Pohang Diving – July 11-12, 2015

Congratulation to Nick Pappe, our newest 38th Parallel diver who completed his PADI Open Water certification and Enriched Air Diver (EANx/Nitrox) certification on July 12 at AquaBelle Dive Resort Pohang,  Korea. We were able to complete 4 amazing boat dives off Josa-ri (Beach). The water was a warm 20c, plenty of fish and around 6 meters of visibly.  Great conditions to learn and enjoy the dives, way to go Nick can’t wait to dive with you again.

Ulleongdo and Dokdo

38th Parallel Divers Ulleongdo

This past weekend we went to the “Mysterious Island Ulleongdo” and Dokdo to take in the beautiful sights of a less populated Korea.  This has to be one of the most beautiful places in Korea…hands down.  Ulleongdo is an amazing place that is barely touched by tourism and people.  It has enough infrastructure to make it an enjoyable trip but not too much as to take away from the raw natural beauty of the island and surrounding clear fish-filled waters.  Most of our posts are purely revolving around diving.  It would be an injustice to only talk about the diving on the amazing island so please bear with me while I talk about some of the other things that this island has to offer…plus these are good negotiation points for those family members who are non-divers…just saying.

The Trip

Ulleongdo Tourist MapIt is no small feat getting to Ulleongdo and Dokdo.  Our Trip looked something like this:

Trip To (starts Thursday night):

  1. Drive – Thursday night drive to the east coast immediately after work, 1800 – 2130 (3.5 hours)
  2. Sleep in a hotel Thursday night
  3. Friday morning drive to port and park car, 0800
  4. Ferry – Mukho Port (Donghae) to Sadong Harbor (Ulleongdo), 0900 – 1200 (3 hours)

On a separate day (total trip takes roughly 4.5 hours with load/unload times etc):

  1. Ulleongdo to Dokdo, 1.5 hours
  2. Dokdo to Ulleongdo, 1.5 hours

Return Trip (Monday late night):

  1. Ferry – Sadong Harbor (Ulleongdo) to Mukho Port (Donghae), 1800-2100
  2. Drive – Donghae to Home, 2130 – 0100 (3.5 hours)

The Food

Tiger Cow 칡소

Ulleongdo is know for seafood especially squid, what most foreigners don’t know is that there are 3 other amazing foods to eat on the island… 1. tiger beef (칡소).  The tiger beef is so delicious thanks to some great marbling that give wonderful juicy flavors throughout.  The only downside to this beef is that it isn’t cheap…for a portion of beef slightly smaller than what one could get on the mainland we had to fork over approximately 50,000 krw each.  Definitely not a meal for those who might be budget minded.  

The other hand-down amazing MUST EAT dish are the special shrimp that are only found in this region.  I have eaten tons of shrimp and prawn in my lifetime and nothing (yes I mean absolutely without a doubt NOTHING) comes close to the amazing taste of these shrimp.  So much so that I recommend that everyone try them despite their high price.  Before I tell you the cost let me explain what these shrimp are.  The first shrimp are called chicken shrimp and they have a sharp pointy shell that takes some care when pealing apart.  The second shrimp is called flower shrimp and has white stripes that go the flower shrimplength of the shrimp.  Many westerners don’t eat the best part chicken shrimpof the shrimp, the stuff from the head area…do not miss this delicious part.  Mainly because it is wonderful but also because the store owner will yell at you and wonder why on earth you left this behind.  The shrimp is cooked in a very simple manner…it is boiled in plain water, no seasoning required.  Now for the bad news.  For only 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of shrimp the cost is about 80,000 krw.  

The Diving

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 22.56.08We dove with a great dive shop that truly catered to us and were excellent hosts.  The shop was Ulleong Dive Resort and they spoke enough English to get us everything that we needed to log 2 beautiful dives.  The shop has a large boat equipped with a sun shade roof, lots of room, plenty of power to speed you out around the island and even a small bathroom.  The dive shop met some of our divers at the port to pickup their gear and take it to the diveshop.  They kindly let us store our gear at the shop until our dive day.  They also let us pick the time to dive so we didn’t have to rush or operate on anyone else’s schedule.  This was another great point of diving with Ulleong Dive Resort.

Since we dropped off our bags they noticed our eye-catching emblem on our dive bags and looked up our website.  When we arrived at the shop to dive they told us they watched all of our videos and were amazed to see how much we have dove in South Korea.  They were excited to dive with us!  Ulleong Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 22.59.03dive resort did Ulleong Fishnot disappoint and for our first dive they dropped us off near the
north eastern tip of Ulleong-do .  This dive site started at 20 meters and sloped off to about 40m and then sharply dropped off into a very deep shelf.  The water was cloudy to about 17 meters and then cleared up greatly around 30 meters.  We saw small schools of fish which included many different varieties.  The water temperature was a beautiful 16C with an average visibility of about 15 -20 meters…extremely ice compared to our normal east coast diving.

Ulleong FishScreen Shot 2015-07-08 at 23.06.31The second dive site was Juk island (Juk-do).  This was basically a beautiful long safety stop that allowed us to see parrot, trigger and many other fish to include a very odd translucent fish.  At first we all thought it was a jell fish but one of us accidentally touched one to discover it was hard like a fish not a jelly.  Looking closely we could see clear bones, a moving mouth and internal working organs…definitely one of the strangest creatures I have ever seen.  After a beautiful 45 minute warm (relatively) dive in clear waters we ascended from our 11m – 5m shallow dive…all bearing giant smiles.  We got back on the boat and snapped some pictures with our new friends taking the opportunity to get some pics with our new banner to represent our club.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 23.06.59Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 22.58.09Once back on shore we cleaned our gear and hung it to dry.  We walked around the area looking at beach entry sites for training and night diving…yes there is plenty of night diving here!  The waters around the dive shop have plenty of shallow areas to conduct shallow training dives as well as deep dives only a short swim away.  Simply put this place was amazing…and we will definitely be arranging a group trip back.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 23.01.24

Dive Sites:

  • #1: Gwaneumdo(island) – pyeong bawi(flat rock)
  • #2: Jukdo (island)

Costs:

  • Basic Room at dive shop 50,000 krw per room per night (floor sleeping)
  • Dive/Boat fees: *90,000 krw per person per trip (2 dives)
  • Air only (no nitrox)

*price can be more depending on number of person on boat trip.  Usually there is a minimum amount due to fuel costs.

Dokdo

Many westerners don’t know about Dokdo.  Dokdo (island) is contested by the Japanese for ownership.  However it is currently occupied by Korea’s police and there is also a couple that lives on the island.  It was no small feat the we actually were able to set foot on the island.  There is no proper dock for the ferry to offload/load passengers.  The police and crew assist passengers getting on and off the ferry by holding a small ramp that rocks wildly in the waves.  The weather held out long enough for us to touch down on Dokdo however we weren’t allowed to climb the top due to time constraints.  The waves were knocking the ferry around and we were called back to the boat early.  Thankfully we were able to take a few snap shots (even with our banner) to make this amazing event.  Especially since we traveled 1 hour and 50 minutes from Ulleongdo to get there.  The water were amazingly clean and clear.  People were scurrying about to snap photos of their pilgrimage.  After 15 minutes or so we were getting back o the boat and headed back to Ulleongdo.

So much to do

There is so much to do for non-divers that everyone had fun even on dive days.  The minimum amount of time needed to log some dives and sightsee is a 4 day weekend.  First and last days being half travel days, 1/2 day of diving, and 1 1/2day dedicated non-diving (to include Dokdo)…this is enough to scratch the surface.  When we go back we will be focusing on diving and logging many dives in the area.

The only downside…

The only and yes only downside to Ulleongdo is that if you do not like Korean side-dishes or seafood you need to bring your own food supply.  Everything has seafood in it here, which is good but it is nice to have some western friendly food…for us we like at a minimum to have a western breakfast.  We really like eggs sandwiches.  I will say one caveat…the hotel we did stay at had a great coffee/breakfast shop and the lady did let us know that if we told her in advance she would have made us egg and toast for breakfast (for a fee of course).  The shop did serve fruit and nut yoghurt which was great but didn’t quite fill us up for all the walking, hiking and diving we did.  We will definitely take the lady up on her offer for western breakfast.

Simply put if you need non-seafood or western meals we suggest you bring some brats/hotdogs or peanut butter and jelly.

More information…

However if you are interested in what else we did besides diving (along with pricing information) please check out the BackpackBees Blog (post pending).

We are back!!

First Dive Trip 2015

Ok Ok we know…we have been gone a LONG time.  Since the PADI IDC, IE, Specialty Instructor Course and finally obtaining several Master Scuba Diver Training ratings we decided we would treat ourselves with waiting for some warmer weather before beginning the season.  We had a great weekend.  We met some new divers Jonathan and Stacey (my apologies if I misspelled either) and logged a few dives.  We are currently uploading the photos and will be editing the video shortly.  Check back in the next day or two for the video and photos.

Thanks again to Namae Scuba (aka Namae Dive Center) for an excellent weekend!

Yeongdeok Daejin Scuba


1412064200223What a weekend !!! The past weekend was a big one filled with a lot of adventure and new experiences. We went down to explore the seas at Yeongdeok (The town famous for crabs) It was a long drive but also a beautiful drive to get to the resort. As we stopped at the resort we were greeted with big smiles and willingness to help us get started. The one boat captain called on his daughter who is a junior in high school to come help us with some English translations. Our first dive was a beach dive to just to get everybody use to the water again and we also did a search and recovery dive. We did a deep dive to 26m which was cut short due to poor visibility. We decided to continue diving the following day in hope for better conditions. We had 1 night diver which we conducted in the comfort of the harbor and actually saw an abundance of sea life down in the dark. 

The evening was quite eventful. One of the owners of the resort invited all of us to join them for dinner and the nightly festivities which included barbecued pork belly to fill the bellies of just about the whole town and by my standards it was the best pork I have ever had in Korea. This was followed by another instructor making a chicken soup and another instructor serving us some sea cucumbers and so on. Felt like each instructor took their turn in serving and sharing some new experiences with us. And among all the festivities and feasting we promised our fellow Korean divers that we would dive with them the next morning at 7am pffff. That seemed like a good idea at the time. 

The next morning we were all finally ready at 8:30 and did our first dive for the day down to the wreck again with much more favorable conditions. The thermocline hit us quite hard at 19m but the visibility was much better and the wreck was really cool. We explored the wreck and then the resort instructor guided us to the underwater crab statues. After that dive some breakfast burritos were served up and thanks to Sora for pre-preparing them some studying and Knowledge reviews followed. Our last 2 dives were Search and recovery dives in which almost everyone were certified for.

Yeongdeok was an amazing experience with some fantastic people who were really kind and helpful to us. We would love to return to this gem of a dive site. Thank you to all who made this possible…CONGRATS to the new specialty and Advanced Open Water divers from this past weekend!  We are always looking for more 38th Parallel Divers!

2014 Labor Day Weekend Dive Trip

This weekend we took advantage of the 3 day weekend that most of us had and we headed to the East Coast for some fun diving and training.  Our newest instructors (George, Larry and Mike) had multiple students and certifications to conduct.  We had Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Deep Diver Specialty, Peak Performance Specialty and the AWARE Specialty.  This was definitely a great way to kick off our first weekend training event post-IDC.  We also linked up with some fun divers and students from Aquatic Frontier’s group who got some of our swag.  Thanks guys!  It was great diving with all of you as well.

Mike cooking the bacon for the egg, cheese, bacon sandwichesWe started Saturday morning off by cooking our divers breakfast making sure to feed the grumbling stomachs and fuel the divers for a busy day.  We broke out our cast iron skillet and our Korean portable stove and went to town on some thick cut bacon and eggs… and even some turkey bacon for those health focused people out there.  With bellies fed we started into our dive shop orientation and dive briefings for the skills.Sunrise on the Korean East Coast

Saturday we had excellent warmth and visibility.  Saturday finished up Michael’s Peak Performance Buoyancy and half of Mandy’s Advanced Open Water (AOW) and JuJu’s Open Water (OW) courses respectively.  Our students had such a great day we were honored with requests to add additional specialties to their trip.  Sunday finished up Mandy’s AOW, JuJu’s OW and all but one dive of Michael’s Deep Diver specialty.

Sunday evening after diving we headed into Sacheon beach for some great Pat Bing Su (Red Bean Shaved Ice with fruit and ice cream) and coffee’s.  After that nice treat we headed back to the dive shop to start the grill to grill up some cheese burgers and some adult beverages. We finished up an AWARE Specialty at dinner time too.  After we were fed and ready to head to bed we met up with some new instructors form the recent (finished that day) graduates of the Korea IDC/IE.  We went over to congratulate them and they invited us to have some food and drinks with them.  It was a great night to sit around the table with people from all over the world and share this love of diving.  Congrats new instructors and thank-you for sharing!

Mike and Larry before the Deep DiveMonday morning came early…we had one last dive to conduct for our Deep Diver Specialty, a 30M dive!  We woke up around 7am to fire up the stove and get some food on the skillet (eggs, bacon and hashbrowns). Now that we were fed it was time to gear up to dive briefings and pre-dive checks.  Once again we had some great visibility and warm waters this time we had a strong current.  For this dive we had all the new instructors, the shop owners, most of the shop workers and even the Course Director go with us.  We had a great dive, it was awesome getting a chance to dive with everyone that always makes sure we have great trips…the crew at Namae Dive Shop is amazing!  With that dive complete our final student of the weekend finished his Deep Diver Specialty…congrats Michael!  You did some great diving this weekend, it is great to see the improvement you have made since our first Scuba Tune-up session, stay wet.Seorak Mountain View

Since we were traveling back on a Monday versus a Sunday we decided to take the scenic route back.  We drove through Seorak Mountains and were able to take our time and enjoy the beautiful weather.  What an amazing weekend.  Thanks again to all of our students that we had as well as the new friends we met from Aquatic Frontier’s group.  Hope to see everyone in the water soon!

Most people think that Labor day (beginning of September) signifies the end of the summer…for us (38th Parallel Divers) this marks the beginning of the best diving in Korea.  From now thru November-December the water is warmer than any other time of the year.  The ocean is generally more clear and better weather.  So come join us…check out our Facebook Event page for more details.  We have an Open Water course starting shortly (confined water 13-14 Sept / Ocean 20-21 Sept) AND an Advanced Open Water / Specialty Diving weekend 27-28 September.

Get Certified NOW! – Special Pricing for our Divers

Pool

We will be offering VERY SPECIAL pricing for all our club members for a LIMITED TIME. Any 38th Parallel Diver member will be getting PADI Open Water Diver certification for $395. We will also be offering several specialties at VERY low prices too (Sidemount, Nitrox/Enriched Air, Deep, Wreck, Navigation, Search & Recovery, Night, Gas Blender, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Project AWARE Conservation).

This includes: Required Study Materials, Processing Fees, Pool Training*, Gear Rental, Ocean Training, Transportation to dive site (if local but can schedule a meet-up and ride out), Motel room 1 night, Ocean Day 1 lunch (dinner is on your own), Ocean Day 2 breakfast (lunch/dinner will be at rest area on way back on your own).

So how do you become a member? Easy, simply “LIKE US” on our Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/38thParallelDivers Or click “LIKE” to the right—>

*only exception is that it is based on pool availability, if our local pool isn’t available there would be a cost to use Suwon/Seoul (or other) pool.

2014 Pre-Season Check Dive

So we went to the Suwon World Cup Pool on March 20th to check out new equipment that was purchased over the winter and to get our current equipment back in the water. We wanted to get wet to go over our Tec and rebreather configurations as well as get time to practice some buoyancy and gear configurations.

First note: During the week is the ABSOLUTE BEST time to go to the pool, we had the entire pool to ourselves (almost).

We were lucky to make a new contact with an Aqua Lung International and AquaLung USA representative. Coincidentally they were showing off some of their shallow-water (O2 only) rebreathers off to some ROK military. It was pretty cool watching these guys in the water. We also were able to meet up with some Korean friends from Young Jin Technical Scuba Shop. Our favorite Young Jin instructor had about 6 new students with her fro entry level recreational diving. It is always great to see a friendly face.

Since we had the pool all to ourselves for most of the time we were able to use all the underwater hula-hoops, ascent/descent lines and have a free-for all without worrying about others.

Hollis M3 Mask

We also tested out some new equipment, the Hollis M3 mask. The Hollis M3 mask turned out to be an amazing new addition to our equipment. We have tried many masks in the past from several manufacturers but this one is our new favorite. The glass is CRYSTAL clear providing an excellent amount of light in. The side skirts are black which allow for easier focusing and less distractions from peripheral shadows. Our last mask we dove was the Hollis M1 mask (round edges) and we were wintering if we were going to find anything that could come close to this mask. The M1 offers a great FOV (field of view) and extremely low profile…WAS our go-to mask of choice until we laid our hands (and face) on the M3.

The M3 also has an extremely low profile and has a great FOV. The glass is Crystal Clear Saint-Gobain Diamant Tempered Glass. When they say crystal clear it is CRYSTAL clear. The second you put on this mask you will see an immediate difference in quality. Two critical factors (for us) make this our new STANDARD mask:

(1) Achieves a perfect seal with full beard and/or full goatee, there were ZERO LEAKS the entire dive. We rarely ever experience this. SERIOUSLY there we NO leaks it was honestly unbelievable (even the M1 has leaked a TINY bit now and then with bushy facial hair).

(2) ZERO pinching of the nose (under or over). This mask is quite possibly the most comfortable mask we have ever worn. After 2 hours in the water and on our face there wasn’t a spot that was uncomfortable or irritated. This is CRITICAL for two important groups of people (instructors and rebreather divers). These two groups wear their masks more than any other diving group. We can’t stress enough how great this mask was to wear.

We encourage EVERYONE that is interested in bettering their skills to contact us for our next trip. We have divers of all skills in our group to include Instructors, Tec Divers (back and sidemount) and rebreather divers. Not only are our club members always willing to help[ but we can always learn from what our new friends can bring to the table. Contact us via facebook if you are interested in getting some new skills or just looking to fun dive. We hope to see you next trip!

KAL & Incheon Airport CONFUSION

So in continuing the saga regarding traveling with a rebreather in Korea we have received a response back from Incheon Airport. Needless to say still frustrating since it was KAL who stated it wasn’t hazardous (for transport)… (spaces removed for formatting):

“Dear!!

This is Security Screening Team at Incheon International Airport Corporation.

As you said, carbon dioxide absorbent is composed of calcium hydroxide.

However because this calcium hydroxide highly corrosive, it is categorized as a dangerous material.

This is why it could not be taken on the plane.

If you are to call your airlines again, you will have to speak to the representative for dangerous materials. When you make the phone call, you will find out calcium hydroxide is a dangerous material.

Security Screening team
Incheon International Airport”

Seems like we will simply have to call to get 100% clarification. It’s not looking good tho…

Missed Vacation due to Korean Air Line and Incheon Airport

Recently we tried to fly from Incheon International Airport to Cebu, Philippines. This was our first trip traveling with our Hollis PRISM 2 rebreather. Knowing that we were bringing all kinds of “weird” looking stuff to the airlines we showed up about 4.5 hours early to ensure we had enough time to explain what everything was to security.

We get to the airport with PRISM 2 in a carry-on and our sorb (Carbon Dioxide Absorbent) as a check bag. We were immediately asked to see security…we expected this. We politely explained that the sorb is not hazardous during transport and provided the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) and an official letter explaining travel with Sofnolime.

We were also told that tanks were NOT under any circumstances authorized and the attendant refused to listen to my explanation that the valves were removed. After 5 minutes of digging them out she was satisfied and said “OK” once she could see no valves on the tanks.

A Korean Airlines (KAL) Attendant instructed us that Sofnolime was a hazardous material and could ONLY be flown on cargo (non-passenger) flights, she stated that this was Korean Air’s policy. We kindly asked for our luggage back and told them we needed to cancel the trip. The attendant informed us that we would have to wait about 1 hr to get our baggage back and in the mean time we could get a refund for tickets (minus fees of course).

After an hour of waiting and not getting a full refund we were finally able to ask for our bags…but they still weren’t ready. A bit upset at this point…we were now being told 20 MORE minutes to wait. Thankfully it was only 5 minutes.

Now sadly dragging our gear back to the parking lot where we parked our vehicle (more money wasted on parking) we put our things away and headed home (paying more tolls for nothing).

Once home we wrote a detailed letter to Korean Air Cargo Logistics asking what their policy was on Carbon Dioxide Absorbent (because we have an upcoming flight to Guam). We wanted to be sure to be ready. Since the KAL check-in attendant stated that passenger flights are a NO GO but cargo flights are OK we wanted to get the details. Their reply was a bit maddening because it seems that KAL’s policy is that this material is PERFECTLY OK to fly on both passenger and cargo flights (SELFTGS@Koreanair.com). Here is what they wrote:

“Dear Sir or Madam,

First of all, thank you for contacting Korean Air.
I’m returning your inquiry regarding transportation of Carbon Dioxide Absorbent.
As we look through the MSDS you linked, it is not Dangerous Goods for
air transport and can be transported by Passenger Flight or Freighter.
If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact SELFTGS@Koreanair.com
We hope our answer helpful.
Thank you.

Sincerely,

XXX XXX XXX
Cargo Logistics and Service
Korean Air ”

Needless to say this sparked an immediate call to their customer service center. We went back and forth with the phone representative on the exact details of the events that caused my cancelled vacation. At the end of the conversation we were apologized to and informed that we should send an email to them (engreservation@koreanair.com) explaining the situation as well as the reply from KAL Cargo Logistics (above). We sent this email off prior to getting off the phone with the representative. We were also informed that a supervisor would contact us in 1 to 2 days regarding this matter.

Absolutely NO ONE contacted us. One day 3 we called KAL again, we were again instructed to send an email and someone would call later today.

Once AGAIN no call… we called back the following day…same story and AGAIN no call. This happened 4 times and 4 times none called. Finally on the 5th call placed to KAL we asked for a direct number to customer service located in Korea. We were given a number and finally a legitimate customer service address (customersvc@koreanair.com).

We called customer service and we were assured that someone would contact us with information. FINALLY we got a response:

“Dear Mr. ————–,

We always thank you for your patronage of Korean Air, and we’d like to reply to your inquiry for the compensation you asked on your second letter as below.

First of all, we feel regrettable that you, a SkyTeam Elite Plus member, had to cancel your flight, KE631 on 24 Oct due to security screening result of Carbon Dioxide Absorbent material. For your clear understanding of the consequences, we would like to help you with further explanation and assist you with suitable party which you might discuss compensation with.

For your information, the whole security screening of checked-in baggage at the Incheon airport is completely conducted by Security Screening Dept. of Incheon International Airport Corp. Even though we have our own general policy for the restricted items to which we can refer in order to follow Aviation Safety and Security Act, we can only load checked-in baggage which passes its security screening. In some cases even though the material is not dangerous goods, at the airport side they can make the call based on various facts with more details under Aviation Safety and Security Act. Please understand that the reply from Korean Air Cargo Logistics was based on our own policy about general Cargo handling of Carbon Dioxide Absorbent transportation and MSDS you linked.

So if you need to discuss compensation, for better assistance you can contact Incheon International Airport Corp. which made decision for your material transportation on 24 Oct. and will still play the main role for security screening of Carbon Dioxide Absorbent material in a future. You can refer to its Voice of Customer Website; http://voc.airport.kr/eng/voc/complain/ComplainGuide.jsp

Thank you very much for taking your precious time to write to us and we look forward to serving you again in the near future.

Best regards,

xxx xxx xxx
Check-in service team leader
Incheon Int’l Airport | KOREAN AIR”

OK so we are reading this as it is not KALs fault but Incheon Airport’s contracted security fault…

Here we go…we went to the link provided (http://voc.airport.kr/eng/voc/complain/ComplainGuide.jsp) and submitted a complaint explaining the situation we encountered on 24 October 2013.

We are awaiting a response. Hopefully we will have an official memorandum for those of us traveling with CO2 absorbent in the future…or at a minimum be WELL AWARE of the KAL and Incheon Airport regulations.

… STAY TUNED!

April 2012 Diving Photos

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Here are the pictures from this past weekend with Aquatic Frontier at Sacheon Beach on the East Coast of South Korea.