three fundamental components to good diving, “diving experience, diving ability, and a robust equipment configuration.”  

The original cover.

As an evolving activity, the diving landscape has experienced enormous changes since the original publication first circulated. Once regarded as a technical diving gas, nitrox is now considered a mainstay of recreational diver training, while helium and other exotic gases are more readily available. At the same time, the use of diving computers is more widespread, their features are far more sophisticated and reliable and closed circuit rebreathers are now regarded as an essential tool for deep exploration activities in wrecks or caves. 

None of these changes significantly impact the earlier book’s main purpose of “… playing an instrumental role in the formation of a sound diver, one whose skill, knowledge, judgement, fitness, and insight into the logic of sound configuration, enables him/her to meet the demands posed by the environments s/he selects to dive in.”  

This was a rather long-winded way of suggesting that the original book was intended to be read—and its teachings absorbed—by an audience of would-be (and practicing) technical divers already fully committed to GUE’s DIR philosophy. The revised and updated editionwithout in any way compromising or diluting GUE’s core beliefs—admittedly reaches out to a wider audience of diving enthusiasts with more subtle enticements: The underwater world can be a source of infinite joy. It is a magical but alien world where everything is shrouded in mystery. To stand the best chance of securing the long-term enjoyment of this world, divers must have rock-solid fundamentals, both to rely upon and to build further skills with.

A Blueprint for Safe Diving Adventures

The first change to the revised edition is the removal of Doing It Right from the book’s title (a move that allows GUE to focus on both the theoretical as well as the practical benefits of its system while ridding itself of the need to argue and defend a term that’s frequently misunderstood). Equally notable changes include a clean, uncluttered design and layout, the liberal use of relevant full-colour images and diagrams, and easily referenced content contained in ten broad chapter headings.  

The new cover.

Reflecting the introduction of recreational entry-level training classes by GUE in 2008—and without directly challenging or refuting comments made in the earlier edition—each chapter in the updated text provides, in great detail, easily absorbed information that builds on a sound knowledge base to prepare “… divers for advanced forms of diving by introducing the concepts of stability, propulsion, team, gas management, and standardisation, well before the start of technical training.

And where Doing It Right refers to the various skill levels expected of a New Diver,” an Advanced Diver,” and an Advanced Technical Diver,”  the revised text prefers the terms New Diver, Experienced Diver and Expert Diver,” a small but significant change in approach, and one that’s similarly reflected in the revised treatment of computers and rebreathers.  

The updated text begins with the background and history of GUE, before launching into chapters that include fundamental skills, teamwork, equipment configuration, decompression procedures, dive planning, the properties of various breathing gases, diving in different environments, risk mitigation, and more; it concludes with a useful appendix of formulas (in both Imperial as well as Metric measurements). The Fundamentals Of Better Diving is so much more than a simple revision of an earlier classic. It’s a 212-page user-friendly blueprint for safe(r) diving adventures, a stand-alone work that can comfortably sit alongside its predecessor on the bookshelf as a permanent reminder that, while diving might be an evolving activity, philosophical concepts—regardless of their label—are better able to withstand the test of time. 

Certified as a diver in 1961, with a background that encompasses the military, commercial, scientific, and recreational diving sectors, Australia-based David Strike is a former Diving Instructor, Diver Instructor Trainer, and a regular speaker at international diving events.  Founding and managing a leading international media organisation before returning full-time to the diving industry in 1990, Strike has co-published and edited a commercial diving magazine, authored several dive-related books and manuals, and been a regular contributor to diving publications from around the world. Organiser of several world-class diving events—with an emphasis on Technical Diving—he is the recipient of several Industry Recognition awards and a Fellow  of the Explorers Club of New York.


Brits Brew Beer Booty

What do you get when you combine British divers’ proclivity for shipwreck exploration with their strong affinity for beer? A tasty treasure hunt on the “Wallachia” that resulted in swilling 126-year old reconstituted British beer. GUE Scotland’s detective chief inspector Andy Pilley recounts the tale.




by Andy Pilley
Images courtesy of
A. Pilley

Header Image: GUE Scotland’s brewmeisters enjoying their brew (L to R) Top: Owen Flowers, Andy Pilley, Wayne Heelbeck. Middle: Steve Symington, A. Pilley, O. Flowers, Bottom: W. Heelbeck, Sergej Maciuk, S. Symington

“Give my people plenty of beer, good beer, and cheap beer, and you will have no revolution among them.”

Queen Victoria

I never thought when I started diving 10 years ago, that one day I would be able to sit down for a pint of beer with the team from GUE Scotland recreated from a brew that has been hidden under the waves for 126 years. Let me explain.

The Wallachia was a single screw cargo steamer that was owned by William Burrell & Son of Glasgow, and employed on regular trips between Glasgow and the West Indies. On 29th September, 1895 she left Queen’s Dock, Glasgow at 10am bound for Trinidad and Demerara. On board was a valuable general cargo including whisky, gin, beer, acids, glassware, and earthenware plus building materials and footwear. By 1pm that afternoon she had settled on the seabed of the Clyde Estuary after colliding with another ship in a fog bank, she was forgotten until 1977 when a local sub-aqua club rediscovered the wreck site.

The wreck of the Wallachia lies on an even keel in approximately 34 metres of water on a sandy seabed. The wreck itself is largely intact and has six holds in total, three forward and three aft. In the rearmost hold there are thousands of bottles of beer, some still inscribed with the name of the maker, McEwans of Glasgow. This is where myself and the team from GUE Scotland enter the story.

The Wreck of the Wallachia 

The Wallachia is one of the more accessible sites on the west coast of Scotland, where we carry out most of our diving. Depending on weather and tidal conditions, visibility on the wreck can be +10m/33 ft on a very good day or less than 2m/6 ft if there has been a lot of rain due to the amount of particulate in the water. Other elements to consider are the tide as this can vary in its intensity, as well as surrounding boat traffic. The wreck lies in close proximity to a ferry route and care must be taken not to dive when the ferry is closeby. However despite the challenges, the wreck is very rewarding and offers a diver plenty of places to explore and items to look at. 

The main point of interest for most has been the rearmost hold, where the bottles of whisky and beer were stored. The majority of the whisky was removed in the 1980’s however a few bottles can be found on occasion, depending where you look. What remains are thousands of bottles of beer, still with the corks and contents intact. Over the course of 2018 & 2019, the team at GUE Scotland dived on the wreck and recovered a number of bottles from the hold. 

After a chance discussion with a friend at dinner one night, I was given contact details for a company called Brewlab, which is based in Sunderland in the north east of England. Brewlab specialise in the provision of specialist brewing training, as well as laboratory services such as quality assurance, product development, chemical/microbiology testing as well as long term research options. I made contact with Keith Thomas, the Director of Brewlab, to discuss whether he would be interested in analysing the beer and investigating whether it could be recreated. Needless to say the proposal piqued his interest and arrangements were made for the bottles to be shipped to his lab.

Unbeknownst to me, the recovery of historical beers is rare, due to various sources of degradation/contamination which can affect any residual microbial cells and chemical components left in the beer that were used as part of the brewing process. So these samples are a valuable source of information on past brewing and microbiology. Over the course of 2019/2020, Keith and I kept in regular contact over the progress of the investigations and the full analysis of the beer has recently been published.

A Brewing Interest

Between 1850 and 1950, the application of scientific principles to brewing was becoming increasingly prevalent and microbiology was playing an increasingly important role. A pertinent issue in brewing microbiology around 1900 was the application of pure Saccharomyces yeast cultures developed by Hansen at the Carlsberg laboratory in 1888. These were readily adopted by continental breweries as providing more controlled production and purer beers. Application to UK brewing was, however, less positively received, in part because of the belief that British beers possessed particular flavours arising from mixed yeast cultures and, specifically, the involvement of Brettanomyces species. This was especially believed to be essential for the character of ‘stock’ ales which were matured for extended periods.

While a number of breweries did try pure culture yeasts, UK brewing was resistant to change and, with the intervention of World War I, retained its indigenous yeast cultures. Since the 1940’s a more biotechnological approach to fermentation demonstrated the value of pure culture and was progressively applied to the larger breweries developing at that time. 

During the formative period of brewery microbiology after Pasteur, brewing yeast were identified as Saccharomyces species based on morphological features of shape, filamentous propensity and spore characteristics. Non brewing, ‘wild’ yeast was recognised and termed ‘Torula’ if non-sporulating. Of these Brettanomyces strains were identified as contributing important character to stock ales. It is also clear from brewing texts that bacteria were recognised as spoilage organisms in beer, as had been initially demonstrated by Pasteur in 1863. These species were mostly categorised as bacilli and typically portrayed as rods and associated with sarcina sickness – generally producing sourness. Some studies, nevertheless, identified lactic acid bacteria as indigenous components of standard beers.

Contemporary breweries are increasingly interested in using novel microbiology, either unconventional yeast strains or mixes of species and strains for sour and natural products. Identifying the specific strains and species of yeast and bacteria present in Victorian and Edwardian beers is directly relevant to this and has particular value if cultures of authentic microorganisms can be retrieved. Reports of retrieved historic brewery microbiology are limited but hold interesting promise for identifying novel microorganisms.

The specific parameters of the analysis are contained in a published research paper, Preliminary microbiological and chemical analysis of two historical stock ales from Victorian and Edwardian brewing.”

As I mentioned, the primary objective of the analysis was to confirm whether detail could be provided on the original brewing ingredients and the fermentation microbiology. The analysis confirmed the use of Brettanomyces/Dekkera bruxellensis and Debaryomyces hansenii, which are brewing and fermentation yeasts respectively. The presence of Debaryomyces is interesting as this genus has not been noted as a historic feature of historic brewing, but has been identified in spontaneous fermentations, for example in Belgian lambic beers. Although the strain was reported to the brewing industry in 1906, it has not featured as a major contributor to beer fermentations since.

The analysis has also provided relevant information of the beer character and has confirmed that the beer recovered from the Wallachia was a stout, close to style expectations of the time and had an alcohol content of c. 7.5%. The colour gravity was high, resulting in a much darker beer however a much lower level of bitterness. Again this was typical style of the time and differs from other modern stouts.

More interestingly is the presence of various types of bacteria, which will likely have been picked up during the brewing process. The table below lists these for reference. Needless to say, historic brewing was not a sterile process in comparison to modern methods!

Bacillus licheniformisPlant and soil bacterium
Finegoldia magnaCommensal skin bacterium
Fusobacterium sp.Possible pathogenic bacterium
Kocuria roseaPossible urinary tract pathogen
Mogibacterium pumilumPossible oral cavity bacterium
Shigella sonneiEnteric pathogen
Staphylococcus epidermidisCommensal skin bacterium
Stenotrophomonas maltophiliaSoil bacterium
Varibaculum cambriensePossible pathogenic bacterium

Table 1: The bacteria found in the Wallachia beer bottles

Due to the relatively stable conditions on the wreck, being in near darkness and at a relatively cold temperature (between 6º–14ºC/43º-57ºF depending on the time of year), the live yeast structures within the beer were protected from sources of stress and allowed them to survive over the past 126 years. Luckily, Keith was able to extract these samples and begin to recultivate the yeast, specifically the Debaryomyces, with the hope of being able to rebrew the beer.

Cheers Mates

Just before Christmas, I finally received word from Keith that he had completed a trial brew and seven bottles of the brew were on their way to me. A few excitement laden days later and a nondescript box arrived at my office with the beer inside. I called the guys on our Facebook group chat to show them the case and got each bottle packaged up and sent out to them. 

A few days later, once everyone had received their sample we got together again to try the samples. There was an air of excitement after the two years it had taken us to get to this point, the most anticipated pint ever! I’m no expert in the flavour profiles of beer so you will have to forgive me for my relatively basic analysis. In summary, I got flavours of coffee and chocolate and there was a relatively low level of carbonation, which made it very drinkable. The rest of the team got similar flavours, the only complaint being there wasn’t more to try!

There will of course be slight differences in flavour since we don’t normally add the bacteria listed above as ingredients. However, the recipe we have is as close as we can make it to the original stock version.

The next steps for the project are to carry out further investigation on the characteristics of the Debaryomyces yeast strain in order to determine their suitability for fermentation and potential use in future brewing production. We are making approaches to various commercial breweries in order to discuss future commercialisation of the recipe and produce the brew on large scale. With the story behind the original recipe, we’re hopeful that the provenance would be a key selling point to consumers. It is my hope that the recovery of these samples will open up new possibilities for different types of beers to be developed, and offer something different for beer enthusiasts to try.

I have also found out that there are other types of beer to be found on the wreck, specifically an IPA style. Once we’re allowed to begin diving again, I am hoping to return to the Wallachia and recover some of these bottles so we can carry out the same analysis and keep the project moving forward.

In the mean-time, cheers!

Additional Resources:

The Brewlab Podcast, Episode 2 (March 30, 2021): Lost Beers Recreated from Shipwreck Bottles

GUE Scotland vlog -Episode 1

Andy Pilley is a Chartered Surveyor, team member of GUE Scotland, passionate wreck & cave diver and Ghost Fishing UK team diver. Andy started diving with the Scottish Sub-Aqua club in 2011 and began diving with GUE in 2018. Andy dives on the east and west coasts of Scotland where there is a rich maritime history and an abundance of wrecks to be explored. He has a passion for project diving and is developing objectives for a number of sites with the GUE Scotland team. He hopes to assist on the Mars Project and with the WKPP in the future.

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