UNDERWATER DURING AN EARTHQUAKE IN GRAND CAYMAN
Digital Madness and Alex Mustard’s workshop run again at the East End of Grand Cayman island. The main topic of the workshop was the understanding and controlling light underwater, because all these wonderful colors underwater are lost if they are not visible in a photo.
January, for many people is not a favorite month of the year, due to its low temperatures, snow and gloominess, became one of my favorite months, because of the great pleasure in the underwater world I had on one of the most beautiful islands in the world - Grand Cayman Island.
As well as last year, this year I was honored and got another opportunity to take part in one of the most popular underwater workshops and become one of twelve members of the team of underwater photographers.
The team was led by one of the greatest professional photographers in the field of underwater photography - Alex Mustard, who became a friend of mine and who has taught me a lot of important underwater tricks about underwater photography since we started cooperation. In the evening of January 16, the team of twelve people gathered in a well-known diving centre Ocean’s Frontiers, where Alex’s workshop has been held for years, to have a welcome drink. The team was comprised of a Norwegian, two Belgians, two Americans, four English, a couple from Venezuela and me. I really appreciate the fact that there was no age requirement for adventurous photographers, eager to catch some unique and memorable moments with their underwater cameras, during seven days of extraordinary enjoyment in perfect silence and beauty of underwater world.
The main topic of the workshop was the understanding and controlling light underwater, because all these wonderful colors underwater are lost if they are not visible in a photo. Coral reef which surrounds the island deserves to be shot in perfect light in a land scene made by computers, and the developed pictures are worth being in many albums or famous magazines. It’s not easy at all to take a good photo, if you haven’t got the sense for light, shadows, shapes and many other details. You should know what you expect of a photo and get focused, even though it may sometimes mean that you have to stay still in a spot underwater as long as there is any air in the tank.
This year we really worked on concentrating on the quality of light on subjects as well as the quantity, while shooting CFWA on the reefs, wide angle in the caverns, stingrays, sharks and macro too.
As always shark diving was something different with big challenge but an unforgettable experience was also the diving in Sting Ray City, where you feel inspired and overwhelmed by desire to take a perfect photo. Crystal clear water and rays those beautiful creatures, leave nobody indifferent, and therefore, they pose the great challenge, when it comes to taking unique photos.
Also diving during an earthquake in Grand Cayman will be something really most interesting for our scuba diving experience. No one was injured in the earthquake, which measured 5.8 on the Richter scale. I didn’t feel anything unusually but in a moment sound underwater was totally weird. It was only when we got back to shore that we heard it was an earthquake. After this dive I felt very bad because of big waves and shaking boat...
Alex felt something different then me:
"Thankfully it was only a minor earthquake, but even underwater it was clear all was not normal. The most obvious sign was the noise, a deep roaring, rumbling sound, not unlike the sound of the engines on a large ship. Anyone who has dived on the Breakwater in Plymouth when the ferry goes past will know what I mean".
"Immediately I looked up to try to see a ship, but soon realised the sound was something else. My next thought was that it was a free flow, but could see no bubbles. After about 15 seconds the sound stopped. No sand was stirred up and I didn't notice the any changes in the fish. All of which made me feel quite relieved as we had been diving at Snapper Hole, where the reef is cut with caves and caverns. I was glad I was not in an overhead environment when it was shaking".
Everyone is a little jumpy after the quake because of the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti but for us all of this was only interesting story for our scuba diving log books!
On the end of this story I would really like to thank Alex for sharing his knowledge and memorable moments with us!
THE CAYMAN ISLANDS
Desperately searching for the last remnants of the paradise an adventurer will inevitably stop at the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory. Comprising the islands of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and the Cayman Brac, The Cayman islands, nested in the northwest of the Caribbean Sea, about 400 miles (650 km) south of Miami, 180 miles (300 km) south of Cuba, and 195 miles (315 km) northwest of Jamaica, were sighted by Christopher Columbus on his disastrous and final voyage to the New World. Surprised by the numerous sea turtles he named the islands Las Tortugas, but this name was changed into the Cayman Islands after the Neo-Taino nation’s term (caiman) for alligator, by Sir Francis Drake, the first recorded English visitor to the islands.
The latest population estimate of the Cayman Islands is about 52,000, representing a mix of more than 100 nationalities, and about 60% of the population is of mixed race, mostly mixed African-European. The official language is English, and the islands are almost exclusively Christian. The capital and major city of the Cayman Islands, George Town, which is located on the south west coast of Grand Cayman, serves as a major cruise ship port, which brings in up to 22,000 tourists a day. When you decide to visit this exceptional tourist destination bear in mind that, if you are not American, British or Canadian citizen, you should apply for a tourist visa on time! And before packing your suitcases, don’t forget to choose the airline company to fly with to your destination. Flights, a hundred of them a week, are provided from several countries, including America, Great Britain and Canada, and if you start this journey in Serbia, via some of the European capitals, don’t forget to set your watch six hours earlier when you step on.
Moreover, if you are interested in plant and animal life, there are a few extraordinary endemic species on the Cayman Islands, one of which is the Silver Thatch Palm, that can’t be found anywhere else in the world except on this group of islands. Here you can also hear cries of some of very rare Cayman parrots whose habitats are particularly protected by the local community and authorities. For the underworld lovers, not far away there are the Cayman stingrays, more than thirty of them just in Stingray. It can be said that they are a real tourist attraction of the Cayman Islands considering the fact that annually about a hundred thousand tourists come to see, feed or swim with this unusually tame creatures. There is no place in the world where the stingrays are so accustomed to the presence of the visitors. They are friendly to the divers who bring them morsels of fish and squid to encourage their encounters, so with a gentle attitude and a good pair of fins, you will be allowed to approach and even join them in their patrols.
For divers and underwater explorers the Cayman Islands are especially attractive, since they are recognized as a birthplace of the recreational diving in the Caribbean. The underwater world exploring has been popularized since 1957 when scuba pioneer Bob Soto opened the Grand Cayman’s first dive shop. Since then Cayman Islands have been developing into one of the top five diving destinations, with more than 200 dive sites marked with moorings. If you ask the true lovers of scuba diving, adventurers ready to sail the world in search of memorable experience, they will all enthusiastically talk about the same: accessibility, azure sea, plenty of coral reefs, amazing rocks and lush underwater world. Great visibility, up to 150ft, is just another reason to dive right here. Besides, there are many professional trainers and guides whose experience and time are available to you, whether you head for the adventure from the shore or from one of, for this purpose, provided ships.
The three islands of the Cayman Islands are the exposed top of an underwater mountain. Underwater, the sides of this mountain are quite steep, vertical in some places, within as little as a few hundred meters from shore and make the perfect diving location. Each of three Cayman Islands has its own secrets and charm but what takes your breath away is the blending hues of green and light blue that eventually drop off into the cobalt blue. The walls dropping into this trench (starting anywhere from 40 feet or deeper) sport some of the finest coral and sponge formations and reef structures you will find anywhere. If you want to go beyond the standard 100 foot limit, there is an option. A deep sea submersible, allows braver adventurers (4 at a time) to view the fascinating marine life found in the realm beyond the penetration of light.
And don’t forget! Often lost in the shadow of their bigger sister, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman embody the essence of the Cayman Islands. Walk down the street and everyone will say hello, smile and wave. Forget about traffic jams, just choose your own hammock and relax. And, of course, prepare your diving equipment. Brac is also an ideal diving destination. Brac is an anomaly in these islands. Rather than being simply a low-lying limestone island, it actually has a rare bluff. ("Bluff" is "brac" in Scottish. The Scots were some of Cayman Brac's first residents.) The limestone cliffs present an imposing sight. The caves that riddle it are rumored to hold a chunk of Blackbeard's treasures. Once you are on Brac, join the expedition and be sure to explore the Russian destroyer, M/V Capt. Keith Tibbetts, sunk off Brac's shores in 1996, which offers the extraordinary view. The dive resorts, settled on the opposite side, the southwestern corner, offer access to some of the best sites off the island as well as giving relatively fast and easy access to Little Cayman.
So, whether you are thinking about learning how to dive and exploring the underwater world for the first time, or enriching your previous experiences as a professional diver, the Cayman Islands are just perfect. Natural beauty, the myriad of available services and activities as well as hospitability of the residents will make every moment you spend here absolutely unforgettable.