There can be very few things more otherworldly than a period of time in the solitude and peace under the ocean. Recreational diving has never been more popular, despite the fact that humans have only explored five percent of the world’s oceans. As mankind ventures further into the aquatic realms, now more than ever it is important to respect the seas and treat them with the reverence that they deserve; over-fishing and pollution are just two threats that our beautiful waters are facing. Key to the survival of the marine life and sub-aquatic life are ambassadors that can champion and capture snapshots of the reefs and wildlife that exist. One such person is photographer, freediver and friend of DOXA, Jules Casey, based in Mornington Peninsula in the state of Victoria, Australia.
Casey is kept busy by owning and running a small Airbnb, opposite the beach in Rye, as her main occupation. This allows her a flexible lifestyle and plenty of opportunities to dive. “My life pretty much revolves around my diving. Freediving or scuba diving, my choice is decided by the weather conditions and what I'm hoping to see on any particular dive.” Seven years ago, during a trip to Ningaloo Reef in Exmouth Western Australia, an underwater encounter dramatically changed her life. “Swimming with Whale Sharks was an awesome experience, but I was also impressed by the freediving, underwater photographer's skills. Holding his breath for several minutes each time he dived.” And so, in the following years Casey dedicated her time to learning how to freedive, travelling to Bali to find the world’s leading freediving instructors.
Despite traveling to exotic locations in the pursuit of freediving expertise, it was locations closer to home that truly captured Casey’s heart. “What I discovered under the piers in my local Port Phillip Bay excited me. An entire world I'd never paid much attention to, filled with marine life. I purchased a GoPro and some years later an underwater camera to document what I discovered.” Casey launched her Instagram account @onebreathdiver, to share what she discovered with family and friends. It quickly, however, grew an international reputation as a leading resource as she documented some incredible encounters with local underwater wildlife.
“Some of the most exciting dive sites I've visited are in my local waters of Port Phillip Bay. The piers create artificial reefs filled with marine fauna. I can dive the same sites hundreds of times and find something I've never seen before,” extols Casey. Her wanderlust is never far from the surface though and some incredible locations have been the backdrop for her diving adventures. Favorite travel destinations include the Solomon Islands, Philippines and the Maldives. She explains: “Warm tropical waters are very different to the temperate waters I'm frequently diving. The Solomon Islands have so many pristine coral reefs and brightly colored fish. I recently spent two weeks on a liveaboard boat and dived in 50 different locations.”
It was whilst visiting these locations, that Casey noticed that the local attitude to the marine life was almost sacred. “The local communities care for their reefs knowing how important they are to sustain life on their islands and to encourage tourism as a means of income.” This is an agenda very close to her heart and something she is deeply passionate about. “The damage done to fragile environments and habitats by pollution is causing species to become extinct. The overfishing of sharks for shark fin soup is heart breaking and I cannot understand how this practice is not banned world-wide.”
What does she feel needs to be the focus for the protection of these precious habitats? “The key priorities for protecting the flora and fauna in our seas are the removal of fishing gear, litter & pollution. It's not something that one person can do on their own though. Before most pier dives, I walk the pier to clean up and chat to the fishermen. They often thank me for cleaning up and I remind them that I do this to prevent it from ending up in the bay. If everyone picked up a few pieces of litter, it would make a huge difference to our underwater environment.” Casey’s social media is a way of encouraging others to join her in cleaning up.
In line with this mission to keep the seas clean, the focus of Casey’s diving has evolved from wanting to share her underwater adventures with family and friends, to a much larger audience. “Education and protection are now my main focus,” she explains. “I highlight the beauty of a world many people don't have the opportunity to experience for themselves in the hope they will form a connection with it and help protect it. Some of my images and videos focus on trying to engage and educate people in such a way that they begin to see how fragile this underwater world is and how they can impact what happens within that environment. Litter is a huge problem and my way of encouraging people to be aware of the issues and the impact they have on our wildlife is by showing the rescues we do and the entanglements of several species."
As with all divers, keeping a close eye on the time is paramount to Casey’s safety. A reliable and robust diving watch is critical to her. “Time is so important to me, as underwater, time almost stands still! I get totally mesmerized by my adventures, that I easily lose track of time. For this reason, I always wear a watch while diving to keep on time for land-based appointments too.” Whether above or below the waves, it's important to her that she chooses a watch that can go everywhere she goes: “Which is why I love my DOXA watches! For an evening out or a dive it's the perfect choice. The color range is stunning and it's often the only piece of jewelry I'll wear, because it's a fashion statement of its own.”