Ignore what Captain James T. Kirk said. In 2012 the final frontier was underwater.
Never in the history of the planet has mankind ventured so far under the surface. And, in pushing the underwater boundaries, more individual achievement records were set this year than ever before. From the seven-mile underwater depth record set by Canadian filmmaker explorer James Cameron inside a futuristic one-man bathysphere, to freediver Ashley Futral Chapman who went down to 67 meters (223 feet) and back on a single breath of air, new milestones continue to be made and to be broken.
Skimming through our back pages we noted the following achievements, albeit some of them pretty dumb, that were reached over the past 365 days.
In January, members of the Czech Speleological Society discovered and mapped the world's fourth longest underwater cave, Ko'ox Baal, which is over 56.5 kilometres long. In surveying the underwater passageways, Mexico's Ko'ox Baal is now the longest underwater cave system that is mapped in the world.
Yes, you can text underwater with your iPhone 4. In January, 2012, the Keystone ECO
MarineCase, became the world's first waterproof case made specifically for iPhone 4S/4. Put your iPhone in the slim waterproof case and it works to a depth of 21 foot (7 metres). A diver can take images and video underwater, as well as playback, email, text data and use apps below the surface. (You can't talk on the phone though.)
The Casio watch company has begun production of the world's first sport diving underwater transceiver that lets divers talk to each other while scuba diving. The Logosease is a transceiver that is attached to the strap of a standard diving mask, allowing divers to talk and hear normally with scuba regulators in their mouths. The company says that "wireless communications is enabled by ultrasound and bone conduction technologies." It works to a depth of 180 ft.
In April, students from a U.S. Ocean Engineering program posted an extended YouTube video of the world's first (and only) Hamster-Powered Submarine. The sub, made out of a plastic soda bottle, held a dry live hamster and its exercise wheel. The hamster ran in the wheel, which turned a propeller, driving the sub slowly underwater. The sub's maiden voyage was made in 2009.
In May a group of Saudi divers built what they described as the world's first underwater mosque. The divers used massive plastic pipes filled with sand to construct the symbolic mosque off the northwestern town of Tabuk, close to the border with Jordan. After constructing the mosque the divers performed prayers inside the open concept structure.
A small tabloid dive story caught our eye in June. British newspapers called it the stupidest dive stunt ever performed. Turns out it wasn't a scuba trick but, indeed it was stupid. At the Royal Cornwall Fair the public watched Professor Splash, an American stuntman, perform a death-defying 30 ft dive into just 12 inches of Cornish milk!
The World's Record for Static Apnea was set in June in Chagsha, China. Tom Sietas, a German free diver was submerged in one Plexiglas tank, Brazilian breath holding champion, Ricardo Bahaia in the other. Twenty-two minutes 22 seconds later Siestas was the last to come up for air, he won the world record for holding one's breath in a tank. He beat Bahaia's record by 2.1 minutes.
Hope those California mutts are pool trained! The world's first calendar featuring diving dogs is released in October. LA Photographer Seth Casteel's 2013 calendar is an instant success and has raised money to improve the image of animal rescue and adoption. His new book, of the same name, is now a New York Times best seller!
The World's First Underwater Bingo Game (held in a shark tank). A group of English divers have been dreaming up extreme Bingo games to raise money for charity. The winning stunt? Six players took their Bingo cards into the shark tank at the Blue Planet Aquarium, in Cheshire, England.
Also in 2012 and also in an another British shark tank, the world's first underwater shark tea was staged at the London Sea Life Aquarium. Teatime underwater in the aquarium was done to show that sharks are not "blood thirsty sea monsters." Attending the tea were 15 big sharks including Black Tip Reef Sharks, Nurse Sharks, Brown Sharks, Sand Tiger Sharks, a Zebra Shark and a Bowmouth Guitar Shark.
On Tuesday, October 9 2012, off the west coast of Ireland, Paul Devane set the new Guinness World Record for the longest open saltwater scuba dive in cold water (10 C) at 13 hours and 4 minutes. In 2009, the 33-year-old was forced to pull out of his first attempt due to a technical malfunction: the pee valve on his drysuit that let him void, failed.
In November the world's best female freediver of 2008 broke the world's record but didn't get to keep the title because she didn't stay conscious throughout the attempt. New Zealand's Kathryn Nevatt was disqualified in her attempt to set the world free-diving record for swimming underwater despite swimming the farthest ever swum by a woman. Nevatt broke the current record of 163m held by Russian Natalia Malchanova, (she swam 164m) but lost because she briefly fainted during the 7-minute swim.
Late in November at a free diving contest at Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahamas, Ashley Futral Chapman achieved the seemingly impossible by diving without fins to 67 meters (223 feet) with just a single breath of air in her lungs. The swim lasted 3 minutes and 15 seconds. The 30-year-old American set her third World Record in the freediving discipline of Constant No-Fins.
An Estonian dive club tried to break its own record for Number of Divers Playing Checkers Underwater at one time. Forty-two played games underwater in January 2012, however their old record of 55 players set in 2011 stands... for now.
A team of Australian divers in early February set out to recapture the Guinness World's Record for underwater Ironing. Alas they didn't make it, only 102 divers, ironing boards, irons and wrinkled shirts made it underwater. The record stays in the Netherlands where 173 divers and ironing boards took the title in 2011.