14 March, 2009

Sink the 747 !!!

In this post the Frog Man asks Ken Chan of Sandy Bottom Divers in Hong Kong a few questions about the exciting project that he and a group of true diving enthusiasts got started recently.

Ken Chan is a veteran diving instructor currently based in Hong Kong and one of the founding members of the Sandy Bottoms Divers Club. If you live in Hong Kong or if you are just passing by and have time for a dive or two you should definitely check them out:

1) How did the "Sink-the-747" project started?

I read about a Jumbo Jet at CLK that the HKAA wanted to auction, they requested this with the courts. The plane's owner went bankrupt right after the plane got painted in it's colours in HK. The name, Ocean Airlines, somehow got me think of how it would be if it was IN the ocean.

2) What are the benefits for both the diving community and the general public in Hong Kong should this project succeed?

Benefits for the HK community would be:
- a new dive site
- ease the burden on the few dive sites there are in HK
- provide a beacon for marine life on the barren, trawled-out, mud bottom
- "fish spilling" out of the no "take zone" would be added value for fishermen
- a unique tourist attraction, only Jumbo Jet dive-wreck in the world
- do something useful with an unwanted item. A dive wreck might be "greener" than recycling it
- a project for the HK community to work on, since most of the resources will have to come from volunteers and donors.

3) What are the greatest challenges you and the rest of the team are facing?

Actually getting the plane, it is still unclear what it's faith will be. The HK trawlers' interests, gotta do a "public consultation" transportation to dive site raising the funds to buy it if the HKSAR doesn't donate it.

4) How can interested parties be of assistance?

For starters, there is a petition on the http://www.sinkthe747.com/ site where people can sign up (Not sure the status of it since I have not had the time to go online and check till now. will check after this email) to support this. A supporter has set up, and registered, the webset for free.
Donations/offers of manpower, skills and time to prepare the plane. Both individuals and companies alike are welcome.
Pledges of monetary donations, IN CASE WE CAN GET THE PLANE, would be good to show the Government that "the public" is supporting this.

5) Should this project be successful do you see the potential for other similar undertakings? What could be sunk next?

If this takes-off, pun not intended :-), it would be great to start "the bus-station". A dive site with a number of buses to dive on. After-all, sites with names like "airport", "landing-strip", "plane-wreck" etc can be found in many places. But a site called "the bus-station", heard of that?

6) How can the public keep up-to-date with the developments?

Check out our website, http://www.sinkthe747.com/ and our facebook site for latest developments and the public's comments.
The project has already attracted the attention of the local media which, in itself, is a testimony to the worthyness and potential viability of this project. An article by Peter Brieger and Dan Kadison appeared in the South China Morning Post on 01 March 2009.
Personally I am not only eager to help but also to eventually get to dive it!!!


I came across this "baby" Whale Shark of approximately 6 meters while diving at Richelieu Rock north of the Similans Islands (Andaman Sea) in Thailand. I jumped in the water unaware of what was beneath, on descent a mere 8 meters deep I turn and there it is cruising along. Absolutely breath-taking sight!!!!

Believe it or not, although classified as an endangered species, even these gentle giants have become the unwilling victims of shark finning.

Don't just look... Stop the Killing!

Tulamben - Where it All Began

The following post is being kindly contributed by Patrick Schwarz.
Patrick Schwarz is a Dive Instructor and owner and founder of the Scuba Seraya Resort at Tulamben on Bali’s north-east coast. He has lived in Tulamben and dived and learned to love the underwater realm around Bali Since 1997patrick@scubaseraya.com http://www.scubaseraya.com/
Tulamben – Where it all began

On an early February morning in 1944, SS Liberty was steaming to the north of the Lombok Strait on a west-north-westerly heading. She was carrying precious cargo of aircraft parts, including engines, rubber, railroad parts and other supplies destined for the Anzus troops, the alliance of Australian, New Zealand and U.S. forces that were doing battle in the region against the Japanese that then occupied most of south-east Asia. Captain and crew were unaware they had been followed thru the night by a Japanese sub- marine. She was hit by two torpedoes in the
early morning hours. They did so just above the waterline of the 120 m (400 ft) long cargo ship,
causing substantial damaged, but no lives were lost, and her sheer mass prevented her from
Built in 1919 in Kearning, New Jersey, Liberty had traveled the sea lanes of the Americas as a cargo ship. What was special about her is that, although of a very early vintage, she was propelled by efficient, sophisticated steam turbines instead of the more common piston and crank engines. Also, she is often misquoted as a Liberty Class ship, which she is not. Liberty was her given name. The Liberty Class ships came much later and were built during World War II in great numbers to deploy US soldiers and war supplies around the globe where America was militarily engaged. Those ships were urgently needed and thus built in a hurry in assembly-line fashion, where pre-fabricated box like portions were welded together shore-side. They were outfitted with classic piston and crank style steam engines.
SS Liberty was commissioned as a vessel to carry military cargo during the Pacific War and transferred across the Pacific to these waters. No changes or reinforcements were made;
only a gun each was raised on her bow and stern. Apart from that, she remained the cargo ship
as which she had been built, albeit under military command.
As she had remained afloat after the torpedo hits, two escorting destroyers, one Dutch, one American, took her under tow in an attempt to move her to Singaraja on Bali’s central north coast. Bali was still Dutch at that time, and Singaraja, its capital, had a marine port. The idea was
to salvage her cargo. But as this was February and the north-west monsoon prevailed, a severe
storm hit just as she was being towed westward along the coast. She started to take on water and inevitably sink. The captain decided to beach her; and she was set aground just to the west of a small hamlet that today is known as Tulamben.
And there she rested, upright. She was stripped of her cargo and propellers and just about everything else that could be humanely removed. Rumors have it that a PT5 fighter aircraft engine was discovered years later in a farming village shed near Lake Batur on Mount Agung.
In the 1960’s, long haul tourism was dominated by cruise ships. Companies such as American President Lines, United States Lines, P&O Orient lines etc. were advertising regular departures to the mystic, exotic, far away Orient. The introduction of civil jet aircraft, especially later models such as the Boeing 707, McDonnell-Douglas DC-8 and the British Aircraft VC-10 doubled the speed, endurance and capacity of long haul air travel and initiated a massive transformation
of and enormous growth in long haul tourism. Against this back-ground, Bali had established itself as a remote, mystical, paradisiacal, fabulously beautiful destination, known as The Island of the Gods.
On March 16, 1963, National Geographic Chief of News Service Windsor P. Booth and photographer Robert F. Sisson arrived on Bali on a field study of the island that was part of President Sukarno’s by then 18 year old Republic of Indonesia. “The day after I arrived”, writes
Wilson in an article that was issued in the National Geographic September 1963 issue, “Bali’s most sacred volcano, Gunung Agung, which islanders call the navel of the earth, exploded in my
face.” The eruption devastated north-eastern Bali’s district of Karangasem, where Tulamben is
located. More than 1,500 lives were lost, 85,000 people lost their homes, and the face of the north-east shore from Culik to Tejakula was changed forever. The dark, black lava rock outcrops
that form the backdrop to most of the Tulamben region’s dive sites were formed and molded then.
Multiple tremors and lava flows that lasted for weeks and even months pushed Liberty over her
side and into the sea, where she came to rest at a 45 degree angle, her port side just below the surface. And thus, one of the world’s most accessible and easily dived shipwrecks came to be. It
took a natural disaster of enormous proportions and unspeakable human suffering to initiate the
birth of what is today known as one of the worlds most famous dive destinations.
Recreational diving was still in its infancy at the time, and Tulamben quite inaccessible from Bali’s main urban centers; it would take several years before the north-east highway would be completed with Australian help. Divers started discovering ‘Liberty, the Wreck’ as she is affectionately known today, in earnest in the early 80’s. They mostly got there after an arduous journey from Denpasar with equipment and all to do two or three dives and journey back on the same day. It did not take long, however, until a young entrepreneurial Balinese, Dewa Nyoman Candra, sensed a niche market and set up a backpacker style hostel (or losmen as they are known in Indonesian). Dive Paradise Tulamben became the original Tulamben operator, and still is (a good one) today. With the growing popularity of the Liberty as a dive destination by itself, divers started exploring areas beyond her, especially to the east and the end of Tulamben bay that led to the discovery of the sites known as “Paradise Reef”, “Coral Garden” and the “Drop Off”, a sheer vertical wall dropping to more than 80m.
Whatever divers fancy – wreck diving, wall diving, macro, schooling fish, diversity and even occasional massive pelagics – Tulamben has it all.
Guests often ask me: “Don’t you ever get tired to dive the same site over and over again”? Since I came to Tulamben in 1996, I must have visited Liberty well over a thousand times – at daybreak, mid-mornings, noon-time, mid-afternoon and during the night – and every time I go
back in I go …Wow! The lady never fails to amaze me! And what is equally amazing is her sheer
resilience. During peak season (July – October), it is possible to find perhaps well over 100 divers on her at any given moment. At times one would see the entire wreck literally draped in a curtain of diver’s exhale bubbles. But come back just after day-break or a rainy day during the off season, and you’ll have the lady all for yourself and she will make you believe it is you who just discovered her.
The large numbers of visitors had as a result that many of the wreck’s inhabitants have become quite accustomed to divers and will let you approach real close. Probably no site in the world can match the Liberty in terms of underwater photographer’s ability to shoot totally up-close frontal fish portraits. The behavior of the intensely colored yellow-white-black striped Oriental Sweetlips that hang out in large numbers on top of the cargo hold gives them away as the first graduate class of The Tulamben Pisces Modeling School. Other permanent residents, such as a giant Barracuda, and an extended family of (24 on last count) Humphead Parrotfish that sleep on the Wreck and wander off every morning to roam Tulamben Bay, the Drop Off and areas beyond have made it into countless captions in dive magazines, websites and blogs viewed the world over. My personal favorite is a giant Grouper I nicknamed Halfface. His head is split down the middle in almost perfect symmetry into a dark brown half and an off white half sporting the classic Potato Grouper’s brown spots. This, combined with somewhat less than perfectly arranged dentistry that exposes needle-like sharp teeth on his lower jaw, give Halfface a grumpy, almost eerie appearance. But he is a shy fellow; he never shows when I visit with other divers in tow. During a solo dive one (very) early morning, however, while holding my breath and with an almost athletic effort in perfect buoyancy, trying not to move and maneuver with minute fin flicks from my heels, I was able to approach him face to face to almost nose-rubbing distance. I was fully aware that the fellow could have rearranged my face right there and then within a split second. But the ability to look him straight in the eyes up close and find that – yes indeed, fish do have a soul – was worth the risk.
Enough said. To really get to know the lady, there is only one way: come and visit her yourself. You too will be amazed!
All pictures in the post are by Marco Gorin whom retains the copy rights.

08 March, 2009

Divers threaten to boycott Sabah over shark finning

The following post and any pictures used in this post originally appeared on DivingAnarchy.info.

DivingAnarchy.info and Diaries of a Frog Man have recently entered into a post swapping agreement where posts which are deemed of relevance to the diving community are shared / swapped to further improve access and distribution to relevant content.


By Julia Chan

Sipadan conjures up an image of a serene, protected underwater world -- one of the world's top dive spots.

But just a half-hour boat ride away off Pulau Mabul, the blood of magnificent sharks, crudely finned and gutted by the boatload stains the sea red. Shark finning has been going on here for several years, and the stark contrast between Sipadan and Mabul has caused an uproar in the international diving community, with some threatening to boycott Sabah entirely.Finning is the inhumane practice of hacking off the shark's fins and throwing its still living body back into the sea.A diver said: "Why should we contribute to the decline of a beautiful area by supporting a place which does not protect its own resources?
"We strongly urge the resorts to lobby Sabah Parks to prohibit shark finning in the Ligitan island group area. "If the area is not protected, we will choose to dive in other areas of Southeast Asia where the marine life is protected with the money collected," the diver said. Fisheries Department director Rayner Stuel Galid said shark finning was not illegal in Sabah. He said those with a valid fishing licence had the right to fish in the area, provided they didn't encroach on protected areas."This includes fishing for sharks," said Galid, adding that the only protected species of shark under current law was the whale shark.He said local and foreign fishermen were fishing in the territorial waters of Indonesia and the Philippines so they were out of the jurisdiction of the department."Sipadan and the waters around Sipadan are off limits to fishermen, and we will work with all enforcement agencies responsible to ensure no fishing is done in these waters," said Galid. Asked to comment, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said: "My ministry will relay our concern to the Fisheries Department and the Semporna district officer."We need to be sensitive to global views to protect our tourism. "A small mistake or inaction could have major repercussions for the industry."Nature lovers and the global conservation community are fast becoming an influential lobbying group who could hurt the state tourism industry if they decide to boycott Sabah in protest against such activities."

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Diaries of a Frog Man has recently entered into a posts swapping understanding with DivingAnarchy.info . The arrangement will allow both sites to publish relevant posts previously published on either site.

Both Marius Art, Editor of DivingAnarchy.info and Marco Gorin, Editor of Diaries of a Frog Man believe the exchange can only be beneficial as it expands visibility and access of content relevant to the diving community.

The Indonesian Through-Flow

The following post is being kindly contributed by Patrick Schwarz.

Patrick Schwarz is a Dive Instructor and owner and founder of the Scuba Seraya Resort at Tulamben on Bali’s north-east coast. He has lived in Tulamben and dived and learned to love the underwater realm around Bali Since 1997
patrick@scubaseraya.com http://www.scubaseraya.com/

The Indonesian Through-Flow:

Ocean currents that rush thru the Indonesian Archipelago from the tropical Western Pacific into the South Indian Ocean To understand why the waters around Bali are so rich, one only has to look at the geography of the area.
We have all heard of the Wallace line – a bio-geographical border separating the Australian and Asian biospheres – that runs between the islands of Bali and Lombok thru a body of water known as the Lombok Strait. Tropical temperatures, run-offs of nutrient rich volcanic fresh water streams, steep shores dropping to great depths and endless sunshine filled days, enhancing photo-synthesis, are all contributing factors. But the single most important reason why the underwater realm of this area is so unique and biologically diverse is a phenomenon known as The Indonesian Through-Flow.
Have a look at the satellite picture below: To the north of the Lombok Strait, we find ourselves in the Pacific Ocean. To the south is the Indian Ocean. These are the two largest pools of warm water in the global oceans: the one of the Western Pacific, and the other of the Eastern Indian Ocean. The Thru-Flow is transferring warm, low salinity water from the Western Pacific to the Indian Ocean. Scientists believe that 100% of the volume of water exchanged between the two oceans is carried by the Indonesian Through-Flow.
Despite its origin in the Pacific, where surface temperatures are as warm as 29 degrees Celsius, the temperature in the Thru-Flow is a ‘cold’ 12 – 16 degrees.
This also suggests that a lot of deeper, colder Pacific water is being exchanged via this Thru-Flow. It also explains why diving at Nusa Penida, which is located at the centre of a funnel between Bali and Lombok through which the Thru-Flow travels at great speeds, is considered ‘cold water diving’ for the spoiled lot among us that is used to a balmy average of 29 degrees temperatures that prevail at most other dive sites. On a recent dive at Crystal Bay on the south side of the island of Penida (facing yet another small strait the breadth of a mere river between Penida and Ceningan islands) a quick check with my dive computer (whilst finding myself face to face with a 2 ½m Mola-Mola Oceanic Sunfish at 40m depth and in an increasing current) revealed an ambient water temperature of just 17 degrees Celsius. Similar drastic temperature drops are also noticed when diving at Gili Selang, Bali’s easternmost extremity, and the trenches off western Lombok’s Gili Trawangan Island.
In recent years, scientists at the CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research (http://www.csiro.au/) organization of Australia that primarily studies Ocean eddies that influence Australia’s weather patterns and marine ecologies, have been extensively engaged in the observation of the Indonesian Through-Flow, using the latest technology available in oceanographic monitoring equipment that has been deployed across the straits and passages of the Indonesian archipelago. Water entering the internal Indonesian seas via the Makassar Strait and Lifamola Passage originates in both, the North-Pacific and the South Pacific Oceans. It exits into the Indian Ocean primarily via the Lombok Strait, the Sape Strait that runs between Eastern Sumbawa and the island of Komodo, the Ombai Strait that separates the islands of Kalabati and Timor at Alor, and the Timor Strait separating the island of Timor and North Australia. The Indonesian Through-Flow consists primarily of North Pacific water flowing thru Makassar Strait in the upper 500m, while water below is mostly of South Pacific origin. Whilst rushing thru the Indonesian Archipelago, the Pacific Ocean waters are being mixed due to upwelling and interaction with surface waters before being ‘exported’ into the Indian Ocean. Moorings that were deployed in the Makassar Strait by CSIRO from 1996 to 1998 showed a southward flow of a mass of water equaling that of 90 Amazon Rivers! The outflow measured going thru the various passages varied from a low of less than 45 Amazon River ‘equals’ (when down welling Indian Ocean winds reversed the flow) to more than 250 Amazon River ‘equals’ during the month of August of the La Nina year of 1998. Most of the ‘exit’ thru the passages occurs in a surface layer from just below the surface to 300m depth.
When we look at the depth charts of the Lombok Strait, the enormous energies of this Indonesian Through-Flow phenomenon are reaffirmed. Where the Thru-Flow enters the strait, it is not only ‘squeezed’ by the funnel created by Bali’s eastern coast (with Gili Selang at its extremity) and Lombok’s south-western isthmus, but at the same time, the bottom rises abruptly. While the depth averages 1500m as it enters the strait, it ‘shallows’ to around 400m at its centre, just where the ‘squeeze’ between Bali and Lombok is the tightest and the 3 islands of Penida, Ceningan and Lembongan stand in its way, to immediately drop to 1500m again and into the Lombok Basin (3000m) just a few kilometers further south, and on to the Java Trench where the depth doubles once more (6000m) into the Indian Ocean. No wonder the currents around the Penida dive sites are often described as ‘ripping’, and that’s putting it mildly. I do not wish to shout the idea into the open; I love the natural beauty of the Penida area too much for that, as some of its dive sites there are considered by many – together with Komodo and Raja Empat – as probably the most exciting anywhere in the world. Yet the tidal energies that prevail in the area probably would be sufficient to supply most of Indonesia, if not a large part of Asia, with electrical power. It is at this junction – where the flow enters the Lombok Strait – that the long haul migrating pattern of Whale Sharks is determined. The majority of them journey through the Indonesian archipelago riding the Thru-Flow to join the South Equatorial Current and eventually show up in the Maldives, Madagascar, and the African East Coast and round the Cape of Good Hope. Yet some of them ‘don’t make it’ in that direction and instead head east or west to perhaps enter the Indian Ocean via the Sunda Strait which separates Java and Sumatra, past the Island of Krakatoa. Some might even continue heading further north and end up in the South China Sea and the Philippines and perhaps even the North Pacific again. Those heading east might enter the Indian Ocean via the Timor passage. Whether whale sharks decide to continue into the Indian Ocean or head West (those are the few we occasionally encounter in the Tulamben area) out of their own free will or whether they are being ushered say, by an eddy created by prevailing weather patterns such as when a down welling in the Indian Ocean reduces or even reverses the Indonesian Through-Flow, we just don’t know. We still have got so much to learn!
Even less is known about the migrating patterns of the Mola-Mola (Oceanic Sunfish). They are not pure filter feeders like the Whale Shark; besides zooplankton, they also eat fish, mollusks, jellyfish and crustaceans. Although one would assume that they follow similar patterns, there is a difference. Whale Sharks are mostly found in shallower, warmer surface waters. Mola- Mola, on the other hand, are found in or near cold currents only, with the deepest recorded sighting being that of a Mola-Mola feeding at a depth of 480m. The ‘season’ when we can see them around Penida Island is during the southeast Monsoon (June-November) when the currents run cold. My wild guess is that the Mola-Mola are being ‘catapulted’ by the Indonesian Through-Flow thru the Lombok Strait, and when the bottom rises around the islands and they find shelter from the current in an eddy that is cold enough for comfort, they stop so that banner fish (a reef fish variety) can clean them by picking parasites off their encrusted skins. No one knows where they move from here – whether they follow the Thru Flow into the Indian Ocean and onto long haul transoceanic voyages – or linger regionally. Intensive research into Mola-Mola has only just begun. The satellite signal emitting float from one specimen that had been tagged in October 2006 near Nusa Penida has re-surfaced 800 km to the east near Sapu island, off the main island of Sumbawa in January 2009. If this one particular fellow becomes part of a general migrating pattern that might evolve as more of these tags eventually re-surface from the deep, one would assume that they are regional rather than inter-oceanic travelers. Again, we still have got so much to learn!
As it enters the Indian Ocean, the Indonesian Thru-Flow feeds the South Equatorial Current, the dominant westward flow across the South Indian Ocean. A shallow component of the South Equatorial Current flows back eastwards towards Australia. There it feeds the south flowing Leeuwin Current, whose fresh supply of warm waters profoundly impacts Western Australia’s coastal climate. It appears that, thanks to the phenomenon called The Indonesian Through-Flow, not only do we have phenomenal dive sites in ‘this neck of the woods’, but bio-geographically unaware landlubbers across the Indonesian Archipelago and Western Australia have a lot more in common than most would think.

Photo credits

Trough Flow map : CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research (www.csiro.au)