End of the Year Divers Digest: the Highlights of 2020

2020 End of the Year Divers Digest

Many of us associate 2020 with adversities, frustration, and restraints - and for a good reason. Nevertheless, the beauty of our human nature lies in its remarkable adaptivity. Regardless of what the challenge may be, we never stop evolving, exploring, and expanding. Diving is no exception in this respect. Now, as 2020 is coming to its end, let us look back at the wonderful events that happened in our diving world.

World Records

Around fifty years ago scientists considered a depth of 160 feet (49 meters) to be lethal for a human being. Since then many people proved this idea to be archaic. Despite all the difficulties of 2020, freedivers from all over the world never stopped improving their skills and striving for the best. Thanks to their zeal we have a couple of new freediving world records. Let us go through them one by one.

On November 8, Slovenian freediver Alenka Artnik descended 114 meters (374 feet) into the Red Sea with a monofin at the AIDA Blue Week Competition taking place off Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. With this dive, she set a new AIDA women’s world record in Constant Weight (CWT). The dive lasted 3 minutes 41 seconds. After she surfaced she was serene and slightly smiling, with an understanding of what she had accomplished. In an interview over Facebook Messenger, she said: 

“It’s very important that you stay cool... I came to this place and thought, ‘I’m the deepest woman, 113, 114 meters deep, but I still have to come up.’ This is the end of the dive when you start thinking about that. All these thoughts are burning oxygen, so the key for a successful deep dive is to be completely in the present moment.” 

A fascinating fact about Alenka is that it was not her only achievement this year. Earlier on September 15, she set a 94 m World Record in Constant Weight Bi-Fins (CWTB) at CMAS Freediving European Cup in Kalamata, Greece.

Speaking of CMAS Freediving European Cup, it has brought us three more world records this fall. Our next record-breaker is the French freediver Arnaud Jerard who set a 112 m World Record in Constant Weight Bi-Fins (CWTB), surpassing the World Record (111 m) set by the Russian freediver Alexey Molchanov only three days before at the International Adriatic Freediving Competition in Croatia. It was Jerard’s sixth attempt since August to be recognized as world champion.

Besides, there were two Masters category world records for divers over 55. The first one was set by French freediver Marc Lenoir - 57 m Free Immersion (FIM) Masters World Record. And the second one was achieved by another French freediver Xavier Daru - a 60 m Constant Weight Bi-Fins (CWTB) Masters World Record.

Last but not least, we have two more World Records breakers: Croatian freedivers Vanja Peleš and Mirela Kardasevic, who set new World Records at National Pool Freediving Competition in Zagreb. With a 215-meter swim, Peleš beat men’s World Record in Dynamic No Fins discipline under CMAS rules. Whereas, Kardasevic broke women’s World Record with a 200-meter swim in the same discipline.

Reefs and Wrecks

There is still so much we do not know about the oceans. And the recent discovery of one of the tallest coral reefs in the World proves it. On October 20, Australian scientists aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor discovered a massive detached coral reef in the Great Barrier Reef. At approximately 500 meters high, the new reef is taller than some of the highest buildings on Earth, like the Empire State Building, the Sydney Tower, and the Petronas Twin Towers. It is the first massive element of the Great Barrier Reef system to be discovered in the last 120 years.

“This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our Ocean,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute. “The state of our knowledge about what’s in the Ocean has long been so limited. Thanks to new technologies that work as our eyes, ears, and hands in the deep ocean, we have the capacity to explore like never before. New oceanscapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us.”

This new blade-like marine skyscraper is only the eighth detached reef in the area. Its base is 1.5 kilometers wide and it rises 500 meters to its shallowest depth of only 40 meters below the ocean surface. A particularly curious fact about the newly found reef is that it is flourishing unlike many others in the Great Barrier and around the globe, suffering from coral bleaching.

In addition to this beautiful discovery, scientists have found five undescribed species of black corals and sponges and reported the first observation of an exceptionally unusual fish in Australia. 

Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor was on a 12-month exploration of the ocean surrounding Australia. Scientists have seen the deepest regions of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for the first time by using a remotely operated underwater robot to view the high-resolution video of the bottom of the seafloor.

Let us now move further and satisfy the curiosity of our wreck lovers. 2020 has brought quite a few new wreck discoveries. In this section, we will be looking at three of them.

One of the biggest Italian merchant vessels of the 16th century, Santo Spirito & Santa Maria di Loreto, has been found by two Italian scuba divers. The wreck was located at a depth of 50 m off Genoa, Italy. At the moment the identity of the ship is still to be confirmed by the Archaeology Superintendency of Italy’s Ministry for Cultural Heritage & Tourism. The archaeological and police divers are expected to find ceramics, coins, navigational instruments, cannons, and anchors. The superintendency hopes it to be a great contribution to studies of naval architecture of that period.

Another curious discovery was a WW2 wreck sitting at a depth of 95 m in the Tasman Sea off New South Wales. The identity of the wreck has been confirmed by the New South Wales State Heritage Register, stating that it is Wollongbar II - an Australian coastal freighter that was destroyed by a Japanese submarine during the war.

Last but not least, Danish archeologists have discovered a 365 years old warship Delmenhorst off Denmark in the western part of the Baltic Sea. According to the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, the ship sank during the Battle of Fehmarn, October 1644. The curator of the Viking Ship Museum, Morten Johansen notes:

“It’s an exciting wreck. First, it is the last of the sunken ships from the Battle of Fehmarn in October 1644. Secondly, the Delmenhorst is special because it is one of the first ships built from drawings.”

At present, marine archeologists are working on surveys and collecting artifacts from the wreck. Once they are finished, the wreck will be installed in a new beach park that is going to be built at the site. Further in his statement, Johansen emphasizes: “The ship will remain in the environment where it has been doing well for 400 years”. 

Books and Movies

What can be a better idea for the lockdown than a good book, especially a diving-related one? In this section, we will be reviewing three books published in 2020.

The first book we would like to mention here is “Close Calls” by  Stratis Kas, with Edvardo Pavia and Michael Menduno. The book is a compilation of 68 personal stories of high-profile technical divers, like Jill Heinerth, Edd Sorrenson, Richie Kohler about diving mistakes that nearly cost their lives. The main objective of this book is to show the divers of all levels that if it could happen to professional divers, it could happen to anyone. After finishing this must-read book, many divers may want to revisit their safety priorities. You can purchase the book here.

Those of you who consider building a career in the diving industry will find the following book particularly handy. PADI Platinum Course Director Nick Derutter has published his new book “How To Build A Career In Scuba”, where he explains without sugar-coating what it takes to succeed in this industry. An important feature of this book is that the author takes into account the current situation with COVID-19 and suggests possible solutions for the post-pandemic environment. Find out more on Amazon.

If you have a growing generation of future divers in their “why” phase, “Shark Super Powers” book by Jillian Morris and Duncan Brake is a perfect way to develop the love for marine life in your little ones. The book describes 14 shark species highlighting one “superpower” of each shark (like Goblin Shark’s “Slingshot Jaws”)  accompanied by vivid and brightly-colored illustrations. There is also a brief description and “fast facts” list for each species. In addition to the illustrations, you can find a small photograph of each shark for the children to see how it looks like in real life. The book is available on Amazon.

As for the diving related-movies of 2020, we would like to highlight "One Breath“ by Russian director Elena Hazanova. The film is a tribute to the life story of the "queen of freediving" Natalia Molchanova. Having started in this extreme sport only at the age of 40, she managed to set more than 40 world records, become a multiple world champion and establish the Federation of Freediving in Russia. On August 2, 2015, Natalia was recreationally freediving off the coast of Spain. At some point, she was separated from her peers and was reported missing the following day. 

According to Molchanov’s website, an English-language dub is coming soon.

Tech Innovations

There have been great advances in the world of diving-related technology as well. In this section, we will be looking at a couple of new dive computers released this year.

We will start with the Shearwater Research Peregrine Dive Computer.

A Canadian brand Shearwater Research came up with an all-in-one solution for everyday divers. The previous models are designed mostly for advanced users, while the intuitive interface of Peregrine Dive Computer allows even an entry-level recreational diver to feel confident and learn all the easily accessible features of this device within just a few minutes. 

With a 2.2-inch 320x240 LCD full-color screen and a boosted color scheme, you have a crystal clear display that is visible even in very low-light conditions. Moreover, it is fully customizable. For instance, if you see a particular color range better than others, you can change the color of the display. Additionally, all the information on the screen is programmable, so you can choose data that is important for your dive profile.

You are also able to set your custom vibration alerts (e.g. maximum depth or dive time), which do not last too long but are strong enough to draw your attention when needed.

With Shearwater Research Peregrine Dive Computer you will have a perfect balance between the price and functionality.

shearwater peregrine

Another great release of 2020 that we would like to highlight here is the multifunctional Garmin Descent Mk2 Dive Computer, which is rightly referred to as a new generation of dive computers.

The manufacturer has brought two models to market at once - the Descent Mk2 and Descent Mk2i, as well as a separate tank pressure monitoring transmitter, Descent T1.

The main difference between Mk2 and Mk2i versions is that the latter can be integrated with the Descent T1 Transmitter. When Mk2i and T1 are paired, you can see your tank pressure, remaining air time, and air consumption rate from your wrist. Moreover, you can monitor up to 5 tanks (your own or even the ones of your dive buddies).

Furthermore, both models are based on the multisport smartwatch Garmin Fenix 6, and provide the corresponding functionality in full scale, including GPS-navigation, various sports profiles, tracking of daily activities, and even listening to music.

Among other diving-related functions, Garmin Descent Mk2/Mk2i offers the support of several dive modes with a single-component or multi-component gas mixture. Besides, there is an underwater 3-axis compass, the possibility to display water temperature, dive depth and time, descent and ascent speed, information about NDL/TTS decompression, etc. Fascinatingly, dive information is automatically logged in the new free Garmin Dive app, which displays each dive with depth, dive time, and a map that shows where the dive started and where it was finished.

garmin descent

 

Last but not least, here are some of the most popular articles of the year from our blog. Enjoy!

Beginner’s Guide to Underwater Photography: 5 Steps to Get Started

Beginner Tips: Everything You Need to Know About Dive Weights

Best Snorkeling Gear in 2020 - a Complete Guide

Landbound: How to Stay Involved With the Diving Community

Handy Things to Do With Your Wetsuit Instead of Trashing It

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