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28 June 2012

From Portland to Sharm El Sheikh and Beyond by Rob Hughes

Diver, Rob Hughes on the seabed working with air cylinders and hosepipe to make the bubble curtain

Image: Kirsten Tribe

‘Creating the Spectacle!’ 2012 Sounds like an Ad campaign for an Opticians but let me assure you its not. But you may think you need to get your eyes checked after you see what Artist Sue Austin has created with the help of C-Waves Diving Portland for the Cultural Olympiad.

I have to say first of all, it has been a privilege, not only for me but for C-Waves Diving to work with Sue Austin and her Co-producer Trish Wheatley over the past 18 months developing her original idea of performing under water in a jet powered Wheelchair challenging peoples understanding of disabilities.

After lots of trails and development in the swimming pool at Osprey Pool, Castletown, Portland, Sea Trails off shore and in the Fleet Lagoon Portland we where ready to film the project but it was winter time and UK waters are too cold. A decision had to be made after much discussion and various dive locations world wide being talked about. Sue announced that she had decided we needed to go to Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt in order to film in clear, warm water.

Camel Divers were great. Met us with a warm welcome at the airport and whisked straight through customs felt like a movie star even before we had started filming. Our two dive guides for the week Cathy and Tamer had no idea of what was about to land in their lap. Boy did they turn out to be the best! We could not have wished for better. Their understanding and knowledge of the area made them invaluable members of the team.

The dive sites they suggested where perfect for depth and surroundings underwater, with coral heads, white sandy sea bed and fish on stand by for the crowd scenes. Some people may think that diving the same two dive sites three times a day would be boring. I can tell you it was never the same, with all we had to achieve in a week we had no time to get bored. Everything we did revolved around setting up, filming, reviewing the footage and getting back in the water to get more footage. If not for Trish with the 360 degree rig, then for Norman’s Video footage.

It was great to see my original idea of creating a bubble curtain come to life in the Red Sea after our initial pool tests. Wow. What a set we where able to create, using this idea of a wall of bubbles, with Sue flying through them in her wheelchair looking, for all of the world, like a 21st century mermaid. 

I’m proud of my dive students Trish and Kelvin who learnt to dive because of this project and for the way they both took on so much that was above and beyond their level of training well done to you both. Just shows that some good UK diving can go a long way.

Mac our new dive master in training was not only pleased to be working on the project he was also very happy as he feels Sharm El Sheik is his second home.

Kirsten carried the team with all her cups of tea and enough lead to the dive site to sink a battle ship!

Handing over Sue’s safety in the water to Cathy and Tamer, complete strangers to me was with some fear and trepidation for Sue’s well being at first. But seeing them in the water with Sue soon put my mind to rest and allowed me to take a step back in order to keep an eye on the other members in the group. The camaraderie of the team really came together on the Tuesday evening when we where invited to give a presentation to all the other Camel Diving Instructors & divers from Camel Divings’ other dive schools in Sharm during their Tuesday evening get-togethers. This was a great opportunity to get feedback on our first uncut video footage and answer audience questions. We were overwhelmed with their enthusiasm for the spectacle we where creating.  

From my own first Discover Scuba dive off the beach in Sharm El Sheikh back in 1999 to returning with this Cultural Olympiad project has been a great journey. I would like to thank everyone who made it happen. A once in a lifetime opportunity so I thought, but we’ll see where the project takes us next!

It ain’t over till the mermaid swims….. and we’re back in July.