The ice is a bit close to dive here, but the scenery is stunning

Antarctic Cold Weather Gear

As the time to dive in the Antarctic gets closer and closer, we need to sort out dive equipment. We need two of many things and one of others. It really is no joke this diving in the cold business, indeed just being in the cold needs special gear. Most of us who live in Europe and enjoy an active lifestyle have waterproof trousers, a waterproof jacket and thermal underwear. If you don’t mountain warehouse has cheap trousers (£30) and good cheap merino wool underwear. Everyone owns a fleece, and you might need two. A buffalo shirt or a merino wool top is very useful as a mid layer, and a Norwegian army shirt is great as the layer above the thermals. For an outer jacket, I used an Arktis Avenger Jacket, which was way too heavy, but in all honestly I will take a long Keela next time, (which Keela are making for me now). Some people have down jackets or outer thermal jackets such as snugpak or Helikon. Both work fine, with snugpak possibly having the edge. But you don’t need Gucci equipment, you need clothing that works. The name tag means nothing.  we saw people with Berghaus, Mountain Equipment, Arcteryx and even one lad with an old fashioned oilskin.  On your feet, good wool socks from bridgedale or three pairs of Royal Navy Arctic socks from silvermans for £10 will do the job. In short, you need a good baselayer (thermal top), waterproof trousers and a few mid layers. A dry bag rucksack for going ashore is also very useful. Boots are provided by the expedition people.

All sorts of equipment can be used by landing Antarctic passengers, just so long as it works

Antarctic Dive Expedition Equipment

Diving in the Antarctic is diving a long way from home. You will need all your own gear, and a small amount of spare kit and a good “save the dive kit”. For if your scuiba set stops working on day one, you are “off games” for the rest of the expedition.

Again you do not need the most expensive dive equipment out there. You need reliable equipment that works. You need two regulators, a dry suit, and undersuit and a bcd. A good hood, a few pairs of gloves, mask fins snorkel and some spare hoses. We chose the aqualung core, as it is the cheapest cold water regulator available in the UK. (and we needed to buy two per person!)  Any working BCD will do,  I have a dive rite, Cisca has a scubapro. You will also need a basic computer such as an aladin 2G and you must have a watch. All of us dive with momentum watches.  We found the best value and the easiest to read was the Momentum Torpedo, made in Canada with a Japanese quartz movement these are ultra reliable.

You will also need under garments for your dry suit. We use Weezle under suits made by snugpak, the best British Sleeping bag company. Weezle went the extra mile for us, sending suits to be sized and then returned until we found the right sizes. They can be found at the US DEMA dive show if you want to meet them. (we also exhibit at the DEMA show)

With reference to the drysuit, we chose the excellent value Typhoon crushed Neoprene suit which cost around £650. This was made to measure by typhoon as I am an odd size. The whole process, from regulators to drysuits, fins, bladders, masks and even momentum watches, was managed by Mike’s dive store. Indeed Cisca was lucky enough to get  an off the shelf Typhoon. Mike’s dive store was so cheap compared to US and Canadian stores that many people on our Antarctic diving expedition decided to come to Mike’s and buy their kit. Godwin flew in from Toronto to get his dry suit made for him.  Other members bought other kit and we ordered bulk and had it shipped to our HQ in wales.

Steve Brown, the owner of Mike’s Dive Store, and his team were so helpful to us. Nothing was too much trouble for them. We asked for equipment that was not stocked and they got it delivered to us.  After the initial meetings, we simply bought everything online. This was remarkably easy, and as the orders increased,  we appointed Mike’s dive store, the official supplier to African and Oriental Antarctic Dive Expeditions. Steve gave us a single point of contact, and we were able to take advantage of his already excellent pricing. So if you are on our expedition and you need kit, we can get it for you, or put you in touch with Mikes’.

The MV Ortelius, one of the best Antarctic dive platforms afloat. We only use oceanwide and their vessels as they are the best.

The History of Mike’s Dive Store and Raf

There is history between me and Mike’s Dive Store. The first owner of Mikes’ dive store was good man called Mike Calder, I bought my first regulator from him in 1992 alongside a Mares 7mm suit that was impossible to get into. When I got into the diving business, he helped me set up my dive shop in India in 1995. No one else in the UK would give a discount for export trade. No manufacturer or distributor would sell me a regulator (or 10) for less than recommended retail.  Mike Calder thought this was asinine; and was unconventional! So crates of Seaquest BCD’s, technisub fins and Spiro Club regulators, left his warehouse in Twickenham and went to Heathrow airport. Mike literally put me on the dive map and I never forgot it.  He then supplied me with cylinders and ancillary kit when I worked in Africa from 1999-2017. Mike passed away way too early in 2006.  I missed his funeral as I was in Indonesia. The store carried on, and Mike’s son agreed to sell the store to Steve Brown as Steve had so much passion for diving, and more importantly the drive to keep the business going through the financial crisis. The connection between me and Mikes’ continued, as I knew Steve from when he was the Skipper of the MV Kiswani diving in Tanzania. After we sold our dive shop, Steve and I stayed in touch, and I bought a few items here and there.  But it was this Antarctic Dive Expedition that brought back the old relationship of our needing tons of gear for our team.  We are so proud to be dealing with team at Mike’s Dive Store. I for one will never forget the kindness that Big Mike Calder showed me in 1995, and appointing Steve and his awesome team as official suppliers to our expedition is our way of thanking Mike and Steve for always helping us.

Antarctica
The Lamaire Channel

In order to join an Antarctic Dive expedition, or to simply visit the Antarctic email Raf on info@orientafrica.com

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