So it all came together on the day... having been in Dahab yesterday, I had spent a large chunk of time on my phone organising transport for our divers, making sure we had mesh bags on hand, and that everyone was still up for our house reef clean up this week. This was my first turn at organising a reef clean up, so maybe it wasn't the best day to be out of town, but it had happened to coincide with my besty mate visiting from the UK, so I was really wanting to make the most of her visit too. There are just too few hours in the day!
Arriving at the dive centre, I set up my lap top with the presentation details, started with the piles of paperwork and set up my dive kit, in an attempt to appear at least somewhat organised. All too soon, there was a rather large huddle of divers hovering around our table, all rummaging through sheets of paper, organising boxes, gathering tanks and setting up their kit too. Wow! It really looked like everything was actually coming together. Our videographer was only able to stay for part of the morning, so despite jimmying things along a little, she had to leave before we got in the water, however thankfully one of her assistants was sent to film us at the end.
Finally everyone was sorted, and it was time for a briefing on Diving Against Debris. I drew a little map of our house reef, which is actually quite notorious for being a toughie to navigate, and ensured that each team of four divers had one of us Ocean College instructors with them, thus removing the whole issue of getting lost over the seagrass. We chatted about how to collect rubbish safely, how to share the responsibilities between buddy pairs, and how important it was that whilst we were collecting the trash, we were all divers first, so everyone was reminded not to forget the basics like checking on air supply, no deco times and buddy location etc. Thankfully we have great visibility here, so hopefully the latter would not be too much of an issue. Maximum depths, times and air limits given... and we were off to get ready.
We even had a couple of pirates on board, with Jilly and Nigel fully togged out in full on "Ooo Errr Me Hearties, shiver me timbers" Pirate attire for their "treasure" hunt. Fantastic. Somehow Jilly even managed to have pirate stylee, knee high boots on!
Once kitted up and buddy checked, we headed for the water's edge in our teams. Wading in, it had all been organised, Jilly's gang were to head straight out towards the barge (a fair swim from the shore, so she had the divers with gills, who barely breathed), Katie took her group off to the right, and I was to work my way along our discover scuba diving route with my batch, clearing any debris from the shallows. Of course once underwater, all team work went out of the window as everyone (myself included) just got totally carried away with spying and adding litter to our bags (I knew I should have only given out one bag per team.. doh!). Hey ho, it meant that we could spread over a wider area. Working our way in a wide stripe of divers we ferreted out every piece of garbage that we found. Of course we had to be careful that we didn't destroy any reef, or some creature's home, and some items had become so covered with coral that to remove them would actually be of detriment to the area as a whole. It had become an artificial reef in its own right. Plastic bags that had become partially buried were pulled up and shoved in the sack. Ropes wound up and in the bag as well. We found, bottles, a depressingly large amount of fishing line (especially considering fishing is illegal here), glasses, plastic, more rope, more fishing line as we wound our way in a sweeping U-shaped search pattern. We covered all the shallows in front of our dive centre up to about seven metres' depth.
Once back on land, we were able to see what others had found. Our stash had actually been surprisingly small, however those that had ventured out towards the barge had come back loaded! Well this is where the speed boats moor up and I am sure people sit back, have a snack, clean their boat, or smoke a cigarette and without thinking, throw the remnants and packaging overboard. What a shame, as the barge itself is such a pretty area. It is now covered in corals, and plays home to a whole horde of cleaner shrimp, shoals of silversides, glass fish and fusiliers. As air was a bit of an issue, and the sheer weight of so many glass bottles made it impossible to fully clear the area, some of us (instructors only) are planning to return to that part of the reef and finish off the job.
Winner of the most bizarre item award has to go once again, to the Northwoods who found a pedal bin! I am sure they came up with the most obscure item last year too.
It was agreed, everyone had had a fantastic "rubbish" dive, and the best bit... we managed to clear out some of our reef. Any trash that is no longer in the sea, has to be a good thing. So even more inspired by today, I shall be continuing my month long retrieval of any trash, especially plastic, that I find during my dives. Plastic is of greatest issue as it doesn't ever completely break down, it merely crumbles into a multicoloured "gravel" that can be found lurking at the waters' edge or in the stomachs of fish and birds... nice... not.
I must say a huge thank you to Jilly, Katie, Kathryn and Eloise for all their help with organising our Dive Against Debris, and of course to all our "rubbish" divers, who turned down a day's diving in Tiran or Ras Mohammed to put a little something back and help clear a bit of reef very dear to our hearts'
Check out our blog of the event here: