The First Dive by Seb Duncan

This story was shortlisted in the Beyond The Dial Essay Writing Competition by Oris

As the light exploded from above, I felt the oxygen in my body circulate. Floating, I was on my back looking upwards into a blue expanse. But I felt tethered, stuck and then. Free. I felt a presence by my side. It felt safe. Secure. I was swimming above what looked like a giant mountain range. Smaller fish darted about in colourful shoals of azure and gold. They seemed to be collectively alarmed by our presence and cleared a path as one, as we moved into them. The shoal split in two to reveal an alien landscape of undulating, brittle, breathing rock. Soft slopes of formed lava combined with white, waving fronds of hard pitted trees. Colours danced and bubbles burst in light reflected hues of yellow, silver sunshine.

This was my first time.

Not knowing what to expect is the best part of any new experience. No preconceptions. No expectations. Just pure emersion in the moment. In that moment.

We darted around like synchronised swimmers. Through the shoals of fish as if swimming into a solid curtain of living, breathing colour. My companion turned to the right. I followed. Then lower, deeper and closer to the small caves below. Then the atmosphere changed. A sudden feeling of stillness. It was the feeling you get when you sense someone is standing behind you. My buddy moved down, deeper still. Darted. Then attacked. I watched in awe as she caught a fish with such speed and accuracy that I couldn’t contain myself, nodding my head up and down in excitement. She nodded back to me. Calm. Controlled.

Next, it was my turn.

My heart raced as I looked down and noticed a fish swimming near a small cave on its own. Slowly I descended. Aiming straight at it. Down further.

I got it!

Swimming back and up and side to side. My victory lap.

My companion looked on with pride. Her work was done. She was satisfied with the result of the training program and went on to attend to others in the group.

I swam on and caught another, then another until I could carry no more.

Swimming back towards my buddy, I stopped to watch her coaching another beginner. They dived down in unison as the shoals departed in abstract silver curls. I swam over and deeper to take a closer look at the master in action. The time passed quickly.

Then it happened.

First, the sound from above. A deep throbbing. A deafening roar turning into a continuous tone.

Then. Stop. Silence.

A large shape had now blocked our view from above. The sunlight had turned to darkness almost immediately. This was a creature of great length and width, but it seemed dead. Static. Just floating.

I decided to ignore it and continued with my dive, looking on with admiration at the master with her trainees. As I prepared to join them, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my mouth. A tugging, pulling sensation. Then up and up and up towards the dark object.  I tried to fight it but the more I fought the more it pulled and pulled.

The light burst into my eyes like needles. It was so bright that I couldn’t see. I felt a hand pull me, grab me. Up into the object and over, inside. A group of men with equipment dragged me on to the deck, knives out cutting into me, the pain excruciating, my fins were removed my tail was removed then I was thrown back into the water. I tried to swim but I could not, I tried to breathe but I could not. As I felt the air slip away, I remembered my first dive with my mother by my side. I would never have the chance to be the teacher, to be the master…


Every year thousands of young sharks are needlessly murdered for their fins. The fins are then sold for huge profit to the restaurant, food processing, and medical supplements industry. This is not only a cruel act of barbarity but also a major cause of habitat disruption. Most shark species don’t breed until they are 20 years old or so and when the young are killed in this way, the knock-on effect is devastating to the sustainability of the species.

 Bill Clinton signed the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 (SFPA), which banned finning on any fishing vessel within United States territorial waters and on all U.S.-flagged fishing vessels in international waters. Additionally, shark fins could not be imported into the United States without the associated carcass. (Wikipedia)

 However, the practice still continues in other jurisdictions to this day


How to take your IELTS test during COVID Pandemic disruptions

Due to the Coronavirus lock-down all IELTS English tests have been suspended in the UK.

The new online IELTS Indicator test is a good way for you to test yourself during this period and some academic institutions may allow you to enroll in your course if you pass the test this way. Please check with your university if the IELTS Indicator test is acceptable.

Just like the normal IELTS test there are four parts to it. You will be tested on your Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. The speaking part will be conducted using Skype, Zoom or Teams.

The timings of each part are as follows:

Listening is 30 minutes and has 40 questions. Reading is 60 minutes and has 40 questions. Writing is 60 minutes and has 2 parts. Listening is 11 to 14 minutes and has 3 parts.

If you need any help with IELTS preparation visit the courses page here.

Top 10 IELTS essay writing mistakes

Here is a list of the most common mistakes students make when writing an essay. Remember to leave enough time to check for these errors when you have completed your Task 1 essay or Task 2 essay.

  1. Use of the word ‘the’

We use the:

  • when there is only one of something in a particular area: the government, the police, the bridge, the river, the hospital
  • when there is only one in the entire world: the internet, the environment, the ozone layer, the atmosphere
  • with cardinal numbers: the first, the second, the third
  • with superlatives: the worst, the shortest, the lowest, the most beautiful, the least impressive
  • with places where the name refers to a group of islands or states: the USA, the UK, the Maldives, the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates
  • before nouns which describe general things: exercise is good for the bodythe motorbike is the most common form of transport in Asia, the role of the teacher has changed in recent years
  • before abstract nouns used to describe a situation, process, quality or a change: over the years the development of the town accelerated, the frequency of violent crime decreased over the period, the improvement in living standards 

We don’t use the 

  • to talk generally we drop the word ‘the’ and use the plural: dogs don’t like cats, people with dyslexia have reading problems, Japanese cars are very reliable, German products are very high quality. 
  • with a single place or country: Ireland, China, Vietnam, Europe, South America

Continue reading “Top 10 IELTS essay writing mistakes”

The future of IELTS in the land of Brexit …

The International English Language Testing System or IELTS for short, is the pre-eminent English exam for non-native speakers looking to emigrate to the UK, Canada or Australia. This is called The General IELTS exam. The Academic form of the IELTS exam is accepted for non-native speakers for university entry and further career advancement globally, including the US.

This site was created as a guide for English Language learners following the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum that took place on June 23rd 2016.

By a small majority, the country voted to leave the European Union and this decision will have major ramifications for the future of both European citizens planning to move to Britain and citizens that are already living here.

What impact will the decision have on European citizens’ English language requirements? Will there be more stringent testing? Will the IELTS band score 7 be changed in the light of Brexit? There has been talk of a new test being implemented similar to the Life In The UK test used for spouse visas.

The NMC has acknowledged  that the Band score 7 or higher is far too high for some healthcare professionals to get. With this in mind, the writing part has been lowered to 6.5 as long as the remaining parts reach a Band score 7.

Use the contact details on this site for any inquiries about IELTS exam preparation. We are here to help, so feel free to ask any questions you have about the IELTS exam.

Are you a nurse looking for a tutor to pass the IELTS exam?

Find out more


Confusion, conquest & contemplation: A Dubai Diary by Seb Duncan.

When you live in a city for long enough as an expat, you end up feeling so part of it that you can lose sight of the adventure that drove you there in the first place; what was once alien becomes familiar, what was at first challenging, becomes routine. This retrospective diary is an attempt to explain the experience of being an expat in three stages: confusion, conquest and… contemplation.

Continue reading “Confusion, conquest & contemplation: A Dubai Diary by Seb Duncan.”

Causes and Solutions IELTS Writing Task 2 question

Some IELTS Writing Task 2 questions require you to think of the reason for something as well as coming up with solutions for it.

These questions are called Causes and Solution questions. They are also a type of two part question.

Here is an example of one.

Causes/Problem and Solution
Example: Crime rates tend to be higher in cities than in smaller towns. Explain some possible reasons for this problem and suggest some solutions.

Get help with your IELTS writing task

For a real model answer that would get a Band 7 score in this Writing Task 2 question, just email [email protected]

Short IELTS writing questions – The Stinger

Most IELTS Writing Tasks 2 essay questions ask you to discuss an opinion or a topic. In a lot of cases the question will give you a context to help you answer the question.
An example of a standard Agree or Disagree question is shown below.

Some people think that scientists experimenting with animals in a laboratory is the only way we can guarantee new products will be safe for human use. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion?

Continue reading “Short IELTS writing questions – The Stinger”

Answering the wrong IELTS essay question

The IELTS Task 2 writing question can be very challenging. Not only is it a test of your grammar and vocabulary, it also tests your ability to analyze and answer the RIGHT question.

Students can sometimes write well on a topic but get a low score. This is usually because they are answering the WRONG question within the topic presented to them.

This is a real example from an essay a student gave me before we started his course.

Using a computer can have more negative effects than positive effects on your children. Do you agree or disagree ?

2nd para
Some people believe that it is antisocial to be seen using your computer every day by your children. It is thought that this attitude can rub off on children and for them to copy a parent’s actions as they grow up.
Can you spot the mistake?

Critical Thinking for Essay Writing

Many students ask me how to write an essay. They say “I don’t know what to write!!!” or “I know what to write but it doesn’t come out the way I mean to!!!.”

A key part of how to improve these skills is called critical thinking. Critical thinking, according to The Oxford Dictionary is “The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.”

The ability to assess and make a balanced judgement AND write about it clearly is a key life skill and an important element when tackling an essay question such as the Task 2 IELTS essay question.

I can help you to think of ideas for your essay and how to organise those ideas into a coherent piece of writing.

See the courses section within this website or email [email protected]

Do you need  help with brainstorming when you are writing an IELTS essay? Visit the courses page for all the tips you need