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 of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 


From March 2020 to 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 got back on a plane. [update: in August 2023, I left for a four-month long trip]..

In short, my "little bubbles from elsewhere" (the title of this blog) have become "little bubbles from here"... 😂 Which is all to the good for my carbon footprint and the climate. Beyond the joke, I'm faced with 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 underwater for almost an hour... 🥶 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 that 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 following 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 of you who know me underwater (even at 25°C or 29°C, I can come out blue-lipped and shivering), read on. right here and the and again the), it seems crazy: me, the diver who used to go on vacation in warm turquoise seas, now dives in the English Channel in green water at 15°C without shuddering.

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 is like a K-Way, it does not 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 add a few kilos of lead because of of Archimedes (there is a larger volume with the layer of clothing and the air that is injected into it).

Well, 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.)

-
(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 prevent 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 diving"I was reminded of my paradoxes.

Update, January 2023. See also the article I published in Ouest-France, ahead of the show ➜ Scuba diving dreams of being more eco-friendly for its 24e exhibition, which opens in Paris

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 end of the world, I started diving regularly in Brittany - 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.

Update, December 2023: As a result, I've even made a little book out of it, a guide compiling 24 diving experiences to be enjoyed in Brittany and Pays-de-la-Loire, to inspire people to rediscover the wonders of the underwater sites close to home:

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 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)
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 paltry. 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 most of all, I don't dive just for the 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 that: breaking with one's usual environment and daily routine is precisely what makes the charm of travelling in my eyes...

I find that there is something exhilarating and irreplaceable in discovering places and natural sites that are not like those 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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  1. Hello Corinne,

    Of course this theme concerns me, for the same reasons as you.

    Finally, I also travelled less this year. Although I did fly to the Galapagos (postponed from 2020) and stayed in Ecuador for 5 weeks.
    Then, more recently in September, the discovery of a less remote destination, but which was my favorite of the year (although there were the Galapagos!).

    I don't think this will be entirely possible in 2023 (due to projects decided long ago), but from 2024 I'd like to consider fewer and longer trips.

    Thank you for this interesting reflection which points out our inconsistencies as much as our dilemmas.

  2. Hello Corinne ! Nice new topic 😉

    I went through pretty much the same stages as you... (but returned to Thailand last summer to test the Canon EOS R7, because I really missed Asia too much since Sulawesi in 2019)... and Thailand was easy and not too expensive.

    Admittedly, it's a little less exotic than Sulawesi... but it's still nicer than Brittany!

    I believe that to minimize a traveler's impact on the climate, we need to travel less often, but for longer (at least 1 month). I have no doubt that my method will provoke some debate and criticism...

    1. @ Jean-François: Yes, I still don't feel able to give up travel for good, so like you I tell myself that we can at least limit the damage by going away less often and for longer... Obviously, that's still a compromise. But I figure that sharing my dilemmas here will encourage other people to think similarly about the impact of their dive trips. But Brittany is VERY nice too, and when you're not cold in the water, it changes EVERYTHING!

    2. Thank you for this new and interesting topic and congratulations for your Breton photos, they are as radiant as those of the tropical waters (yes, I think so!)
      On the issue itself, indeed I think that more and more of you are thinking about it and articulating our trips accordingly. For me, it's very complicated because of my activity of creation and organization of travels but the subject really worries me, very often.
      Indeed, traveling less and longer and compensating in parallel with regeneration actions is what I found most acceptable as a compromise.
      A thought for you from Indonesia that you love so much ☀️

  3. Hello,
    Thank you for this testimony.
    Have you opted for a neoprene or trilaminate drysuit?
    Have a nice Sunday.

    1. @Karim: I hesitated for a long time, looked around, and finally found an old Whites Fusion in my size (today Aqualung makes these suits). So a trilaminate, but a little different from the others, with a thin envelope over the fabric, so as to keep it close to the body, which limits the "bag" effect and reduces the air bubble around the body. As a result, you have to dress very warmly underneath. After much trial and error, I adopted Kwark thermal clothing...

  4. Hello,

    The dilemma is one that each of us must resolve in our own soul and conscience.

    That said, a few thoughts:
    - the Mediterranean and the French Atlantic coasts are very beautiful, and yes 🙂
    - the plane is not good, that said the problem of overpopulation is not always taken into account, and we organize world cups in Qatar, waiting for the winter olympic games in this region. Should we be the only ones to make efforts?
    - Traveling to the other side of the world with responsibility, provides a living for many families
    ...

    My conclusion to your reflection:
    - Adapting your travel frequency, your way of travelling, ok; stopping by dogmatism, it's stupid

    Good bubbles to you ...

  5. Hello Corinne!

    Super happy to find an article on petites bulles by the way! Personally, I snorkel and dive only. Living in Marseille, I discover the Mediterranean seabed all year round, wearing a 2 mm combi in summer and an extra 5 mm surshorty in winter, I'm lucky enough not to be very chilly. Frankly, our French waters are rich and every time I dive I discover new species in the shallows of the deep blue.

    But unlike you, since I've been dipping my flippers in the water, I've seen very little of the tropical depths, and I still often long for elsewhere and warm seas. I'm very interested in your article because I have the same thoughts as you and I'm curbing my cravings.

    Maybe planes will be able to improve their CO2 emissions in the future and allow us to continue traveling. I don't think that without us, planes will stop flying anyway, because people need to fly for many reasons other than leisure.

    Otherwise, in the meantime, global warming is causing tropical species to migrate to our Mediterranean coasts, so if we can't go and see them any more, they'll come and see us. In the spring, I went to Corfu in Greece (2-hour direct flight) for want of going further afield, and I was able to observe fireworms, rabbit fish and Madeira scorpion fish. The flying scorpionfish has already been reported in southern Italy, and the flutefish has already reached our shores!

    1. @Laurent: we can say that you practice the most eco-friendly form of diving (I didn't mention in this article the diesel used for compressors or boat engines, not to mention the carbon footprint of scuba divers' equipment)... Even if airplanes improve their carbon footprint over the years thanks to technology, they continue and will continue to represent significant emissions... As for the "tropicalization" of the Mediterranean, while certainly fascinating to observe, it's not very good news for the ecosystem, according to the scientists who study these issues (some species, such as the flying scorpion fish, are invasive). The whole balance of the Mediterranean, which is already in a bad way, could be affected.

  6. Hello Corinne,

    Yes, asking the question of travel raises a number of related issues. Tropical diving tourism will have a hard time adapting to the new practices of divers, many of whom simply won't be able to leave France for four or five weeks.
    And a basic remark: everyone has already rallied against the practice of hubs, whose philosophy imposes insane routes to get from one point to another. Paris - Port Soudan is 5,000 km on a direct flight, that was the old flight that went via Cairo; today's flight goes via Dubai on the way there and Khartoum on the way back... In short, 2 x 5,000 km turn into 7,200 km on the way there plus 8,500 on the way back.... i.e. 5,700 km of free pollution....
    Environment and economy can only be forcibly combined.
    Keep on bubbling, it's always a pleasure to read you.

  7. If you can work it out with your employer, Corinne, yes, less often and for longer is a good idea. Reducing your carbon footprint is good, of course. But you're not a Carmelite nun either!
    I'd like to ask myself these kinds of questions, but my heart won't let me (sniff!). It's a shame, given that I now live on the beautiful Var coast, so rich in wildlife and shipwrecks. Anyway, I'm consoling myself with my souvenir videos and photos from Thailand, Indonesia, Raja Ampat, Nosy Be, Polynesia... and yours (much more beautiful!). We're lucky to have lived through all this, aren't we!
    Well, enjoy, and don't torture yourself too much with your questions, even though it's great to be responsible like you.

    1. @Marc: some companies (including my own) have schemes that allow you to take long vacations, which could be worth exploring... I tell myself that I too am lucky to have already seen so many wonders around the world. I think I'm going to enjoy the next few escapades all the more...

  8. Hello,

    we (family) are mediterranean divers with the dream to make a distant diving trip. At the beginning of 2020 we were planning a trip to the Philippines and then we had to leave...
    We also ask ourselves this kind of question, but as it's likely to be THE trip, I don't focus on it too much. On the other hand, I'm also asking myself the "societal" questions: if we stop traveling, we lose contact, our open-mindedness about faraway places, and this contact is a two-way street.
    I'd also read that on some sites, dive tourism has helped to change environmentally unfriendly habits (dynamite fishing, etc.). This is perhaps also something to take into account, and it doesn't simplify the dilemma.

    1. @Yves: Yes, it's easy enough to see and denounce the negative consequences of tourism, but there are also positive spin-offs, notably in terms of employment, and depending on the location and the operations carried out, environmental preservation and the improvement of local living conditions. There are no simple answers to the dilemmas posed by our distant travels. If this trip sounds like THE trip of a lifetime for you, I certainly hope you'll fulfill your dream one day soon...

    2. Yves, as Corinne says, if this is your family project, the "trip of a lifetime", well, prepare for it! And don't put it off. You see, I retired at the end of 2017, and I immediately went with my wife, without waiting, on the trip we'd been dreaming of taking: a month in Polynesia, including 10 days of diving cruises in the Tuamotus. Good for us, because three years later, we had to stop diving because of a heart problem. In short, we don't know our future, and we shouldn't put off our dreams too long if we can make them come true!
      PS: in 2008, I went diving in the Philippines, in the Visayas, and I have fond memories of a charming little island (it's probably grown a bit since then), Apo Island. But there are certainly other great areas, like Palawan or the islands to the east of Palawan (Bayang Magsaysay).
      So, have a good trip! And nice dives.
      Mark

  9. Hello, I agree with you completely, but :
    -if you don't fly, the plane will still take off
    -when you are in Indo, you pay entrance fees in the marine parks (Komodo) and you finally participate in the maintenance of those
    -you make local people live (accommodation, restaurant, cab, guides, diving clubs...)
    -the local dive masters (when you know that they are paid by the dive) they did not get any pay during the Covid
    -when you make a liveboard in indo, you participate in the salaries of 12 people

    So once a year in Indo, it seems reasonable to me

    1. @Patrick: It's hard to say what's "reasonable" and what isn't in terms of flight frequency... To paraphrase Coluche, who said something like: "Il suffitirait de ne pas acheter pour que ça ne se vende plus", it would be enough for fewer people to take to the air for fewer to take off (and therefore pollute)... Our consumer choices have an impact, in the long run. In any case, yes, many of you have reminded me of this, and rightly so: tourism also provides a livelihood for local people and, in the case of diving, contributes to the protection of marine parks, in particular. The issue is obviously much more complex than a simple carbon footprint calculation.

  10. Hello Corinne,
    Thank you for such a shared reflection, as evidenced by the other comments.
    For my part, I'm lucky enough to live close to where I work, so I do my shopping in town with my grandmother's shopping cart, and I give priority to short circuits and seasonal produce by cooking it myself, more out of a taste for good food than a political choice. I'm not overly committed to the green movement, but I'm careful, as I've always been, and as my modest rural origins have taught me. I also make an effort not to buy anything on the Internet that might contribute to filling up shipping containers from Asia, the world's undisputed leaders in pollution.
    Which means that, even though I travel at least as much in France as I do abroad, I still don't feel able to contemplate not taking the plane to go far away places. I'd feel like punishing myself for a misdeed I don't feel completely guilty about. A little guilty, certainly - always that good old Judeo-Christian cultural imprint - but not completely.
    In short, like many of us, I'm juggling a thousand little contradictions. Perhaps the answer to the question you pose lies, as in so many areas, in measurement. Between everything and nothing, little but good seems to me an interesting path to explore.
    Patrick

  11. hello, an article just as interesting as those of your distant travels.
    Glad to see you've managed to enjoy the wildlife of the English Channel.
    I've had the same comments about "why dive in the Channel, there's nothing there".
    Which, as you rightly pointed out, is totally untrue!
    I look forward to reading more from you and have a great time diving in the Channel!

  12. Hello Corinne,
    We met at last year's show on the Petit Forum stand with Luko. Like you, I'm passionate about Indonesia.
    I partly agree with your thoughts after covid.
    But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy these beautiful experiences from the other side of the world,
    I don't think so, of course the dives in Brittany are magnificent, but...
    As such, I'm off to Alor at the end of September and beginning of October with friends, a trip I had to cancel in 2019 due to the pandemic.
    Bonne continuation et bonne journée .
    Yours sincerely
    Jean Paul
    PS: we contacted each other a few years ago about a trip to Triton Bay.

    1. Jean-Paul: hello, yes, I remember! I'm delighted that you'll soon be able to explore the waters of Alor after the Covid cancellation. As for me, as I said earlier, I'm faced with my own contradictions: on the one hand, I'm back to "local and seasonal" diving, but on the other, I haven't given up on long-distance travel either. I'm once again planning a big trip, after three years without flying... Unfortunately, I'm afraid that in a few years' time - five, ten, twenty? - the damage caused by global warming will impose even more drastic hardships on us than those of giving up flying for leisure.

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