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Blue Dolphin of Malta 1990

International Underwater Photographic Competition

by David Chandler

Reproduced from in focus 39 (Dec. 1990)

The 13th November saw the first day of the 4th Annual Blue Dolphin of Malta Underwater Photographic Competition. A reception at the Calypso Hotel, Masalforn on the Island of Gozo during the evening welcomed the record number of 42 entrants from 7 countries to what has become a major feature in the European underwater photographic circuit. The event, organised by the Federation of Underwater Activities of Malta (FUAM) and sponsored by 14 different organisations and companies, including the National Tourism Organisation of Malta, Ministry for Gozo, Ministry for Youth, Sport and Culture, Gozo Channel Co. Ltd and Farsons, guaranteed a smooth-running competition.


The only thing which could not be guaranteed was the weather. The residue of a north-westerly wind and its accompanying swell meant that the chosen dive site for the first day of the competition was in fact one of the few diveable areas. An early start at 8.30 a.m. in Dwerja Bay, with its Blue Hole and Inland Sea, saw 42 contestants, their models and assistants commence the competition in earnest.

Slightly less than a third chose the easy entry route into the Inland Sea, dropping down from 3m to 18m into and through a spectacular chasm of approximately 80m in length. This enabled plenty of opportunity for silhouette shots as the sun tried to cut through the cloud. On the open sea side of the chasm, with large caves and chimneys to the left and a good sheer rock wall to the right, fish life was sparse. However, parrot fish and others found the reflection of the patient divers' lenses irresistible and began making hesitant darts in and out of the field of view of anxiously held cameras.

The majority of the participants who chose their first dive through the Blue Hole were rewarded with a slightly better selection of marine life. Splendid rock walls and caves were in abundance, beautiful red coral growth amongst tightly packed green flora. The Azure Window made a splendid backdrop for Wide- angle shots With the sun's rays casting large shafts of stabbing light, testing the skills of the underwater artist.


Day two of the competition was greeted with a change of wind direction, almost a complete turn about, so new diving sites were required. A strange caravan of assorted vehicles - jeeps, trucks, minibuses, cars etc., all overladen with anxious competitors their equipment, models, assistants and of course the stewards and marshals, set off in search of the best locations. After a brief look at Xlendi, which was rejected, the convoy moved on along the coast to Torri ta Mgarr-ix-Xini where despite the many steps down to the waters edge, the cAean, clear waters looked enticing.

The signal was given that this was to be the area for the days diving. Whereupon the struggle to assemble all the equipment in the vehicles to within a reasonable staggering distance of the water's edge began. Inflatables materialised from around the headlands to act as cover to all divers.

The dive site was a natural inlet in the rocky coastline, approximately 600m in width where it met the open sea. Each side of the inlet offered a different type of underwater terrain. The right hand side shelved steeply, down to 60m and the left hand side was shallower and featured caves, tunnels and huge boulders. Octopus, wrasse and tube worms were more abundant than on the first day and most competitors appreciated the increased variety of subjects.


At 2.30 p.m. the films were collected and the weary but well satisfied participants commenced the return journey to the Calypso Hotel. That evening a video and slide show was presented, before the developed films were returned to the competitors to select 6 slides from the two films for judging.

On Friday and Saturday evenings entertainment was provided. On Friday this took the form of a free beer evening and folk night courtesy of Carlsberg and on Saturday night the competition slide presentation and prizegiving were integrated with a dinner at the nearby Cornucopia Hotel.


The winner, Andre Tuoppolo (France) received a prize of US$1,000 and the U. I. S.P. Shield for use of his winning shot on next year's Blue Dolphin Competition poster. The runner-up, Settimio Cipriano (Italy) received a prize of US$500. Third, Jean Michel Mille (France) received US$300. Highest placed UK entrant was Bill Hewitt, who came fifth. Tom Cowan received an award, a wide-angle lens and viewfinder donated by Foto Leone, for the best nature slide. Foto Leone also donated two torches to the youngest competitor, Stephan Allier.
Overall a good, well organised competition. I'll be back next year.


1 Andre Ruoppolo (France)
2 Settimio Cipriano (Italy)
3 Jean Michel Mille (France)


1989 by Debbie Perrin

1993 by Greg Cassar

2002 by Linda Dunk

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