Raptures of the deep
By Mick Culling
This article was written before Mick died in December 2002.
Well here we go my first article for ADMAT.
I suppose I should really start by telling everybody a little about myself and how I became involved with ADMAT, well hear we go with the short version.
My name is Michael F Culling, Known as Big Mick to me friends I am 44 years young and married with two Boys, we live in Kingston upon Thames Surrey and have done so for about 17 years. I work full time for the Ministry of Defence in Security, based in Kingston.
I am a BSAC Advanced Diver, Club Instructor, Life saving Instructor, Boat handler, Oxy Admin, First Aid, Rescue Admin, Search and recovery, Dive planning and org, VHF radio op, Full face mask instructor. I have been diving since 1978.
I am also an Army Diving Sub Aqua Diving Supervisor and at present I am the Diving Officer of Londinium Military Diving Club Special Branch 1596 and have been for over 20 years.
I have planned and executed a number of expeditions for the army to various overseas locations, such as Cyprus (North & South), Ireland, Bermuda, New York, Germany, and have taught as a staff instructor in a number of Military Bases.
It was as a Result of one of my grander Expeditions, (Bermuda 1998) that Simon got in contact with me to see if we could do any thing for each other’s groups. This then led to a Military Expedition to the Dominican Republic in 2000 organised by ADMAT.
Having worked on a previous archaeological project in Bermuda for the National Maritime Museum it was interesting to work on another project that this time was a lot older than the previous one. Here we assisted Simon’s team in surveying the Perfume Wreck, and when the weather got too rough, the Tile Wreck was surveyed instead. The diving was excellent, and it was a real honour for my team to be allowed to assist in surveying a wreck, which probably sunk between 1690-1725! In 8 ft of water, it was as if someone had placed a wreck in a swimming pool and added the fish and reduced the visibility especially for us!
I learnt a lot about a number of things but most of all that the Dominican system of health and safety was non-existent in comparison with the British HSE rules and regulations. As a diving supervisor with a military unit, it was my job to try and bring the standard of operating mechanical equipment up to a safe operating level, by HSE levels that was safe for our divers, The diving standards were good, and to a high standard which was due to Simon’s experiences as a very senior Advance Instructor. However a few adjustments were required to the Hooker unit which we were also using, in addition to using tanks. I must say at this point it was not that Simon was doing anything knowingly unsafe it was just that you tend to adopt the standards of the place that you are in when you are there for any real length of time. In addition because the Dominican Republic does not have all the diving equipment available, some of the local practices were a culture shock e.g. using strips of inner tube as large “rubber Bands” to bind the hoses of the trash pumps. . so after a while you come to accept things that you would not normally.
I was very conscious to not outstay my welcome and had to diplomatically suggest a number of improvements to equipment which I must say were greeted very well and were actioned as soon as they could be much to my great relief and also without any distraction to Simon's busy schedule.
I am pleased to say that we built a good friendship over the recent times and now have grown to full involvement and support to ADMAT.
I am the first to admit that I am not an Archaeologist I am a Diver, but I do see the need to preserve our underwater heritage wherever it may be and it is my job as part of ADMAT to provide Equipment for all Diving operations and to Maintain safe diving practices when diving on projects.
To this end I am in the process of along with Simon in planning a number of courses to be run in the UK by ADMAT to enable prospective students and Volunteers to gain the core skills to work on a site in a safe environment before they end up on a site. Simon’s new “Underwater Survey Diver” has proved very successful. It is good to see a practical course enabling divers and members of ADMAT to learn new essential skills, which will be used on our projects.
I am sorry if this first attempt has been a little dry but I thought that it was important that you knew a little about all of us here at ADMAT Central, I will promise to lighten up a little bit for the next issue but in the mean time DIVE SAFELY, DIVE A LOT, KEEP STUDYING, AND COME ON OUR COURSES.