It sounded like the perfect place to run a CCR Course. A tropical island, clear visibility, warm waters and calm seas. An instructors dream teaching location. However, for the guys who completed their TDI Hollis Prism 2 CCR Course on Heron Island in Queensland, it was far from the exotic postcard destination for which we all crave.
Heron Island was the location for this year’s Oceanic Scuba Centres Conference. Over 80 Oceanic dealers from all over Australia traveled to this remote island in the Great Barrier Reef for the momentous event. As always, Oceanic put together a great conference, with some very informative presentations and, of course, the launch of their new products for the upcoming year.
One of the star attractions at the conference was the official launch of the Hollis Prism 2 Rebreather. It has been a long time coming, but well worth the wait. The guys at Hollis have certainly produced a good unit worthy of its place in the CCR market. Having kept true to their word, Hollis has improved on the older Prism Topaz by keeping all the great features of the original reliable work horse, and adding some more up to date features to make the Hollis Prism 2 an attractive and user friendly CCR.
With lots of talk and excitement about the unit, Matthew Addison (TDI Hollis Prism 2 Instructor & AUP Training Director) and myself ran a few trial dives on the unit in the resort pool. The feedback from all who participated was very positive. It was a great opportunity to promote a product which was very foreign to most of these experienced dive store owners. It was also a great opportunity to enlighten these dealers on the prospects they may be able to foster in their own stores in starting a CCR culture amongst their customer base.
On completion of the conference, Matt and I would stay on the island for a further 5 days to run the first TDI Hollis Prism 2 Air Diluent Course for 8 dealers who had committed to purchasing units, and complete the course on the island.
Oceanic Australia had organized the delivery of 9 units to the island. I had organized the rest of the logistics to ensure the course would run as smoothly as possible in such a remote area. Sorb, oxygen, bailout rigging, tanks and a booster all had to be shipped in, as none of these were available on the island.
The first day was spent going over the online theory and then the familiarization of all the components of the unit. The class then assembled the units for the first time and completed all the checks necessary to get the unit ready to dive. We were privileged to have Chauncey Chapman with us at the conference. Chauncey, who works for AUP designed, built and tested the new Prism 2, was invaluable with his knowledge of the unit and it’s workings. His input and advice throughout the course was certainly appreciated by instructors and students alike.
The next morning, it was time to dive the units for the first time. After a detailed briefing, all the students jumped in the pool with their units for the confined water session. It was a great opportunity to get trim and buoyancy under control. Also for those who had never dived a CCR before, it was the perfect time to acclimatize to a new way of diving. The pool was salt water, so it made it easy to weight ourselves correctly before the open water dives. After a week of looking at the unit and talking about it, the happy faces in the pool told the story. Some very impressed divers.
That afternoon, it was time for the first Open Water Dive. At this point, the sun decided to take a holiday somewhere else and the wind started to pick up. We were doing a shore dive first up, so this was not really a problem. However, after we descended and started heading out the small channel, which is used by the ferry to drop off customers to the island, we also had to contend with some impaired visibility. It was only when we got out of the channel into some open water that the visibility cleared up. Luckily, Matt and I kept the group nice and tight and after an hour and a half of swimming and skills, we were back at the pier with dive one completed.
Day 2 and 3 of diving consisted of more skills and more complex diving on the unit. Manual operation of the unit was introduced and all the students continued to build on their skills and knowledge as each dive was completed.
The weather was getting worse as each day passed with the rain getting heavier and nonstop and the wind increasing in its intensity.
Some late nights were had filling tanks and preparing for each day. Matt and I were lucky to have had the assistance of two instructor candidates and Jason Blackwell and Brian Mecklem got an eye opening experience into running a CCR course in a remote destination. Their help and assistance was invaluable and Matt and I certainly appreciated their input through the course.
On the second last dive of the course, we thought we might have caught a break from the weather. It seemed like the wind had dropped a bit and the boat skipper decided to take us to a nice dive site that we could get a bit of depth on. When we got there it all looked good, we got ready and began to jump into the water. Then we realized that maybe this was not an appropriate dive site for CCR training! As soon as we hit the water, we were subjected to very strong currents. It was not evident on the surface. We had talked to the students on previous debriefs about the importance of not over breathing the unit and not overworking whist on the loop. Luckily, only half the class had jumped in the water before we realized what was happening. I was very pleased with the way the students handled themselves, especially the ones that bailed out as soon as they realized they were in a strong current, and calmly ascended. Quite obviously, I was not impressed with the situation however, relieved once everyone was back on board the boat. A lesson learned, and the skipper then took us to a calmer location where after the experience of the first attempt, we proceeded with much more caution..
The last day and last dive was a welcoming and encouraging dive for Matt and I as instructors. It was a big group we were dealing with and some weather that was borderline at times. However, we were particularly impressed with not only the students skill level and awareness, but more so the enthusiasm and genuine excitement that they had despite the below par conditions.
The last dive was a breeze. All the students looked like CCR divers: nice trim, good buoyancy control and good awareness of how to fly their units.
Back on the boat after the dive, understandably, Matt and I were relieved that the course was completed, and quietly satisfied that we had produced some responsible and competent rebreather divers.
Of course, as soon as we finished, the sun came out and the winds dropped.Go figure!!
A special thanks to Matt Addison whom I enjoyed team teaching with and learnt a lot from. Chauncey Chapman’s input through the course was awesome.The two instructor trainees Jason and Brian, whom I’m sure got a lot out of the course, thanks guys for your help. Also a big thanks to Michelle and Troy Stephenson, our SDI/TDI representatives who were at the conference and were invaluable in ensuring the course ran smoothly and that everyone had all the materials they needed. Lastly, thank you to the team at Oceanic Australia for having the initiative to run a course on the island and ensure all the logistics came together.
The Hollis Prism 2 has the potential to be a very popular unit and from the response of people on the island and the students completing the course, I think you will hear a lot of talk about this unit over the coming months.
About the author:
Rubens Monaco is an active SDI and TDI Instructor Trainer in the South East of Australia and owns and operates a very successful dive center, IDC Scuba.
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