Scott Cassell, a combat diver and counter-terrorism operative who captains a Canadian ocean conservation project, is attempting something Saturday that apparently has never been done: a 30-mile, nonstop underwater dive from Santa Catalina Island to San Pedro Marina.
But the goal isn't just to get into scuba-diving record books, as Cassell hopes to bring public and media attention to the disappearance of blue sharks from Southern California waters.
"It is one of my personal goals to attract as many sharks to me as possible in hopes to estimate how many (or how few) sharks are present in the area this time of year," Cassell writes to supporters of Global Reef's nonprofit Undersea Voyager Project.
Global Reef estimates 97 percent of the blue sharks have disappeared. Having spent much of his life underwater, Cassell has said, "If we were to see the devastation that has occurred in the ocean--as if it were on land--we would be horrified."
He plans to horrify us by crossing the Catalina Channel at depths of 20 to 30 feet within 24 hours using an Aqueon, a wing-like diver propulsion fin, and a mixed-gas rebreather that must be changed out every six hours. Support boats will help chart his course, film his endeavor and blast sounds from a hydrophone aimed at attracting sharks to the veteran diver.
Cassell and his team plan to depart Catalina's CIMI Youth Camp at 4 a.m. Saturday. He will then face risks from hypothermia, decompression sickness, physical exhaustion, strong ocean currents, possible equipment failure and attacking Humboldt squid and great-white sharks.
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Barring any perils, Cassell plans to briefly greet friends, fellow activists and the media at Cabrillo Aquarium Beach in San Pedro Harbor at 6 p.m. before entering a hyperbaric chamber on his support boat for five hours to decompress.
Global Reef plans to eventually release a 3D documentary fittingly titled, The 30-Mile Dive. Speaking of video, here's video from the submarine Antipodes of Cassell diving off Catalina recently: