Diving Scapa Flow!

Diving Scapa Flow, Scotland

An historical diving destination, Scapa Flow has captured the imagination and hearts of countless divers. We spoke to Katie and Sara of Scapa Scuba, who commissioned this video by Ellis Roberts, to find out a little bit more about wreck diving in Scotland.

What is it that makes Scapa Flow so unique for wreck diving?

Scapa Flow is probably one of the most accessible places in the world for the recreational diver to dive on genuine naval warships!

2019 will see Scapa celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Scuttling of the German ‘High Seas Fleet’ famous for its encounters with the British ‘Grand Fleet’ during WW1. This only paints part of the picture of diving in Scapa Flow though. As one the most important naval bases for the British during both world wars, and with the need to protect the Fleet, many old ships have been sunk as ‘Blockships’ these are diveable from as little as 5m. The Tabarka is often referred to as Scotland’s best dive!

With Blockships as shallow as 5m, 3 Battleships and 4 light cruisers of the German Fleet on the sea bed, Scapa is the perfect destination to dive into history!

What courses would you recommend student to have, or do, to dive here?

With such a wide variety of dive sites there really is something for everyone. PADI Open Water certified divers and Discover Scuba Divers are able to enjoy the blockship wrecks of the Churchill Barriers. But to head out into Scapa Flow to visit the wrecks of the German Fleet divers would want to be PADI Advanced Open Water certified with recent dry suit experience.

A common misconception is that Scapa is only accessible to the most experienced of divers, this could not be further from the truth!

Aside from the amazing diving, what are the draws for visiting Orkney?

As far as historical tourism is concerned the diving sites of Orkney are practically new. Famous for its ancient archaeological history and World Heritage Sites, Skara Brae, Maeshowe, the Ring of Brodgar and many more are must dos on a day out. Watching the sunset in the Atlantic from the costal cliffs of Marwick is a view to be cherished. Of course there is always the option of enjoying an evening of award winning locally sourced food accompanied by some of Scotland’s finest ales and whiskey, go easy on the latter if diving the next day though!

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Vertigo & Vomiting While Diving!

Vertigo and Vomiting While Diving

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Divers may have the ability to breathe underwater, but we’re still human. There may come a time when you need to cough, sneeze, vomit, or experience vertigo underwater. It’s not safe to rush to the surface, so what do you do?

Vertigo and Vomiting while diving


Coughing / Choking
The gas you breathe from a scuba tank can be a bit dry, and sometimes it’s necessary to cough. Or maybe, while laughing at your dive buddy, you get a little water down your throat. It’s perfectly alright to cough into your regulator until your airway is clear.

If you feel that tell tale tickle in the back of your throat, try to move into an open area where you won’t bump into anything. Also, be aware of your buoyancy as you may unknowingly hold your breath.

Sometimes a cough is more than just a cough. If you have chest pain and/or difficulty breathing in addition to a dry cough, these could be signs of Type 2 DCS. If the cough has a metallic taste, or if you experience shortness of breath accompanied by a feeling of liquid rising from the back of your throat, discontinue the dive and seek immediate medical help. These are symptoms of a rare but serious condition called immersion pulmonary edema (IPE).

Sneezing
Sneezing underwater is more or less like sneezing on land. If you feel a sneeze coming on, gently hold your regulator in, and try to sneeze through your mouth instead of your nose. Breathe normally until the sneeze comes; never hold your breath underwater. If water (or something else) leaks into your mask, find a safe opportunity to pause and clear it out.

If you’re in the middle of an ascent or descent, it’s a good idea to signal or grab onto your buddy. S/he can help maintain your position in the water.

Vertigo / Disorientation
Vertigo feels like the world is spinning, or turning upside down. If you experience vertigo when diving, and lose track of where the surface is:

– Exhale and watch where your bubbles go. Follow them slowly to the surface.

– Look for water droplets in your mask, they will always drip down. Head the opposite direction.

If you experience vertigo during or after a dive, discontinue diving for the day and contact DAN. Vertigo can be a sign of decompression sickness, hypoxia, contaminated breathing gas, an ear equalization issue, or a side effect of seasickness medication.

vertigo and vomiting while diving

 

Vomit

If you feel the need to vomit, the best thing you can do is hold your regulator in and let your body do what it needs to do. Modern second stages can take it.

Don’t take your regulator out, even partially. After the expulsion, you may reflexively inhale; if the regulator isn’t in your mouth, you’ll suck in water instead of air.

If you can hold onto a buddy or otherwise steady yourself in the water, this can prevent uncontrolled ascents or descents. When you feel ready, ascend safely and discontinue diving for the day. If your regulator is unsuitable for breathing, switch to your alternate. At the surface, seek treatment and stay hydrated.

Learn more about how to be prepared for a variety of diving emergencies in the PADI Rescue Diver Course. It’s serious fun and it will help you become a better dive buddy.

Dive N Trips also offer first aid and CPR training. Get the skills you need to care for someone until emergency responders arrive.

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Where Do Our Dreams Take Us?

Where Do Our Dreams Take Us?

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This post marks the last in a series from guest blogger, Lowri James. We’ve been following her and her husband’s journey from non-divers to PADI Professionals.PADI Professionals

Oli and I have now been living in Cyprus for almost 5 months, working at Cyprus Diving Adventures – a PADI 5-star dive center located in Pissouri.  We have continued to progress as professionals and it was an extremely rewarding feeling to recently qualify as a Discover Scuba Diving leader.  Our goal and ambition is to eventually qualify as Open Water Scuba Instructors and that goal is now well and truly in sight.

After qualifying as a PADI Divemaster back in 2015, the first step in becoming PADI professionals, we have spent a lot of time gaining more and more hands-on experience with customers and assisting with a range of different courses.  We feel this has been invaluable in enabling us to work towards becoming instructors.  The IDC (instructor development course) pack we received provided us with all the materials we will need as instructors, complete with a very useful PADI rucksack.  The Diving Workbook complete with the Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving is excellent for keeping our dive and dive theory knowledge up to date and fresh, and working through this regularly will build our confidence ready for the written examinations.

I have been very lucky to have been taught by some highly professional Scuba Diving instructors and now look up to them as mentors and friends.  They clearly have such a passion and enthusiasm for the sport, which comes across in their teaching.  For me, the idea that I will very soon be leading people through the start of their diving career and beyond is a very exciting thought, making sure that I am teaching each student to be the very best and safest diver they can be.  I hope too that my love for diving will come across in my teaching and open a new world of discovery and opportunities for my students, which can lead to some incredible and life changes experiences.

Oli and I have spent many years investing in our diving career, hoping that it would someday lead us to our dream of living abroad, and sharing our love of the underwater world with others.  Soon to be qualified Open Water Scuba Instructors, further developing our experience, we are very excited to see what other adventures lie ahead in our future.

‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!  Live the life you’ve imagined’

If these posts have inspired you to embark on your own journey to becoming PADI professionals then call us at Dive N Trips!

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Top Diving Spots!

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Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Canada. Photo: NOA

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Canada. Photo: NOAA

When planning your next dive trip, set a course for a marine sanctuary or Hope Spot. These ecologically-diverse areas are known for unusual critters, animal migrations, or other features that warrant special protection. By visiting these areas, you’re investing in both local conservation efforts and exceptional diving memories.

Marine Sanctuaries – Nature as it was Meant to Be

NOAA describes marine sanctuaries as “natural classrooms” and as the saying goes: a good diver is always learning! Below is a list of marine sanctuaries to add to your dive travel bucket list:

1. The World’s Largest Shark Sanctuary

Palau created the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009, but French Polynesia became the world’s largest in 2012. There are a total of 15 shark sanctuaries around the globe protecting a collective 7.34 million square miles / 19 million square kilometers.  View a map of the world’s shark sanctuaries.

2. Whale Sharks in Ningaloo Marine Park
From March through August, you’re almost guaranteed to see a whale shark at Ningaloo Marine Park in Western Australia. Be sure to get your PADI Freediver certification first as scuba diving with these gentle giants is not allowed.

3. Indonesia’s Massive Manta Sanctuary
In February, 2014  Indonesia declared the entire Archipelago as a Manta Ray Sanctuary. Diving with these amazing creatures should be on every diver’s to-do list, and the diverse diving in Indonesia offers mantas and more.

4. United States Marine Sanctuaries
The United States has a network of 13 marine sanctuaries and underwater parks including the Great Lakes, Washington, the Florida Keys, and American Samoa. View a complete list on NOAA’s website.

Photo: NOAA

5. National Marine Park of Alonnisos Northern Sporades (Greece)
Greece is home to the largest marine protected area in Europe and one of the few places to see the endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal. Learn more about scuba diving in Greece.

 

Hope Spots – A Network of Protection

Scuba diving icon Dr. Sylvia Earle of Mission Blue introduced the concept of Hope Spots at an award-winning TED Talk in 2009. Since then, thousands of individuals, National Geographic, Google, and Rolex have answered the call.

Hope Spots are a network of places critical to the health of our ocean. They include:

  • Areas with a special abundance or diversity of species, unusual or representative species, habitats or ecosystems.
  • Populations of rare, threatened or endemic species.
  • A site with potential to reverse damage from negative human impacts.
  • An area of natural processes such as major migration corridors or spawning grounds.
  • Places with significant historical, cultural or spiritual values.
  • Areas of economic importance to the community.

Global Hope Spots map. Photo: Mission Blue

There are currently 76 Hope Spots around the world, including 14 newly-added in 2016.

  1. Coastal Southeast Florida
  2. Cozumel Reef
  3. East Portland Fish Sanctuary, Jamaica
  4. Egg Island, Bahamas
  5. Gardens of the Queen, Cuba
  6. George Town Harbor, Grand Cayman
  7. Hatteras, North Carolina, USA
  8. Hecate Strait & Queen Charlotte Sound, British Columbia, Canada
  9. Malpelo Island, Columbia
  10. Monterey Bay, California, USA
  11. Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia
  12. Mosquito Lagoon, Florida
  13. Saint Vincent & the Grenadines Marine Area
  14. Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru
Photo: NOAA

Photo: NOAA


Been There, Dived That?

Read our earlier post featuring marine sanctuaries in New Zealand, Mexico and Spain. Or learn which UNESCO World Heritage Sites are also top diving destinations.

With more than 6,400 dive centers and resorts worldwide, no matter where you travel, there’s likely to be a PADI center nearby.

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4 Pillars of Change!

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PADI Four Pillars of Change

The health of the oceans is dependent on our actions and it plays a vital role in the wellbeing of communities across the globe. With our network of PADI® divers, PADI Instructors and PADI Dive Centers and Resorts around the world that share a common passion for the ocean, we aim to make a significant impact on key issues facing our oceans and our quality of life by forging partnerships with organizations that are making a positive impact on the ocean planet. In alignment with global efforts, such as the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water (to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources) we hope to amplify divers voices and drive change.

“The PADI organization is committed to acting as a force for good. We’re privileged to have a powerful legacy to inspire us,” says PADI President and CEO Drew Richardson. “By empowering divers and connecting them to the PADI family and global issues relevant to our industry, we can help people make the world better and be an even more powerful catalyst for change. If we can engage divers more effectively at the local level globally, global change is inevitable.”

PADI is committed to supporting global efforts and to being a catalyst for change through its Four Pillars of Change corporate social responsibility program. Introduced in November 2016, the program will serve as a platform for social and environmental brand activism is a significant step in developing an effective sustainability program for PADI.

Ocean Health Pillar: Forge partnerships with organizations that support the establishment of more marine protected areas (MPAs) and the reduction of human pressures that threaten the future of our blue planet like marine debris. Continue to partner with Project AWARE® in its efforts to remove marine debris, mobilizing divers to get engaged through the Project AWARE specialty courses and programs like Dive Against Debris® and Adopt a Dive SiteTM from dive sites.

Marine Animal Protection Pillar: Protect marine life biodiversity by elevating our voices on shark and ray conservation and by bringing awareness to the issue of marine entanglement. Support Project AWARE® in its efforts to defend sharks and rays and encourage divers to get involved through the AWARE Shark Conservation Specialty.

People and Community Pillar: As the world’s leading diver training organization, do more to support diving infrastructure and diver education so that we foster a sustainability mindset and encourage growth of the local community.

Health and Wellness Pillar: Spotlight amazing stories of triumph over adversity, illness and hardships that testify to diving’s healing power. In diving, many people have found hope for their futures and we aim to inspire others to find similar personal transformation and healing, both mentally and physically.

The Four Pillars serve as a platform to empower divers with information to get involved with causes they care about in a tangible way. Creating synergy with other specialized change-agents will provide more opportunities for global impact and lasting change.

The PADI family embodies tremendous human strength that has the potential to make a positive difference. PADI is dedicated to elevating its purpose, as an organization and as individuals, by continuing to bring the conversation to the forefront to inspire action.

Do you know any PADI divers that are making an impact? Share your stories by emailing fourpillarsofchange@padi.com.

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8 Surprising Facts About Dolphins!

dolphins

In honor of Dolphin Day, here are some of our favorite facts about dolphins. By the end of this article you will appreciate these amazing creatures even more!

Dolphins have no sense of smell
Dolphins are well-known for their extraordinary hearing, but did you know: they have no sense of smell? Dolphins have olfactory tracts, but lack olfactory nerves.
In case you’re wondering, “if dolphins can’t smell, do they have a sense of taste?” Yes, but they can only taste salt.

Dolphins call each other names
Dolphins may be the second-most intelligent mammal after humans, judging by brain-to-body size. Dolphins can recognize themselves in a mirror, and have unique names. Hear more about what dolphins talk about (skip to the five minute mark to hear about dolphin names).

Dolphins don’t drink water
Dolphins, like other sea mammals, don’t drink the seawater they swim in. Instead, dolphins hydrate using water from their food. The blood and fluid of a sea creature is roughly one-third as salty as ocean water.

The US, and Russia once employed combat dolphins
The US Navy’s Marine Mammal Program began in 1960 and was declassified in 1992. The Navy studied how dolphins use sonar to detect objects underwater, and trained them to deliver equipment to divers underwater and retrieve lost objects. The U.S.S.R. conducted a similar program. According to Frontline, dolphins trained by the Soviet Navy were later used for therapy with autistic and emotionally disturbed children. Learn more about the Mammal Marine Program.

A dolphin can swim up to 29 miles / 46 kilometers per hour
The average cruising speed for a bottlenose dolphin is 3-7 miles / 5-11 kilometers per hour – roughly as fast as a human can walk or run. When necessary, they can swim up to 20 miles / 32 kilometers per hour. Orcas have been clocked swimming 29 miles / 46 kilometers per hour.

dolphins

Dolphins don’t use their teeth to chew

A dolphin can have between eight and 250 teeth – used for trapping their prey, which they then swallow whole. A bottlenose dolphin has between 80 – 100 teeth, and an irresistible smile.

Killer whales are the largest dolphin
Orcas, also known as a blackfish and killer whales, are the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family. The largest orca ever recorded was 32 feet / 9.75 meters long. Read PADI Ambassadiver Birgitta Mueck’s experience diving with orcas.

Dolphins are born tail first

Unlike other mammals, dolphins are born feet, or rather tail first. The mother typically moves to shallow water and is escorted by one or two other dolphins, usually female.  Immediately following the birth, the mother helps her calf to the surface for its first breath.

dolphin facts

Love dolphins? Check these out: 
10 Fascinating Dolphin Facts
Where to Scuba Dive with Dolphins
Ever seen a pink dolphin?

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How Much Weight Do I Really Need?

HOW MUCH WEIGHT DO I REALLY NEED?

by Ryan Conery:

Bringing the right amount of weight with you on a dive requires practice. However, it is important to get this dialed in. Having the correct weight makes it easier to get neutrally buoyant. It also helps with air consumption and it means you have to haul less weight to and from the dive site. Before we can determine our weighting requirements, we have to look at what factors are affecting us.

Neutral Buoyancy
In order to achieve neutral buoyancy, we must balance the upward force caused by water displacement with the downward force caused by our weight system. Archimedes’ Principle states that there is a buoyant force exerted on an object immersed in fluid. When an object gets placed in water, it will displace some of that liquid. Displacement means that the water is being pushed aside. That object is actually taking up space that was previously occupied by the water. Another way to picture this principle is by thinking about your bathtub. If you were to fill that tub up all the way to the top, what would happen if you tried to hop in? Of course, the water would overflow and be all over your floor, right? This is because you are displacing some of that water as you step into the tub. Now, the water that gets pushed aside wants to take its space back. This creates an upward buoyant force equal to the weight of the displaced water. For example, if we took a 1 cubic foot ball and submerged it in a bathtub, the ball would displace 1 cubic foot of water. Fresh water weighs 62.4lbs per cubic foot (salt water weighs 64lbs per cubic foot). This means that the ball is experiencing an upward buoyant force of 62.4lbs. If the ball weighs more than this, it will sink. If it weighs less, it will float.

In diving, we have the unique capability to utilize our buoyancy compensation device to ensure that we weigh the same amount as the water we are displacing. This allows us to achieve neutral buoyancy. Although we can get close to becoming perfectly neutral, we can never get rid of the slight rise and fall resulting from our breath cycle. As we inhale, we displace more water causing our surrounding environment to exert a larger upward buoyant force. So, we will ascend slightly as we breathe in. Vice versa, we displace less water as we exhale causing us to descend.

Archimedes’ Principle
Archimedes’ Principle controls how much weight we have to add to our system to reach this neutral state. Our bodies, wetsuit and BCD are naturally buoyant. We require ballast weight to overcome the initial positive force of buoyancy. There are many factors that affect how much weight we will need to carry, but, as a general rule of thumb, you may need anywhere from 5 to 10% of your body weight in lead. After weighing yourself, determine what your range of weights might be. If you weigh 200lbs for example, you may need to use between 10lbs and 20lbs of lead. This range of weight gives us a good starting point, but we will have to look at the factors that affect our buoyancy to really dial it in.

Exposure Protection
Exposure protection plays a large role in the weighting process as our suit is inherently buoyant. A thicker suit means that we are displacing more water and require more lead to enable us to sink. A 3mm wetsuit may only require 6 to 8% of your body weight in lead whereas a 7mm, wetsuit, or dry suit could require 10% of your body weight or more depending on your undergarments. One good experiment is to try on your suit and hop in a pool. Start by holding on to a 2lb block of lead. Keep adding weight in small increments until you begin to sink. This way, you can begin to estimate your weighting needs in a controlled environment.

Just like your exposure suit, your buoyancy compensation device could also play a role in your weight requirements. A jacket style BC tends to have lots of additional padding for comfort. This extra bulk tends to be buoyant and will require more lead. Some of the minimalistic rigs such as a back plate and wing have no padding and can even be negative by themselves. These BCs utilize different sizes of plates to move some of the weight from the belt or pockets onto your back providing better trim underwater. Make sure to bring your BCD into the pool with you to determine how much additional weight is needed to sink your kit.

Other Factors to consider for Neutral Buoyancy
Water type is another factor that affects the weight we will need to carry. Salt water is denser than fresh water which causes it to weigh more per cubic foot. This means that an object placed in salt water will experience a larger upward buoyant force than if the same object was placed in fresh water. Due to the increased density, you will need to carry additional weight when diving in salt water. Anywhere from 2 to 6lbs extra may be required depending on the salinity of the water.

The material your tank is composed of must also be considered. Aluminum tanks start out slightly negative at the beginning of a dive when they are full. However, as you consume air they will slowly become more buoyant. At the end of your dive, an aluminum tank will be anywhere from 2 to 4lbs positively buoyant. If you are diving aluminum tanks, you may want to add a couple pounds to your kit to compensate for the additional buoyancy. On the other hand, steel tanks start out around 6 to 8lbs negatively buoyant. As you consume air, they too will become more buoyant; however, they will stay on the negative side of the scale. You can use the additional weight a steel tank provides and remove some of the weight on your belt.

Experience improves Buoyancy
The last factor that can affect your buoyancy is experience. As you begin to dive more, you will notice that you start to need less weight. Often times, inexperienced divers have trouble getting all of the air out of their BC as they start their descent. Becoming more familiar with your gear and more comfortable underwater produces a more relaxed breathing cycle. Just by going out and diving, you will soon notice that you need less weight than you thought. Another test you may see divers do is called a float test. In full gear, empty the air from your BC. With your lungs half full, you should sit at eye level with the water. As you exhale, you should begin to sink. This is a great way to get a ballpark estimate of your weighting needs. However, remember that you might need to add a couple extra pounds to compensate for the increased buoyancy of a tank at the end of a dive. The best place to ensure your weighting is correct is at your safety stop. You should be able to maintain neutral buoyancy with little to no air in your BC.

Make sure, after every dive, you record the weight you used in your logbook. Also, try to log every factor that affected your buoyancy on that dive such as what suit you used, what the water type was and what kind of tank you had. Getting your weight dialed in is a learning process and it will require some adjustment. Keep at it, practice makes perfect.

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10 Training Tips For Newly Certified Divers!

10 TRAINING TIPS FOR NEWLY CERTIFIED DIVERS

by Jesse Iacono:

Hello, and welcome to the world of diving!  Regardless of how new you are to the sport, I’m sure there are some questions that are still running through your mind.  Your open water course just can’t cover everything there is to know and I’m here to provide a few answers.  I have seen numerous “10 tips for the new diver” articles on the web and can’t help but notice that they all are very useful, but incredibly similar.

Here are my 10 not so typical tips for the recently certified.  They have been developed through my experiences as an instructor in the field, numerous conversations with other instructors, and, most importantly, the polling of divers at many levels as to which topics were the most elusive to them.

  1. Purchases – Buy a computer first.

Once you are certified, you will want to start considering which gear to own.  I would highly recommend looking to a personal dive computer as your first investment.  Dive computers have become extremely affordable and are your best friend in dive safety!  Additionally, with their small size, they are a breeze to travel with and having your own guarantees that you will be diving with a unit that you understand how to use.  Also, in many locations, an array of dive gear will be available for rental, but unfortunately computers often don’t make the list.

  1. Skills – Show your compass some love.

Compass navigation is an integral skill for divers of every level.  Unfortunately, this skill is often only briefly touched on in many open water courses.  Don’t wait until your navigation specialty course to become familiar with your compass!  Take a compass with you on every dive and pay attention to which directions you are going and which directions landmarks are in.  They can seem like an intimidating piece of equipment at first, but don’t overthink it; use basic directional headings to gain your bearings and ensure you are swimming in the right direction.  Try carrying it around with you on land too for some extra practice.

  1. Mindset – The best dive is the one you come home from.

This phrase has always resonated with me.  It may sound pretty dire at first listen, but it is a blaring truth for all levels of diving.  Let’s look at the reality of things; we are entering an environment in which we are not naturally adapted to in any way.  Without our equipment, we cannot effectively see, move, or breathe!  The phrase is not here to scare you, but to remind you to respect the foreign environment you are entering, keep up with your training and gear, and never fall victim to the “justs” – It’s not JUST a 20 foot dive, it’s not JUST a small equipment malfunction, it’s not JUST this once.  Falling into these habits on the smaller dives increases the likelihood of being okay with poor practices on the bigger dives.  At the end of the day, no dive is worth losing your life over.  We’re all in it for the enjoyment of this wonderful sport, so let’s keep it happy and healthy.

  1. Continuing Education – Log your damn dives!

This is one of my personal pet peeves and a habit that needs to be formed from the beginning.  If you have not logged all of your dives at this point in time, then go get your logbook right now and make it current; you are not allowed to continue reading until it is done!

Updated?  Perfect, let’s continue!  Keeping an accurate and up-to-date logbook posts many benefits for the diver, especially in the earlier stages of diving. One of the most important benefits is proving experience.  Many of the courses that you will participate in will require a certain amount of experience to be shown before starting the course.  Without your logbook as verification, you are as good as freshly certified.  So please, for heaven’s sake, LOG YOUR DIVES!

  1. Community – Get involved and pay attention to other divers.

As nasty as we can seem to each other online sometimes, most divers are pretty friendly people when they aren’t behind the keyboard!  Diving is very much community based and, once you are in, it really is an awesome community to be a part of!  Divers are usually very passionate about what they do (which is where some occasional tension can come from), but in every diver’s heart lies the desire to see the sport grow and witness the spark of scuba in a new diver turn into an unstoppable wildfire.  One of the best ways to enhance your diving experience is to join your local gatherings of divers and absorb everything you can from them.  Becoming a great diver is all about experience and unfortunately you lack that right now.  Take full advantage of what the community is willing to pass on and you will certainly thrive while making some great friends along the way.

  1. Preparedness – Always check your gear.

Create a checklist, don’t wait until the last minute, do it yourself, check it at home, and check it again before the dive.  I have witnessed countless missed dives, close calls, and issues underwater by students and professionals alike resulting from ill-preparedness.  Unfortunately, it took a scare to make many of these individuals realize the importance of being thorough with their equipment.  When we place so much reliance on our equipment, it is paramount that it is functioning properly and that all of it makes it to the dive site!

  1. Moving Forward – You don’t have to be perfect, but be mindful.

You are a new diver, everyone knows it, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Nobody is going to expect you to be a pro right off the bat.  Experience must be built, questions asked, and mistakes made.  Never fear judgment for taking some extra time or needing clarification on a topic.  The important thing to remember is to be mindful of your skill level and never lose the desire to improve!  Continuing education and keeping an honest eye on your own performance will lead you to success!

  1. Reality – Your buoyancy sucks.

It just does.  Don’t take it personal, so did mine.  In fact, I didn’t even start to really understand what neutral buoyancy was until I had close to 50 dives under my belt.  Even if you are starting to get it much sooner than I was (which you probably are), don’t ever forget that great buoyancy is a habit, not a skill.  It requires constant monitoring and practice and is NEVER absolutely perfect.  Remember, neutral buoyancy is about more than looking like a total boss in the water; it poses many benefits to the diver and the environment.  It doesn’t have to be all business either; have some fun with it!  Grab a buddy and play some skill building games or get in front of a camera to pinpoint which areas need improvement. Whatever method you choose, keep up with it – it is worth the work!

  1. Lifestyle – Pump the breaks, assuming that you remember how to use them.

Diving is a culmination of skills that should be mastered and maintained, not a checklist to be blown through.  As a new diver, you probably want to take every course available and move up to the advanced levels as soon as possible.  I whole-heartedly encourage you to do so, but keep in mind that each course you take relies on the understanding of any prerequisite courses.  Take the time to give more practice to what you have already learned before advancing.  Having a thorough understanding of the basics ensures comfort in the water and that they are second nature when you start becoming task loaded or run into a sticky situation.

  1. Computers –Understand your NDL.

The no decompression limit is one of the most important functions of your dive computer.  It is the number that counts down throughout your dive and that you don’t want to hit zero! Exceeding your NDL will enter you into decompression diving – something that is much past your current level of training and can potentially put you at a significant risk.  If you are uncertain of how and why it works, please seek further info or consult with an instructor before your next dive.

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Case Study!

Savvy Diver Prevents Uncontrolled Ascent

An experienced diver with an underwater scooter saves an unprepared diver who overbreathed his regulator and attempted an emergency ascent.

Reported Story

I regularly dive with a small group of experienced divers off a privately owned boat. We are part of a group on Meetup.com, and occasionally others join us for a dive. This time a diver with advanced open-water (AOW) certification and about 30 dives joined us for an after-work dive on the Jim Torgerson (RSB-1) wreck, which sits at a depth of 120 fsw (36.6 msw). Visibility was 10–50 feet. The current was strong enough that some divers familiar with this site complained about it. We all wore wetsuits and breathed 32 percent nitrox on open circuit.

The new diver was struggling as he went down along the anchor line with his buddy. I, along with several other divers, followed shortly after. A few minutes into my dive, I heard a rapid tank tapping, and another diver pointed to the new diver ascending from the wreck far from the anchor line. He was buoyant and gaining speed. I was diving with a SS Minnus dive propulsion vehicle (DPV, or underwater scooter) and was able to quickly ascend from 90 fsw to 65 fsw and bring him back to the anchor line at 90 fsw. If I had not grabbed him, he would have done an uncontrolled ascent and surfaced in current, unable to get back to the boat on his own. On the anchor line, other divers came over. We communicated that I’d take him up and that the other divers would finish their dives.

I had him hold at 90 fsw to give him time to settle down and for our bodies to have some time to adjust to the rapid ascent and decent that we had just done. I also had him switch to my long hose in the belief that my high-end regulator would be easier to breathe from as he worked out the CO2 hit. He had about 1000 psi left, but I also wanted to save his gas for getting him back on the boat.

We worked up the anchor line, taking it extra slow and doing an extra-long safety stop before I put him back on his regulator. By the time we were ready to surface from the safety stop he looked much better, although he had thrown up through the regulator during the safety stop. When we made it back on the boat, I made sure there were no medical issues other than seasickness and did a long assessment. I ended my dive with 1515 psi in a HP120 and a full 13 cf bailout bottle.

We agreed that despite his AOW certification and having 30 dives over the past two years, he needed to gain more experience and work his way down to a dive like this gradually. He is prone to seasickness, which was a contributing factor along with poor buoyancy and not wearing gloves. He should have communicated early on when he started to have problems.

Several other divers saw him in distress from the wreck, but neither his dive partner nor any of the other divers could get to him once he started ascending. If not for having a powerful DPV, I would not have been able to do anything either. I took into consideration the fact that I had just started my dive, it was my first dive of the day and that quick ascents deeper than 60 feet are less dangerous than close to the surface. I am a technical diver with about 370 dives AN/deco and studying trimix. I dive wrecks of these depths on an almost weekly basis and am very comfortable in these conditions.

Comments

This was a typical case of a diver diving beyond his training and experience. Informal dive groups are likely to overlook this issue because of respect for autonomy and freedom. While each diver is responsible for himself, everybody in the group would be affected in case of a dive accident; thus, divers in the group have the right to check each other’s competency. It is not impolite; it is a part of the safe dive culture.

Buddy systems among divers who are strangers to each other often fail. It happened in this case, too. For the buddy system to work, divers need to establish rules before the dive, be comfortable about the other diver’s skills and agree to a common dive plan. When diving in a strong current such as in this case, a buddy check at surface before descent is often impossible. Thus, it is more important to have a good predive conversation and complete cross-checking.

Another diver in this group most likely saved the life of this inexperienced diver. The rescuer probably would not have succeeded without using the scooter, which enabled him to catch up with the ascending diver before he got too shallow and bring him back to a safe depth. An exerted diver experiencing an emergency ascent often ends up with lung barotrauma, arterial gas embolism and drowning.

Experienced divers in informal groups should not keep to themselves. Instead, they should volunteer their advice for the good of the entire group.

— Dr. Petar J. Denoble, MD. D.Sc.

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Safe Diving In Fresh Water

Safe Diving in Fresh Water


Based on a review of the past 10 years of freshwater dive fatalities in the U.S. and Canada, DAN recommends divers be familiar with their gear, pay attention to their gas supplies and avoid ascents without any visible reference.

We were gearing up on a sunny spring day at our local dive quarry. I had not dived for some months, and I recalled last year’s DAN Annual Diving Report, in which we had written a section about diving fatalities in quarries, lakes and dive parks. There are more than 150 such sites — also known as scuba parks — in the U.S. and Canada, most of them near large population centers.

In our review we looked at the past 10 years and found 47 deaths in dive parks (defined as any freshwater site that deliberately placed attractions to entice divers) and 63 diving deaths at other freshwater sites such as rivers and lakes. (We excluded caves because cave diving is highly specialized.) We compared these two groups to identify safety issues we might warn the diving community about.

Although we didn’t know where all the divers got their gear, we did know that information in 47 cases. Of these, 36 percent were wearing rented or borrowed equipment. The percentage was the same for freshwater diving fatalities both inside and outside of dive parks, but it was a much higher rate than for diving deaths in the sea, where we found that just 26 percent of divers who died were wearing unfamiliar gear.



Fatalities in dive parks peaked in May, earlier in the year than those in other freshwater sites or in the sea. I wondered if this timing might be a result of many divers returning to diving after the winter with a day at their local quarry. Maximum depths where divers died were significantly deeper in dive parks (76 feet compared with 39 feet outside of dive parks), and technical diving was also more common in dive parks than at other freshwater sites (17 percent versus 6 percent), probably due to greater access to deeper depths. Training was the purpose of the dive in 28 of the 110 freshwater deaths (25 percent).

The top three causes of death were drowning, cardiac problems and arterial gas embolism (AGE), as is commonly found in the sea. One thing that stood out, though, was that all five AGE events occurred in dive parks.

It was important to DAN researchers to figure out how to use these data to assist the diving community, so our next step was to look at our database of diver-supplied reports to help us better understand the causes of injuries and incidents. This incident report from a dive park contains some common elements:



I accompanied a class of students on a dive in a quarry. We visited a helicopter in water deeper than 60 feet. Once the class had performed their exercises, my buddy led the way from the helicopter to an underwater boat. The instructor and students followed at a distance. When we arrived at the boat, which was at about 45 feet, we stopped and turned around.

Unknown to us, about 10 yards away a diver in the class began to experience difficulty breathing through his regulator, and he quickly became low on air. He looked at his pressure gauge and saw that the pressure dropped to zero with each difficult breath. I did not see him since he was coming down at an angle and I was facing away from him. My buddy handed the diver a spare air supply twice, and he let go of it. He looked panicked.

Fortunately, staying calm saved the day in this case, and both divers surfaced unharmed. However, this incident should remind us all to regularly check our gas supply, especially when we dive deeper than usual. This incident also includes common elements of incidents such as a diver in training, diving more deeply than usual and being at risk of a panicked ascent, which is a well-established factor in many AGE deaths.

Summary

On average, 11 divers die each year in fresh water in the U.S. and Canada. Almost half of these deaths occur in dive parks, which are typically deeper than other freshwater dive sites. Technical diving was more common in dive-park deaths than in deaths outside of dive parks.

 



Training was the purpose of the dive in 25 percent of the fatalities. Unfamiliar gear is a hazard for all divers; it may be more common at freshwater sites where training is popular. DAN recommends that divers take a few minutes before diving to become familiar with any new, borrowed or rented equipment. Check it carefully before entering the water, and when possible try it in water shallow enough to stand up in before going deeper. In particular, familiarize yourself with buoyancy control and emergency weight-removal systems, which vary among manufacturers.

Given that buoyancy problems and rapid ascents are linked to the risk of AGE, DAN recommends that divers try to avoid blue-water ascents when possible. In dive parks this might mean following an old quarry road away from shore and then back again at the end of the dive or using an ascent line and buoy for reference. If you must surface in open water, consider deploying a surface marker buoy connected to a reel, locking the reel and using the line as a reference.

Based on the types of incidents most often submitted to DAN’s online reporting system, divers should remember to regularly check their remaining gas. Remember DAN’s top three tips for safe diving in fresh water: Dive with familiar gear, avoid blue-water ascents, and keep an eye on your gas gauge.

© Alert Diver — Q1 Winter 2016

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This Month’s DAN Quiz!

So how well do you know your cardiovascular system? Take this quiz too learn more!

www.diversalertnetwork.org/quiz/cardiovascular_quiz

 

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DAN Improving Your Mental & Physical Health

Improving Your Mental and Physical Health

By DAN Education and Medicine

With the new year upon us, many of us are sitting down to draft resolutions to improve our health and quality of life. It’s important to remember that these resolutions are commitments that can provide us benefits both in the water and above it. We at DAN came up with a few resolutions to help you and your divers promote good mental health, physical fitness and safe diving practices.

Resolution #1: Increase your endurance

Exercise can reduce tension, stress and mental fatigue, but developing an exercise routine that works for you can be challenging. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week, with greater time leading to greater health benefits. Finding a form of exercise or activity you enjoy is the key to success. Arrange group walks or runs around the block. Don’t care for running? Try swimming laps at the pool instead. Most dive centers and instructors have access to a pool or body of water; just take a quick dip (30 minutes) a few times a week to increase your endurance. This leaves you better prepared to handle long surface swims. Write your plans down on a calendar and try to involve others. People who put their goals on paper are more likely to follow through. Also, just like in diving, having a buddy system can motivate you as well as others to continue and keep going.

Resolution #2: Add fruits and vegetables to your diet

Eating nutritiously may be the most difficult obstacle we are faced with on a regular basis. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants, fiber, potassium and vitamins. They promote weight loss, lower blood pressure and prevent disease. One smart way to boost your diet is to add a fruit or vegetable to every meal. You can resist the temptation for unhealthy foods by adding a basket of fruit in your store or packing a lunch filled with nutritious snacks. Most dive boats include a fresh fruit option on board, but it is usually in addition to other snacks. Promote nutrition to your divers by adding more fruit varieties on board in lieu of chips or sugary snacks.

Resolution #3: Take a break

Sometimes changing your perspective involves a change of scenery. Research suggests that planning a vacation can increase your overall happiness. By removing yourself from the workplace environment, you’re already taking steps toward reducing stress. Actively plan dive trips and vacations with your divers. Include activities such as walking tours or other activities that include a form of exercise.  You can also meet up in the mornings for a quick walk to start your day. Spending more time with your divers allows you to get to know each other better, which can improve your relationships and in turn lead to a happier and healthier life.

Resolution #4: Get involved in the community

Volunteering can help connect you with your community. By participating in a shared activity, you meet new people and expand your network. Volunteering exposes you to people with a common interest and helps develop your social skills. Dive centers can host a community event such as a dive site cleanup to provide divers the opportunity to meet each other. Not only are you bringing divers together, but you are also working toward a mutual goal to enhance your community.

Resolution #5: Enhance your education

Participate in a course that interests you for credit, for a certificate or for fun. This is a resolution not only for beginner divers, but professionals too. Continuing your education can improve your memory and keep your skills up-to-date. Choosing a dive-related course may seem like the best option, but there are other paths to help you grow your business. Some of these include social media marketing, website development, photography and business management. You can also schedule regular seminars and continuing education courses to keep your divers actively involved. Add these courses to your training calendar so others can promote and participate in the classes as well.

As you start the new year, take small steps toward achieving your goals. After a couple of weeks, the changes you’ve made will become a habitual part of your normal routine. These small adjustments will not only improve your mental and physical health, but can assist in safer diving practices for you and your divers.

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