MUD, cold and near-zero visibility were the least of this team of Royal Navy diver’s problems as they sought to conquer a charity challenge like no other.
The group of mine clearance divers, from the Fleet Diving Squadron, have taken endurance events to new depths – literally.
The 14-strong team have spent the past day trudging the muddy depths of their training lake, at Horsea Island, in a bid to raise cash for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC).
Pairs of fundraisers have been taking it in turns to complete a 1,000m stretch of the course, while wearing lead-lined boots, an air cylinder and helmet and dragging a rigid inflatable behind them.
Leading Diver Graham Williamson, 37, was one of the first to take to the water – tackling a 2,000m stint.
He said: ‘It was a really good feeling to reach the end.
‘All the way through I was just trying to think of a happy place to be – I was thinking of the nice holiday in Cyprus and playing on the beach.’
The squad aims to complete their 26-mile task within 30 hours, crossing the finishing line at about noon today.
As the sun went down and light dimmed, the underwater team used a rope to guide them through their six-metre deep lake.
Above them, in the rigid inflatable, was a full support crew, with communication equipment to make sure both divers were comfortable and safe.
I was gobsmacked when I heard about their plan.Hilary Jukes, regional co-ordinator for the RNRMC
Lieutenant Jonny Campbell felt the men were fully prepared to overcome the gruelling challenge.
‘This is a big challenge but its well within the capabilities of the Fleet Diving Squadron,’ he said. ‘You’ve got a highly motivated team of well trained people who love a challenge and love their jobs.’
It’s hoped their efforts will raise about £5,000 for the RNRMC.
Hilary Jukes, regional co-ordinator for the RNRMC said: ‘I was gobsmacked when I heard about their plan.
‘I have worked in the charity sector for ten years now and I have never heard of an underwater challenge yet alone a marathon.
‘I couldn’t walk 26 miles on land – that would be tough enough. So for these guys to do it in weighted boots and full gear, while underwater – it’s madness.’
To donate, see http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fleetdivingunit1
To follow their progress see @marathonunderp1 on Twitter.