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Announcing Rebreather Forum 4



20-22 April, 2023 Valletta, Malta

Greetings Researchers and Diving Professionals,

We are pleased to announce that we will be holding Rebreather Forum 4 (RF4), Thursday through Saturday, 20-22 April 2023 at the old University of Malta campus in Valletta, Malta, sponsored by DAN Europe, DAN, PADI and Heritage Malta. The purpose of the scientific and trade-only meeting is to advance the diving community’s state of knowledge regarding rebreather technology and its uses, with the goal of improving rebreather diving safety and performance. 

We plan to hold a Non-Caustic Cocktail Reception on Wednesday evening before the conference, a Friday bag lunch, and a Saturday evening banquet with guest speaker. In addition, we will have an exhibit area for participating vendors to display their equipment, near to the main conference room. Vendors interested in sponsorship opportunitiesexhibit space and or conducting demos, please contact the organizer/convenor (see below).

Who Should Attend?

We are expecting several hundred attendees representing technical diving equipment manufacturers, training agency personnel, instructors and instructor trainers, diving and hyperbaric medicine researchers, scientific and military diving personnel, government health and safety officials, and other organizations involved in rebreather diving. The meeting is not intended for diving consumers. If you are professionally involved in rebreather diving, we encourage you to attend. There will be a limited number of tickets available.

The RF4 Program and Proceedings

The RF4 scientific program committee consists of Drs. John Clarke, Simon Mitchell, Neal Pollock, Frauke Tillmans, and journalist Michael Menduno. The four primary focal areas are diver safety and culture, physiology, technology, and training. Proceedings of the meeting will be published and made publicly available.

The original Rebreather Forum was held in May1994 in Key West, FL.; Rebreather Forum 2 took place September 1996 in Redondo Beach, CA. Rebreather Forum 3 happened in May 2012 in Orlando, FL. A related event, Rebreathers and Scientific Diving workshop took place in February, 2015, on Catalina Island, CA. Click the links to download the relevant proceedings.

Shipwreck Diving & More

Malta is surrounded by hundreds of historical shipwrecks, including nearly 20 archaeologically-significant wrecks under the management of Heritage Malta. With their support, the three-day program will be augmented with organized diving on various historical wrecks in Malta the week immediately preceding the meeting (April 12-19) and additional shipwreck diving in Gozo the week after (April 23-30). This will include the exclusive opportunity for RF4 attendees to dive the wrecks in Malta’s newly launched deep water archaeological park. Diving activities will be coordinated by RAID, Heritage Malta and their registered dive centres. In addition, there will be workshops, and demonstrations held prior to the meeting.


We are still in the process of finalizing conference hotel details, schedule, registration, pricing, and diving operations. However, if you go to, you can enter your contact information, preferences, and affiliations, and we will email you conference updates and registration information as soon as they become available. 

The site will eventually serve as the repository for all of the information about the meeting, including online conference registration. Please save the dates and share the information with your colleagues. 

If you have questions about the meeting, please email us at: To contact RF4 organizer/convener Michael Menduno directly email: or RF4 . Tel:+1.760.831.9494

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Remembering Bret Gilliam




by John Bantin. Photos courtesy of Bret Gilliam unless noted.

Bret Gilliam (1951-2023) was one of the true pioneers of scuba diving. He worked for the U.S. Navy before moving to St. Croix and becoming a dive shop owner. In the Caribbean, he later ran liveaboard dive boats, including the 550-foot Ocean Quest, the largest such vessel ever dedicated to diving. He started Fathoms magazine with Fred Garth, to which he brought both his writing and underwater photography skills. He ran Uwatec in the USA before it was bought by Scubapro. In 1972, he created a consulting company, Ocean Tech and, over the years, he appeared as a diving and maritime litigation consultant and expert witness, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in almost equal numbers. He set the record for the deepest dive on air (475 feet in 1993) and founded the technical diving training agency TDI. A frequent contributor to Undercurrent, he will be sorely missed. If you ever met Bret, well, you know he was larger than life. 

When I first met Bret, I disliked him intensely. My British friend Rob Palmer, a self-effacing gentleman, had invited me to the Bahamas for the launch of the Draeger semi-closed circuit rebreather, and I found myself in the company of a group of American loud-mouthed technical diving pioneers, each competing with the other to hold the floor, with Bret’s booming voice dominating. Bret could be a bit of a bully, and I noticed he would pick away at any perceived weakness of character or physique.

It was later, at the TDI (Middle East) conference, when Rob Palmer, my roommate, went missing, having been last seen at 400 feet in the Red Sea and still descending, that Bret and I bonded in our mutual grief and a shared total lack of understanding as to why it had happened.

When we boarded the charter flight back to the UK, Bret dryly observed that he usually traveled in business class. I opined that I’d be happy if I didn’t have to sit next to a fat bastard. It was at that point Bret realized he’d met a soulmate.

Before I visited him at his home in Maine for the first time, he sent me over eighty photographs of his properties. I retorted I was coming to see him, and I didn’t really need the realty sales pitch. To his dismay, I turned up with my wife and two young children. He discovered, to his delight, that none of my family would take any shit either, and they hit it off quite well. My view is that if you can give it, you’ve gotta be able to take it, too. Bret had a similar philosophy.

Meeting him by chance, diving in PNG, for example, bystanders were amazed at the way we insulted each other by way of greeting. In spite of that, Bret was a stalwart and loyal friend who was quick to insert himself into any confrontation his friends found themselves in. His technical witness work in litigation cases and extensive knowledge of diving meant that opposing lawyers competed to get him into their camp. As one judge was heard to say, “I know Mr Gilliam. He’s never started a fight but I’ve seen him win a few.”

Dr. David Youngblood with Bret Gilliam at Tek.93. Photo from the aquaCORPS archives.

Bret was generous to a fault. Never one to shy away from picking up the tab, he once invited me to join him on an all expenses paid (by him) musical pub crawl in Ireland. We found ourselves on a tour bus with a number of ready victims from America. We laughed all the way. More recently, he invited me to do the same thing again and to join him and friends on a trip to the Grand Tetons. Alas, I was not able to make it. As always, all expenses were covered. He used to regularly invite a great gathering of notables (and me) to dinner while at the DEMA show, all on him.

Because I was tall, thin, and English, and in those earlier days wore my hair in a ponytail, he likened me to Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. He even had a framed photo on his wall of the drummer and some people questioned why he displayed a photo of me. I always signed my emails to him, ‘Mick’.

If you stayed in his home, you were careful not to over-do the cookies and you made sure to replace the drip cup under the coffee machine.

John Bantin was an advertising photographer and television commercials director during the ’70s and ’80s. He learned to dive in 1979, and in 1992 made it his career. He was technical editor for Diver Magazine, Britain’s most popular diving magazine for 25 years until he retired but then became senior editor at

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