Fifth bi-annual tech event draws impressive array of world-class speakers to Birmingham’s ICC - MARK EVANS joined the delegates attending this year
2016’s incarnation of the popular tech event is a huge success, says Mark Evans.
It is amazing how events can grow exponentially when they have the right mix to draw in exhibitors and speakers as well as delegates. Things just naturally snowball when all the correct boxes are ticked, and if ever there was a perfect example of this in the diving arena, then Eurotek must be near the top of the pile. Eurotek was the brainchild of experienced technical divers Leigh Bishop and the late Carl Spencer, after the duo visited the Oztek show in 2006 and were inspired to create a similar event in the European marketplace. They drafted in long-time dive instructor, technical diver and industry stalwart Rosemary ‘Roz’ Lunn to assist with the inaugural show back in 2008, and the bi-annual Eurotek has since gone from strength to strength, often being regarded as the northern hemisphere’s premier advanced and technical diving conference.
Now the ‘baby’ of Leigh, Roz and fellow technical diver Mark Dixon, Eurotek weekends at Birmingham’s ICC seamlessly blend a small but comprehensive selection of exhibitors with a vast array of speakers presenting talks and workshops on a wide range of subjects, with a glittering gala dinner incorporating a prestigious awards ceremony shoehorned in the middle.
This year, there were more than 40 different educational and inspiring talks and useful workshops. Delegates had a hard time choosing which talks to attend, with no less than four separate presentations running simultaneously throughout each day, with regular breaks to allow perusal of the exhibition hall, or to grab a bite to eat.
In the exhibition hall over both days, delegates could mingle and chat with representatives from companies such as Otter Watersports, AP Diving, Apeks, Fourth Element, Dive Rite, Ratio, Bonex, Suex and VMS, many of which were showcasing new products.
History buffs were blown away by Immi Wallin’s fascinating story of a 300-year-old, 40-gun Dutch man-of-war frigate lying in remarkable condition on the Baltic seabed; Keiran Hatton’s tale of an expedition to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland by visiting the mighty shipwrecks where they lie in the treacherous North Sea; and Richie Kohler’s presentation about an investigation into the sinking of the Britannic in the Aegean Sea in 1916. Then there was Pete Mesley’s insight into the amazing, 150-year-old wooden sailing vessels lying in pristine condition on the bottom of the Great Lakes in the USA and Canada; and Mark ‘Sharky’ Alexander’s commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the sinking of the Andrea Doria, once referred to as the ‘Mount Everest of Wreck Diving’.
“History buffs were blown away by Immi Wallin’s fascinating story of a 300-yearold, 40-gun Dutch man-of-war frigate lying in remarkable condition on the Baltic seabed”
Those with an interest in going underground were spoilt for choice, with Cristina Zenato’s talk on an epic cave exploration through the Zodiac System in the Bahamas; Dr Duncan Price’s insight into the world of UK cave diving; Sami Paakkarinen’s presentation into a challenging project in the remote caves of Romania’s Apuseni mountain range; and Martyn Farr’s lively jaunt through the history of cave diving around the world.
Photographers and videographers were also well catered for, with various presentations on shooting in extreme conditions - Becky Schott took delegates behind-the-scenes on some of her film projects, including under Arctic ice, while Laurent Ballesta discussed the challenges of venturing into ultra-deep water in pursuit of the ‘living dinosaur’ coelacanth.
There were talks on how to get started in technical diving; an insight into the mindset and focus of elite freediver Herbert Nitsch, who plunged to 253m on the world’s deepest No Limit freedive; and a sobering presentation by Gavin Anthony on what happens - or should happen - to equipment after a fatal diving incident.
“Delegates had a hard time choosing which talks to attend, with no less than four separate presentations running simultaneously throughout each day”
The second day of Eurotek brought even more interesting and eyeopening talks and presentations.
Becky Schott took to the stage once again, this time showcasing some amazing imagery from the Great Lakes in North America; Evan Kovacs took the audience on a tour of various shipwrecks in stunning 3D, as well as returning later in the day to journey to the ancient Antikythera shipwreck off Greece; and John Kendall discussed a groundbreaking archaeological expedition to research Roman-era wrecks in the Aeolian Sea that combined technical divers with submersibles.
Cave diver Ian France showed the audience what awaits in the flooded mines scattered around the UK; Martyn Farr introduced a talk on the Caves of Cong in the Galway Mayo region of Ireland; and everyone was thrilled to view Diving into the Unknown, the multi-award-winning film by Juan Reina about four Finnish divers risking their lives to recover the bodies of two of their friends lost in Plura Cave.
Ahmed Gabr talked about his four-year training regime to bag the world open-circuit depth record, attaining a depth of 332.35m; Graham Blackmore discussed a project to explore the deep-water reefs off Bermuda; Mark ‘Sharky’ Alexander conducted a workshop on expedition medicine, and how to work with minimal supplies; and Pascal Van Erp did a presentation on how his team are reducing ‘ghost fishing’ by removing fishing gear trapped on deep wrecks and reefs.
“This year we have definitely had a positive upswing in the number of overseas attendees”, stated Rosemary. “More than 600 divers attended Eurotek, with over a third of delegates flying in from 22 different countries. What does surprise me is that Brit scuba divers see the word ‘tek’ and think that this amazing event is not for them. You don’t have to own a Lamborghini to admire the car, and the same goes for Eurotek. We always have a handful of non-divers coming to Eurotek because they enjoy the stories so much. Where else can you get to hear real diving explorers tell their incredible tales, and then meet them afterwards? Leigh Bishop does a sterling job sourcing speakers and putting together the talk schedule. The result is that we were able to showcase the Plura Cave film Diving Into The Unknown, the Gombessa Coelacanth Project, Ghost Fishing in Scapa Flow and reveal ground-breaking sorb research.
“Earlier this year a team led by Associate Professor Simon Mitchell published a research paper comparing two types of carbon dioxide absorbent, or sorb. This very useful safety information for rebreather divers was funded by Shearwater Research. Our community of advanced and technical divers have a lot of questions we need answering, hence we decided that this year the money raised from the Eurotek raffle was to be donated to Drs Simon Mitchell and Neal Pollock. I am delighted to say that we raised £6,532! This money is going to be used to fund research specifically for the benefit of the worldwide advanced and techdiving community, so that every diver has access to it. We look forward to the doctors reporting their findings at the next Eurotek.”
Leigh, Roz and Mark are already hard at work aiming to better even this illustrious line-up of speakers at Eurotek 2018. Mark it on your calendar, as it is not something you will want to miss.
Many of the talks were packed out
Tim Clements from VMS demonstrates a Sentinel rebreather to a delegate
The lavish gala dinner took place on the Saturday evening
Herbert Nitsch discussed extreme freediving
Peter Wilson talking KUBI