7 months ago

AD 2016 Q2

As we pointed out in the spring 2013 edition of the Alert Diver, even being a dive buddy has potential legal implications. So, to bump this up a notch, what about the diver training organisations themselves? Where do they stand? How do they relate to South African law? Are they all considered the same under our legal system in spite of the differences in organisational structures and training programmes? How does this affect their respective instructors and trainee divers from a legal perspective? These are not exactly simple questions. It is certainly true that the respective training organisations differ in a number of ways. However, this does not imply that there are necessarily differential legal implications for each of them. In fact, under South African law, the legal principles are common in all matters. Therefore, if you suffer a loss and you (or your estate in the case of a fatality) wish to recover damages, the legal principles would be applied commonly; whether you are driving or diving. Although not a frequent occurrence, there have been quite a number of law suits associated with diving injuries and damages in South Africa. This is not surprising, as the occurrence of law suits is really a function of “numbers”. As training increases, so do the chances of injuries and, with it, the chances of legal recourse. So, it remains wise to insure yourself, your equipment or your business in a proper and effective way. But before getting back to the potential differences amongst the training agencies, let’s first explore the foundational legal principles on which any civil claim would be adjudicated: inherent risk, negligence and duty to take care.

Finding Treasure in the

Finding Treasure in the BVI TEXT AND PHOTOS BY TANYA G. BURNETT I have fond memories of snorkeling crystalline shallows beneath the lush hillsides of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) as a youth in the early 1970s. Back then, our friend’s sailboat navigated many a zigzag course across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to the islands’ various anchorages, each steeped in pirate folklore. Some 300 years ago the golden age of piracy was alive and well in these waters. That history of piracy, both real and fabricated, is still vividly prominent throughout these islands in bars, restaurants and location names. But as a kid I didn’t know I was frolicking amid the inspiration for the enchanting pages of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island — it was the islands’ underwater world that enchanted me. Now, after more than 30 years of diving around the globe, I am again suspended over that radiant blue water, geared up on the stern deck of a dive boat moored off of Salt Island. We are floating above one of the BVI’s most famous dive sites: the wreck of the RMS Rhone. I pierce the placid surface and waste no time heading down toward the swirls of color that glide and surge around the wreck. As I swim past the mast and the sponge-encrusted crow’s nest I find it hard to imagine the last hours aboard the 310-foot Royal Mail Ship. A hurricane in 1867 shoved the Rhone unrelentingly into Black Rock Point and sealed her fate. As I fin past shadowy recesses I see shimmers and flashes — a huge school of baitfish has taken up residence and darts about to avoid my strobe flashes. A pair of coney groupers lies on a rusty section of hull, awaiting the right moment to lunge and snatch a single silverside from the mercurial mass. It is little wonder that these vibrant remains are such a captivating and sought-after underwater backdrop for photographers and filmmakers. FIFTY ISLES IN EASY REACH The BVI comprise a double strand of 50-plus rocks, cays, islets and islands spread along the northeastern perimeter of the Caribbean, just east of Puerto Rico and [ the U.S. Virgin Islands. Affectionately referred to as “Nature’s Little Secrets,” the islands are gilded in tropical greens and range in size from Tortola at 21 square miles to tiny Sandy Cay, just big enough for a picnic with a few friends. Sixteen of these islands are inhabited, and most of the islands’ 28,000 residents live on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada or Jost Van Dyke. My home for the first few days of the trip was on Peter Island, which boasts five white-sand beaches and many remarkable vistas of the rest of the BVI. My bungalow featured a stunning view of Deadman’s Beach and, a mile out to sea, the distinct shape of Dead Chest Island. I soon learned that the island was alleged to be the place Blackbeard marooned 15 of his men, each equipped with a cutlass and a bottle of rum. They take their pirate lore seriously in these parts, so I felt it was best to embrace it all as fact and hope to uncover a doubloon somewhere along the way. WHERE THE TREASURE REALLY LIES At least 40 moored sites dot the waters of the BVI, marking an array of pinnacles, walls, tunnels, caves and shipwrecks. The shallows in the BVI are also some of the Caribbean’s finest, and many sites are ideally suited to multilevel profiles. The aforementioned wreck of the RMS Rhone, for instance, can be explored at several levels, and it takes at least two dives to experience it. Almost every dive on this unique site brings new discoveries; many artifacts remain, and large sections of the structure are remarkably intact, including a “lucky porthole” (rub it for good luck). Nearly every solid surface we swam past was splashed in gold, orange, crimson and indigo from decades of rampant coral, sponge and tunicate growth. The bow rests on its starboard side at 90 feet at its deepest point. My favorite area is the midsection; it features upright columnar framing at 60 feet, which allows huge “windows” for life to meander through against a blue background. The stern sits in less than 30 feet and offers an enormous bronze propeller that can be admired while offgassing at the end of a dive. [ 72 | SPRING 2016

A diver begins his descent onto the wreck of the RMS Rhone off Black Rock Point, Salt Island. [ ALERTDIVER.COM | 73

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