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Dive, Shoot, Sleep, Repeat | FRANK Magazine

Denison Yachting | January 9, 2022



Going in-depth with Will Appleyard — a British photographic journalist, published author and qualified diver.

His adventure-inspired photography has appeared in National Geographic Traveler and national press. Climbing and mountaineering activities have taken him around the world, from the Arctic Circle to the wilds of Canada’s British Columbia. His third book – Wild and Temperate Seas published in 2020 – lists over 50 of his favorite dive sites at some of the UK’s most popular underwater destinations.

DAMAI I and DAMAI II at Misool in the Raja Ampat Islands in West Papua, Indonesia

YOU’RE A TRIPLE THREAT BUT WHAT CAME FIRST, PHOTOGRAPHY, WRITING OR DIVING?

Photography for sure. I took photography as a side subject at school. I feel quite privileged to have been around before the digital camera age and to learn how to shoot and develop film. Writing came to me decades later (at school I was only interested in art and drama). Diving found me when I was in my 20s. Once I had qualified, I wanted to give my experiences some purpose and to tell others about my adventures. But I probably first took a camera underwater after my 100th dive.

From the bridge on DAMAI I

WHAT SUBJECT MATTER DO YOU MOST ENJOY PHOTOGRAPHING?

All South Florida sits on a seeping soft oolitic limestone floor above a giant freshwater aquafer. Historically, freshwater flowed south from the springs of Central Florida to Lake Okeechobee then spread out across a marshy basin called the Everglades – aptly named the River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas – to drain into the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Over time, the basin began to stand higher than the surrounding sandy loam, retaining significant water. During heavy rains, it would spill beyond its rim forming creeks and push through weak spots below ground making temporary springs.

A battery of barracuda

WHERE HAVE YOU TRULY RELISHED SHOOTING?

In late 2019, I was lucky enough to visit Indonesia. We sailed over 900 nautical miles through the Forgotten Islands, Spice Islands and Raja Ampat. I have never seen such a rich underwater ecosystem in all of my time. It reminded me of how an ocean should, and would, have looked before we ravaged her elsewhere in the world. During that trip, we were eight divers aboard a traditional wooden Phinisi boat and, in the most part, were the only dive boat exploring the area. That felt like pure exploration. 

Another time, I joined a group of journalists to dive and photograph shipwrecks in the Baltic Sea. We explored wrecks in Sweden, Finland and Estonia. The First World War wreck of a Russian submarine, about two hours under motor off the coast of Estonia, stands out as a highlight. The sub was completely intact and the visibility was incredible. The cold water was challenging, but that just adds to the adventure for me.

Batfish

WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOUR HAPPIEST?

Outside! I love hiking and paragliding and, of course, being in or on the water. Spain is home for me now and I feel my happiest here for sure. This country, I believe, has everything – great mountains, varied diving locations, friendly people and delicious food.

WHAT IS NEXT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?

I’ve been looking at the Azores as a diving location. I love islands and having read about this place, it sounds fabulous. 

Diver with an oceanic manta ray

WHAT IMAGE ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with a drone. I took a shot of our dive boat in Indonesia with the drone, with one of the Forgotten Islands on the horizon. The sea looked like ice and the boat looked so small in the vast expanse of sea. This image was shortlisted as one of six finalists for the Explorers Against Extinction Photographer of the Year. They auctioned off the finalists’ images as prints to raise money for the charity.

YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT WHEN DIVING?

A few years ago, I was invited to dive in a geothermal cave system in Tuscany, Italy. The entrance to the cave system is situated under a spa hotel and the underground lakes and steamy dry parts of the cave are said to be good for the body. There are two small geothermal pools under the hotel as well, used by the spa guests for bathing. At the bottom of one of these pools is a small hole, just large enough for a person to fit through, which is the entrance to the cave system. The water is 97 degrees Fahrenheit, about the same as the average normal body temperature, and so it feels neither hot nor cold. We explored the underwater cave system for about 40 minutes, checking out interesting rock formations. It’s not a dive that most divers would want to do, especially those with claustrophobic tendencies. I had to keep my nerve in there, for sure.

Exploring by sail

YOUR MOST TERRIFYING MOMENT WHILE TRAVELING?

In 2004, I was among a group of divers exploring the Similan Islands in Thailand; nine uninhabited islands roughly eight hours sailing from Phuket across the Andaman Sea. On our way back to mainland Thailand, after about three hours sailing, the boat began to list heavily to port side. We were slowly sinking. The radio wasn’t working and mobile phone coverage was virtually non-existent. We stupidly decided to make for the nearest island, now a speck on the horizon, using the tender. With the sun beating down on us, limited water and fuel, I genuinely thought I was going to die that day. We would never have made it to the island. To our relief, and after two hours bobbing about under motor, we were picked up by another dive boat on its way to Phuket. I learned a lot from that trip, particularly some important lessons about preparation. 

A 23-foot whale shark

ONE SINGLE MEMORY GUARANTEED TO MAKE YOU SMILE?

Landing on the island of Saint Helena, a remote British island in the South Atlantic. It’s a difficult place to get to and owing to its ever-changing weather, airplanes are never guaranteed to land – some get turned back to Cape Town, which is four hours away. I was very happy to have made it. The diving was fabulous and I spent time in the water with whale sharks.



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From intelligent debate to cutting-edge science, and risky sports to surreal charter experiences, FRANK does not shy away from the awkward, controversial, or questionable details. Brazen at times, amusing in spirit, and always transparent in discussion, the focus is on discovering new angles and enjoying every minute. And, of course, always being ‘frank’ about the conclusions.

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