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Expedition Ocean Vision 3  

EXPEDITION OCEAN VISION 3 - EGYPT 2009 (٢٠٠٩ مصر)      

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This is the Project Ocean Vision informal diary from Expedition Ocean Vision 3 (EOV3), to the Northern Red Sea in October 2009, primarily to shoot video footage for our new high definition documentary on coral. Additionally, we aimed to take footage of Sharm el Sheikh and the wreck of the Thistlegorm - not complete videos at this stage, but further work on ongoing projects. Report by Paul Courtnage.

Aiming to maximize productivity on this trip we decided to put two video cameras with lights and a digital stills camera in the water on as many dives as possible. This, of course, meant a lot of gear to fly out and to move around once we were there - just our dive and underwater video equipment weighed in at around 57 kilos, so we had to purchase a fair amount of extra weight allowance from Thomas Cook.

We decided to base ourselves in Sharm el Sheikh, although that in itself is a bit of a misnomer as it is generally used to describe the entire metropolitan area of Old Sharm, Hadaba, Na’ama Bay, Hay el Nour, Roweisat, Shark's Bay and, in latter days, Montazah and Ras Nasrani, north of the airport. Bearing in mind that this whole place has grown since the late 1960s from a small, occasionally inhabited, Bedouin fishing village, this is an impressive “city”. And it is this huge, rapid and continuing development that is one of our concerns as conservationists; large-scale coastal development poses a significant risk to the marine environment in a number of ways including: sedimentation of coastal water, high concentrations of saline discharge into the sea from water desalination, sewerage and other pollution, over-fishing and the sheer pressure of so many people using one small stretch of sea. The marine environment is neither robust nor infinite.

We used Camel Dive in Na'ama bay to organize boats throughout Expedition Ocean Vision 3, planning to choose the appropriate boat each day for the sites we needed to film. This meant a fair amount of moving around, but it meant we got what we needed.

Our video diary that accompanies this article is available here. We recommend you read this first then watch the short video.

 

Project Ocean Vision  


Na'ama Bay, Sharm el Sheikh Na'ama Bay Town Centre, Sharm el Sheikh - Photo by Paul Courtnage


Northern Red Sea, EOV3 The Northern Red Sea and Sinai Peninsula





Egypt Flag Egyptian Flag

 



100 Egyptian Pounds
Egyptian Currency

 


 

Thomas Cook Airlines, Expedition Ocean Vision 3 Thomas Cook Airlines Airbus 330,
Expedition Ocean Vision 3














Expedition Ocean Vision 3, Egypt Visa Entry visa from Sharm el Sheikh International Airport
Expedition Ocean Vision 3


Expedition Ocean Vision 3, Sharm el Sheikh, Red Sea
Colourful Cart at the Sharm Inn Amarein

 

 

EOV3 Day 1 – Thursday 1 October 2009

Depart POV HQ: Flight TCX27K, depart LGW 11:55, arrive SSH 18:20.

After months of planning, Paul Courtnage (Courtney) and Carol Courtnage finally set off on Expedition Ocean Vision 3 (EOV3). Although our flight was at lunchtime we still had to be up at 5 and set off before dawn so that we could fight our way around the Outer London Car Park (or the M25, as it's sometimes known) and comply with the modern trend of checking in half a day before one’s flight!

It took us about 2½ hours to drive to Gatwick, check-in was fine, although we discovered that they have made the check-in scales narrower – our big dive bag that fitted perfectly well a few months ago was now ‘over-sized baggage’ and had to be delivered to another part of Departures. Even after all these years BAA are still finding new ways to make life that little bit harder. All the underwater video equipment and boxes of tapes attracted the usual interest from security. Once they convinced themselves that we weren't terrorists from a new radical liberal fundamentalist group, we were allowed to re-pack all our bags and go about our business. We don't even look like terrorists! Whatever happened to profiling?

Anyway, currency exchange followed by traditional travellers' breakfasts at the airport. We found a little treasure at Gatwick Airport – Café Rouge, which only opened in August this year. Upstairs in the South Terminal, far corner. A really great place for breakfast, as long as you’re not in too much of a hurry.

Boarding was easy and we managed to do a bit of secret filming on the way onto the flight. We departed just about on time and the Thomas Cook cabin crew were good. That said, Thomas Cook seem to have turned themselves into one of those awful no frills airlines where you have to pay extra for everything – in flight meal, two seats together, any baggage more than 15 kilos, transfers between airport and hotel, etc. Of course, it appears (to us, anyway) that it doesn't cost any less if you don't have the frills, just more if you do! A shame because Thomas Cook used to be quite good.

EOV3

We landed at Sharm el Sheikh around 6:15 in the evening and that was when things started to go down hill as far as Thomas Cook were concerned. A few points, roughly in order. Operating an Airbus 330 (capable of carrying 323 passengers) clearly exceeds the capabilities of Sharm el Sheikh airport so the queues were huge for everything (visas, immigration and baggage claim) and it took well over an hour to off-load the bags. There was a Thomas Cook rep outside Arrivals, but she was intent on being as little use as possible, a role she performed brilliantly.  This included failing to tell us where to go or which bus to get on for the transfer to our hotel. Only prior knowledge and our limited Arabic got us on the right transport. The TC rep eventually caught up with us and kept us all waiting for another 30 minutes or so while she did her personal admin and delivered an obviously unprepared briefing on Sharm. Really useless.

Our hotel room wasn’t quite what Thomas Cook had advertised, but the hotel refused to entertain a swap so we decided to get the Thomas Cook rep to sort it out the next day. Anyway, we arrived in good time to settle in, unpack and have a wonderful dinner here at our modest, but comfortable hotel. A couple of glasses of local white wine went down very well and we had a good night's sleep.

We’d planned 10 days diving and filming and three down days for sorting and logging the video from both cameras, for filming on land and to avoid coming home totally exhausted – even film-makers are allowed a few days off a year.

Below is a map of the area showing the dive sites we dived on for our filming during EOV3; these are the ones mentioned in the diary that follows.

 

Expedition Ocean Vision 3, Sharm el Sheikh, Red Sea Dive Sites Expedition Ocean Vision 3 - Map of Southern Sinai showing the sites dived on Expedition Ocean Vision 3 and the coral reefs surrounding the coast

EOV3 Day 2 – Friday 2 October 2009

The first 'down day' of Expedition Ocean Vision 3 didn’t quite work out as planned. Spent the morning getting our room sorted. Eventually we moved to a much better room on the ground floor with patio and a dead rat in the mattress – not joking!
We got on with our unpacking, sorting out and assembling all the equipment.

We went to check-in with Camel Dive and to organize the surface support for the expedition. Although they didn’t require us to do a check dive, they did want our first dive to be from shore so we could do a weight check. So we ended up diving from their house reef at the Royal Grand Sharm Hotel in the afternoon - wonderful coral. As it turns out this wasn’t actually required – just one of the staff being over-cautious. But we love Camel Dive.

So, not much of a down day, but at least we got wet and their house reef is very pleasant. It also gave us the chance to have a bit of a shake-down without all the video equipment, so not a bad thing from that perspective.

The weather was fantastic, 35°C and not a cloud in the sky. Evenings seemed to be in the mid 20s and only 10% humidity, which was very comfortable. We did discover that there are quite a lot of bugs in the Sharm and Na’ama Bay area at this time of year so we recommend an early visit to a pharmacy for some Off!

 


Carol Courtnage Carol Courtnage diving on Camel Dive's House Reef,
Strait of Tiran. Expedition Ocean Vision 3

Red Sea Coral Red Sea Coral, Expedition Ocean Vision 3


 


Carol Courtnage Carol Courtnage on board the Sehss

 

Lionfish

Lionfish Lionfish, threat posture, Expedition Ocean Vision 3 - photo by Courtney at Jackson Reef.
 

EOV3 Day 3 – Saturday 3 October 2009

Today was the first day of underwater filming on Expedition Ocean Vision 3. We had planned a shake-down dive and just one full filming dive, but the extra dive yesterday allowed us to film on both dives today. With a lot of new equipment, we had a fair bit of work to do today so it was useful having at least some time yesterday to get all the equipment assembled, sorted and tested before the start of dive operations today. Pleased to report that all the equipment survived the journey out here and worked perfectly from the start. We were very happy to be back in Sharm and with our friends from Camel Dive.

We went to the reefs in the Strait of Tiran today on one of our favourite boats, the Sehss. Dive one was a straightforward drift dive on Thomas Reef, the smallest of the Tiran quartet. Due to a technical issue, we ended up using the big camera without the wide angle adaptor, which gave us a bit of a repeat of the first dive in Thailand earlier in the year – annoying internal reflections in the camera housing, but not too bad by being careful about not shooting into sun and by using our underwater lighting to good effect.

Dive two was Jackson Reef, the most northerly of the Tiran reefs. Some good initial footage, general scenes and coral as well as some close work with some beautiful lionfish and really close photography of coral polyps feeding.

Everything ran smoothly today and we both thoroughly enjoyed our first day diving on Expedition Ocean Vision 3. Apart from us (well, Carol, anyway) the underwater video equipment is the most important thing on an exped; without it here and in perfect working order, there is no point in us being here. So you'll excuse us if it tends to feature large in our reports. Anyway, we're pleased to say that it all held up brilliantly. The first dive of a new exped is always edgy as it's the first time we know for sure that the kit is working as it should and that we don't have leaks in the housings (disastrous).


EOV3 Day 4 – Sunday 4 October 2009

So, after a good start to the EOV3 filming, we were back in the water with Camel Dive today filming coral in the Ras Mohammed National Park, the southern-most tip of the Sinai Peninsula - see the big map above. We dived Shark Observatory and Shark & Yolanda Reefs. The light on Shark Observatory isn’t usually that great, but we judged the time of day quite carefully and came up with some good results – the new underwater video lights came in handy too. Currents were a bit strong today so most of the filming was done on the move, rather than nice stable close-ups – with a fair bit of big equipment, currents can be quite an issue. Same currents at Shark & Yolanda, but we were graced by a green turtle giving us a great filming opportunity.

A bit of a down side was the growing suspicion that the old Napoleon Wrasse that’s been living on Yolanda reef for many years isn’t there any more. We shall investigate and report back to you…

 




Black Coral - Egypt, Project Ocean Vision Black Coral - Egypt, Project Ocean Vision





         mfo - Egypt





Project Ocean Vision Project Ocean Vision: Paul Courtnage (Courtney) filming garden eels on Expedition Ocean Vision 3.




Garden Eels The elusive garden eels - Expedition Ocean Vision 3.

 

EOV3 Day 5 – Monday 5 October 2009

We were back at the reefs at Tiran Island today. Tiran Island guards the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba and actually belongs to Saudi Arabia, although leased to Egypt after the Israeli occupation of the Sinai peninsula. The island is inhabited only by members of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), who supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. We are not allowed on the island itself, but the four coral reefs to its west that almost span the Strait of Tiran are some of Egypt’s most famous dive sites.

The dive operators here are tending to make things a bit rushed on the boat – fine if you’re just diving, but it takes us quite a bit longer to turn round all the dive and underwater video equipment. In the past, customers were occasionally offered a third dive if time allowed. However, in what we can only assume is in the interests of improved profits, dive centres are now cramming two dives in before lunch so that there is always a third dive in the afternoon. The upshot seems to be a huge rush in the morning and hours of waiting around in the afternoon. Sorry to see that even Camel Dive are starting to do this.

The second dive today was so soon after the first that we really couldn’t turn all the kit round in time. Rather than rush and risk getting something wrong, we elected to bow out of the second dive and do the third instead. Third dives aren’t usually at the best sites so not normally an ideal option. However, fate has a strange way of smiling on us and it turned out that the divers on dive 2 had a total nightmare with currents – no one came to any harm, but their faces told of a really unpleasant dive. So we didn’t miss any filming opportunities and we would have had a real struggle in the water with all the video gear.

Dive three (two for us) turned out to be a good option with some great encounters with some garden (sand) eels, a big moray and some great coral. Garden eels are very shy and retreat into their burrows before you can get close enough to film them. Courtney had to spend a good 20 minutes lying on the sand and slowly edging towards them (picture above/left) in order to get decent pictures of them (picture left - taken from our video diary).

We did manage to drop the big camera while boarding the boat, but Courtney caught it just a few metres below us. Having the video lights and battery pack attached to its housing makes it slightly lighter in the water as we had to remove the big lead weight from it to fit the battery. It sinks slower in that configuration! A lesson for later.


EOV3 Day 6 – Tuesday 6 October 2009

Today started badly when our bus to the harbour broke down and, in true Egyptian style, took ages to get us recovered from a hot, dusty roadside. Eventually made it there just in time to get aboard the Sehss. We were back at Ras Mohammed, which is our real favourite for its colour, light, marine life and beauty. However, rough seas turned a number of the divers a nasty pale shade of green. They spent the entire day on the boat feeling like death, which is really awful for them. The brave Project Ocean Vision Team was fine!

Our first dive was the beautiful Jackfish Alley with its cave where Courtney was unexpectedly joined by a very large Moray Eel while waiting to film Carol (see the picture right and our video diary). Courtney said, "I was just sitting here in this cave, waiting to film Carol swimming into it, when this huge moray appeared between my legs and swam over me. It took me a moment to have the presence of mind to reposition myself and get filming. An unusual experience for me, but I don't think he expected to find me there either"

We were looking for more coral, scenic shots and the big schools of predators that live on Yolanda Reef for the second dive. Although most of the predators have moved on at this time of year, Courtney did manage to get some fantastic close ups of a Blue spotted stingray. Also, we set up a few scenes for the opening and closing sequences of the new video and the EOV3 video diary.

We discovered some very bad news today. There are strong rumours that the big old Napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) that has been a resident of Yolanda reef for many years has been caught by fishermen. This is a terrible loss as he had been a constant comrade to divers here – probably the most famous fish in the Red Sea. His name was Bob (no, seriously, his name was Bob) and he will be missed by many. You can see him in our EOV1 video diary and below, taken in 2006.

 




Moray Eel - EOV3, Red Sea A very large Moray Eel in Courtney's cave,
Jackfish Alley near Ras Mohammad







Napoleon Wrasse - Expedition Ocean Vision 3, Red Sea Young Napoleon Wrasse, Expedition Ocean Vision 3
Shark and Yolanda Reef

Bob
Bob at Ras Mohammed - 2006




Project Ocean Vision Project Ocean Vision on Expedition Ocean Vision 3
Red Sea Anemone fish and coral at Gordon Reef

 

EOV3 Day 7 – Wednesday 7 October 2009

Back at Tiran today with Camel Dive and another day of rough seas. However, the prevailing wind (and, therefore, the waves) come from the North at this time of year so we were able to position the boat in the lee of the Tiran coral reefs in calm water; also the Sea Star is a larger boat and rode the swell quite comfortably.  We dived Thomas and Gordon Reefs, both of which had very light currents. Carol traded in the second underwater video camera for one of the stills units today to capture a few shots for our website (left, for example).

Courtney managed to get ahead with the post-dive stuff at lunchtime giving him the chance to do a third dive at Ras Ghamila on the west side of the Strait of Tiran, but Carol had a minor, but ongoing, sinus problem so stayed on the boat and swotted up on coral.

We were very encouraged to see so many young Napoleon wrasses around these coral reefs and we have noted that the coral and dependent marine life appears to be in good general health and population sizes seem to be reasonable – especially given the time of year.


EOV3 Day 8 – Thursday 8 October 2009

Project Ocean Vision changed boats again today (still with Camel Dive, though) in an effort to get the cameras down to Ras Mohammed so ended up getting ourselves onto the Alaa Monsour – a nice boat.

For our first dive we were dropped at Eel Garden on the East side of Ras Mohammed as neither of us had dived this site before. The main feature is a large, sloping sandy delta populated by very shy sand eels. Not a terribly good dive for filming or for coral and the light was fairly poor.

Our second dive was at Shark and Yolanda Reefs, but it was obvious from the start that the current was going to be a problem. We took the early decision to try to work our way to the Yolanda wreckage by going up behind the coral reefs – just the two of us up there, which was glorious. But we eventually faced a current that we couldn’t get through so we turned back to the saddle between the two main coral reefs and tried to get round the front of Yolanda – not a hope! We learned the lesson years ago that fighting currents is futile, especially with a load of underwater video gear. Anyway, we made the best of things, found a more sheltered spot and filmed a unicorn fish, a filefish and a cornet fish (changing his camouflage) and got some great close-ups of how goatfish feed in the sandy patches among the coral.

We were a bit disappointed with Camel Dive today, poorly organized, not great service and a very rushed programme - not like Camel Dive at all really. Fortunately we are pretty much self-sufficient and doing our own thing so we are usually able to make our own decisions and run our own dive schedule.

We've been diving pretty intensively for the last 5 days and loaded a lot of nitrogen, so we'd planned a down day tomorrow to maintain safe limits and rest up a bit. Not having an early start tomorrow, we went out to The Roof on top of the Camel Bar in Na’ama Bay to celebrate our wedding anniversary (in 10 days time) and our engagement in this very spot last year. Wonderful steaks and wine, then back to “Omar’s Bar” at the hotel for a night cap or two!

 





Project Ocean Vision Project Ocean Vision - Courtney setting up equipment on the Alaa Mansour.
Expedition Ocean Vision 3.







Project Ocean Vision Carol Courtnage, Project Ocean Vision, filming during Expedition Ocean Vision 3

 




hvr-v1e - Project Ocean Vision, EOV3 to Sharm el Sheikh, (Red Sea) shooting film for our Coral documentary and the Thistlegorm by Courtney and Carol Courtnage

 

EOV3 Day 9 – Friday 9 October 2009

We didn't realise quite how tired we are until we slept in to nearly 9 o'clock! Outrageous for us. Still we got all the planning, EOV3 film reviews and maintenance done that we wanted, but then we managed to get talked into 14 hours of filming for the hotel’s General Manager. Not quite what we had in mind for our “day off” – totally exhausted by the end of it. Carol enjoyed a full massage, sauna, body scrub, etc, and then we collapsed into bed.

Fairly short report for today. Sorry, this filming is a bit outside the scope of the exped and having spent the whole day working we were a bit under-motivated by the end of it. More of Expedition Ocean Vision 3 tomorrow.


EOV3 Day 10 – Saturday 10 October 2009

Back to a rushed boat again today so we just did the first and third dives – Jackson Reef and Ras Nasrani. Some excellent video of an old turtle in the coral, but Courtney had to have a go at two idiots we found touching the turtle and blocking (inadvertently, but stupidly) her route to the surface. Turtles need to breathe every 20-30 minutes and if they can’t make the surface they simply drown. Divers should not touch the marine life!

Some great coral shots today and Courtney rescued a couple of mushroom corals (picture below/right) that had got themselves turned upside-down - it's a thing he does.

Met a fascinating bloke called Peter today on the boat. He’s retired from the Royal Navy and spends his life in Southern India helping some of the poorest people in the world. A very unassuming, pleasant and brave man.

We managed to find passage out to the wreck of the S.S. Thistlegorm for tomorrow so we spent the afternoon disassembling and packing dive kit and underwater video gear for an early start in the morning. Utterly dog-tired so we were in bed soon after nine. Unfortunately, the hotel has become a lot more noisy since we last stayed here with annoying music all day, wherever one goes. Annoying, but sorted by a visit to the local Egyptian pharmacy for some sleeping pills – no idea what they were, but they did the job!

 




Project Ocean Vision Project Ocean Vision - Green Turtle at Jackson Reef,
Expedition Ocean Vision 3

Mushroom coral - EOV3, Red Sea, Project Ocean Vision Mushroom Coral, Jackson Reef, Strait of Tiran


    EOV3 Day 11 – Sunday 11 October 2009

The Wreck of The Thistlegorm

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Thistlegorm
by Elysium Strand.

Project Ocean Vision Project Ocean Vision: Courtney(Paul Courtnage) doing his piece "to camera" for our video diary on the way to the wreck of the Thistlegorm.
Expedition Ocean Vision 3




MV Wasser The MV Wasser - our passage to the Thistlegorm
Expedition Ocean Vision 3


Courtney

Courtney Courtney setting up our kit for the Thistlegorm dives: Expedition Ocean Vision 3


Thistlegorm The Thistlegorm's propeller - depth about 30 metres.
Project Ocean Vision on Expedition Ocean Vision 3

 

An early start today in order to make the long trek out to the Thistlegorm. Carol isn't entirely sure, but thinks we were up at about 4am and out of the hotel by 5. All seems a bit of a blur now. It's been about 16 months since we last dived this wonderful wreck so we were very excited.

You can find out a little about the Thistlegorm from our expedition video diary – suffice to say that she was sunk in the early hours of 6 October 1941 on her fourth voyage. She was carrying supplies to the British Army in North Africa and waiting to sail up the Suez Canal to Alexandria when she was spotted and bombed by two Luftwaffe Heinkel He111s. Courtney did a piece to camera explaining all this in our video diary on the way out to the wreck (photo left).

The Thistlegorm is classed as one of the top ten dive sites in the world and we wanted to make a start at filming her – a project that will take a few more dives on this wonderful and haunting site over the coming years.

We joined the Wasser (that’s 'vasser' as in German for water), which is a really nice little boat. We had a couple of regular divers on the boat with us, doing other things, but we had plenty of space and very pleasant 4 hour ride on calm seas out to the wreck site. Thanks to the weather and the phase of the moon, the currents weren’t too bad on the Thistlegorm today - they can be bad on this site. Throughout the exped, we were both diving using nitrox rather than air and this was particularly useful for this site due to the depth of the wreck and the time we needed to spend at depth - diving with air tends to limit one's bottom time; nitrox (enriched air) gave us that bit longer at depth and a greater safety margin.

The Thistlegorm site wasn't too crowded on this occasion, which makes a nice change, and we managed to make two great dives on the wreck, one around the outside filming general scenes of the ship and the second concentrating on the inside of the Thistlegorm's holds. We got some amazing shots and we’ve put some of them in our video diary for you (link to our video diary at the bottom of this page).

We had noticed that the wreck was starting to deteriorate badly a few years ago. Dive boats were damaging the wreck by mooring on weak parts of its structure (deck rails and the like) and the steel was rusting rapidly due to large amounts air trapped inside the ship's spaces - air exhaled by thousands of divers every year. The Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association installed permanent mooring buoys (connected to concrete blocks on the sea bed around the wreck) and drilled holes in the Thistlegorm's hull to allow the escape of trapped air. However the moorings have all gone now as the blocks were too light and were dragged out of position by the dive boats. The lines connecting the moorings to the wreck were also rather long, making it very hard for divers to transfer to the wreck in strong currents. So, once again, dive boats moor directly on the wreck, although most of the weaker points were torn away years ago and boats tend to tie off to stronger structures. But the Thistlegorm's days are surely numbered.

Anyway, it was a great day and diving the “Gorm” is always an emotional experience – so much so that Courtney has written a piece of music especially for the wreck, some of which is on our EOV3 video diary. Alternatively, the mini-player at the top of this entry will play Thistlegorm by Elysium Strand for you.

SS Thistlegorm
Motorcycles loaded in Bedford trucks - number 3
hold of the SS Thistlegorm
Thistlegorm
Anti-aircraft gun - Thistlegorm aft deck
Thistlegorm
Box of live ammunition - Thistlegorm starboard side

All pictures by Courtney & Carol 2009

SS Thistlegorm

Sketch of the SS Thistlegorm taken from Courtney's dive logbook, locating scenes from our Expedition Ocean Vision 3 Video Diary. This shows the winching gear on the bow and two locomotive water carriers on either side, just behind. Aft of these is the main mast, which now lies across the deck adjacent to the locomotive coal tenders (port and starboard). The entrances to holds one and two are forward of the bridge structure. Behind the bridge, the deck is folded over number three hold (damage from the explosion) and the hull is broken. The stern section lies towards its port side and has an anti-aircraft gun and a deck gun mounted on it. The single screw and rudder are on the far side of this section.


EOV3 Day 12 – Monday 12 October 2009

We were back at Tiran today and we dived Thomas and Jackson reefs. By timing our dives carefully, we had both reefs pretty much to ourselves – the way we like it. We concentrated on filming the corals today, which is the main reason we came to Egypt on Expedition Ocean Vision 3.

On Thomas Reef we spotted a school of barracuda cruising out in "the blue" some 50 metres or so out from the reef. By heading out towards them nice and gently, we managed to get very close giving us a great view of them and a fine photo opportunity. They looked absolutely beautiful against the deep blue of the open ocean.

Jackson Reef was equally good, not much current making it easier to hover in the water to get some nice steady shots and close-ups of the coral and marine life - really hard in a current, as you can imagine.

In the evening we went to the Camel Bar (HQ Camel Dive) for 'après dive' – one of our favourite haunts in the world. Wonderful!

  Project Ocean Vision Project Ocean Vision. Shoal of barracuda,
Expedition Ocean Vision 3Thomas Reef, Strait of Tiran

Courtney Courtney at the Camel Bar, Na'ama Bay




Carol Courtnage Carol Courtnage on the President III - leaving port


Project Ocean Vision Project Ocean Vision - Courtney filming coral with the "big camera", Expedition Ocean Vision 3.


Pipefish Pipefish on a gorgonian sea fan (coral)
 

EOV3 Day 13 – Tuesday 13 October 2009

We always find we lose track of the days when we're on expeds. We think today was Tuesday. Not that it matters as it's just another glorious day in the water, exploring and filming. Today was the final day of dive operations for Expedition Ocean Vision 3 and we had some excellent diving at Ras Mohammed. One or two minor problems, but nothing we couldn't sort out. There are always a few challenges on every exped and we're getting pretty deft at sorting them or working round them. Aboard the President 3 with Captain Sona - great!

Having decided to stay shallow for the sake of Carol’s sinuses and to take advantage of the best light for filming, the first ‘interesting’ moment of the day was, through a complex series of circumstances, watching the large camera sinking gracefully into the depths pursued rapidly by Courtney in a vortex of bubbles. Happily he caught up with it and made a safe ascent back to shallower waters - the drop-off here goes down to about 800 metres!

Jackfish Alley offered a couple of big, lone barracuda – the ones Courtney is always very cautious about (and made Carol keep him between her and the fish) – jacks, stingrays and a crocodile fish.

Shark and Yolanda Reefs were much kinder to us in terms of currents than they had been on previous days so we were able to take advantage of a great dive. Courtney got "bombed" by a feisty cornetfish (known to us as the spindly killer fish), who either wanted to play or was seriously pissed off with us. You'll have to watch the video carefully to see what we mean.

We had a bit of a close call at the end of dive two when another dive boat cut across our stern at speed while we were both being recovered from the water. Our Captain had to pull forward sharpish to get out of the way, pulling Courtney off the ladder and leaving him in the path of the big boat, now bearing down on him. Rather than attempt the futile effort of swimming after our boat, he had the sense to swim away and allow the intruder to pass between him and the Sehss. Once Carol had been safely hauled aboard, the Captain managed to weave his way back to Courtney and pick him (and the all-important camera) up. No one said underwater video would be easy! The Team decided to repair to the Camel Bar after work for a couple of drinks. A bit of a transport cock-up by Camel Dive made us very late back to the hotel this evening, so a long and eventful day.

Plenty of wine this evening...

cornetfish
Playful cornetfish that came and joined us -
Expedition Ocean Vision 3, Shark and Yolanda Reefs
Project Ocean Vision
Blue spotted stingray. Expedition Ocean Vision 3,
Shark and Yolanda Reefs: Project Ocean Vision
Expedition Ocean Vision 3
Expedition Ocean Vision 3 Video Diary
Young green turtle

EOV3 Day 14 – Wednesday 14 October 2009

Well, we have to report that diving and underwater video filming are both complete for Expedition Ocean Vision 3. It has all gone really well (and far too quickly) and we're delighted with the footage we've shot. Obviously we're sad to be finishing diving, but we're also very pleased with our results so far and we have more work to do here yet. The rest of the filming on land today and sorting out our dive and underwater video kit.

The day went well until we went to check out of Camel Dive only to find that their credit card machine wasn’t working properly. Two trips to the hotel, 3 mobile phone calls to the UK and three hours later got that one sorted. But then exactly the same problem with the hotel. Courtney had another two hours running around in the heat trying to find an ATM that was working to start drawing out cash to pay the hotel bill. Be warned, credit cards aren't always your flexible friends.

We may then have partaken of a bottle or two of the local plonk - it's fine after the first couple of glasses, but we decided not to bring any home with us!


Thistlegorm deck gun The deck gun on the stern of the Thistlegorm
Expedition Ocean Vision 3
 

EOV3 Day 15 – Thursday 15 October 2009

A busy last day drying and packing all the gear, but a bit of time to relax by the pool. More running around to draw out cash from the bank set the tone for the trip home - the hotel's promise yesterday to get their credit card machine fixed came to nought. From check out onwards was awful and Thomas Cook really let themselves down. The 15 minute bus run from hotel to airport took nearly an hour and a half, the rep on the transfer bus was surly, patronizing and unhelpful, the queue for check in took over an hour and a half and the flight was rubbish. Loads of passengers that had ordered in-flight catering didn't get it, the entertainment system only partially worked and the cabin crew (who do this run there-and-back in a day) looked worn-out. We’re off Thomas Cook at the moment. It's only the fact that they make it easy to buy extra baggage allowance (we need it!) that keeps us even remotely interested.

It was a late flight home and so we got into Gatwick in the small hours of 16th and home just before 4 a.m. Job done, anyway - for EOV3 at least!


A FEW OBSERVATIONS ON EXPEDITION OCEAN VISION 3

EOV3 was another ambitious trip, although somewhat easier than EOV2 as we were in a significantly cooler and less humid environment. Hopping from boat to boat every day and carting the big camera, housing and lights around was hard work, especially getting back to our hotel each evening, so we're looking at a way of putting all that gear on wheels - searching for a suitable piece of roll-on luggage.

Having dropped the big underwater video camera twice whilst in the water, we need to rethink our water entry and exit procedures. We'll come up with a better plan before the next exped.

Most things went pretty much according to plan during EOV3, but there were a few difficulties. Overall, it was a successful expedition that yielded some excellent video. However, lots of frustrations due to issues beyond our control - all of which we eventually worked around. Again, we'll be getting our heads together to go over these and review our procedures.

We now have months of editing to do and we shall post preview videos here as we go along.


Expedition Ocean Vision 3
Outbound on Expedition Ocean Vision 3
Carol Courtnage
Carol Courtnage - a mermaid diving on beautiful coral
Project Ocean Vision
Project Ocean Vision: Courtney filming.
Project Ocean Vision
Project Ocean Vision. Courtney filming a green turtle
Loullia
The wreck of the Loullia (Lulia) - Gordon Reef 2009*
Red Sea Anemone
Red Sea Anemone at 30 metres
Paul Courtnage
Paul Courtnage filming coral (Project Ocean Vision)
Expedition Ocean Vision 3
Expedition Ocean Vision 3
Project Ocean Vision - Paul Courtnage filming a
moray eel on Expedition Ocean Vision 3
Expedition Ocean Vision 3, diving in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Courtney and Carol Courtnage shooting video in the Red Sea
Home to a beautiful sunrise.
End of Expedition Ocean Vision 3

* The Loullia: The Loullia, a 3,461 ton freighter, 107m in length, was built as the Antonia in Öresundvarvet A/B (Yard No. 121), Landskrona, Sweden for Rederi A/B Poseidon, Stockholm in 1952. She was launched on 6th May 1952. In 1965 the ship was sold and renamed Zschopau until 1978 when she fanally renamed the Loullia. She was travelling from Aqaba to Suez carrying only ballast when she ran aground on the northern side of Gordon Reef (Strait of Tiran) on 29th September 1981. The crew of the Loullia stayed aboard trying unsuccessfully to refloat her; they safely abandoned ship four days after the collision on 2nd October.

The small images below shows her condition in 1983, 2003 & 2009. Since about 2006, the Loullia has suffered a couple of poor winters and has really started to come apart.

Loullia 1983
Loullia 1983
Loullia 2003
Loullia 2003
Loullia 2009
Loullia 2009

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OUR EXPEDITION

Our plan for EOV3 was reasonably ambitious and, as it turned out, very demanding. Being shore-based rather than living on the boat made everything more difficult in terms of moving equipment around and reduced our diving and filming opportunities. Living onboard remains our preferred option for future expeds.

We'll need at least another two visits to the northern Red Sea after EOV3 to complete work on the Thistlegorm.

We would like to say a big thank you to our old friends Michael and Kiko from Camel Dive for giving us so much help during our expedition. Great work, guys! We'll see you again soon.

Now watch the EOV3 video diary by clicking on the link below. Enjoy!

Report by Paul Courtnage (Courtney) and Carol Courtnage


VIDEO
Expedition Ocean Vision 3 Video Diary

LINKS
Expedition Ocean Vision 2 Diary A Short Essay on Coral
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