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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.

On one Rhone excursion,

On one Rhone excursion, the divemaster helped me find a coral-encrusted spoon on the wreck that is rumored to be the captain’s silver teaspoon. The divemaster had set the stage for this discovery in elaborate fashion during his briefing. I had to admit it looked authentic — maybe too authentic, but I felt no inclination to argue about it — legends seem to grow like coral in these waters. Another must-dive site was Blonde Rock, located in mid-channel not far from the Rhone. During our descent we could see that every square inch of ocean-floor real estate was covered with sea fans, large sea rods, pillar corals and a garden of gently dancing soft corals. The labyrinthine topography features a striking ledge with deep overhangs filled with schooling jacks, snappers, chubs and a colorful riot of crustaceans, including lobsters, huge channel clinging crabs and banded coral shrimp. A sleeping nurse shark almost ran into me as I peered deeper under one ledge. Just as I started my ascent I could see dense schools of yellow wrasse gathered in the shallows for their late-afternoon spawning ritual. They collectively rose from the bottom and then exploded like yellow confetti away from the spawn event. The next place I dived was an open-ocean site not far from Peter Island called Shark Point. This is an unusual dive site that ranges in depth from 20 to 80 feet. The underwater terrain consists of a series of rocky pinnacles, some rising to within a few fin-kicks of the surface. Much to my delight, larger pelagics such as eagle rays and reef sharks tend to keep things exciting here, so you learn to keep one eye on the blue. Three Caribbean reef sharks made pass after pass, while a large school of silvery bar jacks swarmed around us. An easy boat ride away, Painted Walls made for a great second dive after Shark Point. Here the converging walls and valleys are a canvas for marine life to work its Jackson Pollock-style artistry. We made our way through the meandering vertical faces draped with tropical shades of mango, passionfruit, lime, turmeric and cinnamon. Our divemaster had wisely recommended bringing a light to reveal the true intensity of the vibrant hues and to explore the shadows for hidden surprises. From my second BVI home on Scrub Island I set out on a sojourn to The Chimney, which is named after surface rocks that submerge just enough to create a swim-through. The seas were a bit bumpy on the way out, but the water to the north of Great Dog Island was calm and provided unreal visibility. The fairly shallow site (45 feet) offered some great photo opportunities. In one of its many canyons, the coral-laden walls eventually led to a picturesque archway where the chimney rocks came to a meeting point. My focus light illuminated brilliant scarlet sponge growth and tangerine-colored cup coral lining the walls of the arch. As the week progressed, we ventured to the aptly named Wreck Alley off of Cooper Island. The site consists of the Beata and Pat tugboats and the Marie L cargo boat, all intentionally sunk to create marine habitat. This site is a magnet for larger pelagics and southern rays. The wrecks are small enough for easy circumnavigation, and encrusting growth is overtaking the structures. During our dive we had very little current and an incursion of incalculable numbers of moon jellies. What started out as a somewhat eerie experience transformed into a surreal and mesmerizing through-the-looking-glass dive as we gently pushed aside the harmless pulsing blobs of translucence and finned as carefully as progress allowed. The wrecks were virtually draped in jellies, whose constant motion made the structures appear strangely amorphous and alive. Back on the surface I was babbling like a mad woman about how it was better than many of the more famous “jellyfish lakes” I had seen. But our divemaster insisted this was the only time she had ever seen anything like it. I didn’t reach Anegada on this trip, though from past experience I know its reefs are stunning and its allure is substantial on many levels. The 10-mile-long island is the only nonvolcanic island in the chain, and it features spectacular 18-mile-long Horseshoe Reef. With so many shallow reefs, the snorkeling and diving are superb, but Anegada’s reefs have proven treacherous as well. They’ve claimed more than 300 ships, and a number of the remaining wreck sites are dive-worthy and fascinating. Those pirates who learned the reefs well often used the mazelike waters to their advantage. Of course there are plenty of legends about pirate treasure in Anegada’s environs. On my last day I woke determined to get to one more famous and very special location: The Baths on Virgin Gorda. I was still on Scrub Island, but it’s easy to get around in the BVI. After a quick ferry ride to Beef Island followed by another to Virgin Gorda, I rented a car and set off. I was on the hunt for treasure, and I would not be denied. Gold doubloons would be nice, [Opposite, clockwise from top left: Moon jellies on the Beata, a tugboat that’s part of Wreck Alley off Cooper Island; sponge growth on the Rhone; a dive boat secured to one of the BVI’s many mooring buoys; silversides in the Rhone’s bow section; a reef shark; The Baths, Virgin Gorda; wreckage of the Rhone; nurse shark with remoras at Painted Walls 74 | SPRING 2016

[ “WHAT STARTED OUT AS A SOMEWHAT EERIE EXPERIENCE TRANSFORMED INTO A SURREAL AND MESMERIZING THROUGH-THE-LOOKING-GLASS DIVE AS WE GENTLY PUSHED ASIDE THE HARMLESS PULSING BLOBS OF TRANSLUCENCE....” [ ALERTDIVER.COM | 75

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