Connect with us


Let’s Get to the Core: GUE’s New Project Diver



by Francesco Cameli. Photos from the recent Project Diver core module taught just prior to the GUE conference in High Springs, FL.

Removing an unconscious diver from inside a cave.

The diving industry is making a shift toward diving with a purpose. Take, for example, the recent Diving Equipment & Marketing Association conference, where the trade show was buzzing with words like “citizen science” and “task-relevant skills sets.” No longer are many of us satisfied with just going for a dive.  Of course, diving with a purpose, has been an integral part of Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) DNA from its inception.

This fact was showcased at the annual GUE conference in October, where the organization unveiled a new “Project Diver” program aimed at further engaging divers in exploration and conservation projects around the world. 

The two-part course is designed to equip divers not only with the necessary diving skills to complete project dives, but the tools to plan a project from A to Z.

As an instructor for the agency, I was among the first to take the new course.

Becoming a Project Diver

So, what does one need to consider when putting together a project? As it turns out, quite a lot! Let me try to break it all down for you.

GUE’s Project Diver is divided into two main sections: the core module and then a specialized apprentice project in a diver’s chosen field, either cave or ocean. The core module is six days long—four days of presentation and lectures, with two days of in-water skill refinement and related workshops. 

Though quite a bit of the discussion topics centred around diving deeper or further into a cave, GUE has removed the deeper or further emphasis from the Project Diver curriculum, electing to instead focus on those separately in advanced diving courses Tech 3 and Cave 3 to be released next year. The idea is the Project Diver program enables divers to get involved in projects sooner in their diving career as there is no need to dive deep into the ocean or into a cave to have a worthwhile and valuable project. Take, for example, the work of Daniel Ortega and David Mulé in The Marine Genome Project. They have been collecting DNA and other samples in the caves in Mexico and Sardinia, and now working in the ocean in Southern California, all within recreational depths. This is a perfect example of a viable scientific project not requiring divers to be tech-trained.

  • Area 9
  • Subscribe for free
  • Halcyon Sidemount

To begin, we need to consider what defines a project and how we identify potential projects. As several speakers pointed out, a project is research or exploration that has a tangible goal and is intended to yield data for further study.

It’s important to identify goals that have exploratory or scientific value, not only to advance our understanding of and ability to protect the aquatic realm, but to convince people to part with their money to help fund said project. 

A selection of flotation devices used to raise artifacts.

Alberto Nava, a GUE instructor and a National Geographic Explorers grant recipient, was quick to point out the challenges of trying to fund a project. “You see, initially, projects are usually self-funded — and it’s easy to underestimate just how much money is needed. You’ll need to make a detailed list to make sure you cover all the potential expenses and then add a 15% to 20% contingency to be sure. Expenses could include travel, food, accommodation, project specific equipment, gas (the fuel kind), and gas (the breathing kind). The list continues, but you get the point.” A good word of advice from Alberto was to have engaging sales pitches of varying lengths up your sleeve because everyone you talk to could be a potential benefactor for your project. He recommended preparing a 30-second pitch, a 5-minute explanation, and a full length presentation because you never know who you are going to bump into and where. 

Risky Business

Okay, you have your idea, you’ve figured out a budget, and you’ve found some money. Now you’re good to go, right? 


Enter Brad Beskin, GUE’s Director of Quality Control. Brad is a lawyer (but not GUE’s lawyer, as he is always keen to point out). His discussion was perhaps the most sobering of the whole module. 

What is risk? How do we quantify it, and more to the point, how do we isolate ourselves as project leaders from it as much as possible. We all know that diving is not without risk, but with good training, sound judgement, and achievable goals, we can do quite a lot to generally protect ourselves from the physical risk of the diving itself.

When putting together a project, however, that is not enough. A key to insulating yourself from risk as a project leader is to have adequate liability release forms and a comprehensive project manual that covers all of the “what-ifs” in great detail. From simple logistical what-ifs to a detailed emergency procedures document including evacuation, chamber locations, and decisions about whether to have a field medic on the team. The more detailed this document is, the more it may protect you if something bad should happen. It’s important to make sure everyone on the project has had the opportunity to read the document and perhaps even provided a signature to indicate they have read and understand it. 

Now can we go diving? Not just yet. There is the not-so-small matter of team selection. 

Rich Walker delivered a great presentation on human factors and choosing team members. He introduced the concept of the “no asshole rule” which comes from a good book by Robert Sutton. Team member selection is extremely important, as toxicity spreads very quickly, particularly if the project is tough and requires a lot of lifting and carrying before you even get to dive. 

Sam Meacham, CINDAQ, talking us through how to process the data from the mNemo survey tool.

Once all of that is in place, it’s time to dive — however, it’s important to both understand and to have developed the right skills to undertake the project itself. Let us consider some of these and how they were addressed in the core module.

  • Photogrammetry
  • Decompression
  • In-Water Recompression
  • Use of Habitats
  • Cave survey methods
  • Data management
  • Sample Collection
  • Lifting fragile objects
  • Use of rebreathers
  • Emergency procedures

Let’s dive in.

Photogrammetry is a simple enough concept: you take a bunch of pictures of an object and then you wait for days or sometimes weeks whilst a computer practically bursts into flames trying to stitch them all together to create a 3D model. 

Simple? Not one bit! Thankfully, Photogrammetry Supremos John Kendall and Nava were on hand to enlighten all the core module participants. You see, one needs to understand when, how, and where to use photogrammetry. 

As I’m sure you can appreciate, a human skeleton will require a very different technique than a 400ft/120m wreck. Some of it may be possible with divers whilst other projects may require a remote-operated vehicle (ROV). In some cases, one might use still photographs, and in others, you extract frames from video. The combinations and complications are endless because, as simple as it is to do on dry land, once you add water it becomes exponentially a more complex undertaking! 

Drawing from their vast experience on the Mars project (discussed below), the Estonia project to map the wreck in the Baltic Sea, or Mexico’s Hoyo Negro and the 13,000-year-old Naia Remains, we were in good hands navigating the subject.

The author climbing out of Blue Grotto.

Decompression, and for that matter recompression, all came under the same umbrella and were lectured by David Doolette, a leading expert in underwater medicine and physiology, and introduced in the water by GUE instructor Kirill Egorov. 

As projects can take place in sometimes challenging environments, a good understanding of decompression is a must—with an equally good understanding of how to alter your ascent profile as safely as possible whilst taking into account all of the variables that the environment can throw at you. 

Take, for example, the “Mars The Magnificent” project in the Baltic sea. The wreck sank in a massive explosion in 1564. It took 20 years to find and has been studied and explored for at least 10 years since its discovery. It sits at 230 ft/69 m of dark, cold water. The bottom is a little warmer than the middle of the water column, which has been nicknamed “the chiller zone” by its explorers. The water temperature at depth is rarely warmer than 4°C/40°F whereas the surface water during can be as warm as 21 °C/70°F. So, with reasonable bottom times, one can expect at least two hours of decompression, and one really does not want to spend too much time at the colder intermediate depths, making it imperative to be able to amend your profile sometimes on the fly based on one’s level of thermal comfort. 

This discussion led to research about in-water recompression. Though it has long been an alternate form of emergency treatment in remote areas, it has only been the last few years that in-water recompression has been accepted by the hyperbaric medical community as a viable protocol for tech divers with proper training and preparation.1 This is due to its efficacy, if undertaken rapidly, after the onset of symptoms. However, this too comes with a massive set of logistical, moral, and risk-based complications.

The greatest risk of course being drowning, so it’s largely agreed that to attempt an in-water recompression one must have a good understanding of recompression techniques — and one should only conduct it with a full-face mask. After a big dive, the probability of a hyperoxic seizure increases with exposure to hyperbaric oxygen. Furthermore, it’s imperative to really screen the candidates and assess whether the situation calls for such a drastic course of action. Morally, it should also only be carried out if everyone, particularly the victim, is all in. The discussion then transitioned into which table was most appropriate to use when conducting in-water recompression and, on one of the in-water days, we all spent some time getting familiar with full-face masks and their operation.

Use of habitats. These ingenious structures, simple in design though not in operation, allow divers to make long periods of decompression somewhat more comfortable and less risky. Instead of decompressing fully submerged, divers can pass the time discussing the dive, eating, and generally relaxing as they off-gas. Habitats do have their challenges in that they are tricky to set up, and few companies make them. In fact, most are homemade devices as simple as an inverted plastic tub. 

Kirill Egorov and his homemade habitat scrubber complete with O2 cells for measuring PO2.

Egorov, the GUE instructor, was on hand to talk us all through the many ways of constructing them and the intricacies of placing them. Habitats are more commonly used in cave diving because the amount of weight required to counteract the buoyancy of that volume of gas proves tricky and unsafe, though not impossible, to deal with in open water. Difficult to maneuver into place, they must be set in a stable part of the cave ceiling at a convenient decompression depth and then filled with gas to effectively pin them to the ceiling. Taking care to ensure that they would never slip, move, or, God forbid, collapse. 

As these have become more commonplace in exploration cave diving, some teams go as far as making portable battery-powered scrubber units to clean the internal gas of CO2 and fit oxygen cells to monitor the PO2 in the habitat. 

During the in-water sessions, candidates installed a habitat in a cave, filled it with gas, installed the scrubber, and then took it all back out of the cave. A worthwhile exercise, as it really is not all that simple to do.

  • Area 9
  • Halcyon Sidemount
  • Subscribe for free

Cave Survey Methods, Data Management and Sample Collection

As part of a cave project, you may need precise ways to document the cave and or document biological samples you’ve collected. This will likely generate a huge amount of data so almost as important is how this data will be stored, archived, and accessed. 

Sam Meacham and Julien Fortin of conservation and education organization CINDAQ were kind enough to come and share with us their ground-breaking work spanning many years of exploration in the Yucatan peninsula and how they have managed to arrange and make accessible terabytes of information. 

They also conducted a workshop on common cave survey techniques using an ingenious little unit called an MNEMO. These fussy but simple little pieces of gear allow one to trace a cave line and generate a geographically accurate stick map of the cave which is then used as the backbone on which the rest of the gathered information can be added leading to an eventual accurate survey of any given cave. 

Pre-dive briefing

Ortega, the co-founder of the Marine Genome Project, also discussed biological sample collection with examples from his recent trip to the “Map the Gulf Project” headed up by GUE instructor Andrea Marassich, which I was also lucky enough to take part in this year.

What if, on your exploration, you were to stumble across a 13,000-year-old skeleton? Well, Nava, the GUE instructor and National Geographic Explorers Grant recipient, did indeed discover the remains of Naia in Hoyo Negro, so it seemed only fitting that he present to us all how to lift and recover fragile objects of historical and archaeological significance. Part discussion-based, part practical, the task is not as simple as it may seem. Before any kind of lifting or recovery can take place, an accurate record of the site must be made taking the discussion back into the realms of photogrammetry. Then and only then, in conjunction with the appropriate scientist, can decisions be made regarding what, if anything, to recover for further study. In the case of Naia, the entire skeleton was to be retrieved, which was not simple. These 13,000-year-old remains were incredibly fragile, so a suitable way needed to be figured out to recover them safely and intact. 

What was learned was that a series of plastic containers with cushioning materials could be used as well as Ziploc bags to place the remains into a lager crate, which would then need to be made neutrally buoyant with a plethora of flotation devices so that the recovery to the surface could be smooth and controlled. Once on the surface, it was imperative to get such remains to the appropriate facility for safe storage. And, for our purposes,  depending on the types of objects, this could vary, so it is important to have all of that figured out ahead of time so as not to be left holding the baby so to speak.

Use of rebreathers In our community, at least rebreathers have always been regarded as tools and, as such, only used when the dive at hand required them. Over the years, many types and configurations have surfaced, so it was interesting to go through them all with Egorov, who was able to give detailed explanations of all the various possibilities with all of their advantages and their drawbacks, so that in fact one can choose the right tool for the job.

Finally, no project should be undertaken without an understanding of what to do when things go wrong. Unfortunately, if one is to dive in extreme conditions or locations, the possibility of an accident is ever-present, and so good preparation as a project diver is a definite must. Who better to guide the candidates through oxygen use and CPR than firefighter, EMT, and GUE cave instructor Doug Mudry. 

Over a couple of sessions on land and in the water, the candidates were put through their paces, ultimately having to extract a victim from inside an overhead environment before surfacing and moving the victim to a dock where CPR and oxygen administration could more easily take place. 

This too is a skill that needs constant practice. I can tell you that even though the victim was a CPR dummy in full scuba gear, one’s pulse and stress levels were somewhat elevated during this exercise.ut, when it’s real, calm must prevail in order to give the victim the best possible chance of survival. 

Kirill Egorov discussing in water habitats

Six days rounded off by in-field maintenance of drysuits, rebreathers, DPVs and regulators, as well as lectures about naval archaeology, remote medicine, and real time physiological diver monitoring brought the core module to an end and, I must say, left everyone with much to think about and chomping at the bit to get stuck into the apprentice projects already planned for 2023.

It is my hope that in the future, generations of divers will take part in the ongoing battle to save our oceans and, in doing so, allow us all to live in harmony with this planet of ours that to date we as a species have been so good at destroying.


  1. Doolette Dj, Mitchell SJ. In-water recompression. Diving Hyperb Med. 2018 Jun 30;48(2):84-95. doi: 10.28920/dhm48.2.84-95.

See companion story: Building Community Through Project Diving by Guy Shockey

Dive Deeper

InDEPTH: Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) Launches a Comprehensive Project Diver Program in 2022

Fourth Element blog: Re-Envisioning Jacques Cousteau by Michael Menduno

Francesco is Italian but was born in Nice and grew up between London and his hometown of Genova. He speaks four languages and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Francesco spent his childhood summers freediving in Portofino where he developed his love of the sea. The work of Jaques Cousteau and Luc Besson’s film The Big Blue were responsible for his desire to become a marine biologist. As things would turn out, however, he followed a career in music where he has become a successful recording engineer and owner of two world class recording studios. Once he tried scuba, Francesco was hooked from his first dive. He is now an avid tech and cave diver as well as a budding underwater photographer. As a GUE instructor, Francesco’s passion for diving and the ocean is infectious. He currently teaches the recreational and fundamental curriculum as well as technical diver 1 in various countries including the USA, Italy and Mexico. He has taken part in projects including: Reef Alert Network (Portofino Italy), Project Baseline (Orange County USA) and Map the Gulf (Sardinia Italy). He has contributed to the TV show Expedition Unknown as an exploration tech diver, cameraman, and 3D Photogrammetry diver. 

Subscribe for free


Twenty-five Years in the Pursuit of Excellence – The Evolution and Future of GUE

Founder and president Jarrod Jablonski describes his more than a quarter of a century long quest to promote excellence in technical diving.




by Jarrod Jablonski. Images courtesy of J. Jablonski and GUE unless noted.

The most difficult challenges we confront in our lives are the most formative and are instrumental in shaping the person we become. When I founded Global Underwater Explorers (GUE), the younger version of myself could not have foreseen all the challenges I would face, but equally true is that he would not have known the joy, the cherished relationships, the sense of purpose, the rich adventures, the humbling expressions of appreciation from those impacted, or the satisfaction of seeing the organization evolve and reshape our industry. Many kindred souls and extraordinary events have shaped these last 25 years, and an annotated chronology of GUE is included in this issue of InDEPTH. This timeline, however, will fail to capture the heart behind the creation of GUE, it will miss the passionate determination currently directing GUE, or the committed dedication ready to guide the next 25 years.

Photo courtesy of Kirill Egorov

I don’t remember a time that I was not in, around, and under the water. Having learned to swim before I could walk, my mother helped infuse a deep connection to the aquatic world. I was scuba certified in South Florida with my father, and promptly took all our gear to North Florida where I became a dive instructor at the University of Florida. It was then that I began my infatuation with cave diving. I was in the perfect place for it, and my insatiable curiosity was multiplied while exploring new environments. I found myself with a strong desire to visit unique and hard-to-reach places, be they far inside a cave or deep within the ocean. 

My enthusiasm for learning was pressed into service as an educator, and I became enamored with sharing these special environments. Along with this desire to share the beauty and uniqueness of underwater caves was a focused wish to assist people in acquiring the skills I could see they needed to support their personal diving goals. It could be said that these early experiences were the seeds that would germinate, grow, mature, and bloom into the organizing principles for GUE.

Brent Scarabin, Jarrod and George “Trey” Irvine getting ready to dive.
Jarrod with his Halcyon PVR-BASC prototype.
George Irvine and Jarrod conducting the original DIR workshop.

The Pre-GUE Years

Before jumping into the formational days of GUE, allow me to help you visualize the environment that was the incubator for the idea that became GUE’s reality. By the mid-1990s, I was deeply involved in a variety of exploration activities and had been striving to refine my own teaching capacity alongside this growing obsession for exploratory diving. While teaching my open water students, I was in the habit of practicing to refine my own trim and buoyancy, noticing that the students quickly progressed and were mostly able to copy my position in the water. Rather than jump immediately into the skills that were prescribed, I started to take more time to refine their comfort and general competency. This subtle shift made a world of difference in the training outcomes, creating impressive divers with only slightly more time and a shift in focus. In fact, the local dive boats would often stare in disbelief when told these divers were freshly certified, saying they looked better than most open water instructors! 

Area 9

By this point in my career, I could see the problems I was confronting were more systemic and less individualistic. In retrospect, it seemed obvious that key principles had been missing in both my recreational and technical education, not to mention the instructor training I received. The lack of basic skill refinement seemed to occur at all levels of training, from the beginner to the advanced diver. Core skills like buoyancy or in-water control were mainly left for divers to figure out on their own and almost nobody had a meaningful emphasis on efficient movement in the water. It was nearly unheard of to fail people in scuba diving, and even delaying certification for people with weak skills was very unusual. This remains all too common to this day, but I believe GUE has shifted the focus in important ways, encouraging people to think of certification more as a process and less as a right granted to them because they paid for training. 

L2R: Jarrod Todd Kincaid and Rickard Lundgren plotting their 1999 Britannic expedition.

The weakness in skill refinement during dive training was further amplified by little-to-no training in how to handle problems when they developed while diving, as they always do. In those days, even technical/cave training had very little in the way of realistic training in problem resolution. The rare practice of failures was deeply disconnected from reality. For example, there was almost no realistic scenario training for things like a failed regulator or light. What little practice there was wasn’t integrated into the actual dive and seemed largely useless in preparing for real problems. I began testing some of my students with mock equipment failures, and I was shocked at how poorly even the best students performed. They were able to quickly develop the needed skills, but seeing how badly most handled their first attempts left me troubled about the response of most certified divers should they experience problems while diving, as they inevitably would. 

Diving Fatalities

Meanwhile, I was surrounded by a continual progression of diving fatalities, and most appeared entirely preventable. The loss of dear friends and close associates had a deep impact on my view of dive training and especially on the procedures being emphasized at that time within the community. The industry, in those early days, was wholly focused on deep air and solo diving. However, alarmingly lacking were clear bottle marking or gas switching protocols. It seemed to me to be no coincidence that diver after diver lost their lives simply because they breathed the wrong bottle at depth. Many others died mysteriously during solo dives or while deep diving with air. 

One of the more impactful fatalities was Bob McGuire, who was a drill sergeant, friend, and occasional dive buddy. He was normally very careful and focused. One day a small problem with one regulator caused him to switch regulators before getting in the water. He was using a system that used color-coded regulators to identify the gas breathed. When switching the broken regulator, he either did not remember or did not have an appropriately colored regulator. This small mistake cost him his life. I clearly remember turning that one around in my head quite a bit. Something that trivial should not result in the loss of a life. 

Also disturbing was the double fatality of good friends, Chris and Chrissy Rouse, who lost their lives while diving a German U-boat in 70 m/230 ft of water off the coast of New Jersey. I remember, as if the conversation with Chris were yesterday, asking him not to use air and even offering to support the cost as a counter to his argument about the cost of helium. And the tragedies continued: The loss of one of my closest friends Sherwood Schille, the death of my friend Steve Berman who lived next to me and with whom I had dived hundreds of times, the shock of losing pioneering explorer Sheck Exley, the regular stream of tech divers, and the half dozen body recoveries I made over only a couple years, which not only saddened me greatly, but also made me angry. Clearly, a radically different approach was needed.

  • Area 9

Learning to Explore

Meanwhile, my own exploration activities were expanding rapidly. Our teams were seeking every opportunity to grow their capability while reducing unnecessary risk. To that end, we ceased deep air diving and instituted a series of common protocols with standardized equipment configurations, both of which showed great promise in expanding safety, efficiency, and comfort. We got a lot of things wrong and experienced enough near misses to keep us sharp and in search of continual improvement. 

Casey McKinlay and Jarrod with stages and Gavin scooters in Wakulla Springs. Photo courtesy of David Rhea

But we looked carefully at every aspect of our diving, seeking ways to advance safety, efficiency, and all-around competency while focusing plenty of attention into the uncommon practice of large-scale, team diving, utilizing setup dives, safety divers, and inwater support. We developed diver propulsion vehicle (DPV) towing techniques, which is something that had not been done previously. We mostly ignored and then rewrote CNS oxygen toxicity calculations, developed novel strategies for calculating decompression time, and created and refined standard procedures for everything from bottle switching to equipment configurations. Many of these developments arose from simple necessity. There were no available decompression programs and no decompression tables available for the dives we were doing. Commonly used calculations designed to reduce the risk of oxygen toxicity were useless to our teams, because even our more casual dives were 10, 20, or even 30 times the allowable limit. The industry today takes most of this for granted, but in the early days of technical diving, we had very few tools, save a deep motivation to go where no one had gone before.

All in a dive of diving for the WKPP.

Many of these adventures included friends in the Woodville Karst Plain Project (WKPP), where I refined policies within the team and most directly with longtime dive buddy George Irvine. This “Doing it Right” (DIR) approach sought to create a more expansive system than Hogarthian diving, which itself had been born in the early years of the WKPP and was named after William Hogarth Main, a friend and frequent dive buddy of the time. By this point, I had been writing about and expanding upon Hogarthian diving for many years. More and more of the ideas we wanted to develop were not Bill Main’s priorities and lumping them into his namesake became impractical, especially given all the debate within the community over what was and was not Hogarthian. 

A similar move from DIR occurred some years later when GUE stepped away from the circular debates that sought to explain DIR and embraced a GUE configuration with standard protocols, something entirely within our scope to define.

These accumulating events reached critical mass in 1998. I had experienced strong resistance to any form of standardization, even having been asked to join a special meeting of the board of directors (BOD) for a prominent cave diving agency. Their intention was to discourage me from using any form of standard configuration, claiming that students should be allowed to do whatever they “felt’ was best. It was disconcerting for me, as a young instructor, to be challenged by pioneers in the sport; nevertheless, I couldn’t agree with the edict that someone who was doing something for the first time should be tasked with determining how it should be done. 

This sort of discussion was common, but the final straw occurred when I was approached by the head of a technical diving agency, an organization for which I had taught for many years. I was informed that he considered it a violation of standards not to teach air to a depth of at least 57 m/190 ft. This same individual told me that I had to stop using MOD bottle markings and fall in line with the other practices endorsed by his agency. Push had finally come to shove, and I set out to legitimize the training methods and dive protocols that had been incubating in my mind and refined with our teams over the previous decade. Years of trial and many errors while operating in dynamic and challenging environments were helping us to identify what practices were most successful in support of excellence, safety, and enjoyment.

Forming GUE

Forming GUE as a non-profit company was intended to neutralize the profit motivations that appeared to plague other agencies. We hoped to remove the incentive to train—and certify—the greatest number of divers as quickly as possible because it seemed at odds with ensuring comfortable and capable divers. The absence of a profit motive complemented the aspirational plans that longtime friend Todd Kincaid and I had dreamed of. We imagined a global organization that would facilitate the efforts of underwater explorers while supporting scientific research and conservation initiatives. 

I hoped to create an agency that placed most of the revenue in the hands of fully engaged and enthusiastic instructors, allowing them the chance to earn a good living and become professionals who might stay within the industry over many years. Of course, that required forgoing the personal benefit of ownership and reduced the revenue available to the agency, braking its growth and complicating expansion plans. This not only slowed growth but provided huge challenges in developing a proper support network while creating the agency I envisioned. There were years of stressful days and nights because of the need to forgo compensation and the deep dependance upon generous volunteers who had to fit GUE into their busy lives. If it were not for these individuals and our loyal members, we would likely never have been successful. Volunteer support and GUE membership have been and remain critical to the growing success of our agency. If you are now or have ever been a volunteer or GUE member, your contribution is a significant part of our success, and we thank you. 

Photo courtesy of Kirill Egorov

The challenges of the early years gave way to steady progress—always slower than desired, with ups and downs, but progress, nonetheless. Some challenges were not obvious at the outset. For example, many regions around the world were very poorly developed in technical diving. Agencies intent on growth seemed to ignore that problem, choosing whoever was available, and regardless of their experience in the discipline, they would soon be teaching. 

This decision to promote people with limited experience became especially problematic when it came to Instructor Trainers. People with almost no experience in something like trimix diving were qualifying trimix instructors. Watching this play out in agency after agency, and on continent after continent, was a troubling affair. Conversely, it took many years for GUE to develop and train people of appropriate experience, especially when looking to critical roles, including high-level tech and instructor trainers. At the same time, GUE’s efforts shaped the industry in no small fashion as agencies began to model their programs after GUE’s training protocols. Initially, having insisted that nobody would take something like Fundamentals, every agency followed suit in developing their own version of these programs, usually taught by divers that had followed GUE training. 

This evolving trend wasn’t without complexity but was largely a positive outcome. Agencies soon focused on fundamental skills, incorporated some form of problem-resolution training, adhered to GUE bottle and gas switching protocols, reduced insistence on deep air, and started talking more about developing skilled divers, among other changes. This evolution was significant when compared to the days of arguing about why a person could not learn to use trimix until they were good while diving deep on air. 

To be sure, a good share of these changes was more about maintaining business relevance than making substantive improvements. The changes themselves were often more style than substance, lacking objective performance standards and the appropriate retraining of instructors. Despite these weaknesses, they remain positive developments. Talking about something is an important first step and, in all cases, it makes room for strong instructors in any given agency to practice what is being preached. In fact, these evolving trends have allowed GUE to now push further in the effort to create skilled and experienced divers, enhancing our ability to run progressively more elaborate projects with increasingly more sophisticated outcomes. 

  • Halcyon Sidemount

The Future of GUE

The coming decades of GUE’s future appear very bright. Slow but steady growth has now placed the organization in a position to make wise investments, ensuring a vibrant and integrated approach. Meanwhile, evolving technology and a broad global base place GUE in a unique and formidable position. Key structural and personnel adjustments complement a growing range of virtual tools, enabling our diverse communities and representatives to collaborate and advance projects in a way that, prior to now, was not possible. Strong local communities can be easily connected with coordinated global missions; these activities include ever-more- sophisticated underwater initiatives as well as structural changes within the GUE ecosystem. One such forward-thinking project leverages AI-enabled, adaptive learning platforms to enhance both the quality and efficiency of GUE education. Most agencies, including GUE, have been using some form of online training for years, but GUE is taking big steps to reinvent the quality and efficiency of this form of training. This is not to replace, but rather to extend and augment inwater and in-person learning outcomes. Related tools further improve the fluidity, allowing GUE to seamlessly connect previously distant communities, enabling technology, training, and passion to notably expand our ability to realize our broad, global mission.

Photo courtesy of Kirill Egorov

Meanwhile, GUE and its range of global communities are utilizing evolving technologies to significantly expand the quality and scope of their project initiatives. Comparing the impressive capability of current GUE communities with those of our early years shows a radical and important shift, allowing results equal or even well beyond those possible when compared even with well-funded commercial projects. Coupled with GUE training and procedural support, these ongoing augmentations place our communities at the forefront of underwater research and conservation. This situation will only expand and be further enriched with the use of evolving technology and closely linked communities. Recent and planned expansions to our training programs present a host of important tools that will continue being refined in the years to come. Efforts to expand and improve upon the support provided to GUE projects with technology, people, and resources are now coming online and will undoubtedly be an important part of our evolving future.

The coming decades will undoubtedly present challenges. But I have no doubt that together we will not only overcome those obstacles but we will continue to thrive. I believe that GUE’s trajectory remains overwhelmingly positive, for we are an organization that is continually evolving—driven by a spirit of adventure, encouraged by your heartwarming stories, and inspired by the satisfaction of overcoming complex problems. Twenty-five years ago, when I took the path less traveled, the vision I had for GUE was admittedly ambitious. The reality, however, has exceeded anything I could have imagined. I know that GUE will never reach a point when it is complete but that it will be an exciting lifelong journey, one that, for me, will define a life well lived. I look forward our mutual ongoing “Quest for Excellence.”

See Listings Below For Additional Resources On GUE And GUE Diving!

Jarrod is an avid explorer, researcher, author, and instructor who teaches and dives in oceans and caves around the world. Trained as a geologist, Jarrod is the founder and president of GUE and CEO of Halcyon and Extreme Exposure while remaining active in conservation, exploration, and filming projects worldwide. His explorations regularly place him in the most remote locations in the world, including numerous world record cave dives with total immersions near 30 hours. Jarrod is also an author with dozens of publications, including three books.

A Few GUE Fundamentals

Similar to military, commercial and public safety divers, Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) is a standards-based diving community, with specific protocols, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and tools. Here are selected InDEPTH stories on some of the key aspects of GUE diving, including a four-part series on the history and development of GUE decompression procedures by founder and president Jarod Jablonski.

Anatomy of a Fundamentals Class

GUE Instructor Examiner Guy Shockey explains the thought and details that goes into GUE’s most popular course, Fundamentals, aka “Fundies,” which has been taken by numerous industry luminaries. Why all the fanfare? Shockey characterizes the magic as “simple things done precisely!

Back to Fundamentals: An Introduction to GUE’s Most Popular Diving Course

Instructor evaluator Rich Walker attempts to answer the question, “why is Fundamentals GUE’s most popular diving course?” Along the way, he clarifies some of the myths and misconceptions about GUE training. Hint: there is no Kool-Aid. 

The GUE Pre-dive Sequence

As you’d expect, Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) has a standardized approach to prepare your equipment for the dive, and its own pre-dive checklist: the GUE EDGE. Here explorer and filmmaker Dimitris Fifis preps you to take the plunge, GUE-style.

The Flexibility of Standard Operating Procedures

Instructor trainer Guy Shockey discusses the purpose, value, and yes, flexibility of standard operating procedures, or SOPs, in diving. Sound like an oxymoron? Shockey explains how SOPs can help offload some of our internal processing and situational awareness, so we can focus on the important part of the dive—having FUN!

Standard Gases: The Simplicity of Everyone Singing the Same Song

Like the military and commercial diving communities before them, Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) uses standardized breathing mixtures for various depth ranges and for decompression. Here British wrecker and instructor evaluator Rich Walker gets lyrical and presents the reasoning behind standard mixes and their advantages, compared with a “best mix” approach. Don’t worry, you won’t need your hymnal, though Walker may have you singing some blues.

Rules of Thumb: The Mysteries of Ratio Deco Revealed

Is it a secret algorithm developed by the WKPP to get you out of the water faster sans DCI, or an unsubstantiated decompression speculation promoted by Kool-Aid swilling quacks and charlatans? British tech instructor/instructor evaluator Rich Walker divulges the arcane mysteries behind GUE’s ratio decompression protocols in this first of a two part series.

The Thought Process Behind GUE’s CCR Configuration

Global Underwater Explorers is known for taking its own holistic approach to gear configuration. Here GUE board member and Instructor Trainer Richard Lundgren explains the reasoning behind its unique closed-circuit rebreather configuration. It’s all about the gas!

GUE and the Future of Open Circuit Tech Diving

Though they were late to the party, Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) is leaning forward on rebreathers, and members are following suit. So what’s to become of their open circuit-based TECH 2 course? InDepth’s Ashley Stewart has the deets.

Project Divers Are We

Diving projects, or expeditions—think Bill Stone’s Wakulla Springs 1987 project, or the original explorations of the Woodville Karst Plain’s Project (WKPP)—helped give birth to technical diving, and today continue as an important focal point and organizing principle for communities like Global Underwater Explorers (GUE). The organization this year unveiled a new Project Diver program, intended to elevate “community-led project dives to an entirely new level of sophistication.” Here, authors Guy Shockey and Francesco Cameli discuss the power of projects and take us behind the scenes of the new program

Decompression, Deep Stops and the Pursuit of Precision in a Complex World In this first of a four-part series, Global Underwater Explorers’ (GUE) founder and president Jarrod Jablonski explores the historical development of GUE decompression protocols, with a focus on technical diving and the evolving trends in decompression research.

  • Area 9
  • Halcyon Sidemount
  • Subscribe for free
Continue Reading


WordPress PopUp Plugin