I started to keep fish and exotic animals when I was around 5 years old, and the passion for the natural world, especially underwater, has simply grown and continues to do so, 40 years later.
My complete fascination with the aquatic world and its inhabitants was finally fully realised when I learnt to dive during my university years, allowing me to explore environments I had only been able to read about and try to replicate in aquariums.
A few years after university, I turned what was a passion into a profession, working in the fledgling industry of public aquariums. I began as an aquarist, working my way up to Curator over the following years, all the time developing my interest in the equipment used to maintain the environment for these displays – life support systems.
Diving remained a passion alongside my career, moving from my training into mixed gas diving and my first O’Three suit in 1999. I was fed up of being cold and really hate wet socks, funny for someone working in aquariums! In 2001 I bought my first rebreather – for me this was the ultimate way of viewing animals close up in their environment, and I have never looked back. My excitement grew as we used mixed gas rebreathers on previously un-dived areas of the UK’s magnificent coastal waters, exploring new areas, encountering animals usually wary of bubbles. Many dives in my top 10 logs are still from the UK…
In 2005 I took an opportunity to become part of the team building the new Paris aquarium opposite the Eiffel tower, after the project staying as the Life Support Systems manager. During the build it was one of the largest Aquariums in Europe. Although challenging on many levels, it allowed me to further develop my career in the systems used to maintain and display marine life. It also allowed me to dive the beautiful French coastline and cave systems, training both in France and in South Wales. Eventually training both under the French commercial system and the HSE in the UK to gain commercial dive qualifications.
The pinnacle of my time in France was being sent by the Paris aquarium to dive Antarctica. I was tasked with helping a French scientific team, collecting samples, animals and maintain dive equipment. Having worked previously within the aquarium world with O’Three, they were the only choice for such an expedition, and all the suits for the team behaved perfectly, allowing as close as can be attained to comfort in seawater at -1.8C.
After 10 years in France I have returned to UK to build my own business, Copperband, in reference to one of my first fish – Copperband butterfly fish – I kept as a kid. The purpose of my business is to offer services around life support systems to the public and private aquarium, aquaculture and swimming pool industries. Probably the scariest thing I have ever done!