Thursday, October 22, 2009

Just chillin' at JFK on our way to Maldives!

Gwen and I are sitting here "just chillin'" here in the Delta Sky room at JFK.  We are on our way to Maldives to meet 8 other divers from Dive Addicts and board the Maldives Aggressor.  Our itinerary is Salt Lake to NYC, NYC to Dubai, Dubai to Malee (Maldives).  36 hours in total!  Fortunately, we are arriving one day early so we can kick back and rest from our vacation!!!!

Even though this is just a recreational trip, I'm really looking forward to doing some relaxing diving and concentrating on my photography.  I've said many times that underwater photography is an exercise in frustration.  I'm hoping that I can take a sufficient number of photos on this trip to end up with some nice shots.

I'll be shooting my Canon 1DS, housed in a Subal housing.  I have both a wide angle dome port as well as a macro port.  I suspect that the wide angle lens and dome port will get more use on this trip than the macro set up due to the expected large amounts of schooling fish and pelagics, but we'll see how it goes.
Humpback and Black and White Snappers, Trevally Jacks, Barracuda, Batfish, Unicornfish, Yellowback Fusiliers and Harlequin Sweetlips 
  I'll try to post some shots on the way home next week, since I don't think we will have internet access on the boat during the week.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Here I sit in the Crown Room at LAX on my way home from wreck diving in San Diego.  I was teaching an Advanced Wreck diving class for Rick Heil.  Joshua and Michael were also diving with us.  Josh, Michael and myself were on our Hammerhead CCRs and Rick was diving a set of steel 95s with a ali 40 of deco gas.

We had a blast.  We dove on Friday on the Lois Ann which was alright, but slightly crowded.  On Saturday we dove on the Humboldt which was MUCH nicer and had lots of room and great amenities - nice dive ladders, hot shower, hot food, plenty of bench space and dive masters that were very tech savvy.  They made the diving a real pleasure.  I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Humboldt to anyone diving in San Diego.  (Waterhorse Charters

Over the two days, we did 4 dives on the Yukon and 2 on the Ruby E.  Lots of space on both boats to do penetration and although not technically difficult, it is just challenging enough to offer the students a realistic wreck diving experience.  ( at least it is realistic enough to demonstrate and let them experience some wreck penetration skills.  I think Rick will agree that the location and course material was challenging as well as fun.   We also dove with Doug and Marc from San Diego which was a pleasure. Doug was on a Hammerhead and Marc was on a Hammermeg.  ( a Meg with Hammerhead electronics)

The Hammerheads worked flawlessly and we had a great time working on skills and exploring these wrecks.  We will be back again to use both of these wrecks for future classes!  Had a great time!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Can you tell which case belongs to my daughter in law Ashlee?!!!!!  Josh and Ashlee drove down to San Diego today to meet us this weekend for some wreck diving.  Ashlee has yet to embrace the Thornton passion for all types of technical diving, but we are working on her!  The first step will be to purchase a suitable tech diving box!

Monday, October 12, 2009

I taught the second session of an Evolution class tonight to two gentlemen from Bountiful.   They do a fair amount of diving in Hawaii every year.  (7-8 trips per year!)  Must be nice!

We will be in the pool tomorrow night and then we head up to the crater next week to start the open water segments.  They seem to be picking up the concepts fairly quickly which is always nice!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Advanced Wreck Class

Just started teaching an Advanced Wreck Diving class this afternoon.  We are headed to San Diego next weekend to dive some of the "tourist wrecks" in wreck alley so that my students can get a taste of what wreck diving is all about.  Should be pretty tame diving, but will give them an opportunity to do actual penetration.

One of the wrecks we will be diving on is an artificial wreck called the "Yukon", which is a decommissioned Canadian Coast Guard Cutter.   The Yukon has been prepared for recreational divers to experience wreck diving with large holes cut in the side for easier access.  Should be a perfect site for a new technical divers introduction to wreck diving.  I'll post some pictures from the trip later next week.

Friday, October 9, 2009

This is the sign that leads to Cave Country Lodging, our house in Ft. White, Florida!  I will be down there diving for a couple of days immediately following DEMA.  Should be a good time!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Josh Thornton, myself (Randy Thornton), Richard Lamb, Tom Lamb and Amy Smith dove Ricks Spring last Saturday with the intent of shooting some photos of as much of the explored sections as possible. When we got there the entrance appeared to be quite a bit smaller due to a substantial amount of rock that had slid down closing off a portion of the entrance. It has always been a side mount entrance, but Saturday it was suitable for skinny guys only! This basically meant that Josh was the only one who could initially get in! Once Josh was inside, he was able to scoop some of the new rocks out of the way which allowed Richard to barely squeeze through! The next 40 mins or so was spent with both teams (inside and outside) clearing the entrance so that we could all make it through the entrance. This also meant because the water is 40 degrees cold, we were already quite cold before the dive really got under way!

My camera set up is a Canon 1DS
which is quite large. It's housed in a Subal housing with two large Sea & Sea strobes on long arms. With a large dome port to accommodate the wide angle lens,we were all quite concerned about damaging it in the restrictions in a couple of different places. Consequently, we decided to put it in a milk crate to transport it to at least the first dry section. This turned out to be a very bad idea! I was to be the lead diver carrying the milk crate/camera so that I could be ensured of good visibility, but between the cold, flow, and trying to swim carrying a heavy milk crate, it was just about enough to do me in! About 35 mins. into the dive we were in a fairly tight tunnel called the "Slippery Slide" that only has room for
one diver when I suffered a major free flow! (I'm assuming due to the cold!) Carrying stages, camera, in a tight tunnel with a free flow made for some hair raising moments, and by the time the team was able to turn around in tight quarters with all of our gear and high tail it back towards the entrance, I had experienced about as much fun as I wanted for one day! Fortunately, my son Josh offered to carry the camera back out! (OK, I shoved it in his face and said: "Here you take this sucker!") Turning around in the Slippery Slide caused a silt out and we excited in next to zero viz. We ended up loosing two additional strobes that we were going to use in slave mode to light up the place. They were worth about a $1000 so we were pretty bummed about that, but better strobes than a diver! Hopefully we will find the strobes on another dive sometime.
Diving in cold water caves is another whole level of
stress that is hard to explain. Heavy gloves, hoods, thick undergarments, etc. etc. just complicates virtually every aspect of the dive. We are seeing incredible sights, but it is WAY hard work!
Josh and Matt are heading back up to Ricks on Tuesday to do another push and get some pictures for an article his is writing for Advanced Diver Magazine. I won't be able to go, but I wish them luck! We don't believe we are close to hitting the end. This is exciting stuff. Josh and Richard are convinced that we can haul a ladder somehow in to the 2nd dry section and climb up the 20 foot waterfall and explore that section, but I am not convinced it's possible. We'll see how that goes! We now know that there are at least two sources of water, one of which is coming down the water fall.

That's it for now. Stay tuned!

Josh, Amy, Me and Tom showing off the Crate of Death!