Descending: The Solomon Islands

Last updated 09:40 16/10/2013
Descending

History fanatic Scott talks Ellis into diving the shark-infested waters off the coast of the Solomon Islands.

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Canadian Scott Wilson and Kiwi Ellis Emmett have been where no men have been before.

An 18 month trip took them to some of the world's remotest dive locations - many of which have only recently been discovered.

Scott and Ellis chronicle these travels as co-hosts of a show, Descending on the Travel Channel. We'll catch up with them each week about the destinations they've been to.

History fanatic Scott talks Ellis into diving the shark-infested waters off the coast of the Solomon Islands. This tiny South Pacific nation played a strategic role during WWII and she still has the scars... and wrecks... to prove it.

We chat to Ellis about this incredible experience.

What was your favourite dive from this episode?

The Solomon Islands is a fascinating place rich with history. There were so many memorable dives it is hard to pick just one.

Diving on the Catalina plane wreck was definitely one dive site that is still vivid in my mind.

Not just because we were among the first to see this beautiful wreck after almost 70 years on the bottom, but because of how amazing condition it was still in.

Diving this wreck felt like opening up a time capsule and playing detective in some forensic mystery.  

How did you get there? 

We engaged the services of Neil Yates, somewhat of a local expert / guide from Tulagi Dive, Honiara. 

Don't be fooled into thinking that you will find everything on the internet, you cannot underestimate local knowledge when travelling to places off the beaten path.

What diving risks were you concerned about in this location?

When diving wrecks of any kind there are many things to be concerned about - being silted out or becoming disorientated, getting caught up in the tangled wreckage or trapped inside a wreck, that sort of thing.  

Any time you are diving in an overhead environment the risks go up exponentially.

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However, our major concern in the Solomon's were more related to the depth that some of these wrecks were at and the amount of time that we required on them filming, in order to do them justice.

Despite our extensive diving experience by this stage we were still challenged by some of these dives.

What's one thing every traveller should try there? 

Don't be mistaken that the Solomon's is all about diving ship wrecks. Yes, there is some incredible WWll history, above and below the water line, but the people and culture is what does it for me.

Considering what these people have gone through they are mostly warm, happy people. Don't be afraid to get off the beaten path, walk the dirt roads and explore a little. 

What should you avoid in this destination?

Malaria - it is rife in this part of the world.

Did anything go wrong on a dive?

On one of our deepest dives was on a Corsair plane wreck. We were on the bottom swimming around the plane, searching for clues as to why it went down.

It was pretty deep and our bottom time was down to minutes before we would go into decompression time - something we wanted to avoid. I knew I was feeling 'narked' (nitrogen narcosis, a term of feeling drunk when at depth) but I did not realize how narked I was until I spoke to camera about what we were experiencing.

I got half way through my sentence and then couldn't remember what I had just said a few seconds before - haha. I thought it might be about time to start our ascent after that.

What's the coolest thing you saw?

The spirit and strength of a man 90 years in age, Eroni Kumana, a WWll hero living on Ranongga Island.

This man had so much spirit it was inspiring to meet and spend time with him and his family. 

Out of the two of us, it has always been Scott that was more of the history buff and it was great to see him in his element.

He was like a kid in a candy store trying to decide which flavour (wreck) to choose from.

But I have to say that the Solomon Islands changed me and my views on wreck diving. It is pretty hard to spend many hours, over consecutive days, deep inside a wreck that was shot down and sunk, along with all on board, and not feel moved or changed in some way.

I had so many sombre moments as I really started to understand the enormity of the Second World War and got a tiny taste of what it might have been like to be there at that time in history - I will never forget this.

Watch Descending, Wednesdays, 8.30pm on the Travel Channel.

- Stuff

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