Roberto Dei with his trademark Rolleimarin camera in the North Pole 1966. (CREDIT: ALBERTO ROMEO©)
Roberto Dei is considered a forefather of underwater photography. Throughout the 60s and 70s, his award-winning images gave people a portal into the unseen world beneath the ocean’s surface, from macro shots of sea worms to dramatic images of tiger sharks locked in mortal combat.
Dei had dived in the Mediterranean in winter, and in the frigid lakes of Northern Italy, but nothing had prepared him for the bitter conditions he would encounter in the Arctic.
The expedition made steady progress aboard an icebreaker, at around the same latitude as that of the explorers and scientists whose legendary conquests of the North Pole had preceded them. On the journey there, Dei read, cover to cover, the US Navy Polar Manual. He noted protocol 26 with particular trepidation, due to the amount of metallic equipment on board, including his two large Rolleimarin cameras: "Never touch cold metals with bare and wet hands. If you inadvertently touch a metal surface with one hand and cannot remove it, immediately urinate on the metal to warm it and you will save an inch of skin. If both hands are glued to the metal, hope to have a friend with you.”
Testing a commercial dive watch in the Arctic may seem a little extreme, considering how unlikely it was that any diver would ordinarily be exposed to such low temperatures. However, when a dive watch has ‘1000 METERS’ on its dial, it has to be waterproof to 1,000 metres, whatever the reading on the thermometer.
Extreme temperature changes can effect a watch temporarily and permanently in several ways. Heat and cold make materials expand and contract. If the properties of the case, the gaskets or the lubricant are altered significantly, the watch’s water resistance and performance could be compromised. The movement has components made from various materials, which have different thermal expansion and contraction rates. Changes in the characteristics of the parts’ materials will adversely affect the efficiency of the movement, which is most likely to manifest in a loss of accuracy.
It’s not known for certain why the watch was called ‘Caribbean’. The most likely explanation is, with the growing popularity of recreational diving in the early 1960s, that the name was conceived with marketing firmly in mind. ‘Caribbean’ conjures up aspirational images of idyllic turquoise waters over wrecks of old galleons, teeming with fish of every colour imaginable.