Out in Indonesia, two divers decided to make the last day of 2013 extremely special to finish the year out with a bang. Gerard, a TDI Advanced Trimix diver from France, accompanied Sandy, one of Blue Label Diving Indonesia’s tec instructors, on a deep trimix dive to 100m in Bunaken on New Years Eve. The duo executed the well-planned mission to 100 meters along the deep wall surrounding the volcano, Manado Tua, and said a bubbly good-bye to 2013!
Build up dives for the big one
Of course this dive was planned with utmost precision and was made only after a series of build-up dives around the various dive locations surrounding Bunaken island. To begin, Gerard and Sandy planned two extended range 60 and 50 meter dives. At this time both Gerard and Sandy were diving open circuit on twinsets. They took this opportunity to get use to diving with one another, go through a few safety drills to freshen up their skills and build some tolerance to nitrogen narcosis.
The following day they planned for 75 meters at Sachiko. This time Gerard chose a trimix of 16/25 and Sandy switched to her rebreather using a mix of 15/30. During the dive, they encountered three reef sharks, turtles, huge barracuda and a school of more than 15 massive dog-tooth tunas! There certainly was a good amount of activity happening at this depth!
One good discovery for Gerard on this 75 meter dive was not to accept such a high END (equivalent narcotic depth) for his dives. Although everything for the dive happened according to plan, Gerard was not happy with the level of narcosis he felt at 75 meters which was equivalent to diving air to almost 50 meters. From this dive he realized using an END of no more than 40 meters was a safer option for these extreme dives
With this in mind, the next day Gerard and Sandy aimed for 90 meters, which meant a good amount of gas blending and preparation the night before. They decided on a mix of 10/50 so their heads would be super clear at depth. In addition they were carrying three stages. This time the boat brought them to Lekuan III marooned in a bay area away from strong currents. Underwater they descended through different shades of blue until they encountered a beautiful violet blue at 90 meters. They were on the doorstep of the ocean’s twilight zone!
Deep trimix dive finally to 100m
With these dives under their belt, Gerard and Sandy made a day’s rest before New Year’s Eve and the challenge of going 100 meters. The usual blending, equipment checking, planning and analyzing took place the day before, with last minute checks being made in the morning. They had bottom mixes, travel gases and deco gases totaling 8 stage tanks between the two of them. The dive duo checked and rechecked everything and a bit of nerves could be sensed. The Two Fish main office were put on alert, safety gear was ready at hand and boat crew were given very specific instructions to follow. This type of dive had the potential of giving some very serious outcomes.
Finally the moment arrived to plunge into the water. Safety drills were done on the surface and then the two gave a brief look to the volcano looming overhead before their BCDs started deflating. Slightly under the surface they checked each other for bubbles, and after finding none they began their decent down the wall of Negeri. Colors began fading into purples, blues and blacks as they passed along the life of the upper reefs. At just over 6 minutes, Gerard and Sandy arrived at their destination – 100 meters under the surface of the huge volcano of Manado Tua.
This was the true twilight zone! It seemed they were at the beginning of an early night dive with the only colors showing under the glow of their torches. Full concentration was on the plan, but despite this, they saw some wonderful soft corals and little reef fish still buzzing around on the reef. Looking up overhead, almost as if in another world, they could see small silhouettes of the fish swimming above. The ocean transformed into a blue velvet curtain, displaying its mightiness and unfathomable depth.
Time was short with only seven minutes on the bottom and before Gerard and Sandy could believe it was time to head up. Almost two hours of decompression stops awaited them and with it some changing currents. Luckily, they both carried reef hooks for safety so they could hook into the rocks and hang at their mandatory stops without worry. After nearly two hours from leaving the surface, Gerard and Sandy popped their heads at the surface and looked again to the powerful volcano. They smiled and were ready to welcome 2014!