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Mules in Action

Mules in Tasmania
January 2013 and some of the Mules spent a week diving the chilly but beautiful caves of southern Tasmania. From Hobart's hottest day on record, to wind and rain and cold weather; we experienced the thrill of running from the bushfires and the serenity of zero viz sump diving. Our goal was to push the second sump of Junee Cave near Mt Field National Park, and break into the legendary June Master Cave. But alas, despite having the latest weaponry in the form of the new Golem Gear Flex sidemount rebreathers, the Mules were not up to the task and the distant cave lays undisturbed. Maybe next time! 
The Wetmules...lurching from crisis to crisis.

New Discovery! The SS Federal...

posted Feb 14, 2013, 2:33 AM by Richard Harris   [ updated Mar 5, 2013, 2:34 AM ]

Dave and Sandy, the wreck diving king and queen of the Wetmules relate the story of their awesome discovery: “ It’s probably only a shopping trolley”, was one of the comments flying around the boat as we all geared up expecting, as usual, to dive sand again in the quest for this elusive wreck. But on Sunday 2nd September 2012, after more than two years and many cancelled trips because of weather, a couple of the Wetmules in conjunction with some local and interstate friends, finally discovered, what they believe to be the elusive wreck of the SS Federal!

Laying in 116 m of water, making it the deepest discovered wreck in Victorian waters, the relatively intact wreck was dived by a small group of keen wreck divers consisting of Damien Siverio, Andreas Timms, Dave Hurst, Sandy Varin and Dave Bardi. Craig Challen had also made the pilgrimage over two years ago, but the weather was not kind, forcing him to return to WA diveless.

Special thanks must be extended to Tony, Brick and Oscar for their patience in taking the small group to the remote location and attending topside whilst the 5 hour dive was underway. Unlike our crew on the Derwent, they didn't eat every morsel of food whilst we were on deco. Also, to Dave Hurst for photos and being a member of the original team which began this project. This is also his discovery as much as ours.
The Mules and their friends intend to return so that the wreck is properly documented and its identity confirmed, to ensure that the wreck takes its place in Australian maritime history.

Images David Hurst


Video by Damien Siviero

Video of the Derwent dive

posted Apr 19, 2012, 6:44 PM by Craig Challen   [ updated Apr 19, 2012, 6:44 PM ]

Here for your viewing pleasure we present the Helmetcam video from the dive on the Derwent last week. You will be able to spot the deliberate errors and problems:
1. Despite having 2 50W HID video lights mounted on the scooter, I left the lid of the battery at home on the charging bench, so the whole thing is lit by a normal dive light instead.
2. Over a minute and a half wasted trying to clip the strobe to the large diameter shot line.
3. I ran my scooter into some red fishing line and had to cut it free.

The Wetmules. Lurching from crisis to crisis.

Diving the Derwent

posted Apr 18, 2012, 1:01 AM by Craig Challen   [ updated Apr 19, 2012, 6:47 PM ]

On Thursday 12 April, Dave, Sandy and Craig dived the former HMAS Derwent west of Rottnest Island, Western Australia, which lies in 200m of water. The descent took 6 minutes and just under 9 minutes was spent on the wreck. Then 7 hours and 45 minutes decompression for a total runtime of 8 hours almost to the minute.
Dave and Sandy were diving their rEvo rebreathers with a modified Inspiration as a backup rebreather. Craig used his twin Megalodon (the MultiMeg).
Many thanks to Luke Nelson of Image Dive for putting us on the wreck, and Mark (Wiz) Brown, Darron Ellingford, Mick Green and Kim Halliday for their fantastic support on the day.
For those of you diving from substandard dive boats in other parts of the world: this my friends, is how we look after the divers in the West:

Video of the dive coming soon. In the meantime, here is a short clip of a visitor that joined us for about an hour of the decompression. We reckon he's a Bronze Whaler, but any more educated opinions from those that know more than us would be welcomed. Anyway, he seemed friendly.

There is information on the HMAS Derwent on the Royal Australian Navy website at www.navy.gov.au/HMAS_Derwent and on Wikipedia at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMAS_Derwent_%28DE_49%29

Some like it deep...others not so much!

posted Apr 16, 2012, 6:14 AM by Richard Harris   [ updated Apr 16, 2012, 6:16 AM ]

While Dave, Sandy and Craig were bouncing down to 200m on the wreck of the Derwent last week (wow!), Harry and Ken took a more leisurely dive with good friend Liz Rogers. The Rapid Bay jetty is a big dive, no doubt about it. Air diving to 9m (at high tide) can be fraught with peril, especially when the Mules cobble together some random dive kit to attach a single tank to. Harry nearly git away with it except he forgot a wing, a depth gauge, timer and knife. Ken's makeshift rubber band arrangement on the Nomad seemed to hold the tank in place, although it looked a bit wobbly. 

Liz Rogers captured the Mules In Action! 
Harry and Ken admire the sexy single tank rigs they will be diving. 

But actually, once he's underwater Harry really looks
the part with that big ass camera. Note the large piece of scrap iron Harry has shoved down his pants! "This salt water is very floaty!"

Looking forward to that report on the Derwent dive Craig!

Pearse Expedition 2012 News

posted Jan 18, 2012, 11:29 AM by Craig Challen   [ updated Jan 18, 2012, 12:05 PM ]

The Wet Mules have just completed the 2012 expedition to the Pearse River Resurgence near Mt Arthur in the South Island of New Zealand. The six Mules (David Bardi, Craig Challen, John Dalla-Zuanna, Richard “Harry” Harris, Ken Smith and Sandy Varin), were accompanied by diving physician and support Dr Karen Richardson for the 17 day trip.

Both primary objectives of the trip were accomplished. With the assistance of Nelson Speleological Group’s Andrew Smith and Dawn Wood, dye tracing from the Spillway in Nettlebed Cave again confirmed the connection between the two sites. Unfortunately, the dye appeared to be coming from the main passage deeper than 120m, so any hopes of making a shallow connection were lost.

Hence attention shifted back to pushing the deep section of the cave, and once the four habitats were installed at 7, 16, 28 and 38m, and gas was staged in the cave, build-up dives commenced. 

On Thursday 12th January Dave and Sandy dived to 180m and completed an extraordinary 7 hour all in-water decompression.

The following day Richard Harris pushed past the end of Craig’s 2011 line at 194m, and laid 70m of line in large passage to a maximum depth of 207m. A total run time of 10½ hours was spent in comfort thanks to the habitats and the surface supplied suit-heating systems.

After two days of rain the resurgence flooded, delaying diving for a day. The final push dive by Craig Challen began on Sunday 15th January as the water levels subsided. Tying off to the end of Harry’s line, he scootered on a short distance only to meet another steep descent. Craig made a final tie off at 221m and returned to the surface after a total dive time of 17 hours. The passage continues beyond, heading deeper.

 Ken, JDZ and Craig made tape measure surveys of several areas including the Nightmare Crescent and Big Room area at 120m.

As we write this, the Mules are relaxing back in Nelson with a few real ales and their ever congenial hosts Oz Patterson and Deb Cade.

Can't be that hard, even a girl's doing it.   Photo: Ken Smith

Can't be that hard, even a girl's doing it!

Photo: Ken Smith

Dave Bardi lends support at the 40 metre habitat.

Mules acting up in Mt Gambier

posted Dec 12, 2011, 3:46 AM by Richard Harris   [ updated Dec 12, 2011, 3:50 AM ]

Recently a few of the Mules were spotted in the South East, working on a film for the Mt Gambier council. The short film will showcase the local caves and the geology of the region, and is being presented by actor Luke McKenzie (Rescue Special Ops, Underbelly, Headland). Jdz, Harry, Craig and Ken showed the crew around a few sites and even got to do a bit of acting (well, we had to put our masks on and submerge under the water!)

All good fun and will hopefully show the caves in a good light. Harry's UW footage will be used in the film.

Harry, Craig and Ken looking like divers, with Luke McKenzie.

Other mules around the world

posted Sep 13, 2011, 6:15 PM by Craig Challen   [ updated Sep 13, 2011, 6:38 PM ]

It has come to our attention that there are other mules getting wet. See here for a brother in action in the Dominican Republic (plus some very slick cave diving video).

Pimp my Ride!

posted Jul 21, 2011, 2:00 AM by Craig Challen

Give me any colour as long as it's black OK?

Harry is scared of yellow things underwater, and Paul Raymaekers wouldn't let him have a black rEVO...he says they are only for the military. So, thanks to a little help from some 3M Di-Noc faux Carbon fibre he now has a very sweet looking rig that is as macho as a macho thing. And isn't Craig just a bit jealous!

And what's that? Some Wetmules merchandising appearing on the unit in the form of sticker! Is there no stopping the Wetmules! Global Underwater Domination could be next!

Whilst Harry is all about first impressions and looking his best, our Tech Diving Queen offers some more practical uses for the rEVO cover.
Whether it's HRH Queen Elizabeth coming over for tea and cucumber sandwiches, or the Wetmules coming around for a whiskey and Calvados poker night, Sandy proves that one can still be Australia's most fab tech diver and entertain in style. You go girlfriend!


Salted Mules

posted Jul 21, 2011, 1:59 AM by Craig Challen

Dave and Sandy go diving a lot. The rest of the Mules should be so lucky. Here, Sandy climbs aboard the boat after diving the USS Atlanta in the Solomons. Run time 5 hours and in the warm tropical waters, why not? The wrecl lies in 120m of water in Guadalcanal. There is a nice article here by legendary Aussie wreck diver Kevin Denlay who first dived the wreck on open circuit in 1995!

Same ducks, different pond?

posted Jul 21, 2011, 1:58 AM by Craig Challen

Two of the Mules recently did a cross-over course to the rEVO CCR with IANTD instructor Marc Crane. Marc is a British tec diver currently living and working ion Indonesia. The cold waters of the Mt Gambier sinkholes where a bit of a shock to the tropicalised pom but he soon got the hang of the drysuit and other cold water paraphernalia again.

Statistically speaking, 4 out of 6 Wetmules now dive the very superior rEVO rebreather. Come on Craig and Ken, catch up!

From L-R: Jim Arundale, Mark Pardoe, Marc Crane, JDZ, Grant Pearce, Harry and "Freddy" Ball. All rEVO divers, all top men.

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