By Neil Miller & Greg Blair
Whilst our Dive Shows have not reached the size and scope of the larger US shows, there was plenty to see and get "touchy-feely" with at this one. Lots of things to do there with plenty of new products to checkout and people to meet.
There were stands from a number of gear suppliers and distributors such as Dive-Rite, Drager and Oceanic, a number of Victorian Dive stores such as Diveline and AB Ocean Divers had stands and there was even a stand from 3 dive stores from NSW as well. The two Australian Dive Magazines, Scuba Diver and Sports Diving were there and Dive Adventures had a huge stand of travel destinations in the South Pacific such as the Solomon Islands etc.
Part 1And then there was this guy here, he appeared from time to time on the AB Ocean Divers / Allways PADI Dive Travel stand in a Hot n Dry Dry suit, with his face, hands and dreads covered in what looked like mud. Now I'm quite sure that there was some deep and meaningful reason for the mud, but since he was being a statue we were unable to get this info out of him. One would have to guess it was simply to make him look more statuesque? Whatever, the kids seemed to get a buzz out of him.
Hot n Dry suits, who make their suits here in Australia, have not exactly had the best reputation with their suits over the last couple of years, but they seem to be getting it right now, with the latest model suits being well received. We hope to have some more info on what they have been up to in the next couple of months as "doing it dry" is starting to become very popular.
The Victorian Dive Store, Diveline, had a large stand dressed up in camouflage netting and fake rocks and I'm told it was meant to look like a kelp covered sea cave. Well, whatever it was meant to look like, it attracted plenty of interest with plenty of gear on show and a few specials on assorted gear as well. I'm told they won "Best Stand of the Show", so it just goes to prove.... "If you build it, people will come looking".
Playing non-stop on a large screen TV at the front of this stand was the new Video Doco "Melbourne's Lost Fleet of J-Class Submarines", which was videoed and produced by Pedr Klein, one of the Diveline staff members. The video runs for around 45 minutes and it was shown during the lunch breaks at OZTEK 2000 as well. It covers a bit of the history of the subs, and shows lots of footage of the subs in their final resting-places. We hope to have a copy for review sometime soon.
Warren Levin, who writes for both Sport Diver and Dive Log, as well as being the Distributor for Drager Rebreathers here in Australia, was manning the impressive Drager stand. Staffed by no less than 6 Drager representatives, including Udo Koss from Drager in Germany. Drager had 5 models of rebreathers on display, including the Drager Dolphin and the Drager Ray.
This stand was always popular with the thousands of people who filed through the show over the 5 days, it's not that often you can see equipment such as this in your local dive store. Rebreathers are coming down in price, as they become more popular, bringing them into the realms of sport divers. But remember, we are still talking thousands of dollars here, but when you add up the cost of a traditional "Open Circuit" (Scuba) system, Tank + BCD + Reg + Gauge. The cost of a rebreather is not that much more really. Say $2000 for a good quality Scuba set-up, compared to around $3200 for a Drager Ray.
The new model, which is basically a Drager Dolphin that has been modified with new accessories (Warren is standing next to this model) uses Heliox to get you down to 80mtrs. In the background is the new military model that is dual gas, front mounted and non-magnetic. Just perfect for those stealth operations!
We hope to have an article from Warren about the joys of Rebreather diving soon, watch out for it.
NSW even got a look in at this show! Sharing a stand show casing NSW was Chris Farley from Fish Rock Dive Centre, South West Rocks, which is an amazing place to dive. (I have been there a number of times, and hope to get up there again for a week in September) and John Duggan and his wife Cathy, who run Action Divers at Forster on the Mid North Coast of NSW. Well actually, they are across the river in Tuncurry, but let's not get political about that! Again, I've dived with John a few years ago and will be dropping in for some Grey Nurse action again in September.
Interest in their stand was high over the period of the show, and they were showing videos of their respective locations and dive sites. Based on personal experience, both places are top spots for diving and we highly recommend both operators.
Taking up a huge area of the show was an exhibition on the Titanic, it's history, it's design and building and of course it's voyage of doom. There were plenty of period pieces on show from both the Titanic and her sister ship, the Britanic! On one huge wall there was a very detailed account of the Titanics last few hours, which made for very interesting reading. Near this wall was a large and highly detailed model of the 2 main pieces of the Titanic as it currently sits on the bottom of the Atlantic.
Part 2One of the many innovative products that was being promoted at the show was the new emOx Emergency Oxygen System. The emOx emergency oxygen supply is the result of six years research in conjunction with the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. The emOx system received the coveted INPEX gold medal at the 1997 INPEX expo in the USA and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sale in the USA.
This simple, but effective idea allows you to have a ready supply of 99.7% pure Oxygen on hand for emergencies. It neatly packs away into a small canister and is ready to use any time, simply add the 2 powders into the canister, add a small amount of water to the top humidifier section of the unit, add the rest of the water (500ml) to the main canister, screw the top humidifier section onto the canister, insert the oxygen mask hose, connect the mask and within seconds, you have approx 94 litres of Oxygen flowing at an average of 6.3 litres/min lasting around 15 minutes.
Need more, discard the contents of the canister, don't worry, it's environmentally friendly stuff, and repeat the process. It is a lot easier than having a heavy Oxygen Cylinder laying around, there are no moving parts, nothing that has to be tested every few years etc. You can use fresh water or salt water, basically any water can be used as long as it's not contaminated. Extra powder and catalyst can be obtained easily, so re-fills are not a problem.
How does it work?
The powder and catalyst have an indefinite shelf life, providing they remain unopened.
One of the many guest speakers at OZTeK 2000 this year was Lamar Hires, CEO from Dive Rite. When Lamar was not presenting, or providing insights into Florida's cave systems, he was manning the Dive Rite stand at the Dive Show. There are not too many CEO's that are so approachable these days that they actually form a stand representing their companies products but Lamar was not only approachable but easy to talk too as well. Lamar seems to take an active interest in all of the activities that are happening "down under".
As Dive Rite is located about 30 minutes from one of the best Cave Diving areas in the USA, Lake City Florida, Lamar has been instrumental in the development of the ICRRA (International Cave Rescue and Recovery Association). This organisation is manned by volunteers and that is involved in the rescue of divers that get stuck in the cave systems in the US and Mexico. There may be a chapter of this organisation starting up in Australia although because of the infrequent "episodes" since the CDAA came into being there may be little "demand" for it in Oz.
Lamar is an accomplished Cave Diver, as is all of the staff at Dive Rite. Lamar told me that this is how Dive Rite develop their new products as, through their own desire for functional gear to suit their own diving requirements, they have developed a great range of gear for the tech diver that is equally suitable for normal recreational divers. Dive Rite staff spends a lot of their time in the water testing their own gear and making adjustments or developing new products to increase diver safety.
Dive Rite make a great range of products, mainly aimed at the Serious Tech / Cave diver, their harness system and assorted wings are quite well known and excellent quality. Their new range of dive lights is excellent value and put out an amazing amount of light for the size of the head. We hope to have some interesting articles from Lamar on his diving experiences and Dive Rite products in the next few months.
One of the new products that I thought had a "cool" type appeal was the new BC coming soon from Dacor. What makes this BC so special is that is both side and rear inflation, it is fully integrated, which means all hoses are hidden in the BC, reg and occy sit curled up inside a pocket, ready for use. The 1st stage sits in place ready to go, the gauge is also integrated into the design. Another of this new BC's cool ideas is the integrated carry handle, when you want to carry the whole unit with a tank attached, simply reverse the BC around the tank and clip it with the waist clip, then exposed in the middle of the backpack, is a very convenient carry handle (See insert in pic) which has been counter sunk into the hard backpack, flip it down and away you go. I hope to have a full article about this new BC very soon, so you can see all the features for your selves. Of course, all these wonderful features will come at a cost, when we do get the exact cost, we will let you all know.
Part 3No Dive Show could be complete without the Dive Mags being on hand. Both Australian magazines were there. On the Scuba Diver stand we found Sue Crowe, the editor of the magazine manning the stand. On the stand with Sue is a regular contributor to the mag, photojournalist Ken Hoppen. Ken has written quite a few articles for the mag and is a respected U/W photographer. I wandered over and introduced myself to her and Ken. We spoke for a while about the mag, where it was heading and what was coming up. I found her to be a very nice lady who is very passionate about diving and her magazine. The magazine is definitely in very capable hands.
Sue also had the latest copy of the mag on the stand, as well as her range of Scuba Diver brand of swimwear on display, heaps of back issues of the magazine at a great price and a good discount on the price of a subscription.
While talking to them, Ken talked about his latest expedition and what he had been photographing. He pulled out a selection of photos taken at the Neptune group of islands off South Australia where he had been photographing Great White Sharks. The shots he had were the best shark shots I have seen in a long time and were totally awesome. At one stage he had two 5+M Great Whites working the cage. They seemed to be working as a team trying to lull the photographers into a false sense of security as one shark kept the divers busy while it passed by while the other circled trying to see how it could get to the divers inside the cage. At one stage another photographer leaning out through the opening got a shock when the second shark shot up from the depths narrowly missing him as it went past.
Sport Diver was giving away free copies of their past issues as well as offering discounts on subscriptions etc as well as the latest copy of Dive Log. They also had a number of diving related books for sale at heavily discounted prices. A bargain was there waiting to be found if you took the time to look.
There were a number of people from the CDAA at the show, willing and able to tell you anything and everything there is to know about cave diving. I have no experience in cave diving so I had a long and interesting conversation about various aspects to do with the training etc one has to do to get certified for this sport. We spoke about getting some info and articles from the CDAA about their sport and it looks like we should get some interesting stuff to read pretty soon, so watch out for that in the next month or so.
After attending some of the lectures at OZTEK 2000 that related to cave diving, it has really raised my interest in this sport. Who knows, may even get around to doing something about it one day.
Oceanic had quite a big stand at this show with a number of products on display. Tried on one of their newer BCD's, which is one of the most comfortable BC's I have tried yet, even with the weight of a 100cu/f tank, it was quite good. We spoke about a number of new products that are coming up in the next couple of months, so as soon as we get that info, you will all know about it.
Part 4One of the Dive Shops went all out with their display, they had this huge heated yellow tank with a giant porthole in it so that passers by could get a look at the diver within. The divers that were in the tank went through the basic manoeuvres like mask clearing, reg recovery etc, they were also playing around with a rubber "Jaws", as well as taking pictures of the people out side the tank as they stopped and looked in. They were offering the chance to win a free scuba course just by filling in the form, and that competition was very popular with all the people passing by. As you can see from the signage, the tank had some prominent sponsors.
The same company were also doing scuba demonstrations in the huge Yamaha Fishing Show tank, which was around 10mtrs long by 3mtrs high and 1.5mtrs wide. This tank had a few fresh water fish in it that were there for the fishing show. Once again, in front of a big crowd, the demonstrators went through all the basics of diving, including recovery of mask, clearing of mask and also the various hand signals, some of which we had never seen before.
One of the biggest, well, the longest, belonged to Dive Adventures. They had representatives from a number of South Pacific Islands including the Solomons, Fiji, Bikini and Palau and a few others as well. Had a chat with Kerrie Kennedy from the Adventure Sports Resort on the Island of Gizo in the Solomons about what has been happening up there recently. According to Kerrie, the main troubles are only in the main capital of Honiara, and not on the other islands, like Gizo where her resort is located. Adventure Sports was established back in 1985, and in that time, they have established a very professional operation. They cater for Singles, couples and groups, they run 4 dive boats and have a good range of rental gear. Kerrie has promised to send me some more info on diving in the Solomons and about her resort, so we should have that for you very soon.
All in all, the Dive Show was a great event and we really enjoyed it, we look forward to next years show, which promises to be bigger and better again!