Guest blogs from Army Divers in 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC

19th June 2017

Army Diver Blogs

For a week last month we were joined by 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC from Southampton, we asked Andrew and Marc, two of the Army Divers some questions.

What is your name and what is your job/rank?

My name is Andrew Bingham and I am a Lance Corporal Marine Engineer Diver posted in 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC.

What does your normal day entail?

Day to day I work on the thrustmaster engine for the mexeflote raft. I carry out services and general maintenance on the engines and raft ancillaries. As well as conducting various tasks in which I will operate the engines out on the water as a second engineer.

I am also a maintainer of all the diving equipment my regiment currently holds, so part of my job includes servicing that equipment as well.

What have you been working on with this special project with the NMA?

Prior to the event I assisted in the servicing and preparation of the diving equipment the team would be using during the task with the NMA. In the tank I personally scrubbed algae of the walls and tank bottom, disassembled the holding tank in the water and helped lay the new tank bottom.

What has been your favourite part?

My favourite part of the task was my first dive of the week, I took my first look at the occupants of the tank from underwater and saw what truly lay in store for us. The size of the fish, rays and sharks who’s homes I was rudely intruding on really got the pulse racing. It truly was one of the best experiences of my life and I find it hard to believe how lucky I am to have taken part in this task.

What challenges were there?

The biggest challenge for me was the first dive and being with the marine life in the tank. However, after being in there for a short while I grew comfortable with the situation and my surroundings, after that I fear my biggest challenge was resisting helping myself to the incredibly delicious café in the aquarium.

What would you recommend to students getting into diving?

On top of everything look after your fitness and your health, because this is such a physically demanding field it has been made abundantly clear to me that you need to be a very healthy individual to make the job easier on yourself. However, there are so many amazing opportunities to do your job in interesting places, such as the NMA, and because of what it has offered to me. I would recommend this job to anyone and everyone.

How did you find diving in the Atlantic Ocean tank/ who was your favourite animal?

I was very intimidated by all the marine life in the tank at first, however I was excited by the opportunity presented, so I pushed through and am so grateful for the chance. It was also nice to be diving in a tank with clear water which makes a change to the half meter visibility that we normally have to deal with.

My favourite animal was either the large Sand Tiger Shark, mostly because it gave me a fantastic photo opportunity (below) or the turtle because ever since I saw one when I was snorkelling in Egypt many years ago I have wanted to get up close to one again.

What is your name and what is your job/rank?

Hi, I’m 2 Lt Marc Woollacott and I’m a Troop Commander at 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC.

What does your normal day entail?

I’ve been in the Regiment for about six months and I can honestly say that no two days are ever the same. I’ve organised and gone out on a range of events, from careers fairs to military exercises focused on ‘green’s skills’, from representing the regiment at Mountain Biking events and races to siting at my desk writing reports. It’s a really varied job, which is what attracted me in the first place.

What have you been working on with this special project with the NMA?

We’ve been helping the aquarium with a range of tasks that help to maintain the Atlantic Ocean Exhibit. Scrubbing the artificial reef of Sea anemones, spreading aggregate (a mixture of broken sea shells and pebbles) on the tank bed, and dismantling a holding tank in which young or new fish are held whilst they get used to their new surroundings. All of which helps to ensure that the animals in the exhibit remain happy and healthy in their surroundings.

What has been your favourite part?

It has to have been getting in to a tank with such a huge variety of species, they’re such fascinating animals! Where else would you get the opportunity to get so close to so many different sea creatures? It truly has been a tick off the bucket list!

What challenges were there?

Whenever we dive, due to the nature of some of the diving equipment we use, there are a lot of additional bits of equipment we need to take with us to the dive site. In this instance, the dive site was at the top of the deepest and largest tank in the UK, which has a lot more steps, doors and corridors to navigate than other sites! However, the reward was well worth the leg work.

What would you recommend to students considering getting into diving?

I would say do it! It’s a very rewarding and exciting activity. I think the best bit of advice would be to get in to diving through a club or organisation so as to do it as safely as possible. Going through a club or organisation also allows you to gain qualifications that are recognised nationally, some internationally, whilst also allowing you to meet people that share your enjoyment of diving. If you have never tried diving at all, most clubs and organisations provide ‘try dives’ in a swimming pool so you can see if you like it before venturing into open water.

How did you find diving in the Atlantic Ocean Tank and who was your favourite animal?

Diving in the tank was a once in a life time experience, I am very jealous of the NMA staff who get to do it for a day job! All of the animals were amazing, the streamlined barracuda, the powerful sharks and cheeky Green turtle, but I think my favourite animals were the cow nose rays. They were the most inquisitive and they definitely hadn’t heard of personal space!

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