Valve on, Valve off
By Thomas Gronfeldt
Every year, divers enter the water with their tank valves off, resulting in interrupted dives — and worse. Speak to dive guides and instructors the world over, and you’ll realize it’s a more common scenario than you’d expect: a diver descends to begin a dive, only to suddenly realize he’s got no air. Those who remember their training dump their weights and head for the surface, performing a controlled emergency ascent. Some, tragically, panic and rush to the surface, risking decompression illness, or drown. Out-of-air (or more correctly, out-of-gas) situations are among the most common causes of dive fatalities, and a surprising number of these occurs right at the beginning of a dive, such as in the example above. The problem isn’t usually the fault of the diver having depleted the tank in the first few minutes of the dive, but that the tank valve was never opened to begin with, or was only partially opened. A good equipment assembly and check process should of course include both turning on the tank valve and checking that it is indeed opened, often by breathing in one of the regulators. This is then double-checked by looking at the manometer to confirm that the operating pressure of the tank is sufficient for the dive. This is then reconfirmed during the buddy check. Ideally, these multiple checks will catch any situation where a diver hasn’t turned on his tank valve, but the world is far from ideal.The Divers Alert Network (DAN) has consulted two experts, Peter Buzzacott and Gareth Lock, on the issue in their recent edition of Alert Diver, the leading DAN publication. The ReasonsThe out-of-air situation often occurs due to one of the following reasons: 1. Divers have failed to open their tank valves all the way. This can happen either due to an interruption when the diver was assembling his gear or through a simple error. The tank valve may be open far enough that it allows sufficient air to pass through to supply the diver with air at the surface, but as the diver descends, they’ll consume increasing amounts of air, maxing out the capacity of the valve in its partially open state. 2. Divers accidentally partially close their valve after opening. This is usually due to the practice of opening the valve all the way and then turning it back a quarter or half turn. If a diver exaggerates this final part, they may find themselves closing a valve partially, which means it won’t be able to supply enough air at depth. 3. Divers turn their tank valves off, but don’t reopen them. If some time passes between assembling the scuba unit and the dive, many divers will turn off their valves and then forget to reopen them before the dive. The remaining gas in the system will give them a reading on the manometer, and even a few breaths from the regulator before the air is gone, making it harder to spot the error. 4. Another diver accidentally turned the valve off. Sometimes other divers, in an attempt to be helpful, may turn the valve of a seemingly unattended scuba unit off, or may accidentally turn the valve off thinking they are in fact turning it on. As with the example above, the remaining pressure in the system may make this hard to catch. Avoid The Valve-Off ScenarioDAN recommends the following to avoid out-of-gas situations early in the dive: 1. Always do a complete gear assembly and check, possibly aided by a checklist to ensure all steps are covered. 2. If a gear assembly and check is interrupted, go through all the steps again to avoid accidentally skipping one. 3. Open valves all the way, avoiding the classical practice of opening them and turning them back a quarter or half turn. This practice stems from when valves were made of brass, and very susceptible to getting stuck if the brass cooled, but modern valves aren’t. And a partially opened valve can lead to confusion over whether the valve is indeed opened or not. For this very reason, many technical diving organizations teach their students to always open valves all the way. 4. Do a buddy check before entering the water, and monitor your manometer as you take a few breaths from your regulator. If the needle drops with every breath, your valve is most likely closed, either fully or partially.Should such a situation ever befall you, it’s important to keep calm, signal your buddy that you’re out of air and switch to your buddy’s octopus. Your buddy can then check your regulator and valve to see if the problem can be fixed or if you must abort the dive.
GoPro Underwater Photography Guide
Article by Thomas Gronfeldt
Housing, Filters and Hardware
The wildly popular GoPro camera seems ubiquitous these days, having made its way into most active sports from surfing to mountain biking to rock climbing, and, of course, to scuba diving. And for good reason: the small cameras deliver high quality, full-HD footage in a travel-friendly, fairly inexpensive package.
However, as most people who’ve bought one have discovered, buying the camera is only half the battle. Learning to use it, along with purchasing a range of extra accessories, will help you get the best footage possible during your sport of choice. In this article series, we’ll cover all you need to know to make your GoPro into a lean, mean, dive footage-creating machine.
First and foremost we must look at the housing. The original GoPros came with a durable housing, rated to 60 meters (197 feet). It was somewhat large and cumbersome, though, and had a few diving-related problems, such as a moderate wide-angle effect intended for land-based shooting. GoPro subsequently redesigned their housing and camera to be smaller, lighter and more suited to diving. The current version, the GoPro Hero3+, features a much slimmer housing, but it’s only rated for 40 meters (131 feet). GoPro has also produced a separate, dive-specific housing, rated to 60 meters. Although recreational dive limits top out at 40 meters, because of the difference in dynamic and static pressure, it’s recommended that if you routinely dive to 60 feet or deeper (18 meters+), you get the dive-specific housing to reduce the risk of flooding. The good news about the new version is that the wide-angle capabilities are much better than on previous versions, allowing divers to move very close to the motif of the photo, while still capturing all of, say, a reef shark. We’ll get into shooting practices in a later article.
Light starts to fade away as we descend, but we don’t lose light equally across the spectrum. Normal light contains all the primary colors, which fade away one by one as we get deeper. The first to go is red; the last is blue. Because of this, underwater photography and film footage often seems blue, a tendency that increases the deeper we go. To remedy this effect, a red filter is a highly useful for underwater photography. There are filters for all types of cameras, including the GoPro. Some filters simply click on over the lens; other, multiple filters allow divers to switch between them on a multilevel dive. The latter configuration makes it possible to account for the lighting conditions at any given depth, but these filters are typically more expensive and bulkier, and determining which filter goes with which depth takes some training. Other filters are made for specific lighting conditions, such as the greenish hue of freshwater, or for night diving. In any case, a red filter will greatly enhance your photos, and along with a photo light, make the colors and details pop, ending the age of blue or green dive photos.
Photo and video lights
Which brings us to lights. Again, light disappears as we descend, and while compensating for this with a filter is important, so too can be compensating for the general loss of light. Powerful photo and/or video lights can help. Think of photo lights as underwater flashes that shoot off a burst of light as you take a picture, helping to illuminate the scene. Video lights are more like flashlights or dive torches that shine continuously, illuminating the scene as you film. When using either, instead of being directly beneath or directly above the lens — as in a traditional camera flash — it helps to put the light at an angle to help reduce backscatter. Our next article will cover more on light placement and mounting options.
In its most basic configuration, the GoPro works pretty well as an underwater camera, in particular for snorkeling and shallow dives. But to take it up a notch, requires a little more of an investment, including lights, filters, and possibly a dedicated dive housing. With these, you’re ready to take your underwater photo and video to the next level.
8 Tips To Help You With Your Open Water Course
Article from Scuba Diver Life
1. Listen to and watch your instructor. When he or she is demonstrating a skill, pay attention. They’re doing so for your benefit, and hopefully they have already mastered the skills themselves. 2. Everything in your course has a purpose (even that damn snorkel), even if to begin with you don’t understand what the reason is. Your instructor should explain why you are required to do A, B and C. They are not asking you to do something for no reason. 3. Relax — easy to say, not always easy to do. Nearly everyone has problems (sometimes major, sometimes minor) when they start off; it is almost expected. 4. Don’t beat yourself over the head about something you’re not getting; your instructor will work with you until the perceived problem is no longer. 5. Don’t worry if the student next to you seems to grasp the theory or water skills quicker than you do. It’s not a competition; people learn at different speeds. It doesn’t matter how quickly you complete a skill or piece of theory, all that matters is that you competently complete the course. 6. Never be afraid to ask questions. People often don’t ask questions or for another demonstration as they’re afraid of appearing stupid or slow-witted. 7. Don’t confuse the Open Water course with diving. Some people get halfway through the course and decide diving’s not for them. For most people, a dive equals a jump in the water, a look at the fish or wrecks, and getting out of the water. On most general dives we don’t remove our masks underwater, perform fin pivots, remove our regulators, and so on. The course is a means to an end, not the end itself, and will make you a more confident diver when the time comes to just jump in. 8. One last thing – enjoy it. Diving is essentially about fun; that’s why we call it recreational diving.
Reasons To Take A Refresher
By: C. David Conner
While scuba diving is no doubt all about adventure, it’s also all about staying safe. As with many potentially risky hobbies, if you haven’t been diving in a year or more it may be time for a refresher course before taking that next trip. There are several reasons to keep current on your skills, and one of the most important has nothing to do with your competency when practicing them and everything to do with your state of mind: people tend to get nervous when placed in uncomfortable situations. And while nerves may not be a big deal if, say, you’re out of practice with your bowling game, a severe case of the nerves can lead to any number of dangerous situations when you’re diving. Underwater panic can turn a diving inconvenience, like a flooding mask, into an emergency in seconds. Avoiding panic, no matter how serious the situation, is absolutely vital and could save your life should you ever face a real underwater emergency. A refresher course will do as much to ease your mind as it will to exercise your skills when getting back in the water. Nerves can also affect air consumption and equalization. The body responds to tense situations with faster breathing in preparation of the “flight or fight” response, which affects scuba divers in two ways. The most obvious effect of heavier breathing is faster air consumption and thus not as much bottom time. A lesser, but also inconvenient, effect is increased buoyancy. Refresher dives are also a great opportunity to check your equipment. You don’t want to go on the trip of a lifetime only to watch as your housing floods and that fancy underwater camera is ruined because of a bad O-ring — and yes, I’m speaking from experience. Regulators have O-rings; hoses can rot; BCD bladders can wear out. Scuba gear is designed to be durable, but equipment will wear out, especially if not used in a while. If you’ve got any doubt, take your gear to a qualified professional for service before diving as well. It can be difficult to pick up right where you left off with scuba diving, so keeping those skills current is essential to make for more enjoyable and safe diving.
How To Be The Best Buddy
By Nadia Aly
The buddy system used in scuba diving is key in ensuring the mutual safety and enjoyment of both yourself as well as your diving partner, with the following being some exemplary buddy behaviours. Form a Plan and Stick to ItPre-dive, formulate a plan with your buddy that both of you will stick to, with regards to the duration of the dive, the sites to visit, as well as any other major discussion points. Assist Your Buddy With Their EquipmentSome scuba gear may be difficult to get in and out of alone, and if heavy equipment is to be brought along during the dive, the load should always be divided between both parties. Form a Plan and Stick to ItPre-dive, formulate a plan with your buddy that both of you will stick to, with regards to the duration of the dive, the sites to visit, as well as any other major discussion points. Assist Your Buddy With Their EquipmentSome scuba gear may be difficult to get in and out of alone, and if heavy equipment is to be brought along during the dive, the load should always be divided between both parties. Double Check Your Buddy's Equipment Pre-DiveIt never hurts to have another set of eyes to look over the set-up of your equipment, and to make sure that everything is working properly. Make sure to do this for your buddy pre-dive! Maintain Active Communication During the DiveAlways keep a clear line of communication with your buddy throughout the dive using hand signals. Do so actively so that both parties are aware of the other's status at all times. Stay Close to Your Buddy Throughout the DiveWhile it may be tempting to wander off on your own to explore the dive site, resist the urge. Always stay close to your buddy as you would be surprised a how easy it is to loose sight of one another.
Perfect Buoyancy On Every Dive
Want to reduce your air consumption? Be able to fin faster and farther with less effort? Look relaxed and in perfect control? Finish the dive with less fatigue? Receive approving smiles from divemasters?
The secret is pinpoint buoyancy control, and it all begins with fine-tuning your weighting—that's how much lead you thread on your belt or put into your pouches. If you are carrying just the right amount of weight, you will have the smallest amount of BC inflation. That means less drag and more efficient finning. Less BC inflation also means less buoyancy shift with depth, so you'll make fewer adjustments.
How Much Weight Do I Need?
Correct weighting depends on your personal buoyancy needs and is influenced by a number of factors—from the composition of your body to the thickness of your wetsuit. You can get a rough estimate of how much weight you'll need by using our exclusive buoyancy calculator. You should be able to estimate the proper weight within 4 to 5 pounds. Now, go diving and:
Make One Final Check
Got your weighting exactly right on the first day of your vacation? Great. Now check it again a few days later. Chances are you can drop a couple more pounds. Why? You're more relaxed now, so you're breathing with less air in your lungs.
Is "Perfect" Weighting Always Perfect?
Because excellent buoyancy control and minimum weighting are the hallmarks of an expert diver, many of us feel pressure to eliminate every pound of lead we can. But sometimes that's a bad idea.
When you're wearing little or no neoprene, there's little or no buoyancy change with depth. You can therefore minimize your weighting without risking too much positive buoyancy when you ascend.
But wearing more neoprene means more changes in buoyancy as it compresses. At depth, you'll probably have to inflate your BC to compensate for it so you lose a good deal of the streamlining benefit. As you ascend, you'll have to vent that air accurately to avoid positive buoyancy. Here, a couple of extra pounds of lead will give you a margin for error.
Think of minimum weighting as you would the edge of a cliff. You don't want to fall over into positive buoyancy and an uncontrollable ascent. When in doubt, it's safer to stay a few steps—or pounds—back from the edge.
Fine Tune Your Trim
Finding perfect buoyancy isn't just about finding the right amount of weight, it's also about the distribution of that weight. Proper trim—the distribution of your weight front-to-back, side-to-side and head-to-toe—helps you keep your fins off the reef and maintain an efficient horizontal swimming position. You should be able to hover in a horizontal position (or, ideally, in any position) without your feet sinking or rising, without rolling to one side or the other.
If your weighting is spot-on so that you're neutral during your 15-foot safety stop, try these exercises to see if you're properly trimmed. If not, you can shift some weight to compensate. Don't expect perfection, but you can get close. (You've got at least three minutes to kill anyway.) The trick is to be as relaxed as possible. Don't fidget.
|Buddha Hover Illustration by Mike Gushock
The Buddha Hover—Assume the modified lotus position (feet under your thighs) and grab your fin tips. This is a good position from which to fine-tune your buoyancy because your hands keep your fins from wiggling. It also detects trim problems: Do you fall over to one side or the other?
|Prone Hover Illustration by Mike Gushock
Prone Hover—Stretch out face-down and concentrate on relaxing and not moving your hands and feet. Do you roll to one side or the other? Do your fins rise or sink?
|Side Hover Illustration by Mike Gushock
Side Hover—This is a better way to detect front-to-back imbalance. Stretch out on your side and, again, concentrate on not moving your hands and feet. Do you roll?
The Fish That Goes Fishing
Courtesy of Wakatobi Dive Resort
When you think of a predator, what attributes come to mind? Streamlined speed, explosive agility, aggressive strength… and then there’s the frogfish. Slow, reclusive and lacking in both offensive and defensive weaponry—not to mention being far from streamlined—the frogfish wouldn’t seem to have the tools needed to become a lethal predator. Yet despite some seeming shortcomings in the attack department, these enigmatic little creatures have developed a unique strategy to capture prey: they hide in plain sight and go fishing. Truly, frogfish are one of nature’s most unusual creatures. The frogfish’s fishing rod is actually a modified dorsal fin with a fleshy appendage at its end, which serves as bait. To attract a meal, it flicks the bait up and down, just like a fisherman working a lure. If a potential target did manage to dart in and steal the bait, the frogfish is able to grow a new appendage to replace what was bitten off. To bring its prey closer, the frogfish uses camouflage and blends into its surroundings. That’s why you’ll have to look very closely among the sponges and corals on the reef to find a frogfish; they often look more like a sponge or a chunk of rock than a fish. Their coloration varies from species to species, and within the same species, while an individual frogfish is able to change its skin color and pattern to better match its surroundings. Skin textures can range from velvety-smooth to algae-covered warts, and even spots that match those of their habitat.
If a frogfish were to change its hiding spot, it could alter its coloration to hatch the new surroundings. But this doesn’t happen often, as these lurkers don’t move around much. Instead, they like to park themselves in concealment and wait for a meal to come their way. When they do move, they are as likely to walk as to swim. Frogfish often use their pectoral and pelvic fins to push themselves along the sea bottom. Of course, they can swim reasonably well when the need arises, and can also pump water out their gill openings to create a sort of jet propulsion effect. The frogfish diet includes crustaceans, fish, and even other frogfish on occasion. When a potential meal gets within six to seven body lengths, the frogfish begins its fishing routine, moving its lure to mimic a swimming or drifting morsel. If the potential prey becomes interested, the frogfish may make a slow, stealthy advance, or it may just lie in wait while working the lure. Once the victim is lured within striking range, the frogfish attacks. But this is no lighting-fast pounce—though it does take places in less than 100th of a second. Rather than move in on the prey, the frogfish literally sucks dinner into its mouth by opening its jaw with near instantaneous speed. This rapid expansion enlarges the mouth to more than ten times its resting size, creating a powerful suction that pulls the meal in. Super-sizing the bite also allows the frogfish to gobble up catches nearly as large as themselves, and its stomach can also expand to accommodate big meals. Their bizarre appearances, unique colorations and unusual hunting tactics make frogfish prized by photographers and fish watchers alike. It takes a sharp eye to spot one amid the colors and patterns of the reef, but because they tend to stay in one place, it’s often possible to return to the same spot and find the same frogfish working the same favorite fishing hole. Truly, frogfish are one of nature’s most unusual creatures.
Artificial Reefs: Solution or Problem
By Beth Alexander
They’ve been in use for thousands of years, with cultures as diverse as the ancient Persians, the Romans and the 17th-century Japanese creating artificial reefs. The earliest written record is from South Carolina in the 1830s, where logs were used to create an artificial reef for improved fishing. These antique ideas and creations have changed little over the years, with many of the primary principals remaining in use.
An artificial reef can be defined as a manmade structure that’s been built to promote marine life in areas with generally featureless bottoms, to control erosion, to block ship passages, or even to improve surfing conditions. Not all artificial reefs are purpose-built; some are created when a ship sinks accidentally. Whether they have been purposely or accidentally constructed, artificial reefs all provide hard surfaces where algae and invertebrates, such as barnacles and corals, can attach and form intricate structures, as well as provide plentiful food for fish.
Variables such as depth, water temperature, current, and the seabed composition determine whether an artificial reef will be successful or not, but generally they all follow a predicable growth formation: Ocean currents encounter vertical structures, which creates plankton-rich upwellings, which in turn provide reliable feeding spots for small fish like sardines and minnows. These draw in pelagic predators, such as tuna and sharks; next come creatures seeking protection, such as groupers and eels, then the opportunistic predators such as barracuda, and finally, over months and years, the reef develops more encrusting algae, sponges, hard and soft corals.
Proponents tout the many benefits of artificial reefs; they enhance resources in coastal waters, create biological reserves, attract tourism, allow the study of a reef’s development and productivity and can help nature to restore itself if the natural reef has been overfished or damaged by pollution or anchoring. One of these success stories is the deliberate sinking of the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany in Pensacola, Florida. It’s the largest purpose-sunk artificial reef in the world, and has been successful due to good management and planning. This wreck and others like it, which have been intentionally sunk, have proven to be great additions to the marine environment, encouraging coral growth and increased fish populations, as well as enabling divers to explore new and interesting environments apart from the natural reef.
But conservation solutions must be executed properly in order to be effective; good ideas are not enough if they’re plagued by human error. Introducing a manmade structure into a sensitively balanced marine ecosystem must be done with the utmost care. Pollution and toxic materials, such as asbestos from wrecks or oil from abandoned rigs, can seep from the structures into the marine habitat. An artificial reef can also lead to a high concentration of fish in one small area, creating heightened competition between species, and also, ironically, worsening overfishing in one specific area.
The prime example of a conservationist-minded idea going horribly awry is Osborne Reef off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the 1970s, an ambitious reef-expansion project was put into place, with the idea being that old tires would spread across a 36-acre site to form an artificial reef. Between 1 and 2 million old tires were deposited in the water, but many of them were never properly secured. Many broke free and subsequently drifted into and damaged the natural reef, only 69 feet away; storms have taken some tires as far away as North Carolina. In addition to destroying much of the natural reef, their mobility has prevented new organisms from taking hold on the tires. The Osborne Artificial Reef project has since been recognized as a great environmental disaster in Florida, and although limited clean up efforts have been undertaken, most of the tires remain in the water.
The introduction of foreign objects can cause a disruption to the natural ecological balance, but if it is done with environmental care and thoughtful planning, a successful artificial reef can provide habitat and recreation for years to come. When installed correctly, the benefits far outweigh the concerns, and it can only lead to better and more conservation when divers can see a new reef first hand.
6 Reasons Why Scuba Diving Is Good For Your Health
By Ocean Enterprises
1. Physical Fitness
There are many reasons why Scuba Diving increases our overall Physical Fitness. Scuba diving on a regular basis steadily improves and maintains your general fitness and stamina levels. Exercising in water is very effective due to the natural resistance water has against our bodies especially when we kick our legs to fin and propel ourselves in the water. It has been shown that scuba diving for an hour can burn as many as 500 calories, making it just as beneficial in terms of calorie burn as working out for an hour on a cardiovascular machine in the gym.
Because divers have to be able to support the weight of their scuba gear when moving on land, they are constantly building muscle tone in their legs and back. Increased muscle tone helps in relieving tension and improves ailments such as backache because, by strengthening the back muscles, pressure is reduced in the spine.
2. Meditative Breathing
Slow, deep breathing is important in scuba diving to optimize air consumption and bottom time. An added bonus is that deep, steady breathing promotes a calm attitude and reduces the risk of a lung-expansion injury.
Similar to breathing during meditation, breathing slowly and deeply while diving induces a calm, relaxed state while the diver focuses on the underwater environment rather than thinking about problems they may be experiencing in daily life. This helps to reduce stress and balance the nervous system. A relaxed, calm state of mind has been proven to promote a positive attitude and prevent depression.
Deep breathing also means increased oxygen intake and this has numerous benefits too. Increased oxygen levels in the body raises energy levels, stimulates circulation, benefits heart and lung function and improves mental capacities. When there is sufficient oxygen in the body the need for intoxicants and stimulants diminishes.
3. Warm Water Adventures
Taking a vacation and getting away from daily stresses will improve one’s mental health. In addition, the majority of divers when planning a diving vacation choose warm, tropical climates where they are exposed to more sunlight than usual. One of the most important benefits of sunlight is that it supplies the body with Vitamin D which has many health benefits including increased absorption of calcium which strengthens bones. It also increases endorphin production in the brain which makes us “feel good.”
Diving in another country brings other benefits too. They say that travel is the best form of education and most people relish in the experience of visiting new places, experiencing a different culture, and all the new sights and smells and tastes that go with it. Dive travel abroad also means you are likely to meet fun people from all over the world with whom you have a common interest. Have you ever noticed how people tend to be happier and friendlier in a warm climate?
4. Healing Effects of Water
Often times people are submersed in water to calm down or to be healed. Water has a way of making us feel healed and restored. For example, watching fish in an aquarium has a relaxing affect on the mind. Compare that to actually being in that underwater environment and those calming effects are intensified. This is one of the reasons divers keep going back for more. They find it a great way to unwind, relax and forget about all the stresses of daily modern life.
When divers are underwater, they are at the mercy of the ocean currents and surges. The very act of surrendering to this force instantly calms the body and allows it to flow just as the marine life does so naturally. Rather than fighting against the natural flow, this act of surrender induces a calmness and feeling of being at home in the underwater environment.
5. Marine Life Encounters
Connecting with marine life takes the health benefits of diving to a whole new level. Just as pet owners feel good when they interact with their household pets, interacting with marine life creates a connection that most divers will never forget. The pure pleasure, wonder and awe of interacting with and being up close to amazing marine creatures produces a feeling of increased well-being. This feeling is heightened when we have an encounter with a species we feel a certain attraction to, or particular respect for, such as sharks or sea turtles.
Marine life encounters increase one’s awareness of the environment and how critical the health of the ocean is. Millions of life forms depend on clean, healthy oceans, and marine life interaction deepens the conviction for divers to make a difference in their daily lives to benefit the oceans.
6. Social Health Benefits – The Buddy System
Scuba diving means you need to learn to be responsible for both yourself and your buddy and to look after your own safety. You will learn to stay calm at all times and that can help you during stressful situations in your every day life.
When you dive, you meet other like-minded people who often become good friends as you all share that common interest. It’s easy to make friends among divers as you will find a sense of community among them. It’s an exhilarating feeling to surface from a dive full of wonderful memories of your experience and then to be able to talk about and share them with good companions who are just as excited as you are!
Cleaning the Ocean One Dive at A Time
By Torben Lonne
Over the past 20 years, scuba diving has evolved into a vibrant worldwide community. Scuba diving, and a shared love for the ocean, brings people together despite geographical distance and language barriers. One unfortunate aspect of scuba diving that rings an emotional bell for most divers is garbage, specifically, the scourge of marine debris that we see first hand on many, if not all, of our dives. The oceans are, and always have been, a dumping ground for humankind’s unwanted materials.
Our planet’s waterways, from oceans to ponds, are being polluted like never before in human history. Garbage has found its way into every conceivable waterway system there is, which has motivated many concerned people to ask where all this garbage is coming from.
The many sources of ocean garbage
Uncomfortably for many westerners, most of the unwanted garbage floating in the ocean, or on the sea floor, comes from industrial countries. Many industrialized countries tow large barges, filled to capacity with garbage, approximately 6 to 10 miles off shore and then dump their cargo. Some countries, such as the United States, have set further limits, requiring municipalities to dump their garbage over 100 miles out to sea. This may help prevent much of the garbage from washing up on shore, but it hasn’t solved the problem of using our oceans as a human waste dump.
Garbage washes up on shore every day, of every year, in every coastal country. Land lovers complain when they see garbage on the beaches they visit because it mars nature’s beauty. Scuba divers the world over share in this pain every time they come across a candy wrapper, plastic bag, tire, cigarette butt, tin can or any other man-made piece of trash lying on the ocean floor or on top of a beautiful reef. Those unfamiliar with scuba diving and boating don’t realize that even personal garbage that people discard outside of a trashcan also finds its way into the oceans. One of the worst types of garbage to end up in the oceans, lakes and rivers of the world is not plastic bags, tires, paper, aluminum or steel cans — it’s batteries, which are toxic, and poison marine wildlife as they deteriorate.
Is there anything to be done about this seemingly intractable problem? The answer is complicated. No individual can fix the world’s dumping dilemma alone, but collectively people can come together and bring worldwide awareness to the problem. Demand that international organizations such as the United Nations nudge industrial countries to lower, limit, and hopefully cease dumping their garbage into the ocean. Divers working together on a regular basis around the world can also help by picking up garbage off the ocean floor when they dive. This may seem a small contribution, but it won’t be seen that way by the turtle that doesn’t choke on the six-pack ring you picked up.
Scuba divers: Cleaning the ocean one dive at a time
Scuba divers working together around the world could theoretically make much more than a dent in the global garbage problem. According to PADI, there are more than 22 million certified divers in the world, in over 120 countries. Add in the world’s NAUI- certified divers and that’s a lot of potential unsung heroes. Conservative estimates predict that each diver will average two dives per year; suddenly you’ve got a number that can make a difference.
If divers started collecting garbage on a regular basis, even one or two pieces per dive, at popular dive sites around the world, it would bring a huge amount of public awareness to the issue.
Organized garbage cleanups already exist via organizations, but all scuba instructors, divemasters and recreational divers can add to the database by logging the amount and types of garbage they collect on their dives. Logging such information can be a great way to engage other divers in conversation about keeping the oceans clean.
Collecting garbage is, of course, a good thing to do, but recording what you find, along with its approximate weight, may be more important. Why is that? This information, when collected from divers around the world, can be a powerful tool to encourage world governments to focus on the serious consequences of dumping garbage into the world’s waterways. As garbage is collected and recorded, a picture will begin to form about the areas of the world that are most affected.
Garbage isn’t going away anytime soon, but if each of your dives is a cleanup dive, your efforts will at the very least positively impact that dive site. The best way to get this movement going is to spread the word. Get your dive buddies to clean up when you’re on a fun dive. You won’t miss any of your diving by picking up a few pieces of plastic and other trash, and you may just be some turtle’s hero.