TITONI's cooperation with Uli Kunz Seascoper

The Swiss watchmaker TITONI cooperates with the renowned research diver and internationally famous maritime biologist Uli Kunz to launch the Seascoper 600. Over the coming weeks, TITONI will be presenting excepts from a longer and very personal talk with Uli Kunz about his life and scientific underwater expeditions. TITONI feels it has a duty to inform an interested public about how we can all help preserve the oceans for future generations and protect this very diverse ecosystem with the help of a professional research diver. 

 

Learn more about the “fascination of the underwater world” and what inspires Uli Kunz to get people interested in the secrets of the seas.    

What’s your connection to water?

For me, water is the most important biosphere on our planet. As humans, our main connections are with air and the earth, but we will have to broaden our view of the world greatly if we want to understand the world’s biggest biosphere, the ocean, so that we can protect it better.

Why are you so fascinated by the underwater world?

Life began in the sea, in water. But in the course of human evolution and history, our societies have moved further away from the sea and we have come to see it as something of a hostile place. As a maritime biologist and diver, I am privileged in that I can repeatedly return to this place that has such a rich diversity of life forms and where ostensibly opposites come together to provide a complete and overall picture: life and death, change and stasis, egotism and cooperation, hot and cold.

As a result of the huge expanse of the ocean and the possibility of moving freely in any direction, you don’t really feel like an intruder when you dive, more like a small, albeit very clumsy and inflexible part of this colourful and crazy world. It’s a fantastic feeling and not something I am afraid of; on the contrary, I am always amazed by what I see every time I sink below the water’s surface!

What are the biggest secrets of the underwater world for you?

The oceans are all interconnected, currents flow from one ocean into the next, the cold waters of the deep sea at some point becomes the warm water of tropical seas. And marine life is inter-related in the same way; some of it travels huge distances to find new food, a partner or to give birth to its young. Some animals like the gigantic whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world, disappear during their travels, and suddenly reappear somewhere completely different. What they do in the meantime, where they spend this time and how they find their way around in the oceans is still largely unexplained. That’s both exciting and fantastic!

Are there any secrets in the underwater world that you haven’t discovered yet, but would dearly like to discover?

Of course! Thousands of them! Scientists believe that we have only discovered a fraction of all living species. In the depths of the oceans and in inaccessible maritime regions there are life forms that no humans have ever seen. And they behave in ways that we have no idea about. Yet they still play a role in the overall ecosystem, a role we have to learn to understand if we want to better protect the ocean and get a better idea of our role in this world. We still have a lot to do!

In a casual conversation, the deep-sea diver answers TITONI’s questions about “professional diving and what this takes”:

What skills and what passions do you need to become a successful, and at the same time “sustainable” diver?

“Success” is probably not the right word when it comes to diving. I think a better way of putting it is probably to say that you can become a safe and happy diver if you don’t overestimate yourself, if you repeatedly check your own abilities and have great respect for every dive. You can only really be happy underwater if you feel comfortable in this biosphere. I could never become a happy skydiver or mountaineer, for example, because I would never feel as confident in the air or at great heights as I do underwater. This is something anyone can find out by putting themselves in this situation.

Diving is often presented as a sport that needs a lot of equipment, a sport that is only for tough guys, or people who want to be tough. A lot of equipment is needed for deep-sea diving or when diving in caves, but you always have to remember that underneath all of the equipment, there is still a human being who has to develop skills so that they can work safely in the respective situation and with their equipment. If you are not conscious and aware of your own body, do not have the necessary respect for what is going on around you and are not foresighted, you can quickly get into unpleasant situations that provoke mistakes and greatly limit a diver’s safety and ability to act.

What are the most difficult challenges facing a diver?

The mental aspects of diving are often overlooked. In the warm, clear waters of a tropical coral reef, diving without a neoprene suit feels very free and easy. But in my line of work, I frequently have to dive in cold and murky waters, in a dry suit with thick gloves and heavy scuba tanks on my back. This would trigger not only physical but also mental stress for many people. Every diver has to get used to these additional stresses and thus push back the limits of their own ability to cope with pressure if they want to feel comfortable in new situations.

You also dive in caves. How is this different from diving in the open sea?

Water-filled caves are a fantastic world for well-trained divers, and are probably amongst of the last white spots on our map of the world. We have charted the entire surface of the moon, but only a minute percentage of the caves that lie directly beneath our feet. From narrow, mud-caked pipes, through labyrinthine ramified, winding tunnels, right through to huge caverns that are full of stalactites and stalagmites, caves are magical places on our earth that you can only reach if you dare to enter.

This central fascination also explains the difference to diving in the open sea: there’s no direct route to the surface, and often only one exit back to daylight. Any problems or incidents that arise have to be solved underground, under the cave ceiling. Something that at first glance appears to be extremely dangerous and scary to some people, is just one more reason for well-trained cave divers to be extra careful. Much more importance is attached to the equipment, to team skills and to an appreciation of diving when diving in caves to ensure that we have a solution to as many problems as possible when preparing for the dive and during the assessment of the risks. When diving in caves, we use at least two completely autonomous breathing systems, we mix the right breathing gases and keep a strict eye on our gas consumption, we are guided by a line, the communication between the divers is very deliberate and we take a lot of time to discuss the dive in great detail in advance. I would even go so far as to say that the risk of making a mistake and having an accident is greater on holiday during a spontaneous, so-called “fun dive” on a coral reef than during a carefully planned dive with the proper equipment in underwater caves that stretch for kilometres.

Are you an adventurer?

That’s for other people to decide. I certainly don’t see myself as an adventurer. I like being outdoors, experience some fascinating moments in different biospheres and try to contribute to protecting the oceans.

In the last part of our talk with the research diver Uli Kunz, he tells TITONI some of his personal preferences:

Are you interested in underwater archaeology too?

Our team regularly works for archaeological projects because one of our divers is also an underwater archaeologist. Thanks to him, we were able to dive in Mexican caves several years in succession, investigating what is left of the Maya culture and the remains of prehistoric skeletons from the first settlers in Central America. These are very exciting kinds of expeditions because they grant us insights into bygone times, only small parts of which we can understand and comprehend.

I read somewhere that you love cold water. Other people prefer tropical temperatures. Why do you love the colder seas?

I am an avid cold water diver because I think the underwater worlds there are much more exciting than those you can find in the tropics. Of course it’s great diving in warm water, I only need a thin suit, can often dive without gloves and stay under water for longer. But cold waters are simply less known an explored, so that the surprise you get when you come across fascinating animals and plants is much greater. Take my dives off Greenland, for example. If dived beneath a sheet of ice there in winter, in crystal clear water and could see around me for more than 50 metres! Naturally, there are creatures there that don’t mind the frosty temperatures. I was surrounded by transparent jellyfish with pink tentacles, colourful fish amongst the algae and bright red shrimps scurried about over the stones. Not to mention the amazing experience of seeing a huge iceberg under water right in front of my nose, one that easily weighed 10,000 tons, but like any cube of ice, floated on the surface of the water. I can dive anywhere in the world, the coral reefs in the tropics are just a small part of the oceans. What interests me are the relationships in the various biospheres, be these cold or warm. It’s just that I find things that bit more exciting in cold water …

Can you live without diving?

Life goes on, whatever happens. And if there comes a time when I can’t dive under water, I can still float on its surface with a snorkel and mask and imagine the fantastic things that are going on in the depths.

Movies

1 - The Seascoper 600
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