A team of military divers from Britain’s Royal Navy took the plunge at Deep Dive Dubai – the world’s deepest indoor pool.
Personnel from minehunter HMS Shoreham, which is docked in Jebel Ali Port for four days, were among the first to try out the new attraction in Nad Al Sheba.
The 55-metre Sandown Class minehunter is one of four specialist ships permanently based at the Naval Support Facility in Bahrain, to seek and destroy unexploded sea mines.
The crystal-clear waters of the attraction were a welcome relief from the murky depths of the Arabian Gulf, which the divers patrol to ensure trade routes are free of underwater threats.
Leading Hand, Liam Pulman, 38, said the experience of diving in the world’s deepest pool was unique.
“Diving was completely different to what we are used to,” he told The National.
“Here you can see all the way down to 60 metres. In the dockyard where we usually dive you can barely see your hand in front of your face.
“It is good to practise our skills and drills where we actually see what we’re doing and then record it post-dive to learn. It is not something we can normally do at those depths.”
Navy diving drills usually include complex procedures and focus on how to deactivate non-magnetic signature mines.
Divers will occasionally train inside a small, shallow pool in Bahrain, where the ship is based when not operational.
“Any training we do, we prefer to do at sea, where it is deeper,” said Leading Hand Pulman, from South Wales.
“The visibility and benign conditions inside the Dubai pool makes it much easier for us.”
Many mines are sown in and around the Gulf, and are a legacy of the Iran-Iraq war.
HMS Shoreham is one of four Royal Navy vessels patrolling the region as part of Operation Kipion and the Mine Countermeasures Force, working with allies across the Middle East to keep international shipping lanes safe.
Lieutenant Callum Clarke, 28, from Portsmouth, is the diving officer onboard HMS Shoreham and deals with compliance, safety and training of the crew.
“We have 40 crew onboard and a component part of that are the mine warfare diving team,” he said.
“There is a certain amount of prestige with the position. The team works with mine warfare, so they are quite fit, and it is a vocation rather than a career, so it is something people want to emulate. It is seen as a challenge.”
When home in the UK, most Navy divers have to train in a water tank in Portsmouth, which offers the deep-water pressurised environment for drills.
“Deep Dive Dubai is on another level to that tank,” said Lt Clarke. “Having somewhere to train with great visibility so we can see the guys completing their drills clearly is a huge advantage.”
The dive pool features an entire sunken city. Divers have the opportunity to explore an underwater world with an abandoned streetscape, apartment, garage, arcade and more.
Its developers said the environment will continually change in the months ahead to keep divers coming back for more.
“The response has been amazing from new divers and those who want to refresh their skills, that has been a surprise,” said Deep Dive Dubai’s director, Jarrod Jablonski, a professional diver with more than 30 years’ experience.
“It is important to emphasise you can’t just jump in the water and dive to 60 metres. It takes a lot of training and experience.”
Recreational discovery divers can get in and dive to 12 metres, qualified divers can drop to 20 metres while advanced divers can go to 30 metres, he said. To go any deeper, more technical training is needed.
“I have done deep dives, cave dives and archaeological dives around the world, so we wanted to create an interesting pool that could still entice someone like me,” Mr Jablonski said.
“I have done more than 100 dives during the process of developing this centre, and it is still enjoyable.”