Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Thoughts…

 
 

I’ve been writing little here lately.With everything going on in Turkey I just don’t find it in me to write anything about our daily lives. Everyday the things I read and see make me more and more frustrated with humanity. I can’t believe 99.999% of people are so backwards thinking, so ignorant, self centered and so disrespectful of others. It’s not just what’s happening in Turkey, but everyday I witness all kinds of badness: from seeing my neighbors’ garbage cans overflowing so many times a week, showing the reckless consumerism in people, to seeing so many drivers distracted while driving with their phones and whatever, risking my life and our children’s lives just like that, to those banks that, while calling it “helping people buy their houses”, they make them pay triple the price of the house in interest and then charge endless fees on top of that, to the companies that just constantly turn down and cut off the intelligent innovative employees and keep celebrating the ones with average skills and no forward thinking whatsoever, to the medical establishment that is capable of taking advantage of the sick, making never ever less than 500% profit from their services and medicines. I can keep going on and on and on forever. I’m just really really really pissed with people everyday and, worse, disappointed in them. This disenchantment made me go from an eager young athlete with energy to do anything, to someone who slowly lost the drive to give, share and do things. On top of that, the political situation in Turkey has made me so sad. I’ve been always proud to be a Turk, proud of a country that fought hard to become developed, and whose people took pride in being civilized as well as civil. And now, in such a short time, the people in Turkey I always thought were a minority, are now bringing out the worst in Turks, pushing the country backwards and working to take all the greatness we achieved through so many years away forever.

So like this, for years I’ve been just keeping to myself, trying to enjoy life with a small group of people that I love and respect and keep my interaction with other people, through social events, business and projects to the very minimum. Like this, I managed to heal myself and be a happier person. But of course this happiness is only to a level. I still see this sad picture everyday and this year also, having been working on our environmental themed diving project, the realization of how much faster the magical underwater world that I fell in love with is disappearing got added to this picture. Add to that everything that is happening in Turkey, how all the things that were good about that country and all that we believed in as Turks is just disappearing in front of our eyes. It feels like people are getting worse and worse since those people that should be eliminated by Darwin’s law, instead keep getting richer and stronger because they support each other and because mediocrity is celebrated in the world we live in.

But then I became a mother. First I had a baby and I had this motherly beautiful connection going on that kept me happy and away from this horrible world, but then as she started growing up and my life started coming back to me, I came to a realization that gave me hope and energy. The fact that these little kids are all born with goodness, longing for happiness and love and what a potential they got that can be steered to good or bad. And while most efforts you put into making a difference for an adult are just wasted, any effort you spend with a child, sharing love or happiness with them, or adding just a dash of creativity and magic into their world, you get a 10 to 1 return. It makes them a better person and I’m sure that if you keep doing this as in the example of a good parent then you’ll certainly raise a human being not like the other 99%. And like 300 spartans, one educated, well raised person is worth many of the others. Everyday when I take Lara to her school, I don’t want to come back home and just spend the whole day watching the children, observing how lovely and naive they are, how easily they become happy, how they interact with each other. It gives me so much energy. This has turned me from someone that could only find happiness within herself and with nature, into someone that once again wants to share and give, but this time to kids. I want to spend my future efforts and plan my future projects to make a difference for children. Bring some richness into their lives,
help them get that urge for exploration, the love for adventure, the awe for our planet, help them become a better person, find their passion and show them how much better it is to respect people with accomplishments rather than to idolize those with looks, money and fame. I’m convinced this is the only way I can have any hope that Lara and the future generations will live in a better place.

The Amazing Dives of The World, Episode 3 – “The Other Blue: Freediving the Caves 2”

 
 

The Amazing Dives of The World, Episode 3 – “The Other Blue: Freediving the Caves 1”

 
 

Project Journal, February 16th, 2013: “Journey to the Center of the Earth”

 
 

Hello friends,

It’s been a while since our last update. You know we traveled to Northern Florida to dive in the springs and caves that region is world famous for, and we have been back for a little while now but didn’t really have the time to write an update until now. But before I tell you about this wonderful trip, I want to first thank all of you that have been watching and recommending our videos on The Amazing Dives of the World Youtube channel. The two videos there have been slowly but surely gathering momentum and are together close to 30,000 views. We have received very positive feedback from the majority of viewers and are happy to provide content that can both communicate our message and be fun to watch for people. Thank you all for the continued support!

Now, for the springs. What a magical, wonderful, incredible place!!! I had never seen anything like it and the experience was way beyond my wildest expectations. We traveled to the area north of the city of Gainesville, one of the corners of the world’s largest aquifer. An aquifer is an underground river that feeds springs and rivers, flowing for many miles in an intricate maze of tunnels and caves under large territories, and this one feeds three different rivers and more than 600 springs. The most famous of those springs, Ginnie Springs, was our base of operations for a week, from where we explored the famous caverns and caves in the incredible Devil’s system, as well as the Santa Fe river. When Cousteau visited Ginnie over 60 years ago, he defined it as “endless visibility” and he was right. The clarity of the water is simply amazing, giving divers a feeling of being suspended in air. The beauty of the springs and river is hard to describe, it is so different to anything I’ve ever seen. Being an ocean diver all of my life, I expected that the springs would be full of mud and ugly plants and animals, but this is not the case. The whole region is a karst bed, which means, the underground water has dissolved the rock above it, and the springs and rivers are covered in wonderful, perfectly round sand instead of muddy dirt. The places look like they did millions of years ago, nothing has really changed there, and the feeling is really unique and spiritual.

The caves are incredible, their beauty only matched by their danger. The caves are formed by rocks that are smooth and round instead of the sharp, sword like formations most other caves exhibit, which makes them a little less dangerous and hostile to wetsuits, but it is very easy to get trapped and lost inside of them just the same. We spent the first two days of our week there exploring all the systems, learning the topography of the different caves and setting up good locations for camera shots, while I learned to best routes to be able to dive without too many obstacles and obstructions, to be able to return to the surface whenever needed. This is the one place where I was sure I would need to take air from the divers, but we executed our plans so well that it was not needed. The caves are a world famous site for cave diving training, and every day there were many divers exploring the systems, who presented a challenge for us as many a time they would be in our frame and had to wait for them until they left so we could get our shots. This meant our time underwater was almost tripled, not an easy thing when the water is so cold, but we managed. Anyway, enjoy the photos for now and wait for the video, coming soon!

CavePhotos0CavesPhoto3CavesPhoto5CavesPhoto6

The Amazing Dives of The World, Episode 2 – “Aquarius: Freediving the Dream”

 
 

Project Journal, December 17th, 2012: “Thoughts on 2012”

 
 

Hello friends,

DSC_1699I can’t believe 2012 is almost over, it feels like just a few weeks ago that we agreed with our sponsor Cantek to start this project, and that was November 2011. This project has been very unique and different for me. Being used to the high stakes of World Records, where for many months I would train and train in an almost robotic manner, not having much time left to think or look to the outside world, I am now able to contemplate all that happens around us and see many things, big and small, that would escape me before. It has been frustrating to make such slow progress on this project, due to all the reasons we have explained in other posts, but it has also been good to have the ability to pause, take a breath, look, see and learn so much about our world, and more importantly, ourselves. Here are a few of the things that have become clear to me in 2012:

Our oceans are dying.
There’s no denying this anymore, it is a terrible fact we have to accept. Everywhere we have gone, life underwater has either decreased tremendously or died completely. And if the oceans occupy 75 % of our planet’s surface and we have managed to bring them to the edge of total destruction, how long will it take us to destroy the smaller part where we actually live, once oceans can no longer function as a filter to protect us? And even more…

Global warming is real and weather patterns are changing for the worse
Our planet keeps getting hotter and hotter every year, and this is affecting everything from life in the oceans to the health of the mountains to the quality of the atmosphere. Weather patterns are getting worse, with an increase in storms, hurricanes and generally bad conditions. Just a few years ago, there were patterns that could be counted on, such as rain in the spring, hot summers with beautiful days and winters with very calm seas, that had held for millions of years probably. Nowadays, patterns are changing everywhere, there are storms in the winter, no rain in the spring, and really bad weather all year long. Our planet is beginning to react in very unpleasant, and unpredictable, ways to all the damage we’re inflicting on it. But…

People don’t care.
Scientists and environmentally conscious people may despair about the current state of affairs, but the majority of humanity does not care, not really. In the poor countries they are fighting for their own survival, and in the rich countries they are just too concerned with improving the material quality of their lives, that in either case, due to lack of education or consciousness, or both, they don’t really care if future generations will have a planet to call home. I’m not being cynical, just a realist. Many people like me who give conferences and seminars supporting environmental causes agree that there are less people interested in attending, and that even companies who used to find it convenient to sponsor such causes no longer care. Saving the planet is no longer a trendy fashion, it is old news, much like many of the serious problems that affect our world. Do you even hear about AIDS anymore? It would seem that terrible disease was cured with how little attention it gets. I will continue to fight, doing whatever I can to help save our ocean and our planet, but I am not sure anymore that we will succeed in that fight. And because of that…

Adventure & Exploration films are almost extinct.
Given that lack of interest on the bigger issues, we’ve noticed that interest in watching films like our series has also decreased drastically. Our project has generated interest, but the number of people that view our videos, subscribe to our channel, or simply comment on our photos are very small compared to just a few years ago. If you take a look at the profile of networks like Discovery Channel or National Geographic, you will notice that the majority of programs have nothing to do with discovery or geography, focusing more on the “reality TV” style that offers the cheap thrills that most people enjoy to watch. With the amount of money and effort that it takes to realize a project like ours, that requires equipment, personnel and trips to remote locations, all of which are very expensive, it is a risk to do what we are doing. However….

What we do still matters.
It is important not to change our path just because the majority does not care. Some people will still appreciate the things we want to show them and what we have to say. So we must continue producing programs like this. It is our spiritual and moral obligation. Just because what we do is difficult, risky or with little reward does not mean we should not do it. And there are still companies like Cantek that want to help bring this message out there, even if giants like Discovery or National Geographic prefer to concentrate on things that are less important and do nothing to help environmental causes, just because they can sell more ads like that. For some people, many in fact, it is not about money. Thanks god. And that’s why….

Perfection still matters.
With all the problems we’ve encountered that have delayed our project so much, and knowing that many people won’t care if we show them a unique dive site or a regular site, it would make sense for us to take the easy way out and try to produce our episodes in the quickest, cheapest way, by traveling to locations that are easily accessible, focusing on whatever is available to see instead of chasing after animals and places that re difficult to see and catch on film. Again, if you look at a lot of the underwater shows on Discovery Channel or National Geographic, most of them focus exclusively on sharks, given the thrill element associated with those animals. On our last trip to the Bahamas, there were 5 different film crews there filming sharks and ignoring many other important and beautiful species. And when you watch those programs, there is very little about ecology and conservation and all about size of teeth and jaws, speed of attack, blood in the water, feeding frenzy, you know the rest. But we have chosen not to do that, and instead, show all the things and animals, including sharks, that deserve attention. Being a perfectionist is difficult, but it is still the only way to work for us. So if our series is called “The Amazing Dives of the World” that is exactly what we plan to show you. And finally…

Patience is the most important virtue.
It has been very frustrating to have made such slow progress with our project, but if we were to become desperate, then that would be worse because that negative energy would reflect on what we do, and compromise everything from our concentration underwater, our commitment to safety and the attention to detail out of the water when working on the show. So, although we are very much aware that we are running behind schedule, the best thing we can do is be patient, let things happen when they will, and keep being positive. IF every time we are out there, we are not enjoying what we’re doing and being creative and excited about it, letting all the negativity of “we need to hurry, we need to film more, let’s move, come on, come on” take over us, well, that will bring precisely the opposite results of what we want. So patience is still the best course of action when you’re in a hurry.

Now, aside from all these thoughts, it looks like we are ready to start shooting segments of our “Caves” episode very soon, so stay tuned for more updates about this, and hopefully, some amazing images very soon!

Project Journal, November 16th, 2012: “Inside of the Amazing Underwater Lab Aquarius”

 
 

Hello friends,

As we gear up to finish our shoot of Aquarius, let me wet your appetite by showing you the INSIDE of the habitat! Remember, Aquarius is a cylinder, about 43 ft/13 m long with a diameter of around 20 ft/6 m. This illustration will give you a very good idea about the layout. On one end, there is the “front door”, or point of entrance/exit to and from the water, on the other end there are the sleeping quarters with 6 bunk beds for the Aquanauts, and in between, all the living and working area and equipment. During my visit, there were 3 of us inside, science officer Otto and Diving officer Roger besides myself, and it felt surprisingly roomy, although I’m sure it would feel somewhat more constrained if all 6 people were inside. I feel terrible Rudi could not come inside, as he got a severe bloackage on one of his sinuses just as he was about to enter the habitat, so he had to go back to the surface. The habitat has a permanent connection to the surface, called the umbilical cord, not only for air (of course!) and phone communications, but also for WiFi internet, so yes, you could update your Facebook page during a mission, if you had the time and energy for it. Aquanauts go on daily excursion missions outside the habitat that last up to 6 hours, even longer sometimes, and when they come back “home”, whatever energy they have left is for excitedly discussing all the things they saw, review the day’s work, get some food and sleep. As you can see in the photos, there are a couple of large view ports that allow the Aquarius residents to get some nice views of the locals, including the huge barracudas that patrol the areas, as well as several other that are even known by name, such as the turtle “Little Joe” and the Goliath grouper “Charlie”.

Missions to the habitat are what’s known as “saturation” missions, where the pressure inside Aquarius is the same as that of the surrounding water, that’s why on the entrance, the water never comes in and floods the place. I cannot describe to you how awesomely cool it is to look at that entrance pool, known as “Moon Pool”, and see the water there, perfectly contained, and fish swimming by all the time. The benefit of a saturation mission is that no decompression is ever need until the end of the mission, since Aquanauts are always at a constant pressure, it is like doing one long, endless dive to 50 ft/15 m for 10 days. Then, at the end of the mission, on the way to the surface, divers perform one long, slow decompression that lasts 18 hours, and takes place inside the habitat. This is the same principle used on oil exploration rigs where divers spend long periods of time living and working at much greater depths. This also means that, visits to the habitat are considered “dives” so while you might think the diving part is only going down to the habitat and coming back up from it, the time you spend inside counts as part of the total dive time, so visitors are allowed to spend 80 minutes inside, to stay within the no decompression limits. This is the reason Rudi did not go inside once he got his problem, because he knew that for the next 80 minutes, his sinuses would still remain under the same pressure as outside, so he feared he would not be able to clear the blockage and mess it up for me, so he went back up. Anyway, enjoy the photos and the diagrams, and soon we will post more info and a video.

Please visit Aquarius’ Facebook page and click on “Like” so that if we get enough Likes, we may show those in charge that Aquarius still fascinates the public and they should keep it open! http://www.facebook.com/AquariusReefBase

Project Journal, November 5th, 2012: “Hurricanes, bad weather and a generally troubled period”

 
 

Sorry to all the project followers, I have not posted updates recently as frequently as I used to. We have run into bad luck again due to the weather and have been basically stuck on land for almost two months now. Having finished all the necessary filming for the “Wrecks” episode back in late August, we were then ready to start working on the “Caves” episode, while at the same time, continue to work on our segment on the Aquarius habitat. Simple enough, right? But of course, things got a lot more complicated than that.

For the “Caves” episode, we have selected 3 locations that offer the best cave systems in the world. 2 of those are inland, fresh water systems, one located in Northern Florida and the other in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. The other location is in the Bahamas, but it is not a single island but rather several islands like Abaco, Andros, the Exumas and Eleuthera that boast impressive systems both inland and in the open sea. The end of summer is still a breezy and often wavy time in the Bahamas, so we decided to start filming in Mexico and Northern Florida first and leave the Bahamas for the fall, when the weather is more predictable there. A great plan. Except that that torrential rains we have experienced this year in the Caribbean destroyed that possibility. You see, fresh water caves are not impacted by strong winds like their open sea counterparts are, so there are no big waves to worry about, but they are very much susceptible to heavy rains. Rains disrupt the delicate balance of these still water bodies, and where there was visibility sometimes in excess of 90 meters/300 ft before the rain, a heavy downpour can kill all that, bring visibility down to 1-2 meters/3-7 ft, and leave an immense amount of silt and particles suspended in the water, making the caves an unacceptably dangerous environment and making filming worthless. Now, normal rains don’t affect caves, especially big systems, too much, but heavy rains that last many hours do, in particular in systems that are connected to rivers, as the rivers overflow and add to the turbulence inside the caves. Usually, the effects of a big rain subside in 3-4 days, but if another big rain comes down before then, well you can imagine the domino effect, the caves become “undivable” for weeks, and even months. And that is what has happened in Florida and Yucatan from June all the way to early October, the first time we’ve had such prolonged rains in this part of the world in the last 8 years. So, after much waiting and actually booking flights to Mexico, not once but twice, and having to cancel those flights, we had to let go our team of cave divers who had been on standby, accepting no other jobs, for 3 months now. Diving inside these caves is very, very, very dangerous, and to perform the kind of dives we have planned for the series, specially with me freediving for long lengths into the caves, we need to use safety divers that are not only very experienced in cave diving in general, but also, have extensive knowledge of the particular caves we want to dive in. Right now, those divers are gone and we they won’t be available to us again until early next year.
Finally, about 3 weeks ago, when it became clear that the fresh water caves would not really cooperate with our plans, we then shifted out focus to the Bahamas, but just as we did so, hurricane Sandy began to slowly from and take shape in the Caribbean and from one day to the next, the weather went from acceptable to horrible. For those who’ve never been in the tropics during hurricane season, especially Europeans like me who don’t have a clear concept of how these natural phenomena work, it is a very incomprehensible and downright weird thing to see how badly the weather gets affected in areas that are hundreds of miles away from the hurricane. Even when Sandy was slowly forming in the Eastern Caribbean, conditions up here worsened dramatically, and with every mile she slowly gained towards us, the seas grew rougher, the winds stronger and, from the time she hit Jamaica until she got up to New York, it never stopped raining one second. Not only were we not able to dive or travel to the Bahamas, but during all the turmoil, our boat was damaged by the winds and rain, and we had to end up replacing bilge pumps, fuel injection systems that flooded with water, a search light right at the bow that seems to have been hit by lighting.

And Aquarius? Well, while the drama of the fresh water caves and Sandy slowly unfolded, we tried to continue diving at the habitat. However, requirements at the site are very unique. We are one of the few film crews that have secured an unsupervised permit, which means, we are allowed to dive on the habitat without direct supervision from Aquarius personnel. But we are only allowed to do this whenever Aquarius crews themselves are not using the habitat, and recently, with their efforts to secure new sponsors to save the habitat program from disappearing, they have been having guests there on an almost daily basis, drastically limiting our chances to dive. And then, after Sandy’s arrival, conditions there got bad anyway, so all in all, we have been left without the possibility to dive on several locations across three different countries. Incredible I know, but that is exactly what has happened. Now, our boat seems to have been fixed, conditions are getting better, not great and not very quickly, but they are getting better, so we are anticipating that by next week, we should be able to start diving again. Let us really hope so, we’ll keep you all posted.

This is usually how the weather looks these days.

This is usually how the weather looks these days.

Project Journal, September 17th, 2012: “My dreams come true!”

 
 

Aquarius HabitatThere are three big things that fascinated me when I was little and made me decide that diving was going to be a big part of my life. Two of them are, of course, the movie “The Big Blue” and “Captain Cousteau”. And the third one? My parents being loyal subscribers of National Geographic, in 1986 when I was 7, we received a new issue and there I read about the Aquarius Habitat. Reading this as a kid to me was equivalent to reading about the princesses in 1001 nights to any other girl.

What is the Aquarius Habitat? It is an underwater living environment, an underwater house basically, where divers can spend days, and even weeks, living under the sea without returning to land. This allows them to conduct scientific missions and experiments with the benefit of being able to observe their subjects, be it reefs, fish, and other species, on a constant basis. The habitat is also used for the training of astronauts as these conditions are the closest to space they will encounter. On a typical mission, Aquanauts spend 10-14 days living in the habitat, and can dive 5-6 hours every day, return to the habitat, eat and sleep, and be ready to do it all over again the next day. How great is that?!

When I read about it as a 7 year old, the concept of such a place to live underwater was so amazing to me, for years and years I dreamt of it, played games where I’d pretend that my tent in my room was the Aquarius base and go on diving missions from there. But throughout all these years I never paid attention to where it was, as it was simply somewhere so far that I would never go. And a few months ago Aquarius was in the news again and I could not believe it is right here and it is still functional!!! I could have even driven our boat over it as we go diving and not know. Imagine my happiness as I find out that I can dive in the place of my childhood dreams, in the place that’s one of the biggest reasons why I dive.

But, it was in the news not because of another one of its exciting missions this time. Aquarius is not only the longest running habitat project in the world, now active since 1986, but it also, sadly, the only one left. And its continued operation is being threatened by budget cuts, so we want to do our part and help bring attention to this great place. On this episode, we will take you INSIDE the habitat, show you all the fascinating components of this complex operation, as well as all of its support facilities, including its surface support unit and its land base. This will be one amazing episode!

The Amazing Dives of The World, Episode 1 – “Wrecks”