Corinne Bourbeillon, underwater photographer
Me trying to look cool and relaxed with my balaclava and my waterproof suit in the Breton waters, much too cool for my taste... (Caves of Cape Fréhel, Saint-Cast, Côtes-d'Armor, July 2021, photo by Olivier Delorieux)

Diving without travelling

#Climate #Ocean #Fly

  Between Two Journeys

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

From March 2020 to this November 2022, I stopped traveling to dive. Initially because of Covid and health restrictions on travel. But since the borders reopened, I still haven't flown again. And I tell myself that it's not so bad for my carbon footprint and the climate...

In short, my "little bubbles from elsewhere" (the title of this blog) have become "little bubbles from here"... 😂 Beyond the joke, here I am facing several dilemmas.

Dilemma #1: Cold water

No more bamboozling in warm exotic seas! I still did some bubbles and underwater photography since 2020, fortunately. But only in France and during the nice season. So in "cold" to "fresh" waters, according to my criteria of super chilly diver. From 14°C to 20°C in Brittany (early and late summer). Around 22°C in Mediterranean Sea (in summer and above the thermoclineBecause below, the temperatures are the same as in Brittany 😂).

Temperatures bearable for a few minutes of swimming in the sun, but much less in diving when you stay submerged for almost an hour underwater... 🥶 So I adopted the dry suit for the "cold" Breton waters, and the very thick wet suit (7 mm) for the "cool" Mediterranean waters. (I can see lake divers snickering from here: understand that below 12-13°C is "freezing" water for me, which I will NEVER go into).

So yes, the drysuit is THE solution against the cold. For those who don't know: you stay dry inside, and you wear warm clothes underneath, fleece and socks. And I did it... The truth? It's miraculous, it changed my life as a Breton diver (in cardboard).

I was trained to use it in 2020 during a training course in Trébeurden (Côtes-d'Armor). The next summer, I started by renting one, before investing in my own suit for the next season. The difficulty was to find a second-hand model that fit me well (because new, it's really a big budget, this kind of equipment). But that's done... 👌

For those who know me underwater (even at 25°C, I can come out of it with blue lips and shaking, read right here and the and again the), it seems crazy: me, the diver of the vacations in warm turquoise seas, I now dive without trembling in the Channel in green water at 15°C.

Corinne Bourbeillon, underwater photographer
Me trying to look cool and relaxed with my balaclava and my rented waterproof suit in the Breton waters, much too cool for my taste... (Caves of Cape Fréhel, Saint-Cast, Côtes-d'Armor, July 2021, photo by Olivier Delorieux)

OK, the waterproof suit is wonderful, but it's still full of constraints...

First, you have to find and choose the right thermal clothing to put on underneath, depending on the water temperature AND the type of suit: a waterproof one neoprene (foam rubber) has a thickness that insulates a little, a trilaminate sash (a kind of technical "canvas"), it's like a K-Way, it doesn't insulate at all. Then, you have to learn how to slip into this diving suit like an astronaut (not too complicated), then add a hood and gloves (I hate these things), and finally put on extra pounds of lead because of of Archimedes (there is a larger volume with the layer of clothing and the air that is injected into it).

In short, how can I put it... The "dry" suit is not very aquatic, compared to the second skin of the wet suits. You get used to it, of course, but I'm not a huge fan. That said, the cold being my absolute enemy, between two evils, I chose the lesser... Dilemma solved.

Diving is glamorous... Underwater selfie made in BZH, with my second-hand waterproof suit and the indispensable hood (Aber Benoît, Finistère, September 2022)
Diving is glamorous... Underwater selfie made in BZH, with my second-hand waterproof suit and the indispensable hood (Aber Benoît, Finistère, September 2022)

Dilemma #2: Airplane and carbon footprint

In fact, the real problem is that the warm seas are far away, and we don't go there by train. And taking the plane, it really makes the carbon footprint explode... Yes, big realization in my little ex-global diver head (no, really, I was already well aware and not very comfortable with that).

With Covid putting a stop to air travel for two years, it gave me time to read up on climate and the ocean. To better understand the consequences of our excessive release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which are causing water to warm and acidify at a rapid rate, among other things (Spoiler: both of these things are not cool at all for marine life.)

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(Source: Oceanographic Institute of Monaco / musee.oceano.org)

On this subject, I am obviously not well placed to give lessons, but I put below some very well done educational videos, broadcast by the excellent YouTube channel studios Icebreaker (project of the filmmaker Luc Jacquetdirector of the docu The Emperor's March).

Today, I better measure the impact of my numerous airplane trips of the past years. That is to say, their order of magnitude (huge) compared to my "normal" annual footprint linked to my daily life. I found it quite instructive to play with online calculators, like the one from Ademe (Do you know your climate footprint?) and the BonPote blog (Airplane: calculate your carbon footprint in 3 clicks).

I remember that a very long-haul flight (like the ones to my favorite destinations, Indonesia for example), ALWAYS exceeds 2 tons of CO2. Gold this 2 ton limitThis is the amount that we should have per person and per year by 2050, to keep global warming below +1.5°C to +2°C! For the moment, the French are around 9-11 tons on average (at least those who do not fly in private jets).

So yes, like many peopleI try to reduce my climate footprint in my daily consumption (energy, food, transport). Individual efforts are necessary but not sufficient... It is indeed impossible to reach the objective of 2 tons per year with only our "small gesturesBut one does not preclude the other, on the contrary, and everyone can "do their part". But one does not prevent the other, quite the contrary, and everyone can "do their part".

For me, drastically reducing my air travel is obviously the priority item, the most effective lever to improve my personal carbon footprint. I have already done it three summers in a row "thanks" to Covid. Mathematically speakingThis is the best thing I've done for the climate so far.

So, what limit should I set for the years to come: one flight every two, three, four years? Every ten years? Never again? I tell myself that I must not be the only travel enthusiast to have this kind of questioning...

Dilemma n° 3: to leave or not?

Which leads us to the third dilemma. When I was at 23e Paris Dive ShowFrom March 11 to 14, 2022, everyone asked me the same question with the gradual reopening of the borders: so, when is your next trip? My answer: I don't know. The next edition, from January 6 to 9, 2023, will have as its theme : "More environmentally friendly divingI was reminded of my paradoxes.

Of course you do, Indonesia I miss it. The splendor of the underwater landscapes of the Coral Triangle too. It could have been possible to go back this summer 2022. But I finally chose to stay and make bubbles in France, like last year. I had already discussed this dilemma a bit in 2020, after my first deconfliction dives in Brittany, during my internship in Trebeurden.

In the meantime, there were the new IPCC reports (the International Panel on Climate Change). And then the heat peaks, the drought, the fires in the summer of 2022 in France (and I'm not even talking about the disasters elsewhere in the world). It doesn't look good...

Before, I was only thinking about my next trips and my future dives in distant seas. I devoted almost all my vacations and my savings to it. The forced immobility due to the Covid forced me to be a bit consistent. For the first time in my diving life, I spent three successive summers without flying to an exotic destination.

Instead of going back to the other side of the world, I started diving regularly in Brittany again - which I had not done for ages - and even dared a small incursion in the Mediterranean in 2021. I thus rediscovered the underwater fauna near my home. The good news is that there is really something to marvel at underwater here too...

My non-diving friends are always surprised when I show them my Breton pictures of schools of fish, gorgonians, nudibranchs (sea slugs)... Most people think (wrongly) that there is not much to see while diving in our area.

A shy cuttlefish comes to play the star in the light of the lighthouse of my partner (Saint-Cast, Brittany, July 2021)
A shy cuttlefish comes to play the star in the light of the lighthouse of my partner (Saint-Cast, Brittany, July 2021)
My partner also knows not to frighten the conger eels, which do not hesitate to come out of their hiding place under his nose (Wreck of the Laplace, Saint-Cast, Brittany, July 2022)
My partner also knows not to frighten the conger eels, which do not hesitate to come out of their hiding place under his nose (Wreck of the Laplace, Saint-Cast, Brittany, July 2022)
Shoals of pout are spouting from the wreck of the frigate Laplace, sunk by a mine in 1950, just in front of Fort La Latte (Saint-Cast, Brittany, July 2021)
Shoals of poutches are coming out of the wreck of the frigate Laplace, sunk by a mine in 1950, just in front of the fort La Latte (Saint-Cast, Brittany, July 2021)
Mediterranean blue. (Reserve of Cerbère-Banyuls, July 2021)
Bank of black-headed sars, in the Mediterranean blue. (Reserve of Cerbère-Banyuls, July 2021)
Small wonder of the Breton waters... A pretty nudibranch (sea slug), in mauve livery edged with yellow. Its name : Doris de Krohn (Chromodoris krohni). (Gulf of Morbihan, September 2022)
Small wonder of the Breton waters... A pretty nudibranch (sea slug), in mauve livery edged with yellow. Its name : Doris de Krohn (Chromodoris krohni). (Gulf of Morbihan, September 2022)
Breton green (Saint-Cast, July 2022)
Breton green, with a touch of orange (La Catis, Saint-Cast, July 2022)

Dilemma #4: Frustration and longing

Just a quick note: yes, of course, the thoughts I'm sharing here are the dilemmas of the "rich", and they may seem very small. Living in a peaceful country, having free time for leisure and money to spend on your passions, is a privilege. Three summers without travel is not a tragedy and there are much more serious things in life.

That being said, my frustration is real. In our country, the short seasonal window limits the number of dives, which depends on the weather, the tide, the number of registered divers and the age of the captain. And, above all, I don't dive just for the sake of diving, for the activity itself, no. What interests me is to make the underwater photography. However, the very changing conditions of our coasts - not to mention the lottery of the pairs which does not always assign you an ideal companion for the photographic practice - make everything more complicated as soon as we want to make images...

I manage to have fun with my camera in Breton or Mediterranean waters, but I am also quite nostalgic for the spectacular visibility and the amazing profusion of life of some Indonesian bottoms (where, moreover, you can dive in a not too thick wet suit, without gloves or hood... yes, I hate wearing a hood 😅).

The other frustrating aspect of not traveling anymore is the "terrestrial" pleasures... As beautiful as our coasts are (and I love the cliffs of Cap Fréhel), it doesn't really change my mind. I mean by this: breaking with one's usual environment and the routine of everyday life is precisely what makes the charm of travel in my eyes...

I find there is something exhilarating and irreplaceable about discovering places and natural sites that are not like the ones we know. To immerse oneself in other cultures, other languages, to satisfy one's curiosity for other ways of life... To confront oneself with different people and horizons, it opens one's mind, it enriches and embellishes one's existence. Being content with exploring France or even Europe can of course be an exciting experience, but you remain in a relatively "familiar" Western context.

Conclusion: travel and dive differently?

Anyway, I'm at this point of my little dilemmas... Anyway, here I am, reconciled with "local and seasonal" diving (like fruits and vegetables 😂). Now that I've solved the problem of the cold, I think it's great to be able to dive more easily near my home. And I'm not going to be without it anymore.

These three years will have allowed me to discover more of the Breton coastline, to continue to marvel underwater, to improve my photographic practice in more difficult conditions. But the great pleasure I get from it does not replace the joy I get from travelling...

So, for the years to come, I'm considering a sort of compromise: my idea is to leave much less often than before. But once I'm somewhere else, I'll stay there much longer. I just have to figure out how to organize that.

  Between Two Journeys

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