Podcasts, Webbies, and YouTubes … OH MY!
Last spring, DAN’s nerdy risk mitigation coordinator cum cave diver Christine Tamburri identified the quintessential tech tomes that should be on every tekkie’s bookshelf. Now we have asked her to take us on a dive deep into the world of diving pods, webinars with a few YouTube channels thrown in, to satisfy your listening appetites. Feed your head, and heart.
By Christine Tamburri. Header image by SJ Alice Bennett
InDEPTH’s Guide To Non-print Oral Diving Media
27 JUNE 2023—We’ve added linked to Nick Hogle’s new podcast Off Gassing: A Scuba Podcast. Find the link below.
In the May issue of InDEPTH, we discussed essential reading materials that all tekkies should have on their library bookshelves. Gone are the days of excuse after excuse surrounding the time commitment needed to read a book cover-to-cover. Today, tekkies far and wide are turning to podcasts, webinars, and YouTube Channels to feed their heads on all things diving. From personal storytelling by some of the biggest names in the industry, to discussions on military diving, and everything in between, these resources have become so mainstream that some tekkies have even taken to watching and listening to them on long deco hangs!
You are invited to the next generation of learning materials and to build that tekkie playlist one podcast, webinar, and YouTube channel at a time.
The Oral Dive History Collection
Merriam-Webster defines “oral history” as a recording containing information about the past obtained from in-depth interviews concerning personal experiences, recollections, and reflections. There are several podcasts that exist to preserve stories of the greats while providing a wealth of knowledge and entertainment to divers of all abilities and backgrounds:
- The League of Extraordinary Divers (Host: Tec Clark)
- DeeperBlue Podcast (Host: Stephan Whelan)
- The Big Deep (Host: Jason Elias)
- Dive In: The Podcast (Hosts: Justin Miller, April Weickert, Amit Parasram, and Nic Winkler)
- PADI Dive Stories (Host: Allison Albritton)
- Are you a Scuba Diver – Fancy a brew? (Host: Andy the Northern Diver)
- POD Diver Radio (Host: Joe Cocozza)
- Dive Immersion (Host: Carlos Lander-podcasts and blogs)
- Scuba Goat (Host: Matt waters)
These are just a few examples of oral history podcasts. Guests include Andy Torbet, Cristina Zenato, Brett Seymour, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Phil Short, and Jill Heinerth with topics ranging from wildlife encounters to cave diving and exploration projects. Regardless of individual interests, there is something for every tekkie within these podcast series! Some podcasts revolve around a common theme, which is the case with National Geographic’s Into the Depths (Host: Tara Roberts). This six-part series follows one woman’s journey to document and preserve the history of slave ships in the Atlantic Ocean. For the tekkie looking for a standalone podcast to listen to on the drive to the dive site, Mentors for Military (Host: Robert Gowin) recorded an episode that discusses the process of becoming a Diving Medical Officer in the U.S. Navy, while an episode from TEK.95 (Host: Fred Garth) relives a presentation given by Dr. Bill Hamilton and John Cera on mixed gas diving from aquaCORPS Tek.95 conference.
From Sidemount Tweaks to Freedive Geeks & Everything in Between
Despite being weightless while immersed, divers gravitate toward a plethora of special interests within the community and, thankfully, there are podcasts for almost everyone—new divers, experienced divers, and even those that are uncertified. Learn all about what it takes to dive from a physiological perspective by listening to Fitness in Diving (Host: Dr. David Charash); The Dive Locker (Host: Tec Clark) takes an in-depth look at teaching techniques, risk management, and the dive business.
For those who love to challenge the status quo and get their cylinders off their back, Speaking Sidemount (Host: Steve Davis) is a fantastic resource for tips and tricks from some of the best sidemount divers in the world. If wearing no cylinders is of interest, Freedive Café (Host: Donny Mac) discusses all things breath holding from world records to everyday training.
One unique podcast series surrounds an even more unique subsect of diving. The Bottom Dwellers (Host: Armando Gonzalez) is the only podcast created by commercial divers for commercial divers, but those of all backgrounds are welcome to join in and learn from the discussions. Note that the Association of Diving Contractors International (ADCI), Houston, Texas just announced (8.19.22) that they plan to debut their first-ever podcast—THE DOWNLINE—soon, where ADCI Executive Director Phil Newsum and Gary Jones, Board of Directors, will discuss relevant industry topics and association news. Listen up hardhat divers!
Another unique sector of diving is rooted in the military, and there are several resources available. Deep-Sea Stories (Host: Ross Garcia) is an in-depth series that covers a variety of topics about the U.S. Navy, while standalone podcasts from Fair Winds (Host: Petty Officer Nathaniel Romeo), The 18th Airborne (Host: Joe Buccino), and Canadian Army Podcast (Host: Captain Adam Orton) cover the United States Coast Guard Dive Program, the training required to become an Army diver, and the nature of work undertaken by combat divers, respectively.
If boredom by repetitive topic after repetitive topic comes easily, fear not! There are several podcast series that cover all things diving (and even non-diving). The Dive Table (Hosts: Jay Gardner and Nick Hogle) is a short but impactful series that discusses everything from destination diving to controversial training philosophies. The Scuba Diving Podcast (Host: Kenny Dyal), The Great Dive Podcast (Hosts: James Mott and Brandon Schwartz), The BiG Scuba Podcast (Hosts: Ian Last and Gemma Kemp) and the newly created Into the Overhead (Hosts: Dene Ulmschneider and Joshua Underwood) are all extremely diverse and cover a range of topics like ecology, photography, and rebreather diving. These podcasts have it all!
OZ Dive Show Podcast (Host: Dean Laffan and Michael Menduno) focuses on specific accomplishments and areas of expertise for several guests, including Dr. Dawn Kernagis, Professor Simon Mitchell, and Dr. Neal Pollock.
Into the Planet (Host: Jill Heinerth) recounts the life of one of the most prolific female technical divers in the industry; the hosts discuss cold water diving and women’s empowerment, among other topics.
There is something for divers of all ages and backgrounds, and boredom will surely be avoided by diving into these captivating podcast series!
Saltwater Stories About Protecting the Planet
Building an engaging and educational tekkie playlist is rooted in variety. Divers may wish to expand their boundaries into the non-diving world with a few podcasts inspired by responsible boating, coral protection, and conservation education. Dockside (Host: Diana Fu) is a new series dedicated to safe and sustainable boating practices, and it hosts discussions on oil spills and lifeguard rescues.
For nerdy divers who love science, check out Meet the Ocean (Host: Paul North)—a student-led podcast conveying stories from scientists and explorers. One final series that divers may find interesting is OceanPoddy (Host: Madeline St Clair), which discusses shark fin training, ocean physics, and even drone crashes!
For tekkies with packed schedules, a standalone episode by Blue Frontier (Host: David Helvarg and Vicki Nichols Goldstein) interviews explorer Don Walsh as he describes his journey seven miles underwater.
It is important to remember that without clean, healthy waters, the dive industry cannot thrive and the hobby that we all enjoy could be put into jeopardy. Diving podcasts are an excellent way to learn more about how divers can make a positive impact on the planet!
For Our International Friends
Divers from around the world love to listen to and learn from podcasts of all varieties so, of course, a few international series need to be included for our friends far and wide! For Spanish-speaking divers, there are several choices. Full podcast series include Bajo las Olas (Host: Ester “Garcela” Moreno), which covers wreck diving, cave diving, and more, and BRAVE Divers (Host: Gisela García et al.), which is both a podcast and a YouTube Channel.
For our Spanish-speaking friends who do not have the time to commit to listening to a full series, there are few standalone episodes that are worth diving into. Journey Sports (Host: Óscar Garza) has two relevant episodes, one about ocean exploration in Mexico and the other about the Great Mayan Aquifer Project. For those looking for chats about going deeper for longer, Radio El Respeto (Host: Félix RodrÍguez) interviewed Miguel Lozano who, as of February 2021, was one of only six freedivers to ever descend to 120 m/393 ft.
A Visual Learner’s Playlist
As the world of technology continues to develop, more and more resources are becoming available for tekkies hoping to feed their head with all things diving. Webinars and YouTube channels are becoming popular mechanisms to learn everything under the sun and under the sea.
Webinar-savvy tekkies may want to dive into content from Divers Alert Network , and Divers Alert Network Southern Africa, which cover topics ranging from hyperbaric chambers, to diving safety and environmental stewardship. Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) offers a deep dive into all manner of (paid) diving content in GUE.TV. They also offer free diving content on the GUE YouTube Channel
One outstanding byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic was an extremely diverse series of more than 70 webinars from The Diver Medic (Host: Chantelle Newman). These cover public safety diving, cave conservation, accident investigations, and so much more, and they are an incredible source of information from some of the biggest names in the industry.
Informative YouTube channels are also a great resource divers can use to build their skill sets and to learn new things about the industry, gear, and training. Setting the standard in edutainment is Jonathan Bird with his BlueWorldTV (Host: Jonathan Bird) YouTube channel. These 10- to 15-minute episodes cover topics like diving in aquariums and crawling through the mud in tiny caves. Jonathan also recently directed an IMAX film, Ancient Caves, which dives into the importance of karst geology and STEM education. With over one million subscribers on YouTube, tekkies of all ages and experience levels will find joy in the cinematography of BlueWorldTV.
Divers Ready (Host: James Blackman) combines education with humor to deliver a wealth of information to knowledge-hungry divers. Time-traveling tekkies may find interest in the Alec Peirce Scuba (Host: Alec Peirce) YouTube channel as he discusses tech tips and vintage scuba in an enthusiastic, yet informative manner. Alec covers cylinder inspections, scuba gear developed in 1955, and other diving history topics, and this channel will always leave viewers coming back for something new, interesting, and unique.
Rounding out this dynamic list are two educational YouTube channels that keep things lighthearted and exciting. Scuba Jake (Host: Jake Koehler) is a modern-day treasure hunter who takes viewers along on his underwater adventures to find lost phones, wallets, and keys. For his efforts, Jake even won the “Visionary Award” at Beneath the Sea in 2019! DIVE TALK (Hosts: Woody Alpern and Gus Gonzalez) is a newer YouTube channel that also keeps things lighthearted, even while discussing serious topics. Through their infamous “Cave Divers React” videos, Woody Alpern and Gus Gonzalez take viewers along on their adventures into growing as divers and instructors, and through their major success on YouTube, people from around the world are becoming inspired to either start diving or to continue their dive education.
Whether a tekkie chooses podcasts, webinars, or YouTube channels as their educational secret weapon, it is important to continue to learn and grow as a diver. These platforms streamline education and provide ample entertainment along the way. So, on your next long deco hang or drive to the dive site, tune into one of these resources. You never know what you might discover!
Listen Up Divers: 49 Channels and Counting!
The 18th Airborne
Spend a little or a lot of time with host Joe Buccino as he chats with some of the most prominent figures inside America’s most prestigious military unit. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!
Alec Peirce Scuba
is dedicated to making your scuba diving easier, safer, and more enjoyable. Alec examines, through his plethora of playlists, the major and minor features of all your equipment needs.
Are you a Scuba Diver – Fancy a brew?
Check out Andy the Northern Diver at Apple Podcasts. Over a brew or two, he has insightful and lively discussions with an incredible range of divers who influence his progression from rec to tech to professional diver.
Bajo las Olas
¡Bajo las Olas ya está aquí! Refrescando, como cada agosto, los días más calurosos en superficie. Esta vez Miguel reflexiona sobre el Valet Diving, y Juan Antonio nos hace viajar a uno de los grandes atractivos de México¡ los cenotes! ¡Esperamos que os guste!
The Big Deep
is in the top 2% of all podcasts listened to worldwide, Big Deep is about and for people who have a strong enough connection to our world’s oceans that they have dedicated their lives to being in or working on behalf of the water.
The BiG Scuba Podcast
features Brits, Ian and Gemma, who are dedicated to all things diving and ocean related. This new, independent podcast aims to provide light-hearted encouragement and inspiration to divers and wannabe divers.
is dedicated to protecting and assuring the health of our oceans, Blue Frontier builds solution-oriented citizen engagement into the decision making processes that will positively impact our public seas and all who depend on them.
Meet talented cinematographer Jonathan Bird, Emmy Award-winning authority on the underwater world, as he documents “the world beneath the waves”.
The Bottom Dwellers
Check out this podcast by working commercial divers for commercial divers. You’ll find sea stories, near misses, and interviews by underwater welders and contractors. Also: beer reviews and diver life in general.
Nos encontramos con Manel Melchor y Roi Freeman para descubrir más acerca de la historia del submarinismo. A tod@s nos apasiona el buceo recreativo, pero ¿somos realmente conocedores de su historia? Una charla muy interesante para aprender más sobre nuestra pasión.
Canadian Army Podcast
Combat Divers are combat engineers with specialized underwater training. Listen in to hear all about the challenging nature of the work of the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering.
Your weekly guide to everything happening around the world … underwater. Each week they cover what’s happening in scuba, freediving, dive travel, and ocean advocates.
Master Diver Steve Mulholland, in his effort to advance the “Man in the Sea Museum” into full integration with Panama City and Bay County, FL, recounts his time in the Navy Diving and Salvage, Deep Submergence Unit, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expeditionary Support.
Carlos Lander is in pursuit of working with public entities who need a comprehensive range of underwater educational programs within the branch of public safety, scientific, and archaeological diving.
Dive In: The Podcast
A weekly all-about-diving podcast based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada with diving news, interviews with guests from all over the world on dive topics, ocean advocacy, and more. Light-hearted show by four avid divers who examine issues relevant to divers and the oceans. New shows every Monday.
The Dive Locker
A podcast for dive professionals, industry leader Tec Clark explores the latest in diving industry resources that make you excellent at teaching, risk management, and business. “If you want to succeed as a dive professional, this is the podcast for you.”
The Diver Medic
Chantelle Newman, EMS Diver, member of the Woman Divers Hall of Fame hosts this podcast to promote safety in diving and provide medical information to divers around the world. Her solutions are practical and much sought-after.
DAN actually is the man! DAN helps divers in need with medical emergency assistance and promotes diving safety through research, education, products and services. If you don’t know the power of DAN worldwide, you need to check it out.
Divers Alert Network Southern Africa
Trusted by millions of divers for more than 40 years, DAN has been the go-to source helping divers, dive professionals and health care providers stay safer and be more prepared. DAN South Africa is particularly active in providing new content on its channel. Take a look.
Become a better scuba diver—with videos to sharpen diving skills, with sharing hints and tips, with gear reviews to assist in making smarter equipment choices, and with reviews of dive travel experiences to help you plan your next dive adventure.
PADI shares diving’s most inspirational characters and their narratives with the world. Join them as they talk scuba, freediving, underwater exploration, travel, conservation and how to save the ocean.
The Dive Table
Join hosts Nick and Jay and they pull up a chair at the table and share their stories, opinions, and adventures of the continuing love affair with scuba diving. A down-to-earth, often hilarious, and always honest listen.
Listen in as Woody and Gus tackle a variety of subjects from the scuba and dive industries: agencies, rec & tech, cave, rebreathers, destinations, gear, techniques, and a never-ending stream of best practices.
The US Coast Guard’s Google podcasts for those interested in having a larger appreciation of, and who might even be considering a career in the CG. Host Petty Officer Nat Romeo and his guests share stories about all things Coast Guard related.
Fitness in Diving
An audio series hosted by Dr. David Charash about the six components of diving fitness. In this series, you can expect conversations with leaders in the diving world and discussions about how divers can dive smart.
Here Donny really goes deep to reveal the personal stories, inspirations, and techniques of freedivers from competitors, trainers, photographers, ocean conservationists, and more. Check it out for yourself.
Global Underwater Explorers’ Youtube Channel
GUE motivates and trains some of the most passionate divers in the world. Their channel is the perfect place to visit if you’re interested in getting deeper into diving. Their goals are to explore and conserve our underwater world and to educate the next generation of avid divers to the highest standards.
The Great Dive Podcast
This is the Car Talk of Scuba Diving, where James and Brando engage in unrehearsed banter about all things related to their shared passion for exploring the underwater world and the diving community.
Home to a variety of fun and educational videos where you will find a growing library of underwater demonstrations sure to help you feel more comfortable and capable in the water. GUE.tv is available on all of your devices as a paid subscription.
Into the Depths
Join National Geographic’s explorer Tara Roberts in this six-part series as she documents some of the thousand slave ships that wrecked in the Atlantic during the transatlantic slave trade and follows a group of Black divers who are dedicated to finding and documenting the wrecks of the forgotten.
Into the Overhead
Dene Ulmschneider and Joshua Underwood dive into the underground world.
Into the Planet
The one and only Jill Heinerth, along with Robert McClellan, talks underwater photography, video, technical scuba and basically how to save the planet. Listen in for a treat.
Host Óscar Garza has two relevant underwater episodes, one about the Great Mayan Aquifer Project, and the other about ocean exploration in Mexico .
League of Extraordinary Divers
Hosted by Tec Clark, this podcast features diving legends of the past and present sharing some of their best scuba diving stories. You’ll hear stories such as their original scuba training, scariest diving stories, funniest diving stories, favorite diving locations, as well as tips for divers.
Meet the Ocean
Voted best Nature Podcast, here host Paul North uses creative sound design and his own storytelling to convince current and future generations that their planet is worth discovering and defending.
Mentors for Military
The hosts of this show are military vets and the guests are fascinating folks with a message to share. Real talk with real people. Check in with them.
[Editors Note: There appears to be a problem with this podcast. It won’t load.] Listeners get to go on an adventure with host Alexis Brown into the minds of some of the world’s true ocean champions and dive into the remarkable ways they are protecting our blue planet by throwing convention to the wind and following their own path to making a difference.
Ocean Poddy is a fun, unfiltered (and occasionally tipsy) podcast about the sea, hosted by tropical marine biologist & underwater photographer Mads St Clair. So grab a glass of wine and get ready to dive in as Ocean Poddy brings a menagerie of saltwater-lovin’ people into your daily life—and proves that it’s not all doom and gloom for our blue planet..
Host Nick Hogle loves engaging in conversations with other divers. That’s motivated him to start Off Gassing. He speaks to broad swath of scuba-minded individuals, from beginners to experts and leaders in the field, with the goal of learning and soaking up knowledge from fellow divers.
OZ Dive Show Podcast
Replays of featured talks given at OZTEK 2019 with diving banter and 2022 OZTEK updates provided by hosts: Dean Laffan, OZDive/OZTek conveyor Sue Crowe, and Michael Menduno
POD Diver Radio
Each episode involves a discussion for serious divers, with top diving experts, educators, scientists, and explorers. Expeditions, equipment, hyperbaric medicine, training, dive travel, aquatic science,free, cave and wreck diving, and all things underwater.
Radio El Respeto
Miguel Lozano and the power of Apnea: 12 people have stepped on the moon in the entire history of mankind, only six have descended to 120 meters on a breathhold.
The Scuba Diving Podcast
Leaders from travel to equipment, aquariums to scuba instructors, mermaids to boat captains, and everything in between are here in one place.
Welcome to Australia’s #1 scuba diving podcast hosted by Matt Waters who hopes to stoke the diving dreams of listeners, spread the word of majestic global dive locations, the operators that provide the foundations and service that we require to submerge, explore and protect our blue world.
Everything you ever wanted to know about treasure hunting underwater.
With over 20 year’s experience, host Matt Rayl shares first-hand knowledge from experts educating pond and lake owners and lake management professionals.
Sidemount diving is sweeping the world and becoming the configuration of choice for many in both rec and tech diving. Here host Steve Davis presents the people, events and ideas that are making sidemount what it is.
InDEPTH magazine featured a talk by the late legendary diving physiologist Dr. RW Bill Hamilton and anesthetist and cave explorer John Crea from the 1995 TEK.Conference held in San Francisco.
The Association of Diving Contractors International (ADCI) will be launching their podcast soon. Hosts ADCI Executive Director Phil Newsum and Gary Jones, Board of Directors, will discuss relevant industry topics and association news.
InDEPTH: How Deep Is Your Library by Christine Tamburri
Christine Tamburri is the Risk Mitigation Coordinator at DAN. She began diving in 2016 and never looked back, spending her weekends diving and meeting industry leaders along the way. After graduating from Penn State University in 2020, she decided that a full-time job in the industry was her calling, and she became a summer intern at DAN. Later that year, she was hired into her current role where she develops e-learning courses, assists first aid instructors worldwide, and designs risk assessment tools for dive operators and professionals. Christine is an avid cave and technical diver who spends every spare moment of her free time either cave diving or planning to go cave diving.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.