Wedding Day Diving

July 11th, 2015 two of our club divers were getting OK signal on descentmarried on the beach where so many of us met.  The day and night before was filled with exciting events.  Some of these events were price changes on the cake, a cake mishap and even a flat tire on the way to the event.  Needless to say we all needed a bit of a stress relief and were looking forward to getting into the water.

Saturday morning came extremely early for me because I was the one that got a flat tire in the middle of the night on the way to the resort.  We arrived around 0130 early Saturday morning and woke up around 0700 to start preparing for the dive day.  Despite waking up a bit later I was the first one up and around getting our tanks ready laying out gear.  Jeff was the next one to arrive.  We were lucky to get on the first boat dive (which is usually the best dive of the day) and it was going to be a deep dive.

38th Parallel Divers going to dive siteJeff needed to reach 100′ for some future course pre-req’s so we planned to dive down to 100′ and swim around the base of the Steel House (dive site) structure and then slowly return focusing on his drysuit skills and getting use to his new ANTARES dry gloves.  On the way out to the site we met a new diver who dove as part of our team.  The dive went almost as planned and we were rewarded with some good visibility and water temps (9 C).  I say almost as planned because on my giant stride entry into the water I quickly discovered that my drysuit zipper was not 100% sealed…yep you guessed it, I got soaked.  Once I felt the water I closed the suit and continued the dive since there wasn’t enough water in the suit to be a danger, just an annoyance.

Austin ready for ascentAfter we got back from our first dive many of the wedding guests (bride & groom included) had finally woken up and were slowly getting ready.  The bride and groom joined us on our 2nd dive which was another deep dive and this one would be the bride’s deepest dive to date, congrats Mandy!  This dive site was 30 – 34M deep and the descent line ended on concrete cubes with small sealife and growth on it.  Jeff, Austin and I descended to the bottom in one team and the bride and groom made up the other team.  The visibility on this dive was even better however it was much colder at 5 C.  Once our computers were nearing our no decompression limit we all returned to the surface making a very slow and deliberate ascent.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 14.02.59Once we returned from the second dive we cleaned and dried gear and began preparing for the wedding ceremony and reception.  With the gear drying and time closing in we had to go and pickup 2 more people from the bus terminal and on the way back we ate some great Kimchi Jiggae and got to meet everyone that has traveled from around the world…wow what a crew indeed.  We met some great people this weekend and some very talented musicians!

Running a bit late we all drove back to the hotel to finish getting ready for the wedding.  Showers, getting dressed, doing hair, wedding picturesetting tables and food and of course bride pampering…oh yea and LOTS of up and down the stairs…we were finally ready just as the final moments of day were getting ready to come to an end.   With the bride in my car and the groom waiting on the beach Eric walked Mandy down and gave her away to George.  The ceremony was shared by close friends from Hong Kong, Fiji, Korea and the US and many 38th Parallel Divers too.  Vows and rings exchanged, a kiss and an introduction the newly married couple was ready to begin their lives together.  Congratulation Mandy and George!  We are honored to be part of this day.

Now bring on the reception and make Laura Kenny sing another song…I will happily plug her music (on iTunes).

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).

Dive Against Debris Specialty

Dive Against Debris with Project AWARE

What’s New? ANOTHER FIRST FOR US!!

We will be doing a Dive Against Debris in the upcoming weeks:

How is this good for you?  We will be giving away some 38th Parallel Diver Swag to participants.

More Good News? We will also be requesting that you ask family, friends and local businesses to help us by donating dive’s and other support.

Dive Against Debris

How are 38th Parallel Diver’s Supporting the effort?  38th Parallel Diver’s will be donating the processing fees costs associated with the Dive Against Debris Certification to each diver who meets the criteria for the specialty (for our 1st Dive Against Debris dive event only)… It get’s even better for those that are trying to earn their PADI Master Scuba Diver rating because this specialty counts toward the Master Scuba Diver specialty requirement.  This means a free specialty!!

Our interest started because many of our divers recently helped out with a beach clean-up (hosted by Aquatic Frontier last month).  We pulled a few hundred pounds (many kilos) from the harbor water and beach.  At first it doesn’t seem like much fun to spend a dive (money and time) in 1-5 meters of water getting pushed up against rocks in poor visibility.  However realizing that a few of us can actually make a difference does help.  At first I think many of the Koreans were wondering what type of animals we were stealing from their waters because they kept inspecting our bags as we came ashore.  After a few rounds they discovered we were  pulling tires, plastic, fishing line and other abandoned debrisfrom the environment.  Seeing the looks on the locals’ faces as the foreigners cleaned up their

2014_11_08-09_035waters was reward enough.  This small gesture let’s the local Korean’s and local divers know that we are a friendly and positive impact on the environment and local dive community.

This good feeling left most of the dive club wanting more; this made our instructors want to be able to contribute a bit more to the local community as well.  But how?  Thankfully I attended the 4th Quarter update and listened to the brief overview of the PADI Dive Against Debris Specialty.

Still not convinced?  Check out the Project AWARE Dive Against Debris Website

 This specialty contributes in a few ways:

  • Instructor application fees go directly to Project AWARE
  • Dive Site Survey pre and post Dive Against Debris Cleanup, assists with monitoring the local environment (is it improving or declining)
  • Student Processing Fees assist Project AWARE
  • last but most important…less debris in your local waters

This is a 1 dive specialty that teaches divers the importance of local conservation, it is a great practical follow-up to the search and recovery and/or navigation diver specialties.  This is because navigation skills are critical to survey the area accurately and search and recovery skills may be required to lift certain objects safely from the bottom.