Slowly and steadily, we descend into the cool blue waters of Tioman.
The dive clock starts. Soon, we are about 20m below the surface and hovering above the sea bed.
We are not wearing dive suits, yet we are dry.
Under the supervision of conservationist and documentary film-maker Scott Cassell, I am exploring the depths of the sea from inside The Great White, a submersible vehicle.
The 4.3m long, 1.3 ton electric-powered twin-seater submersible can stay submerged for up to 10 hours in freezing waters.
What’s remarkable is that it’s home-made, mostly using recycled materials, by Mr Cassell and his project chief engineer, Scott Reed.
Together, they form the core of the Undersea Voyager Project, a non-profit organisation that aims to explore and understand man’s influence on the oceans.
As part of watch-maker Luminox’s Save The Seas ocean conservation programme, Mr Cassell’s team came to Singapore late last month to spread the word about marine conservation, and The New Paper on Sunday was given a spin in The Great White on Sept 6.
The sub was named in memory of Spots, a great white shark Mr Cassell filmed for several documentaries off the California coast. It was eventually poached for its fins and teeth.
He is determined to stop poaching from harming marine biodiversity.
The former US army counter-terrorism operative has helped put 16 poachers in jail with his cameras and diving know-how, earning him the nickname of “Sea Wolf” and a fearsome reputation among poachers.
Mr Cassell hopes to use his submersible to inspire more people to explore the seas.
The idea for The Great White came out of various dream designs of submersibles drawn on napkins that he gave Mr Reed, who had the engineering know-how.
Mr Reed used to design remotely-operated vehicles for oil exploration. Together, they built a submersible that is so easy to pilot, Mr Cassell claims a layman can do it after a day’s training.
Apart from being exhibited in Singapore, the submersible has gone underwater in several countries, from Switzerland to Mexico.
In 2009, Mr Cassell piloted the submersible to a depth of 36m in Lake Tahoe, California, where he saw a magnificent forest of 88 ancient trees that were preserved under the lake.
He said: “We will be going back to Tahoe soon to film these trees in 3-D very soon.”
Hopefully, that will inspire awe and respect for what lies below the waves.
The article related to these pictures was first published in The New Paper on Sunday on September 15, 2013.