Going to Xtremes - Underwater love

Sean Hill holds his breath and then lets go on how diving takes him to a world about which we know less than we do about the moon

I was born in Hastings, on the South Coast of England, so as long as I can remember the sea has always been an exciting, mysterious place for me.

I was first attracted to diving because I wanted to experience the unknown. Yet despite being born near the sea, I did not dive until I came to Malta, fell in love with the place, and a girl called Christiana, with whom I have been for the past seven years.

It was in Cirkewwa that I did my first dive. I can still remember how excited I was, and how I thought I would never manage to go down to a depth of 16 metres. Who would have told me that five years later, I would be diving down to 60 metres and more in some of the best diving sites in the world and that I would set up

Diving in Malta is fantastic for wreck, cave and deep diving. Although there is not much marine life around the islands, water temperatures are high, visibility is always good up to 35 metres and a lot of wrecks have been sunk to create artificial reefs, which are very exciting to dive to and support marine life. However, it would be great if there was some protection in place to stop fishing around these artificial reefs. Such protection would give marine life a chance to flourish. And we need to keep the sea clean - while diving I come across bottles, batteries, plastic bags and even car tyres. All kind of rubbish damages marine life.

My favourite diving site is Cirkewwa, not only because it is my first love but also because once I was with six student divers, and we managed to dive with dolphins. It was a humbling experience. Yet my best driving experience so far has to be when I went down to the HMS Stubborn on a 56-metre dive. The WWII submarine, which stands at 185 feet down on the seabed, is one of the most sought-after dives in Malta. Yet it is only for the experienced diver, since it is a decompression dive and requires a lot of planning.

Being an assistant diving instructor and an underwater photography instructor means I have the best of both worlds; teaching people to dive and helping them get the best shots while underwater. For underwater photography, natural light is essential for landscapes, yet colour gets increasingly blue with depth. Clear water and good concentrations of animal life are the ideal conditions for easy photography, and coral reefs are generally the richest locations.

For underwater photography, there are also a lot more things to think of, like air consumption, buoyancy, depth, light and the quality of the water at the depth you want to shoot your photos. And you need excellent equipment. All of my underwater housings are made by Gates Underwater Products. This is professional equipment, which is perfect for diving deep. With Gates housing, I can go as deep as 140 metres for photography and video. Lighting is important as well - my lights are 180W HID, which I get from NiteRider.

I have had more than 2,000 photographs published in magazines worldwide, and the best thing is that my underwater photography and videography helps me promote Malta all around the world as a fantastic diving destination.

Diving is a dangerous sport, and one must follow rules and understand how equipment works. I always dive within my limits and training, and check if my equipment is working properly and if I have enough air for the dive. I always pay a lot of attention to the weather and plan dives beforehand, with all the details including times, depth, entry, exits and emergency procedures. You cannot be too careful, and it is only if you make safety top priority that you can enjoy rewarding memories.

The more I dive, the more I want to explore and dive around the world. One of my goals is to dive with great white sharks or 18-metre long whale sharks. For next year, I have also booked a place with a diving expedition led by an expert team, which includes Göran Ehlme, BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2006 and polar underwater cameraman for Blue Planet; Paul Nicklen, the award-winning National Geographic photographer and Charlotte Caffrey, Marine Scientist.

The sea covers around 78 per cent of the world's surface. We know more about the moon than we know about what lies under the sea's surface. There are marine organisms which have the potential to cure diseases such as cancer and leukemia. And there are more than £100 billion of lost treasure at sea - you never know.

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