The oceans of the world are filled with the beauty of nature, but discovering that beauty requires a special skill set.
You need to understand that the human body was not designed to survive for very long at 10-40 meters below the ocean’s surface. For each 10 meters of depth, the external water pressure on the body increases by one atmosphere. So, at a depth of 10 meters your body is subject to two atmospheres of pressure. At 20 meters, your body is subject to three atmospheres of pressure. At 30 meters, your body is subject to four atmospheres of pressure.
What this means to any prospective diver is that you cannot just strap on a tank of air and willy-nilly go off and explore. Specific training is required, the result of which is a scuba diving certification. Without that certification, dive operators will not allow you to sign up for any dive excursions.
What do you need to fear when diving?
- As you breath air from a scuba tank, you add extra nitrogen to your bloodstream under the increased pressure from the depth of your dive. For a 20 meter dive you are at three atmospheres of pressure, and for each breath you take, you are breathing in three times the volume of air as you would at the surface. You use up your air more quickly the deeper you dive, and as you use up that oxygen in the air, you are adding extra nitrogen to you bloodstream. If you come to the surface too quickly, this nitrogen will bubble out into your bloodstream like when you open a can of carbonated soda. Those bubbles can block blood flow an kill you (this is called the bends).
- Your scuba diving equipment is subject to failure. Therefore, you normally dive with a dive buddy. If one diver’s equipment fails, that diver can share the buddy’s air and then they can slowly return to the surface of the ocean without fear of the bends.
- Some of the plants and animals in the ocean’s depths can be harmful. Touching Fire Coral with the bare skin can be excruciating. Stepping on a Sea Urchin can be worse than tangling with a porcupine. Moray Eels can bite your fingers off. And then there are the sharks in the ocean. All of these and more can be dangerous, but with the proper training, guidance, and a bit of common sense, you can keep yourself safe.
- Finally, there are underwater currents that can sweep you away. You learn to swim into the current at the beginning of a dive and then return with the current when you are more tired and your air is getting low. Following an experienced dive master usually eliminates the possibility of getting lost in a strong current.
So, with all of these things to fear, why would anyone take up the sport of scuba diving? The answer is simple. There is nothing in the world quite like exploring a new and exciting other world under the water.
Here are some of the wonderful things I have experience in my over twenty years of diving:
- Off the island of St. Lucia, our dive group was diving the wall of the Pitons (two volcanic mountains) and I saw a rare blue lobster (only one in every 2 million lobsters are blue).
- There is a dive site off of the northern shore of Grand Cayman island that makes it seem that you are in a giant fish bowl. Visibility is over 200 feet in the crystal clear water and you can see large tarpon swimming together in formation over multi-colored coral. You just want to be able to stay there forever, but eventually your air tank empties and you must return to the dive boat.
- I did a free dive (no air tank) at Grand Turk island to bring up four Conch’s for a snack of Conch Salad on the beach. Diving 20-25 feet down to the bottom and collecting the conch shells was exhilarating and now I have two of the conch shells on the book shelves in my office. They are beautiful.
- I have been on three shark dives off of Nassau, Bahamas. These dives were led by the Stuart’s Cove dive team. This team was responsible for the underwater scenes in the early James Bond movies. Check out this link: http://www.stuartcove.com/DiveBahamasMgmt.aspx?id=2&pageId=57&main=y
- I have been diving on some wonderful wrecks throughout the Caribbean. The stories behind each wreck are fascinating.
- My latest diving experience was in the Fiji Islands after a 9 year hiatus in diving activity. The dive itself was nothing special, but to get back into the water after so long was a thrill.
I took the picture of the shark on this post while on an excursion in New Caledonia in December of last year.
I hope you have enjoyed my brief tour of my scuba diving history. Remember, don’t be fearless, be prepared.