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Coral Heads and Oil Rigs
— Diving at Bahrein


In the summer of 1963 I spent three months working at Bahrein airport. As in all Islamic states, the "week end" at Bahrein was on a Friday. One of the most attractive forms of recreation was to go on a dhow trip out to the coral heads which lay just offshore at Bahrein. At the coral heads it was possible to dive down into an exotic underwater world.

While I was in Bahrein, most of these trips were organised at that time by a fellow International Areradio Ltd employee, "Chalky" White. Scuba equipment was unnecessary as some coral heads reached to within 10 feet of the surface. All one needed was a mask, snorkel tube, and flippers. And anyway scuba equipment was for wimps who couldn't hold their breath!

Swimming underwater around the Bahrein coral heads opened up a new and fascinating world. But the Gulf could be a very alien environment. If the sea was rough, there would be little to see at the coral heads and a visit to the oil rigs was the preferred choice. However there was a world of difference between swimming amongst the brightly coloured inhabitants of a picture-book coral head and diving down into the shadows among rusty-iron rig legs in the hope of seeing a giant conger.

One particular day at Bahrein stood out. A small group of really keen aficianados, not having found anything at the rig where they were, decided it would be more fun to swim to the next oil rig rather than use the dhow. As the dhow had been sent on its way to wait at the other rig and was quickly sailing out of sight, I had little choice but to join in.

It was an overcast day and the swimmers could hardly see one another in the murky sea. Nothing was visible that was over ten feet away, and the sea seemed bottomless. Only one person had a spring-gun, not that a simple spring-gun would have been of much use against a shark. And there were plenty of those in the sea off Bahrein, sometimes even visible from the shore. I had never felt so exposed, and from then on gave trips to the oil rigs a miss.