Wow, the years just rocket by and now we are making final preparations to ICE in Fiji, before we head to Tonga for another interesting season , our fifth. It was sad to see so many areas in the Ha’ Apia group devastated by a cyclone over summer, with the loss of a life and gardens ruined. Our thoughts are with you all and we hope you have a speedy recovery. Whilst we already have some confirmed wreck sites in Tonga, that will require further ongoing surveys and investigation sometime in the future, the decision has been made to focus totally on wreck location this season. We are about to start the hunt for the exact location of mysterious wrecks, that so many locals have told us exist, yet they have not been able to give any credible details or proof! I guess this is coming down to be a real treasure hunt now. We had been promised information from a few locals, that either never eventuated, or could not be proven, yet I do believe/hope there will be some interesting discoveries this year. We are shipping to Tonga, a new fast dive/research boat IKI from America and have purchased the world’s smallest, lightest and most efficient, high density, total field Magnetometer ( Marine Magnetics, EXPLORER), hugely more accurate than the usual Proton Magnetometers, but unfortunately twice the price. With all the gear, computers and software, it is a $50,000 investment, so stay tuned! I believe we may be undertaking the first ever Mag. Surveys of many areas in Tonga. Our Research also suggests that there may well be other wrecks, that no one has ever seen, or heard of before. Interestingly, I hope to use the same Mag to find William Mariners Lost Cannons ( that were discarded as too big to handle, once removed from the ship, by the local warriors at the time) on the beach somewhere North of Pangai. When we arrive in Nuku Alofa we will commission the Magnetometer and undertake all the training to perfect its operation..then head to Nomuka for the start of Mag. operations. IKI should arrive sometime in July and after fitting her out with all the gear, we will finally be able to head out to EUA for more Mag work. Shortly after that, we should return to Ha’Apai to continue the hunt. Blue Base will not be fully operational this year, as we only need a small team for the Mag work. Once we think we have located a wreck site we do a couple of dives to confirm that, then move on to continue the hunt for more wrecks. Next season, 2015, we will start the discovery and investigation surveys on these new wrecks, so we will put a bigger dive/survey team together, as we did last year and open BLUE BASE again.
What a year! all 10 expedition team members have memories and unique stories to last a long time, we made some awsome discoveries, all experienced something new and exciting and walked away with some once in a life time memories. Unfortunately ( for now-security reasons) we cannot at this time, tell you some of the best bits! or show you the special photos! but hope to in the future. BLUE BASE was and is an amazing place to live work and play. The 2013 BLUE Team were a truely awsome group of adventurers! We cannot control the weather, but in the traditions of uninhabited tropical islands, Nomuka IKI is hard to beat. With our friendly new connections on Nomuka, it suggest we may have a presence here for some time and :if/when, we find our prize , who knows what may happen. Right now we have pleanty of work in this area. WE had time to dive just three wrecks and confirm the position of three more in 2013, but our main prize still aludes us for now. We know the approx position of five more confirmed wreck sightings and have stories to follow up on many more, so next season will be interesting when we start mowing the lawn with our new Magnetometer and computers. ICE is back in Fiji preparing for cyclone season storage on the hard at Vuda Marina again. Mark is working on plans for another fast dive boat and together with Joshua and Bill, they are setting up opportunities for next season. The plan is to start MAG work in EUA late May early June then open Blue Base again in late July through to end of Sept before moving further North in October. From there all plans are open again. 2014 Crew are being selected now so check the crew section if interested. Jane and I are headed to Australia then China to sort equipment and new boats for next season and will return to ICE for relaunching and commissioning in April 2014 when we return to Tonga.
This season marks the start of my fourth year chasing a dream in the Kingdom of Tonga. It has been an interesting journey! It also heralds the beginning of a detailed five year plan of action by Tonga Blue Ltd. and also now, a ten year vision. We are here for the long haul, not underestimating the size of the task at hand! We welcome the support of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Tupouto’a Ulukalala and thank him for his encouragement. Last year was full of frustrations and delicate maneuvers through the maize of relationships and underwater intrigue, which always exists, when so much is at stake! The good news is, that the friendly Isles of Tonga have to be the best place in the world to face those types of challenges. Every day is fantastic. The people, places, whales and deep blue are just so engaging. Truly special times creating strong memories. There are big issues evolving here and we are very pleased to be helping the Tongan people take back some control over their own maritime heritage. The end of last year was frustrating for concerned Tongans and us as well, but I am happy to say, that there has in the past few months, been great progress in our efforts to finally secure sites and start work. Jane and I are now in China securing equipment for the challenges ahead and return to Fiji on April 10th to re-commission ICE. New crew sign on May 1st, for final preparations, then we return to Tonga. We hope to have BLUE BASE established and operational on the island of Nomuka Iki by 1st July. This will be our center of operations for an area ranging out approx 25 miles. We are now having to develop land bases to three main areas of operation in Tonga. We are currently calling for and assessing crew applicants for up to 6 new team members, to work an initial 10 week operational period at Blue Base. We fully intend to maintain operations for up to nine months a year now and will have four 4.7mtr dive zodiacs operational. Later this year, we hope to commission the construction of a new 25ft dive survey boat to be built in Nuku’Alofa. A new 12 mtr steel Salvage Vessel with lifting A frame and winch, cargo hold and large flat dive deck aft may be commissioned in 2014. These are exciting times, so everything is now being filmed for a documentary, or even a series? If you are up for some adventure, then think about joining the team. We are going to need plenty of volunteers now and on into in the future. Register your interest now!! We have positions for experienced and inexperienced team members at Blue Base. This Blue Treasure Expedition is totally unique and I believe has the potential to become one of the biggest Underwater Maritime Heritage Expeditions the Pacific has seen in quite some time. There is a story yet to be told and it is all about people. The people who did not survive the many wrecks we have located, the local people of the Kingdom of Tonga who own those wrecks and now the people joining Tonga Blue, in our quest to unlock and preserve these secrets for all.
It was a tough Antarctic Season with the heaviest Pack ice for the past 40 years. On one voyage we had to navigate 320 miles of really heavy stuff, but we still missed getting into Mawson huts. Fortunately we did make Scott and Shackleton’s huts, so that was pretty cool! Now happy to get ICE underway again..the blogs here are back up! I decided on only two new permanent crew for this season, (Amit and Kylie and Jane returns) as Mark Belvedere will be onboard for much of the time and other short term crew are also planning to assist with specific projects during the year. Mark and I have now formed a Tongan Company TONGA BLUE ,which will hold all the required permits issued by the Kingdom of Tonga for our wreck hunting activities. Our goal this season is to uncover some of the lost history of Tonga and it’s interaction with the outside world, possibly going back as far as the 16th centaury. It promises to be an exciting year. Not quite two years ago, when I set out from Tofua at the start of the Talisker Bounty Boat expedition, did I ever dream that I would be back on such an amazing underwater adventure? But life is like that hey! We should arrive late April! Stay tuned or come join us!
ICE is now in Fiji for the Cyclone season. We set sail again on April 17th 2012 for Tonga and should arrive about five days later. We have a new partner joining the Bluetreasure team. Mark Belvedere has been a friend for some time and has officially signed on as our man on the ground in Tonga. He has his own Pirate ship in Cabo! and lives on Eueiki Island (which he owns) in the Vavau group. This will become our Tongan base. There are many things happening as we speak, so next season promises to be very exciting. I am now looking for three permanent crew for next season. Sign on April 7th till Nov 20th.when we return to Fiji. We are filming the entire season, you need to dive and be prepared for anything! We all cook, work and have fun together….see crew section for details…this season was not as we expected but next season may be BIG, that is all I can say…watch this space! Blogs get active from Beginning of March. I am off to Antarctica for summer and Jane is looking after ICE. Have a good Xmas!
Life can move in mysterious ways. We all suffer from One day? Well I recently spent three years building the ultimate expedition dive support boat in China, without wanting to say “what or when” it would do anything, just knowing that one day the time would come. I know plans change and I am no different, so for the last couple of years, that boat ICE has been hovering in Subic in the Philippines, dormant, waiting for an opportunity to get out there and do it! Fate is a big part of my life. For the past four years I have been saying often, Time to get wet! Not just with salt spray hitting me in the face from sailing solo around the world, or splash back in a little open boat trying to survive in a big Pacific (been there done that) No, I mean WET underwater! I have been scuba diving since I was 15, have dived some of the most amazing places in the world and consider the Australian Great Barrier Reefs a second home. Problem is I am never home! My last BLUE ADVENTURE was in 2003 onboard my 36mtr helicopter equipped Ice ship Sir Hubert Wilkins treasure hunting in the Philippines. That ship, supported by Dick Smith Foods, was equipped with the works, surface breathing gear, Nitrox, 5 man, two stage Recompression Chamber, ROV’s etc and we had a lot of fun (not just there but in Antarctica). We never found the gold! In April this year I was in Tonga about to set out on another little adventure and really felt in love with everything about the Friendly Isles. Then just days before leaving that exotic place, I stumbled across something. Herein lies the intrigue…is it a Treasure map? an Opportunity? a Roomer? Or just another Blue Dream? ..Well it could be all of these and more, or it could be nothing at all!! Life is an adventure and it is now for certain, so we are off! It does not stop there. Since becoming involved with this new Blue Dream, I have had people approaching me with stories that could see me headed to other parts of the world chasing? …well lets just say I have always wanted to own a cannon!!! So, here we are with another web site and another adventure, eight months across the Pacific that you can be part of if you have that spark! passion! a desire to live and explore life! I am looking for crew! I have promised 20% of any treasure coming my way to the Sheffield Institue Foundation (SIF) to help in the fight against MND and yes that could amount to nothing or $$$. Who knows?? Why buy a lottery ticket when you can have more fun out there doing it. It is not the destination right! It is all about the journey and what better reason to get wet, than chase a bit of real history and the Blue Dream. Can’t say much more at this point, but watch this space! We set sail on April 2nd from the Subic Yacht club in the Philippines bound for adventure and the unknown, sailing through some of the most spectacular places on this planet. Micronesia, and Palau, Yap, Truk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, then Kiribati, Northern Gilberts and Phoenix Islands, Wallis and Futuna (Google those spots and imagine the diving? See LINKS page.) arriving in Tonga 12 weeks later. Plenty to do when we get there, but more on that later. Whales will be our constant companion in Tonga and beyond our project, we hope to be surveying many sites around the Friendly Isles with our onboard Flying boat! Everything is being filmed for an international Documentary. ICE will sail for New Zealand end of November to sit out the cyclone season before returning again in 2012. If you are a Pirate! Deck Officer! Dive master! Cook! Engineer! Comedian! or just have a real Passion for life and want to do something, maybe you should think about joining the team! You are welcome for the eight months or just for a month? If you are a dreamer like me..then just have fun following the blog. I really have no idea what is going to happen, but I have to tell you, the story so far in the last eight months has blown my socks off!! So watch this space.