Get ready for the 2014 dive season
Posted by Natacha Gajdoczki
The 2014 dive season is underway and if you aren’t ready to grab your dive bag and head off for your next exotic location, what are you waiting for? Before you strap on your gear, be sure that you are completely prepared for another season of underwater adventures. It takes more than the right gear to get you ready for everything the water will throw in your direction. Your body must be prepared for rough conditions as well as the physical and lung strength it takes to successfully complete a dive.
Don’t get out of shape during your off-season. Before you plan a dive, get a quick health and fitness assessment to ensure that you are safely taking the plunge. You may not have to be in Iron Man shape, but it is important to not have any injuries or health issues that may affect your ability to dive. Consult a medical professional to give you the green light if you have recently had any changes in health. Diving will give you a good workout, so be sure that your legs, glutes and core are ready for the journey.
Another item you will want to check off your list is your equipment. Be sure that it is in peak condition and ready for use. You may want to have your equipment professionally serviced to ensure its safety. An equipment failure is not something to take lightly and can be prevented with regular service and care. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure that your gear will continue working like new with every dive. Finally, if your body and equipment are ready to go, make sure that the skills required are fresh in your mind. Brush up on important information, or even take some courses to learn new skills.
Should I Get A Dive Computer
By: Charles Davis
Dive Computers are a Sign of Dedication
Each diver will have to decide for themselves if a dive computer is a must have, nice to have or a waste of money. Most serious divers swear by their computers but in reality they were most likely diving for quite a while before purchasing their computer. Dive computers are relatively new in the overall scope of scuba diving and will most likely be your most expense purchase, even more than the training and basic equipment. The variety and capabilities of the different computers on the market are staggering. However, before you even start sorting through the different manufacturers and models, you really need to determine do you need one and how great is the need. You learned the dive charts in your training and they have served you well. When you plan your dive, you look up your limits and adjust your plan to ensure that you stay within the safe limits. Before your second dive, it is back to the charts to look at your residual times. When you start doing dives that are a little more difficult to plan such as a multiple level dive, then you can start using the dive wheel. However both require you to stay within the plan. Also they assume that you are at the same depth for the same amount of time that you calculated.
What is a Dive Computer
Before getting to involved with the topic, I think a brief definition should be included. While there are numerous features on different models we will stick to the basics. Technically it a very difficult process. The computer is able to take its own pressure reading and can accurately keep time. Inside the dive computer are what are referred to as compartments. The number varies by model, but they are calculations designed to mimic the effects of nitrogen on different type of tissue within your body: such as fat, muscle, tendons and so forth. Tissue types absorb and release nitrogen at different rates. Every two seconds or so the computer take a pressure reading, calculates the lapse time and updates the compartments. Using a logarithm based on dive tables it calculated and displays your NDL and other information. The computer is calculating on the performed dived not on how it was planned. Computers are not perfect, there are items that affect the absorption rate that the computers can not measure, such as your activity level, the presence of drugs or alcohol in your blood or your level of hydration. The use of a dive computer allows you to maximize your time underwater using real time data while keeping you within a safe profile.
What is Your Normal Dive
The types of dive you do will be a factor whether it is a must have, nice to have or a waste of money to get a dive computer. If you only dive infrequently and at shallow depths then a dive computer may not be necessary for you. A dive at 30 or 40 feet can easily be managed using the dive tables. If you are doing dives around 60 feet but at a single depth then there may be some use for a computer but it is still limited. If the 60 foot dive is also able to be done as a multilevel then you will see some benefits of a computer allowing a little extra dive time. It is not unusual to an additional 15 or 20 minutes to a dive that goes to 60 feet but returns to 30 feet during the dive. Once you start diving beyond 60 feet then a computer becomes a very useful tool.
If you have not used a dive computer yet, I would suggest you rent one for a few dives. Many dive centers have computers for rent. Some center are even making a computer a requirement for deep dives. Deep being defined at below 60 feet. Plan the dive as you normally would but, use the readings from the computer during the dive. Afterward compare what you were able to safely dive with the times listed in the dive plan. This should help illustrate the value of the computer for your diving style.
If you are thinking of getting a computer, project how many dives will you do in a year, also how many of those are deep dives. Also take the cost of the dive computer you are interested in and divided it by the cost to rent the computer. This will tell you how many dives it would take to pay for the computer based on the rental cost. These three number should show you the economic benefits of buying instead of renting.
Dive More Safely
Dive computers have helped many divers maximize bottom times while still staying in a safe range of risk. They are also able to warn a diver that has exceeded his NDL and to provide guidance to reduce the risk with decompression stops. Given the serious injuries that can result from DCS, a dive computer should be considered for anyone who dives near the edge of the dive tables maximum time.
Night Diving Made Easy
By Eric Douglas
Night diving is special because even a familiar site looks different at night. When you make a day dive, you normally scan the entire dive site looking at your surroundings. At night, you see only the area of the dive site that is lit by your light. This forces you to slow down and concentrate on that one area.
Stay close and shallow. Night dives tend to be shallow, so you'll have plenty of bottom time to go slow and take it all in. Colors, for example, are much more vivid on a night dive than they are during the day. It's simple dive physics. If you're making a daytime dive in 66 feet of water, sunlight gets absorbed, stealing away the colors. On a night dive, your light source is never more than five or 10 feet away, so the water doesn't take away any of the light spectrum.
Redefine "night." When the sun is low in the sky, very little light penetrates the surface, making it pretty dark underwater even when there is still a fair amount of light above. Diving at dusk is a good way to start your night diving career. You have the convenience of gearing up when it is relatively light, but get the full effect of making a night dive. On ocean dusk dives, you also have the added benefit of watching the reef creatures migrate through a kind of "shift change" as the day animals disappear and the night animals come out to play.
Get the right gear. You'll need a primary dive light and a backup light. The primary light should be the larger and brighter of the two. How large and how bright? That's up to you, and your choice may vary depending on the clarity of the water. When shopping for a light, try out several as some have different grips and handles to suit your personal preferences. Your backup--or pocket--light should be small enough to stow easily, yet bright enough to help you find your way back home. Most lights designed for this purpose are smaller and typically shaped more like a traditional flashlight. Remember, though, that if the primary light fails and you switch to your backup, it's time to end the dive.
Tie one on. Most dive lights come with a way to attach a lanyard or wrist strap. Get one. It's cheap insurance against dropping and losing your primary source of illumination. Most dive lights are negatively buoyant; if you drop one in deep water it may be gone forever.
Know the signals. If there's one aspect of night diving that is more complicated than day diving, it's communication. You and your buddy should review hand signals before entering the water and agree on the ones you'll use. You have two options: One is to shine the light on your hands so your buddy can see what you're saying. The other is to make signals using your light. You can signal “OK” and “Yes” or “No” by moving your light in a circle, or up and down, or side to side. You can even get your buddy's attention by circling or “lassoing” his light beam and then pulling it toward you. If you've practiced this beforehand, your buddy will know what you're doing.
Should you become separated from your buddy, get vertical and shine your light outward while turning a full circle. Your buddy should do the same and chances are you'll spot each other. If you surface far from the dive boat, point your light at the boat until you get the crew's attention, then shine it down on your head so the crew can see you clearly.
Aim carefully. On any night dive, you should treat your light like a loaded gun. Never shine your light directly into another diver's eyes--you can ruin his night vision.
Go easy on the light. First-time night divers tend to buy the biggest, brightest beam they can find and cling to it like a security blanket. As you gain experience diving at night and get comfortable, you'll find smaller primary dive lights do just as well, particularly in clear water. On some night dives, lights of other divers, the boat and the moon can provide so much ambient light that you may leave your torch off for much of the dive.
If you do need a light, you may not need its full power. Some LEDs have a half-power setting you can use to dial back the brightness. Or try dimming your light by cupping your fingers over it. In any case, you'll see more natural behaviors if you use the edge of the pool of light, not the hot spot, to pick out fish and critters.
One of the unique things about night diving in the ocean is bioluminescence. Some varieties of single-celled plankton give off light when they are disturbed underwater. Your fin kicks or a wave of your hand can create an explosion of undersea sparks, but you'll miss the show in anything but dark conditions.
Do reconnaissance. Before you make your first night dive on a site, you should dive it during the day. This allows you to learn the layout of the site and get comfortable with it.
Mark the way home. If you're diving from shore, rather than from a boat, you should also place lights on the beach. It's a good idea to have two lights close together at your entry/exit point and then a third farther away. This gives you something to swim for after the dive when you're swimming back in.
Making a night dive from a boat brings with it a different set of concerns. The boat should be marked with a flashing strobe you can use to find your way back. When surfacing near the boat, shine your light toward the surface and watch carefully to avoid colliding with the hull.
Have fun! Most important, relax and enjoy the dive. It's natural to be a little anxious before stepping in the dark void of an unlit ocean or lake, but it's also exciting. When you overcome your anxieties about night diving, you get another eight hours of each precious dive day to explore and create new and lasting dive memories.
Underwater Video 101
By: Megan c/o PADI
With underwater cameras getting cheaper and more accessible, many divers have taken a giant stride into the world of underwater video. Here are some useful tips.
Tip #1 Get the right accessories
Don’t use the generic GoPro accessories like the head or chest strap. Strap a camera to your head and you’re bound to get jerky footage with poor composition.
A red filter or a dive light made for photos/video is a must. Call your dive center and get one of these items before you put one toe in the water. If you get a red filter, don’t forget to take it off when shooting topside (see photo below).
A “tray” with a handle will also serve you well. The goal is to get as steady of a shot as possible. Being able to hold a large object with two hands (versus a teeny camera with one hand) will improve the steadiness of your shot and make your video look more professional. Not to mention, a tray with a handle makes for a more secure hand-off to the Divemaster. An extending pole is another useful item as it allows you to get closer to marine life such as eels slowly and from a respectful distance.
Tip #2 Tell a Story
Do you have any goals for the trip? Tell us upfront either as a video testimonial or using subtitles. That final scene with a whale shark, or 1,000th dive celebration will make your video more meaningful.
Collect shots of the boat, your hotel, interesting topside life or interesting buildings. Use these to create an intro montage to establish a sense of place.
Tip #3 Dive and Shoot Within Your Limits
When you’re just starting out: choose stationary or slow-moving subjects. Film tires, coral heads, wrecks, a turtle scratching its butt, etc.
Good buoyancy skills are essential. If your buoyancy is poor, your video viewers will know – your footage will be uneven. You also won’t be able to film interesting creatures that require a slow and steady approach. If you feel the least bit in doubt about your skills, enroll in a buoyancy class (you won’t regret it).
Tip #4 Include Other Divers – Most Importantly Yourself!
Other divers can both make and mess up your videos. If diving in a herd, try to get in front. Divers swimming toward you are more interesting than those swimming away. Bonus: you’re more likely to get the cool critter shot before someone else scares it away.
If you encounter a large critter or sponge of remarkable size, try to film your dive buddy next to it. Lastly, keep in mind the main audience for your video will be friends and family; and to them, you are a star. They want to see footage of you. Have your buddy capture you swimming near some cool marine life, or if you’re diving from a dinghy, go for the back-roll selfie!
Tip #5 Post-production
If you’re interested in some royalty-free music, Youtube has libraries of free music. If your video takes place in another country, ask your dive crew or taxi driver about popular local bands and spice up your video with local sounds.
Less is more! Trim each clip to about five seconds – unless your shot is really, really amazing (like a whale shark or a seahorse giving birth). Aim for a total video length of no more than three minutes. Two minutes is ideal.
If you’ve got a long clip where something interesting happens in the beginning and the end, the best thing to do is to break them up into two clips. If this isn’t possible, break up a lackluster middle section by throwing in some interesting facts or trivia about where you’re diving. This can be done in iMovie or in youtube.
The Healthy Diver: Tips for Clearing Your Ears
by Selene Yeager
Ear woes are the No. 1 reason divers pull the plug on a dive, and in extreme cases, the sport itself. But with a few tricks and advanced techniques, almost anyone can make equalizing easier. In diving, the Valsalva maneuver is often used on descent to equalise the pressure in the middle ear to the ambient pressure. Performed properly — pinching your nose shut while exhaling — most divers can descend without any problems. But for some divers, the technique doesn't help.
You should never continue with a descent if you are experiencing ear pain. But before you give up on a dive — or diving itself — try these tips.
Listen for the "pop." Before you even board the boat, make sure that when you swallow you hear a "pop" in both ears. This tells you both eustachian tubes are opening.
Start early. Several hours before the dive, begin gently equalizing your ears every few minutes. Chewing gum seems to help because it makes you swallow often.
Equalize at the surface. "Prepressurizing" at the surface helps most divers get past the critical first few feet of descent. It may also inflate your eustachian tubes so they are slightly bigger. Not all medical authorities recommend this, however. The lesson here is to pre-pressurize only if it seems to help you, and to pressurize gently.
Descend feet first. Studies have shown a Valsalva maneuver requires 50 percent more force when you're in a head-down position than head-up.
Look up. Extending your neck tends to open your eustachian tubes.
Use a descent line. Pulling yourself down an anchor or mooring line helps control your descent rate more accurately. A line also helps you stop your descent quickly if you feel pressure.
Stay ahead. Equalize often, trying to maintain a slight positive pressure in your middle ears. Don't wait until you feel pressure or pain.
Stop if it hurts. Your eustachian tubes are probably locked shut by pressure differential. Ascend a few feet and try equalizing again.
Avoid milk. Some foods, including milk, can increase your mucus production.
Avoid tobacco and alcohol. Both tobacco smoke and alcohol irritate your mucus membranes, promoting more mucus that can block your eustachian tubes.
Keep your mask clear. Water up your nose can irritate your mucus membranes, which then produce more of the stuff that clogs.
Alternative Clearing Techniques
There are problems with the traditional Valsalva maneuver: It may not work if the tubes are already locked by a pressure differential, and it's all too easy to blow hard enough to damage something. Divers who experience difficulty equalizing may find it helpful to master some alternative techniques.
Toynbee Maneuver. With your nostrils pinched or blocked against your mask skirt, swallow. Swallowing pulls open your eustachian tubes while the movement of your tongue, with your nose closed, compresses air against them.
Lowry Technique. A combination of Valsalva and Toynbee: while closing your nostrils, blow and swallow at the same time.
Edmonds Technique. While tensing the soft palate and throat muscles and pushing the jaw forward and down, do a Valsalva Maneuver.
Frenzel Maneuver. Close your nostrils, and close the back of your throat as if straining to lift a weight. Then make the sound of the letter "K." This forces the back of your tongue upwards, compressing air against the openings of your eustachian tubes.
Voluntary Tubal Opening. Tense the muscles of the soft palate and the throat while pushing the jaw forward and down as if starting to yawn. These muscles pull the eustachian tubes open. This requires a lot of practice, but some divers can learn to control those muscles and hold their tubes open for continuous equalization.