Archive for the ‘Yasemin’s Blog’ Category

Project Journal, July 2nd, 2012: “Toughest diving day of my life!”


Hello all,

Well, when I told you last week that the “Wrecks” episode would be the hardest one of all, even I did not know how true those words would be. We just spent the last 2 days diving on the USS Spiegel Grove and those have been the hardest diving days of my life. The Spiegel is the largest artificial wreck in the world, at 510 ft long, and during its day, it was a dock boat, which means, it would take other smaller navy boats inside of it and float them like a dock so they could be repaired. It could also hold up to 8 helicopters and a variety of vehicles like train cars, 18 wheelers and anything else that needed to be transported or repaired by the navy. That should give you an idea of how huge this boat is. It lies off Key Largo in a location where it is constantly hammered by super strong currents and not the best of visibility. The current is so strong that by the time I leave the surface and arrive at the deck, 28 meters below, I have traveled easily 70-80 meters at a very steep angle, kicking very hard to keep my body from being blown away. Then, once I’m on the boat, I sometimes need to pull myself over handrails and other objects, and you can imagine how slow it is to move like that, pull by pull, on such a massive boat. The worst thing is the lack of orientation, the boat is so long and visibility so bad that I never know exactly where I am, and it is difficult to orient myself. Eventually, I reached the bottom of the wreck at the bow section, 43 meters to the sand, but it felt like a 150 meters dive instead! Take a look at the anchor chains that sink into the sand as I follow them. It was very difficult to dive, but what a fantastic experience this wreck was, you never truly understand how massive these ships are until you can dive on one of them. The giant size and the mysterious feel gives this wreck a spectacular look. While we continue to work on the wrecks episode, we will put together a short video update to show you some of the amazing images from the USS Spiegel Grove. This is truly one of the amazing dives of the world!

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Project Journal, June 12th, 2012: “Wrecks”


Hello friends,

This past week has been full of big things. First, we had a team meeting, with all of our team members together for the first time in a couple of months. We started with some “paella”, which is a Spanish rice full of seafood, chicken and garlic sausage, cooked with wine and herbs, which Rudi specializes on, accompanied by a few bottles of Rioja, and even a bottle of very nice Turkish wine from Trachea. After some coffee to stay awake, we finally got to talk and discuss things. Nick had just come back from the Papua New Guinea in the Pacific, where to our surprise, he confirmed the weather is just as bad and the water as murky as here in the Atlantic. This is usually not the case, but given the circumstances, we decided that a trip that far from home, with people and gear, would be way too expensive not to have perfect conditions. David had been in the Western Caribbean recently as well and said that Cozumel, a mecca of diving that is usually not affected by dirty water given that strong currents always keep the water clean, was also suffering from murkiness. So, given that both the most protected areas of the Atlantic and the Pacific are not at their best right now, and given that we are already behind in our schedule, we made the decision to film the two episodes we had originally left for the end first, “Wrecks” and “Caves”.

On one hand, the wrecks that we’re planning to shoot are mostly very deep, between 30 and 50 meters, and at those depths, there is usually much better visibility than in the shallower water of the reefs. Likewise, the cave systems we want to visit almost always have visibility in excess of 40 meters, since they are not affected by bad weather the way the sea is. But with that positive comes a negative: the fact that these episodes will be, without a doubt, the most difficult to shoot both for the crew and myself. Which is why we had left them for the end of the series, when my training would allow me to do those difficult dives more easily and the team would be so accustomed to our procedures they would, too, be having an easier time dealing with the extreme requirements of those dives. Now however, in order to get episodes finished on time before the summer ends, we need to move our schedule forward and deal with the tremendous challenges that Wrecks and Caves will present us. I had a feeling this would be our only solution, which is why I had started training harder since last week, but I am still a little concerned about the challenges ahead. To give you an idea, on a typical diving day during the filming of Wrecks, I can very easily do the following. 20-30 dives to depths between 30-45 meters, and on each of those, I will go down on one point of the wreck, and as I’m coming back, the current will push me 80-100 meters from the point of descent, all of which is very tiring. My surface divers will need to follow me on all those dives, waiting for me at my exit point, ready to tow me back to the point of origin, not letting me use my legs so I don’t get too tired, using only their power. Then, the deep divers and the camera crew will easily stay underwater for up to 3 hours, including 45-60 minutes at the bottom, plus another long stretch for decompression. All of this while making sure we are not run over by boats passing by. And then, the next day, we need to do it all over again. But, hard as it may be, it is our only option right now so we need to get on with the program. So, this past weekend we went to test the gear, procedures and water quality at a couple of wrecks in the Florida Keys. On the first two photos, you’ll see me on the “Benwood”, a British boat that sunk off Key Largo in 1942, after being torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Lots of marine life there. The last two photos are from the Spiegel Grove, the largest artificial wreck in the world, at 156 meters in length. She was sunken in 2002 and, to the sadness of the organizers, she came to rest on her side instead of on her keel. Then, 3 years later, hurricane Dennis blew such high waves in the Keys, that even 40 meters below, the huge wreck was moved and landed on her keel as originally hoped for! As you can see, there are some very nice groupers in the wreck, including this “baby” Goliath grouper that, from his features, must be no more than 3 years old and already weighs over 130 kilos.

Stay tuned for more updates. If everything goes as planned, our “Wrecks” episode will be finished in about 5 weeks, and trust me, you won’t want to miss it!

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Yasemin Dalkilic

Project Journal, June 10th, 2012: “Caves, Tunnels and Ledges”


Having lots of fun diving in the maze of caves, tunnels and ledges that can be found by the hundreds in the reefs of the Northern Florida Keys. This shallow area, where depths average only 6-8 meters, is legendary for its beautiful coral formations, its abundant marine life and and its many wrecks. As you can imagine, being so shallow, these rocky bottoms have claimed countless ships through the centuries, from Spanish galleons full of treasure to American Civil War transports to even a trader full of molasses’ barrels, which gives the name to the most famous reef here, Molasses Reef. This area shows the very delicate balance the oceans are enduring on these times of ecological turmoil better than any other area probably. Being so shallow and with so many coral formations, these reefs are very susceptible to anything from aggressive boat traffic, where propellers can destroy delicate life that is only centimeters below, to acid rains and heavy winds. In fact, we are encountering really bad conditions during our dives here, with very murky water due to all of the above factors, but we remain hopeful since we can attest that life species, both plant and animals, are still seen here in full force.

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Project Journal, June 10th, 2012: “Training”


As an aside, now that we have started diving, I wanted to share with you something I’ve come to realize regarding my training. During my teenage years when I started practicing freediving, my main training technique was to dive, dive and dive as frequently as possible. This helped me perfect my technique and made the muscles used specifically for diving very strong, and I could dive to depths of 30-40 meters all day long, which I would do during summers. However, when I got serious about depth records and met Rudi, he made me realize that if I wanted to go deeper, we had to change that mentality completely.

He told me how what I was doing was akin to a middle distance runner who specializes in the 400 and 800 meters, who can run distances of 100 meters very easily and many times a day, but can’t do it very fast. I had to become like a sprinter, able to run 100 meters just a couple of times, and even get very tired after each time, but do it very fast. Go on Youtube and check the interviews with Usain Bolt from the Olympic Games when he set the 100 meter world record. He only ran for 9.58 seconds, but even 20 minutes after the end of the race, he is still exhausted, barely able to breathe as he talks with reporters. This is a great example of what I’m talking about. The body is tuned for quality, not quantity, for one all-out, 300 % effort, instead of many performances at 70% capacity. And ever since, this is the training I have been doing. For 13 years since 1999 when I set my first record. And now that I need to do the opposite, where I’m required to dive many times a day to shallower depths, I’m finding myself easily tired and even exhausted at times. Ironically, my body has simply lost the capacity to do something easier many times. And so, we must change my training so that I can cope with the requirements of this project. But although that type of training is time consuming and tedious, I’m willing to do it, since after all, I don’t think I’ll be attempting any more world records. I can sacrifice some of that ultra high performance in exchange for an easier time out there.

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Project Journal, May 27th, 2012: “French Reef”


Here are some images from French Reef, world famous for its ledges, tunnels, and caves.

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Project Journal, May 22nd, 2012: “We have lift off!”


goliath1Like the NASA announcers letting people know their rocket ship was off the ground, so have we finally started filming! I’m so excited!

After many weeks of tracking weather patterns around the Caribbean and the Pacific, and not finding any windows that would justify the time and expense to move our whole team to any of those areas, we decided to start filming locally instead. We started with some beautiful and famous dive spots in Miami, but the water is so murky from all the bad weather, that the images were unacceptable, so we moved to the Florida Keys instead. And we are finally getting some footage on our hard drives. The weather in the Keys is not much better, but the choice of locations is much bigger, so we are ready to dive whenever a window opens up, however short it is. We spend all day and night following the radar, and as soon as we know there will be a couple of hours of calm seas, we head out, wetsuits already on not to waste time dressing up when we get there. For that, we have moved our boat, air compressor, video editing systems and even ourselves to the Keys! It is not comfortable, specially for our daughter Lara who is now living away from the comforts of home and her toys, but she’s coping well and we are making the best of it. We are finally coming back with images, so our documentary project is officially underway!

trumpetfishTalking to dive operators and friends from many parts of the world, everybody agrees this has been the worst season they have seen in a very long time. I was realizing that the ramifications of global warming when I tried to book a short 3 day trip to a resort to satisfy my other passion, skiing, and was told they had no snow left. Skiing resorts worldwide have declared this has been the worst season in 28 years, with no snow, heavy winds and avalanches on the rise. And underwater it is no different. The constant rains and strong winds have spoiled usually pristine locations. The coral reefs along the Florida Keys all suffer from very murky water, due to all the particles constantly being blown around. The resulting images are not as clean as we would hope them to be, but this is true sign of the damage the weather is inflicting on our oceans. On the other hand, some of the famous inhabitants of the Keys are still around, and we already experienced several encounters with the amazing Goliath groupers (Epinephelus Itajara), creatures that we call “chokers” for everybody will open their mouth wide when they see one, and usually swallow water and choke. Their fame comes mostly form their size. They can reach 8 feet in length and 800 pounds. The one in the photo is just a “baby” that weighs around 140 pounds.

Stay tuned for next week’s report.

Yasemin Dalkilic

Project Journal, April 25th, 2012: “The long wait to get wet”


Hello friends, welcome to our project journal! We start with the suitably titled “The long wait to get wet” because, for the past 3 months, that’s all we’ve been doing, waiting to get wet. Our show’s ambitious schedule calls for travels all around the world, but since a lot of it will take place in the Caribbean and Atlantic areas surrounding Central America, which is all very close to our base in Miami, our plans were to take care of those dives now during the spring months. Now, if you know a little about this part of the world, you know that there aren’t really 4 seasons here, it is either hot, hotter, hottest or less hot. But from February to May, which is a somewhat extended period of the Spring, we have lower temperatures, low winds and abundant rains, which can actually make for pleasant diving conditions. It also means that we get better deals on those locations that suffer from heavy tourism traffic later in the summer, and more importantly, we get those locations all to ourselves, since they are almost empty. Great, right?

IMG_0182Yes, except that this year, these months have come with tremendous bad weather. Incredibly, amazingly bad weather. Hard rains, very strong winds, heavy seas, over and over. You could say it is fitting that for a project that wants to showcase the environmental damage suffered by the oceans, we have not been able to dive due to the unstable weather patterns created by global warming. But then you could also say: you are very experienced divers, with thousands upon thousands of hours spent at sea, surely you can brave a little bad weather and get the job done. And if these were pleasure dives, yes, there are many times we would have probably been able to go out, where conditions would not have been enjoyable but certainly bearable. The problem is that conditions have not been acceptable to conduct the type of filming we are set on doing. Let me tell you a little about our underwater set up, which is actually one of the most interesting things on the diving side of this project.

We have decided to use scooters as an integral part of our filming. Scooters are those machines with propellers that, like a mini submarine, drag a diver through the water, allowing him not to have to kick and to cover long distances on one dive. I know, sounds like a lot of fun, and it is, but it much more than that. When you kick underwater, even if you are a very experienced and efficient swimmer like the members of our team are, and even when you wear high performance carbon-fiber fins, you still cover very little ground per dive. And because we don’t just want to show you the general aspects of the amazing locations we’ve chosen, it will require many dives to cover all the unique spots, creatures and behaviors we want you to see, which is very difficult to do. Some of our divers will use scuba gear, but to do so many dives will require too much of that gear, and in many cases, since we’re traveling to far off locations, we need to bring all gear with us over very long distances, and that becomes impossible. Then there is Yasemin, who as a freediver will not require additional gear but who nevertheless, will get exhausted after so many dives. And given the fact that she’s the most important piece of our puzzle, we need to do whatever it takes to keep her rested and in good form, so she can be able to fulfill the already high demands expected of her. For this reason, we decided that we need to maximize the amount of footage and interaction we get from every dive, to do more with less, and that’s where the scooters come in. They will allow us to carry the heavy cameras and scuba gear attached to them, keeping the divers more free and rested. We can also carry more gear and stay down longer. They can also be used by Yasemin to move from one location to the next, both on the surface and underwater, quickly and without effort. Finally, the scooters will accomplish two other very important things. First, they allow us to mount cameras on them and perform panoramic moves and move the cameras up and down, and in every direction, without vibration and shakiness, resulting in amazing images. And then, most importantly, they will increase the safety factor immeasurably, by giving us the possibility of reaching Yasemin almost instantly if she encounters a problem and needs assistance or to return to the surface at once. Ok, scooters are great, but what do they have to do with bad weather?

Well, they are very heavy. these are not the scooters you may have seen recreational divers using on vacation spots. These are the high end units used by professional divers on what’s called “mission critical” dives, where their lives are depending upon the scooters. For example, cave divers, who must carry with them hundreds of pounds of equipment to complete dives that last anywhere between 5 and 20 hours (yes, you read right, 20 hours!!!) need scooters to carry that weight and move faster. Our scooters are the same, and to give you an idea, once they have two cameras attached at the front (we use two cameras because this project is filmed also in 3D) plus 4 sets of heavy lights to record the most breath taking detail, plus additional breathing tanks and other gear, each of our scooters weighs around 250 lbs/114 kilos. And to launch them in, and retrieve them from, the water, we need calm conditions. We have a very ambitious goal of how we want this show to look, recording images that have not been seen before, and for that. we need a combination of specialized equipment like our scooters, new underwater camera and light technologies, and the right number of people performing different tasks underwater, from filming, to safety, to support. And this complex ballet we’re trying to dance underwater requires good conditions to maximize our chances of success and minimize the chances for an accident, which is always a very real possibility when you are trying to do such difficult things with so much gear and so many people. And for now, the weather has not really cooperated with us. In fact, the weather has been so bad that I doubt we could have done much even with minimized setups. So we have had to wait.

But, the good news is that the weather has started to stabilize now that the combination of temperature and barometric pressure that comes with the summer has started to arrive. So we anticipate the start of filming soon. Stay tuned!

Rudi Castineyra
Project Manager

Help us with our new “The Amazing Dives Of The World” Project


I’m happy to announce that we’re embarking on a new project, called “The Amazing Dives of the World”. It is a 6 episode documentary series aimed at raising awareness about the fragile state of our oceans. I am one of those who TRULY believe we have a responsibility to our planet, to protect it, to care for it, and to preserve it for future generations. Our planet is all we have. Without a healthy planet, life cannot be sustained, and when that day comes, all things like religion, politics and governments that occupy our news everyday won’t matter at all. And I am very alarmed at the continued damage our oceans are sustaining. Places where I used to dive merely 10 years ago no longer exist, wiped out by raising temperatures and water pollution. Scientists believe that at this rate, most life will have disappeared from the oceans in less than 50 years, and many species will be gone much sooner. Therefore, it is conceivable that our daughter Lara will never get to experience the miracle of a dolphin, a whale or a coral reef by herself. And when Rudi and I realized that, we decided to embark on this documentary series around the world, to show the oceans from our perspective, and to hopefully inspire as many as possible to join in the efforts to save the oceans.

We will show you locations never before seen, including animals and ecosystems, or present other well known spots from our unique perspective. A freediver like myself can move without the noise of bubbles or the weight of tanks, able to become a true witness of life underwater. Accompanying me will be the team of videographers from Ideas in Blue, the ones that have filmed all of my world records, who will in most cases, follow me while freediving as well, to fulfill our goal of bringing you some amazing images. And a couple of our safety divers will be there as well, keeping a watchful eye over us all.

Making this dream possible is Cantek, a Turkish company that manufactures cutting edge refrigeration equipment, and who has chosen to become our partner in this project and sponsor us. Cantek’s motto is “Use your Energy Wisely”, since they build equipment that requires far less energy to perform than traditional refrigeration machines, which are notoriously very power hungry. This is a mentality which I think is very important for the future, to create products that can operate with a minimal carbon footprint, while still providing an invaluable service such as refrigeration, which allows us to preserve foods and to ship them all around the world. I feel an affinity of interest with Cantek, since it is the motto of freediving to use one’s energy wisely, specially when going for world record dives. To exemplify this bond between Cantek and us, there will be a section called “The Performance Challenge” in every episode, where I will attempt a very challenging dive, ever time with different goals and under different conditions, and ever time trying to achieve something very unique and interesting. Obviously, these challenges will only be met through the wise use of energy, and I hope that with these well planned efforts, we will be able to inspire people to put their own efforts into doing their part to help preserve the oceans. The episodes will play as webisodes on this site, while negotiations are underway to show them on TV networks around the world. We will keep you posted, and in the meantime, visit this site often for more updates on this project. I think you will enjoy watching the final results as much as we will enjoy making them.

Help us pass our important message by sharing or liking this article.

Use your Energy Wisely!

Yasemin Dalkilic

Back in the water!


Hello all, it has been over a year since I posted on this website. A long time indeed. As many of you know, our daughter Lara was born on February 12th, 2011, and now, her first birthday is approaching. During this past year, Rudi and I have enjoyed tremendously our new roles as parents, and despite the sleepless nights, the loud crying, and the demise of our social lives, it has been magical every step of the way. Compared to all the records, the travels around the world and all the marvelous adventures we have lived through, Lara is our brightest accomplishment by far. But we miss diving. A lot. We feel the ocean pulling at every fiber of our bodies, calling us in, and now that Lara is old enough to spend reasonably long periods of time away from us, we are ready to start venturing out into that blue dimension we love so much. Stay tuned, we have some very exciting projects planned for the next couple of years, and we will announce the first one very soon. Finally, we are getting back in the water!

Project “Return to the depths”: Completed


yasfacesmallerThe “Return to the Depths” project is now completed. After a long, 6 year absence from freediving, I came back determined to reset the world record in the Limited Variable Ballast category, which I consider the most challenging and spectacular of the sport. I both, succeeded and failed, in this endeavor. (more…)