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Why We Ghost Dive

Photographer, conservationist and founder of Ghost Diving New Zealand (GDNZ), Rob Wilson explains why he and his team have dedicated themselves to marine debris cleanup. “It’s not just something we do as ghost divers, it’s a daily choice and way of life,” he explained. The story features his 10-minute film, “Fight for the Future,” a culmination of some ten years’ of work on debris removal, which won 8th place in’s 2020/2021 film contest.



Text by Rob Wilson. Header image, “removing debris” courtesy of R. Wilson

Well, of all the questions I am asked the most here in New Zealand,  

“Why do you do it?” is pretty much the top one. I mean why…? Why  dedicate countless hours to the betterment of our oceans?

To quote our recent Global Underwater Explorers TV (GUEtv) video entry, which features over 10 years of dedication to this cause, “For us,the answer is obvious,” and to us, it is especially obvious, as we see it first hand.

As a team and as a community, we do it for the creatures that have no voice, they who have no means to exclaim their outrage at the damage we humans have done and continue to do so to this world we call Earth.

We also do it for the future generations. We as divers and conservationists want the children of our future to see some of the wonders of the underwater world in the way that we can now.

One of our primary team members and GDNZ committee members, Andrew Stewart, said one of the most profound and accurate statements  to me at our last meeting, when he said,  “Rob, if they know it’s there, they care…”

And that’s one of the reasons I decided this was something to write about for this GUE update – showcasing by images –  some of the incredible creatures we encounter. 

Ghost Diving NZ’s has always utilised the GUE trident with its three pronged focus: Education, Exploration, & Conservation. Our team here, however, doesn’t focus only on nets; we attack marine debris in every form it takes. And, that ranges from currently recovered 76 e-Scooters in our inner harbor to redundant lobster pots on offshore reefs that were swept away in the storms that batter our southern coastline.

The GDNZ team here has worked even with local law enforcement and special forces when we located live, unexploded ordnance while diving near an old military base—much to their surprise—not once but twice!

Wilson’s video won 8th place in 2021/22’s photo/video competition

Also, when we talk about Education, we are talking about showing people the amazing creatures our waters hold within their watery grasp, which we document by video and photography weekly. It is my intention to educate, raise awareness, and generate interest in these creatures in ways other than the typical hunter-gatherer mentality.

Exploration is the primary way  we locate redundant lost gear and marine debris, as our teams scour depth contours on scooter, always on the lookout for nets or pots or anything that doesn’t belong. Then, of course, one of the facets of Conservation is removing these items that pollute or create artificial reefs prone to house invasive species. Conservation, for us, is not just something we do as Ghost Divers but is a daily choice and a way of life.

  • Fourth Element
  • Halcyon Sidemount

One of the most humbling experiences I had recently was gliding up to a Rough Skate in total darkness and finding it foul hooked by a fisher person and dragging a line that had become entwined on a rock and covered in weed. The creature, desperate and exhausted, allowed me to cut away the line.

Then, much to my surprise,  upon starting to engage with this Skate in the darkness, another much larger Skate glided out of the dark and came to rest beside me as I hovered in the gloom.

The sense of symbiosis when doing this type of work with living animals is hard to describe. After I freed the creature,  both slowly slid back onto the cool uncaring harbor darkness. I like to think that those creatures, in whatever capacity, knew that we cared. 

Additional resources

TEDx Wellington: Ghost Fishing:Conservation, Education & Exploration | Rob & Dr. Serena Wilson & Cox

Website: Ghost Diving New Zealand

InDepth: Dumpster Diving New Zealand Style by Rob Wilson

InDepth: Contest Winners

GUE.TV: Fight for the Future by Rob Wilson

Rob Wilson, one of the youngest scuba divers to certify in New Zealand at age 13, is a photographer by trade (specializing in astro and landscapes) and founder of Ghost Diving NZ (GDNZ), the NZ chapter of the international volunteer organisation Ghost Diving that regularly removes tons of rubbish from the nation’s waters. Rob got involved with cleanup dives in 2010 and has never looked back since. “That first time, I got such a rush out of knowing the 25 plastic bottles I removed wouldn’t be able to harm sea life.” He has been participating in and managing cleanup dives ever since.


Gilboa Quarry Installs First Underwater Freshwater Farm in the US




by Stephen Luchon

Gilboa Quarry in Ottawa, Ohio, is considered one of the premier Midwest dive locations. Offering spring-fed clear waters, an impressive marine life population, and numerous underwater attractions to explore, Gilboa has long been revered among scuba divers since opening over 30 years ago.  Part of Gilboa’s appeal is its variety for divers of all levels.  Boasting depths ranging from 10-43 m/30-140 ft, Gilboa Quarry provides ideal conditions for both novice and technical divers looking to develop their skills further.

Adding to its impressive feature list, Gilboa recently achieved a US milestone partnering with underwater technology innovators OCEANREEF to bring its “Nemo’s Garden” technology and experience to Ohio.  In 2012, OCEANREEF pioneered Nemo’s Garden to grow plants underwater in transparent “biospheres.”  After achieving considerable success with this technology in Italy and beyond, Gilboa Quarry installed the first fresh and cold water Nemo’s Garden biosphere in the United States.  Installed approximately 2.4 m/8 ft below the water, the Nemo’s Garden biosphere benefits from significant sunlight, easy access for marine farmers, and has already become a beloved and much talked about and photographed attraction at Gilboa. 

Working closely with OCEANREEF, Gilboa Quarry is working to provide visitors with exclusive tours through Nemo’s Garden, immersing visitors in an underwater world where herbs such as basil and a variety of microgreens and produce thrive beneath the surface in a controlled and heavily monitored environment. 

Visitors participating in the guided tours will experience various exciting activities including:

• Use of specialized diving equipment: With specially tailored diving gear designed to complement the aquatic biosphere environment, guests will fully immerse themselves in an extraordinary underwater adventure.

• Tending to the Plants: Tour participants will gain hands-on experience caring for aquatic plants, exploring all of its intricacies.

• Scientific Studies: Guests will document plant growth and participate in scientific studies that increase their knowledge of underwater ecosystems and sustainability.

• Underwater Photo Ops: Thanks to underwater FaceTime access through WIFI, visitors can capture unforgettable moments in this captivating environment.

• Live Stream Feature: Nemo’s Gardens @Gilboa Quarry will showcase some of its most breathtaking moments during tours, enabling visitors to share their unforgettable experience with others via various social media platforms and websites.

  • Halcyon Sidemount
  • Fourth Element

Ocean Reef’s innovative approach to underwater biospheres combined with Gilboa Quarry’s breathtaking natural beauty and bountiful marine life provides an unmatched, immersive scuba experience for aquatic enthusiasts seeking adventure, wonder, and a better understanding of the underwater world. With Nemo’s Gardens previously predominately installed in warm salt water, Nemo’s Garden @ Gilboa Quarry stands as an important milestone in underwater farming research as the technology tackles a new environment. Gilboa looks forward to welcoming visitors from across the globe who wish to witness how nature meets innovation in such stunning fashion.

Stephen Luchon, a 38-year-old web developer and graphic artist from Pittsburgh, PA, enriches the scuba community with his technical expertise and artistic flair. He is also the IT Director at Gilboa Quarry in Ottawa, Ohio. An avid CCR Mixed Gas Diluent Diver with a passion for deep wreck exploration, Stephen shares his adventures and knowledge on his YouTube, Dive Current, inspiring fellow adventure-seekers worldwide.

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