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Keep on Chuukin’

Instructor evaluator Guy Shockey recounts their recent three-week expedition to Chuuk Lagoon, having visited the island more than a decade earlier. What a difference a rebreather makes—forget those $4000 gas bills! Shockey dives into the details of their dives, finds, and the current state of Chuuk’s shipwrecks, which are slowly deteriorating. Check out their cool vid. If you’re thinking about heading to Chuuk anytime soon, you’ll want to dive in.



By Guy Shockey. Lede image: ircraft engines in the hold of the Sankisan Maru at 18 m (60 ft). Photo by Katherine Livins

In 2010, a small group of Global Underwater explorer (GUE) divers traveled to Chuuk, Micronesia, to spend nearly two weeks documenting some of the most amazing wreck diving in the world. We came back with 20 hours of HD video footage and photos, and I wrote an article for GUE’s membership magazine Quest about our trip. Fast forward to 2023, and two groups of divers again traveled to Chuuk on a three-week expedition organized by Fathom Dive Systems CEO Charlie Roberson and Fathom Expeditions. Revisiting Chuuk in 2023 was an amazing adventure and while the location was the same, the experience was quite different!

A plaque and statue placed on the deck of the Aikoku Maru at 45 m (140 feet), just aft of the exploded bow section, memorializes the hundreds of army troops and ships crew killed in the ship’s sinking. Photo by Katherine Livins.


Chuuk (then called Truk) had been a significant roadblock in the WWII Allied advance north through the Central Pacific, as it was a protected anchorage for a significant percentage of Japanese military and merchant shipping. It had been described as “impregnable,” and the decision was made that only Naval air power could remove this base as a threat. “Operation Hailstone” was launched and, for the two days of February 17th and 18th, 1944, Chuuk was the subject of nearly non-stop air strikes that resulted in United States Navy aircraft sinking over 45 vessels of the 60 they found in the lagoon. Air strikes also destroyed about 270 of the nearly 365 aircraft on Chuuk. The result of the operation was that Operation Hailstone effectively rendered the Naval base at Chuuk Atoll no longer a threat. 

It wasn’t until 1970, one year after Jacque Cousteau visited Chuuk had produced a film about the diving there, that the rest of the world began to turn their attention to what is basically a mecca for wreck diving enthusiasts. For divers, Chuuk became the largest and most concentrated collection of shipwrecks in the world. The lagoon is a natural harbor that measures about 80 km (43 nautical miles) by 50 km (27 nautical miles) and is surrounded by a protective reef that is nearly 225 km ( 140 miles) in length. The waters are seldom deeper than 60 m/200 ft within the lagoon, and there are several islands that provide shelter from the prevailing winds. In short, if you could design the perfect location for wreck diving, you would likely build something like Chuuk atoll!

Two 3-man Japanese tanks resting on the deck of the San Francisco Maru at 48 m (160 feet). Photo by Katherine Livins.

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Getting to Chuuk is always an adventure. There is the classic Micronesian “circular milk run” that stops at a series of islands on the way to Chuuk if you are coming from one direction, or you will be flying to Chuuk via Guam if you are coming the other direction. Let’s just say, you may not want to set your watch by the flight schedules and, sometimes, you may not even want to use a calendar. The airport in Chuuk will also likely be a new experience for you. My recommendation is you just move to the side of the room where you will gather your luggage and have patience. There is such a thing as “island time,” and it is alive and well on Chuuk! You aren’t arriving at JFK or Atlanta: most things are managed manually here, and it all takes time. The Chuukese people love their families, and arrivals and departures are clearly family affairs. Just roll with it, and you will get where you want to go, more-or-less on time. 

This was my first experience in 2010, and nothing had changed in 13 years. Flights were delayed or canceled for several people: luggage was misplaced (all of mine made it on time this time!), and just about everyone in the airport(s) seemed to have a “challenged” degree of situation awareness. One of the things I remembered from my 2010 trip was that it was emotionally rewarding to see the connections that families have in Chuuk, and this hasn’t changed. 

On both trips, our groups stayed at the Blue Lagoon resort, and they supplied our boats and pumped our gas. Kimiuo Aisek is the father of wreck diving on Chuuk, and he also founded the Blue Lagoon resort and dive shop. Kimiuo passed away several years ago, but his family still manages the dive operation and the resort. Kimiuo also watched the actual raids and helped Cousteau with locating many of the wrecks. The accommodation has been updated since I was there last, and the rooms are quite nice. They also now have WIFI in each of the rooms, so guests no longer need to congregate by the front desk to update emails and messages every morning! The food is good with a bigger selection than one might think. 

Locals enjoying an evening paddle and another stunning Pacific sunset. Photo by Ewan Anderson.

On the 2010 trip, wrecks were located via dead reckoning and that was an amazing thing to see. A divemaster (usually an Aisek family member) would stand in the front of the panga and direct the boat driver with hand signals while referencing landmarks on sometimes distant islands. I remember one time laughing when we were at one of the deeper wrecks farther away from any island and saying, “sure we are here.” Our dive master said, “starboard bow” …, and sure enough, when we got to the bottom, that was exactly where his grapple was hooked. It was amazing to watch this feat of navigation. Forward 13 years and the Blue Lagoon dive masters had tied subsurface floats to all the wrecks, so it was easier (usually) to locate and tie up to the wrecks. The dive masters still needed to locate the float, but the subsurface buoy was usually only 6m/20ft deep and easier to see!

Chuuk 2023 Highlights. Video by Erik Lu.

Technology marches forward

The most significant and noticeable change between the 2010 and 2023 trips was the technology used for diving. Our 2010 trip was an open circuit trip, but everyone on the 2023 trip was diving with either the JJ closed circuit rebreather or the Fathom rebreather. I recall a $4000 helium bill on the open circuit trip for a relatively small number of deeper dives. Not only was helium expensive on Chuuk, but helium was also difficult to get at all! 

On that trip, the first thing I did on arrival at Blue Lagoon dive shop was march over to the gas blending station and buy all the helium they had! Chuuk is at the end of a long supply line and any logistical considerations require significant forward planning. On the 2023 trip, Charlie Roberson had managed all this from his office in Florida, and we had more than enough Helium, and all our bailout cylinders were waiting for us. We were all diving with back-mounted bail out, and the only thing we needed to bring were Lola valves for our bailout cylinders. 

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Our 2010 trip to Chuuk was also absent some other newer technology: the amazing instruments created by Shearwater research! Every CCR present on the 2023 trip was connected to a Shearwater controller handset. Every diver also had another piece of Shearwater equipment as a back-up to the controller! Ten years ago, my approach to discussing dive instruments was quite different than that which happens today, and this is mostly because of the work of Shearwater Research. Their instruments are reliable and allow us to make better and more informed decisions during our dives. They are an integral part of most divers’ equipment packages for most divers and show up on more and more CCR manufacturers products. They were incredibly useful in Chuuk where we could update our decompression obligations in real time while we were doing multiple dives a day over three weeks. 

Photo by Conor Collins.

Before you pick up your pen and start writing a “Dear Editor” letter after reading my comment above, please note that I was very specific in my wording where I said they “allow us to make better and more informed decisions.” I didn’t say we should let them make our decisions for us, and there is a very big difference between those two statements. We have had a healthy skepticism of diving computers over the years, and I still am not suggesting we substitute a computer for our brain. However, I use computers every day to assist me in decision making, and it is no different in diving. As long as we recognize that computers can be a “garbage in – garbage out” piece of equipment, and not a silver bullet to solve all our decompression calculation problems, I personally think they can be valuable. They help me monitor my environment, and they were very useful in the type of project diving we were doing in Chuuk. 

Dive boats lined up and ready to take divers on amazing dives! Photo by Ewan Anderson.

Advantages of diving CCR at Chuuk

To paraphrase a military axiom: “good generals consider tactics and strategy while great generals focus on logistics.” Diving at the end of a long supply line with limited supplies of helium and the associated stress on a fill station trying to keep pace with filling multiple cylinders, many times a day, helps defend that axiom. I don’t know how we could have dived as much as we did on the wrecks we wanted to dive, without diving rebreathers. Gas costs were a small portion of what they were in 2010 and because Charlie had prepositioned C02 absorbent and all the cylinders we needed, the effort on behalf of each diver was relatively low. Most of the time we were able to do two days diving with one bailout gas fill, and because 02 usage on a CCR is independent of depth, it didn’t really matter whether we were doing a deep dive or a shallower dive; our 02 usage was the same. 

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Photo by Conor Collins.

One of the biggest advantages of diving rebreathers in Chuuk was that we were regularly able to dive the deeper wrecks in the lagoon. This was valuable because the deeper wrecks are not dived as often and are in better shape simply because of less traffic. The deeper depth also means less sunlight to promote coral growth resulting in more easily discernible features on things like deck guns, etc., on the wrecks below 100’ (30 m).

Because the water temperature was 85 F (29 C), our bottom time and resultant deco time was limited by how long we wanted to stay on the bottom! Gas supplies were never really a concern, nor was exposure and the all-important “How long can I survive if my drysuit floods in 45-degree water (7 C)” which is a concern here at home in the Pacific Northwest. Our total run time was usually a function of what our plans were for the day and how this would impact the rest of the teams on the same boat. 

We normally did a longer and deeper dive in the morning and, then after a four-hour surface interval that included lunch, we chose something shallower in the afternoon. About half-way through each 10-day trip, all divers took a day off just to relax and dry out. There is a recompression chamber on Chuuk, but we were purposefully conservative, and no one from either group had any issues during the entire trip. There is really no reason to not be conservative with regard to decompression times in Chuuk, because you just never know what you are going to see on deco! We were regularly visited by sharks, turtles, and all varieties of fish, and some of the divers even saw eagle rays.

The bow of the San Francisco Maru—a must see for visitors to Chuuk—rests in the sand at 60 m (200 feet) deep. Photo by Katherine Livins.

The wrecks of Chuuk

There are about 50 shipwrecks and several aircraft wrecks to dive in Chuuk lagoon. It’s difficult to put this in perspective for someone who hasn’t been there, and it is easy to normalize your diving so that “Oh, another 500 ft (160 m) long wreck” becomes a typical day of the week! However, each wreck has its own character and what is “in or on” each wreck begins to become more important than the wreck name itself. While the wrecks do of course have names, divers start to refer to them as “the wreck with the earth compactor in the hold”, or “the wreck with three tanks sitting on the deck.” 

You can’t help but become an amateur historian when you dive wrecks like the ones in Chuuk, because every single wreck has a story. What ports did the ship visit? What was it like to work as crew on each ship? What are the stories of each of the members of the crew who died in the sinkings? Every one of the wrecks is a war grave, and in several cases, this is very apparent. This can be a little disconcerting and uncomfortable at some times, and I suggest a little compassion be added to your dives. Nearly 5000 sailors and airmen lost their lives in this battle and this is still a tragedy regardless of which side anyone is on. 

Charlie Roberson, founder of Fathom Dive Systems. Photo by Ewan Anderson.

A typical day consisted of diving one of the deeper wrecks in the morning and then a shallower one in the afternoon. This gave all the divers a “tour de force” of the most significant and interesting shipwrecks in Chuuk lagoon, and many divers chose to revisit some of the wrecks because they were just so darn cool! Some of the highlights were the San Francisco Maru, loaded with enough munitions to equip a small army, and the Nippo Maru and the Aikoku Maru, also loaded with interesting things such as field guns, trucks and tractors. You can still see the Zero aircraft in the holds of the Fujikawa Maru, and the Heian Maru is still one of the biggest wrecks divers can dive anywhere in the world. 

One of everyone’s favorites was the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) destroyer the “Oite”. It was one of the deepest wrecks at about 200 ft (60 m), but it was also amazing. It was a longer boat ride but totally worth it. The destroyer had broken in two pieces after being hit by a torpedo, and it sank with the bow and stern sections within sight of each other. This had been on my “to do” list forever and wasn’t something we could do when I was there on my open circuit trip. This time around, with our rebreathers it was easily doable, and we did…multiple times!

Photo by Conor Collins.

There are also some amazing aircraft wrecks in the lagoon, and we were fortunate to dive one that was only discovered this past spring. It was in excellent condition and the funniest part was that it was only a couple minutes from the dive shop! There are literally hundreds of aircraft scattered throughout the lagoon and just waiting to be discovered. The problem is that because the area is so big, it is unlikely that most of them will ever be found. This newly discovered wreck just happened to be spotted from a boat on the surface on a day of terrific visibility and sits in 80 ft (24 m) of water…

I could clearly see that the wrecks have deteriorated over the last dozen years or so. The super-structures of some wrecks have collapsed into the hulls, and previous entry points are now closed. This is hardly surprising and one of the things that makes wreck diving so interesting: the natural deterioration of wrecks means that every dive can be something new! While some places become closed off, other access points open. Wreck diving is always dynamic, as both the ocean and the wrecks themselves are in a constant state of change. I honestly didn’t find myself thinking, “You should have been here last year because…”, as they are just as much fun to dive as they ever were. The deeper wrecks seem to deteriorate slower and given that we did a lot of diving on these wrecks, I had more fun and spent more time underwater on this trip then I did in 2010.

We enjoyed ourselves so much in fact, that we already have plans to go again in July 2024 and July 2025. Charlie Roberson and Fathom Expeditions are again handling the logistics and you can contact him at In addition to Charlie, GUE Instructor, Kelvin Davidson and I will be along as guides, and we are happy to answer any questions you might have about the diving, the accommodation, and the trip itself. Kelvin managed one of the dive resorts on Chuuk for three years before moving to Tulum and starting Third Dimensions Diving and has done nearly 1300 dives on the wrecks in the lagoon. This sort of insider information was invaluable to us when it came to planning dives and even just helping us navigate the culture of the islands. He even knew where the best cakes were made… 🙂 You can reach me at and you can reach Kelvin at



InDEPTH: In Memoriam: Martin Cridge by Aron Arngrimsson and Steve Jones

Other stories by Guy Shockey:

InDEPTH: Why It’s Okay To Make Mistakes

InDEPTH: The Economics of Choosing CCR Vs OC

InDEPTH: How to Become an Explorer: Passion, Partnership, and Exploration

InDEPTH: The Flexibility of Standard Operating Procedures

Guy Shockey is a GUE instructor and instructor trainer who is actively involved in mentoring the next generation of GUE divers. He started diving in 1982 in a cold mountain lake in Alberta, Canada. Since then, he has logged somewhere close to 8,000 dives in most of the world’s oceans. He is a passionate technical diver with a particular interest in deeper ocean wreck diving. He is a former military officer and professional hunter with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science. He is also an entrepreneur with several successful startup companies to his credit.

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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! 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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