The Deco Stop!

More Than 2,000 Sharks Die in San Francisco Bay

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The San Francisco Bay is home to a unique variety of marine life. This includes charismatic species such as great white sharks — although they are not as numerous nor as predatory as myths claim. The bay’s most common sharks are leopard sharks, Pacific angel sharks, and the brown smooth-hound. But now, those sharks are dying by the thousands and scientists don’t know exactly why.

Leopard sharks hard hit

Leopard sharks, the most common in San Francisco waters, have been hit particularly hard. As many as 2,000 individuals of this one species alone have died over the summer.

A loss of this magnitude is, in itself, extremely worrying. Even worse is that other species seem to be affected too. Bat rays, striped bass, smooth-hound sharks, and halibut have all been found dead, some of them in the hundreds. Whatever is killing the leopard sharks may also be killing off other species. This could be catastrophic for the bay’s entire marine ecosystem.

Die-offs in the Bay Area

This is not the first time that scientists have seen massive death tolls among marine life in the Bay Area. But this time, researchers have a main suspect: a parasite called miamiensis amoeba. The amoeba’s M.O. is straight out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” It enters the sharks’ bodies through their nostrils and begins eating away at the brain. Infected sharks will start exhibiting uncommon behavior, such as beaching themselves, and thereby killing themselves, or swimming around in endless circles. The brain damage the amoeba causes can also be fatal in itself.

There is no reason to fear that humans swimming in the waters, or eating infected seafood, are at risk of infection with the parasite. The real worry is that the mass deaths will continue and cause serious damage to the bay’s marine wildlife, and perhaps even spread beyond, causing mass deaths up and down the California coast.

Guide to PADI Divemaster: Equipment Exchange Test

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Guest blog post written by Candice Landau

Scuba diving is a sport. No doubt about it. To anyone who wants to argue, do an hour-long dive and tell me how you feel just half an hour later. Chances are you’ll be famished and ready for a nap.

The reason we’re not all beacons of fitness is that we don’t do it every day. Unlike a runner who gets to put on shoes and run whenever the urge strikes, diving requires a little more time and planning, nevermind access to a good dive spot.

Still, there are some things that make it easier: the ability to stay calm under pressure, and relative physical fitness.

Enter the divemaster equipment exchange.

The equipment exchange portion of divemaster training is the test that measures your ability to stay calm underwater, to solve problems underwater, and just generally to keep your stuff together.

Equipment exchange is one of the skill tests that I have heard a lot of people struggle with. This is because it task-loads a diver and requires they figure out their problems underwater.

The exchange includes switching fins, mask, snorkel and BCD with your buddy, all while buddy breathing off of one regulator.

When I did my test, I got lucky. Not only did I have no idea that I was doing it, but I got to watch a buddy pair go before me.

The first thing our instructor told us was that we were going to practice buddy breathing on the surface. We were told to share one regulator between ourselves, and each take a couple of breaths from it. Simple, right?

Next we were to do it underwater.

Also, simple.

By now we had all guessed where this was heading–the equipment exchange–and we waited to have it demonstrated for us, just as the divemaster skills had been demonstrated.

Not so.

Instead, our instructor told us that we would be doing the equipment exchange. He said we’d have a couple of minutes to discuss with our buddy on the surface before we were to descend and perform it. He said that there was no time limit and that the only goal was to successfully exchange equipment.

I hopped out the pool and grabbed a weight belt knowing that as soon as I took my BC off I’d be floating to the surface.

Once back in I watched the pair who would be going first discuss their plan. They talked about whose BCD they’d be using to buddy breathe from; how they’d remove equipment; and who’d be breathing from the regulator during equipment removal. They also talked about switching the mask over, which I hadn’t even thought of, and which, to my mind, was the hard part.

To be perfectly honest I couldn’t process their plan. It all sounded so convoluted and complex. And, as it was their first time, it would probably not work out as planned. Still, I silently chided myself for being slow on the uptake. Before everyone descended I announced that I wouldn’t be discussing the exchange before performing it, that I’d need to just do it to figure it out. Trial and error, my modus operandi.

All I knew was that I had the ability to keep calm underwater; to do things slowly; and that like anything else, divemaster is about practice. If I screwed up the first time, I would have another chance to do it again.

Only vaguely comforted, I descended with my instructor and my fellow Divemaster candidates who would be performing the exchange.

As predicted, it rapidly went to pieces. They did the exchange too quickly and as a result got out of breath. Even out of breath they didn’t stop themselves to calm down. Things got messy. Fins floated up, buoyancy was lost, and there wasn’t much communication. When it came time to remove their BCDs, one of the pair got tangled up and was so out of breath that he darted for the surface.

Now in scuba diving, we all know that the place to solve problems is not on the surface. It’s wherever you are. Bolting for the surface is the best way to give yourself a lung expansion injury and yes, even in 12 feet of water. Not something any of us want.

When the divemaster candidate bolted, our instructor moved rapidly. He shoved his spare regulator in his mouth and stopped him. I immediately saw why we had not been told to practice the exchange on our own. There was still an element of risk involved.

We all ascended and the buddy pair had an opportunity to debrief.

They tried one more time, this time getting further along but still not finishing due to similar problems; going too fast, and losing buoyancy control due to breath holding.

In case you’ve forgotten, the most important rule in scuba diving is never hold your breath. Thus, when we’re doing equipment exchange, even though we’re on a flat bottom, you still have to obey the rule. Hold your breath and you’ll buoy up like a balloon.

I was up next.

Because there were only three of us divemaster candidates in the pool that night, my friend Ben had to do it again with me. I repeated what I had said earlier that night to him, that I just needed to figure it out once we were down.

Ben seems to work in much the same way as I do, throwing himself into whatever interests him, and solving things from a creative rather than purely logic-based approach.

Ben and I began buddy breathing. We did it for a while to get used to one another’s rhythm, making sure we were making the “z” sound to let out a tiny stream of bubbles. Then, we began exchanging equipment. It went really smoothly until we got to the mask. The second we hit that point, I couldn’t even fathom what to do.

After a couple of incomprehensible hand signals at one another I took a leap of faith. I took off my mask and handed it to Ben, trusting he’d know what to do. 10 seconds later I received an unfamiliar mask in my own hand. I put it on, and just as I was clearing it with the remaining air in my lungs, the regulator was handed to me. Excellent timing. Our instructor swooped in and gave us high fives, then signaled us to ascend. We broke the surface laughing and giddy.

Because Ben had done it three times now, I got to repeat the exchange with the other DMC. This time, I knew what to do. As soon as things began to speed up, I stopped exchanging equipment with him, and had him focus on just breathing with me. We got back to a nice, slow pace. When he lost his buoyancy, I grabbed his BC and held him down and we went back to the breathing again. When we switched BCs I had to help him get mine on as it was too small. At last we were at the mask exchange stage. Once again, I whipped mine off. This time, when I was handed the mask, I waited to clear it. No sense in getting rid of all my remaining air prematurely. The regulator followed shortly thereafter. And, hey presto, we were done!

When we surfaced, our instructor sat back on his own BC, a huge grin plastered on his face.

“Congratulations,” he said, “You passed.”

None of us even knew we’d been taking the test. We just figured we’d been practicing. We all whooped.

“Awesome!”

Although the last two exchanges had gone well, we had all learned or re-learned a lot. I’d been reminded of the importance of doing things slowly, and of breathing deeply, and I’d had it demonstrated first-hand, how quickly things can spiral out of control when you don’t. I also learned the importance of having a buddy you can trust. The fact of diving is that at some point, something will go wrong. Ideally, however, you will be diving with someone who has the ability to keep calm and problem-solve underwater. Just as my buddies figured out what to do with the mask, I had to trust them to do it.

My tips for the Divemaster Equipment Exchange

No doubt, if you ask around, you’ll receive plenty of advice on how to get through the equipment exchange. I know I did. Most of it went over my head. So, I won’t bog you down with too much advice. I’ll just share a few tidbits that you’ve likely picked up anyway reading this article and that will hopefully be second-nature to you anyway if you’re serious about diving.

  1. Don’t overthink it. This is probably obvious if you read the whole article, but it’s true. The idea behind the skill is to test your ability to solve problems underwater and stay calm. So, why not do that? Use it as an opportunity to do just that. It is after all just practice.
  2. Focus on breathing slowly. For that matter, focus on doing everything slowly. None of it is timed, which means you can take as long as you want. Trust me, things get a lot harder when you start breathing fast.
  3. Double check if you need to wear a weight belt. If you don’t, even if you do manage to get your buddy’s BCD on quickly, if your buddy doesn’t have integrated weights and you do, then you might end up with some buoyancy trouble. Keep it simple.

And that’s it. That’s all my advice. Keep your own equipment on. Don’t exchange it before you start. Don’t practice before hand. Do it when you know you can perform the exchange safely with someone experienced watching. And most of all, don’t over analyze. This is a learning opportunity, and a whole bag of fun!

Interested in becoming a PADI Divemaster? Learn more here.

Turtle Heaven on the Great Barrier Reef

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A tiny dollop of sand the shape of a raindrop rises out of the water 75 miles (120 km) off the northeastern tip of Australia.  It’s only 79 acres (32 hectares) large and covered with a smattering of low vegetation. Raine Island is also one of the biggest green-turtle nesting sites in the world.

Every year, thousands of turtles come ashore here to lay their eggs. Numbers can range from 40,000 in a typical season to 130,000 in a dense nesting season. They come from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and northern Australia. Some have traveled as far as 1,615 miles (2600 km) to rest on this little coral cay.

Raine Island is a protected area inaccessible to the public, but you can dive the surrounding waters. Once or twice a year, Mike Ball Dive Expeditions runs a 7-night liveaboard to this special place. This makes for an incredible journey to a rarely visited part of the far northern Great Barrier Reef.

The expedition begins in Cairns with a spectacular 155-mile (250 km) low-level scenic flight over the reef to Lizard Island. Here, passengers board Spoilsport, a twin-hull catamaran custom-built for diving. From there, it’s a 310-mile (500 km) round-trip journey. Guests will dive at pristine sites such as Tijou and Cat Reefs, Small and Great Detached Reefs. Brightly colored soft corals and fans hang on undersea cliffs, while barracuda, mackerel, tuna and sharks patrol the walls. The incredible TMO dive site offers a maze of bommies, creating interesting swim-throughs teeming with fish.

But it’s the turtles of Raine Island that people come for. On the last expedition, divers saw up to 100 turtles on any one dive. And they’re big here too, measuring up to 5 feet (1.5 m) long. This abundance attracts tiger sharks who cruise in wait for exhausted turtles to swim back out to sea after laying their eggs.

But Raine Island is not just about turtles. The extent and diversity of coral in the area is a major attraction, with guest Aimee Dorfman from the United States saying it was, the healthiest I’ve seen in 25 years of diving.” Vast banks of it spread for several miles in shades of yellow, pink, purple, green and blue, making it truly one of the most amazing coral dives on the planet. 

One final bonus on the expedition is diving the Pandora wreck. This Royal Navy ship sank in 1791 in 108 feet (33 m) of water with the loss of 34 crew and mutineers from HMS Bounty. Much of the wooden structure has disintegrated, however, the anchor and stove are the highlights of this historically important site.

Mike Ball Dive Expeditions operates the Turtle Spectacular Expedition during November (nesting season), offering a unique opportunity to explore a rarely visited region.

Guest post by Mike Ball Dive Expeditions

Underwater World Records

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Have you ever wondered how deep a (properly-trained) diver could go? Or how far someone could swim in one breath? Read on to learn about some of the most amazing achievements in diving.

Longest Underwater Swim on One Breath – Male (2016)

In 2016, Venezuelan and PADI AmbassaDiver Carlos Coste set the record for the world’s longest open water swim on one breath. Using fins, Coste swam 580 feet (177 meters) in three minutes and five seconds, breaking his previous record-setting distance of 492 feet (50 meters) set in 2010. View the record-setting event from Kralendijk, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles:

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Longest Underwater Swim on One Breath – Female (2016)
The longest open water swim on one breath (using fins) by a female is 505 feet (154 meters). Marina Kazankova set the record in Bonaire on 9 September 2016. She was reportedly dressed as a mermaid.

Deepest Pool (2014)
When “Deep Joy” Y-40 opened in 2014, it surpassed Nemo 33 as the world’s deepest diving pool. Located in the Hotel Terme Millepini in Padua, Italy, Y-40 is 131 feet (40 meters) deep. It includes underwater caves, platforms at various depths, and a viewing tunnel for non-divers. In 2017, freediver Guillaume Néry performed a single breath-hold dive to the very bottom of the pool.

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Deepest Scuba Dive – Male (2014)
PADI® Instructor Ahmed Gabr holds the world record for deepest scuba dive. Gabr trained for four years before the attempt, which culminated in a dive to 1090 feet (332 meters). “I wanted to satisfy my curiosity of how deep the human body can go, I was researching in books and on the internet but still never had the absolute answer so I figured out the best way to find the answer is to try it myself,” said Gabr.

The descent took 14 minutes, but Gabr’s return trip took just under 14 hours. He added, “I had a baby oceanic white tip shark as company for 6 hours, I think he wanted to say congratulations.”

The previous world record was set in 2005, Nuno Gomes of South Africa dove to 1044 feet (318 meters).

Read an interview with Ahmed Gabr on PADI’s Tec Rec blog.

Deepest Dive Female Freshwater (2004) and Saltwater (2015)
Verna van Schaik (South Africa) holds the world record for deepest female scuba dive. In 2004, she dived to 725 feet (221 meters) in a freshwater cave in South Africa. Her descent took approximately 12 minutes, while the ascent took five hours and 22 minutes.

PADI OWSI Ina Dimitrova set the female world record for deepest saltwater scuba dive in 2015. She descended to 659 feet (201 meters) in five minutes and forty seconds. Her return trip took approximately five hours.

Longest Underwater Live Broadcast (2017)
The world’s longest live broadcast underwater took place in May 2017 at The Atlantis Hotel aquarium. According to Gulf News, the English-language radio station Channel 4 broadcast underwater for nearly five and a half hours.

Scuba Diving in 115 Countries (2013)

PADI Pro Karin Sinniger dove her way into the record books in February 2013 alongside an ocean-swimming elephant. Her underwater experience took place in India, the 115th country where she had logged a dive.

PADI Pro Karin Sinniger


Most Days Living Underwater (2014)

Roane State biology professor Bruce Cantrell and adjunct professor Jessica Fain lived underwater for 73 days and two hours in Jules’ Undersea Lodge. This set the world record for living in a fixed underwater habitat. During their stay, the scientists hosted a series of weekly videos called Classroom Under the Sea (view the episode archives on YouTube).

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Longest Chain of Divers in North America (2017)
Dixie Divers, a PADI Five Star IDC Center, holds the North American record for the longest underwater chain of scuba divers (240) and in 2018, they’re going for a world record attempt.

Each year, Dixie Divers hosts a massive underwater clean up event. In 2017, more than 500 divers and topside volunteers participated. The world record attempt will take place 16 June 2018 after the annual clean up. The dive shop hopes more than 400 divers will get involved. If you’re interested in participating, follow Dixie Divers on Facebook or sign up for their email newsletter to get event details as the date approaches.

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Further Reading:
For some more unusual (and totally unverified) world records, check out recordsetter.com for videos like:

Most bricks karate chopped underwater
Rubix cube solved in fastest time underwater
Most catches juggling three balls underwater

One wonders how many challengers there were for these records?

To extend your personal records for depth or time spent underwater, contact your local PADI Dive Center or Resort and ask about the Deep Diver and Enriched Air Diver specialties. If you’re keen to break Karin Singer’s record for scuba diving in 100+ countries, ask your local PADI dive shop about their upcoming dive trips.

Divers see silver lining as Cayman’s Kittiwake topples; ‘Gonna be like a whole new dive site’

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Grand Cayman’s most famous and photogenic shipwreck, the USS Kittiwake, was toppled on its side as the island felt the impact of a glancing blow from Hurricane Nate at the weekend.

Though the storm passed almost 300 miles from Cayman, it brought rolling southern swells that were enough to snap the ship’s anchor chains, leaving the 251-foot-long, 2,200-ton vessel on its side.

The site was understood to be closed to tourists Monday as divers from Divetech assessed the damage.

Jason Washington, of Ambassador Divers, snorkeled the site on Sunday to get a preliminary look at the impact. He found it tilted on its side, with the port side rail in the sand.

He said the site would have to be closed to divers while the damage was assessed. But he believes it will soon be reopened and may even be a more appealing prospect for divers because of the damage.

“The silver lining to this cloud is we effectively have a brand new dive site. Divers, photographers and videographers have come from all over the world to photograph the Kittiwake and now they have a reason to come back. The lighting is different, the angles are different; for a photographer, it is a completely different site.”

Christian Black, an international photographer who has done multiple underwater shoots in Cayman, including at the Kittiwake, echoed those sentiments, commenting on Facebook, “Wow! Can’t wait to go back and photograph her again. Gonna be like a whole new dive site.”

Rough seas brought by the passage of Hurricane Nate also damaged the West Bay dock. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

Other divers expressed concern that the damage would impact the accessibility of the site, particularly for beginner divers and snorkelers.

Cayman Islands-based underwater photographer Ellen Cuylaerts said the new position of the wreck could mean that divers needed more training and experience to go inside.

“We have been spoiled for many years with this easy and shallow dive,” she said. “Almost every time you entered, you could see light and the risk of vertigo was almost nil.

“The upside is it will grow even more beautiful and, thinking about animal behavior, more animals might find shelter in dark nooks. My only big concern is that the reef close by will be severely damaged if she keeps moving.”

Mr. Washington said the shell of the ship was intact and he believes it will still be possible for divers to swim through the interior of the former U.S. Navy submarine rescue vessel.

He said professional divers likely would check for debris that needed to be cleared before the site could be reopened to recreational divers.

The Cayman Islands Tourism Association, which manages the attraction, did not respond to requests for comment.

Dock damaged

The Kittiwake was not the only victim in the West Bay area of Hurricane Nate. High seas also tore apart the West Bay dock on Northwest Point Road.

Planks of wood that had been loosened and cast adrift during the stormy weather, and which had been gathered by residents and passersby, were piled up beside the dock Monday morning.

The dock is closed until it can be repaired.

Borneo: Underwater cleanup collects 34 kgs of ‘ghost nets’

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Aziz Idris

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ANN) – Poni Divers recently kicked off its first underwater cleanup at North Pelong, in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee Celebration of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s accession to the Throne.

Twenty-four divers, three snorkellers and three boat staff – comprising officers and staff from Brunei Tourism, the Department of Fisheries, the Poni Dive Club and Poni Divers – participated in the cleanup to mark World Sustainability Day as well as World Tourism Day, which coincides with the sustainability theme for 2017, while tying in with the recent launching of the Brunei Tourism Diving Packages.

The event began with a safety briefing led by Wong Thye Sing, the Managing Director of Poni Divers, who explained that the underwater cleanup initiative was inspired by a recent free-diving trip to Pelong, where a ghost net was discovered.

The participants removed several ghost nets weighing 34 kilogrammes.

Ghost nets are defined as those discarded and dumped in the ocean after fishing, which continue to trap and kill marine life as well as damage underwater habitats and coral reefs. Globally, tonnes of non-biodegradable nets and lines get lost each year and continue to ‘ghost fish’ for years, accounting for 10 per cent of the world’s marine litter.

The divers worked in teams of twos and threes after being briefed by Wong on the correct method to remove and cut away the nets without damaging the corals and marine life.

Present as the guest of honour at the closing ceremony at the Poni Divers premises on Serasa Beach was Wardi bin Haji Mohammad Ali, the Deputy Permanent Secretary (Tourism) at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism.

Poni Divers is initiating a nationwide outreach programme to increase awareness of marine conservation through visits to schools, workshops, presentations, and various projects that highlight the issues and threats that face our oceans.

The diving centre also plans to launch a Coral Propagation Programme along with several other initiatives to promote a more socially and environmentally responsible mindset among the younger generation.

“Poni Divers is looking to put marine conservation at the forefront of our business, as we expand our operations. We plan to introduce sustainable fishing practises to local fisherman and educate the public about the importance of marine conservation, and implement changes with real results,” said Wong.

He added that one of the key factors for a successful programme is to engage and involve local stakeholders at the grassroots level, “because it brings together a whole range of stakeholders, and because it is solution-based, to protect Brunei’s environment, whether on land or in water.”

TUSA Joins the Dive Computer “Elite Fleet” through Deepblu Connect

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TUSA, the famous international scuba company based out of Tokyo, has become the latest company to integrate Deepblu Connect to its flagship dive computer, the TUSA DC Solar Link. Deepblu Connect allows divers to use any compatible dive computer to upload dive data, with accuracy and efficiency, to their smartphones via the Deepblu app.

For nearly six decades, TUSA has been the cutting-edge standard-bearer for the region when it comes to scuba equipment. In addition, they were one of the first major international manufacturers on the global stage. Over time, their evolution has seen a speed which is unmatched. Building on their success, they have further developed products for the snorkeling and swimming communities as well.

“We are excited to support Deepblu Connect. Joining the Elite Fleet is another step in TUSA’s efforts to bring the generations of divers from around the world together, and share their experiences captured with TUSA dive computers.” said Kenichiro Tabata, President of Tabata Co.

TUSA divers are known for their selectivity, and the company is always looking to provide great customer service for them. Both companies strive to provide quality, and this drive between discerning companies shows through the partnership. The TUSA DC Solar Link will now allow divers to seamlessly upload their dive logs to the Deepblu app with the tap of a button.

Not only is the Deepblu app the best designed digital dive log, it also allows divers to get their logs verified and share interesting stories with the world around them. In addition to being a useful dive tool, it’s a place for divers to come together. Launching new features, groups, and partnerships nearly every month, the platform has grown into the most vibrant online scuba community in a short time.

“TUSA is known for their meticulous standards and their partnership is a valuable testament to what we’re doing at Deepblu. We expect more leading scuba brands to join the elite fleet in the near future,” said James Tsuei, CEO of Deepblu. 

This partnership will be one that raises up both TUSA and Deepblu, but ultimately it’s one that will benefit the divers who use their technology and features. 

About TUSA: TUSA a brand of scuba diving equipment manufactured by an international sporting goods manufacturer, Tabata Co., Ltd.  Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. With ISO 9001 certified design, engineering, testing and manufacturing facilities in Japan and Taiwan, Tabata operates under the most stringent quality standards available. Tabata’s global network includes facilities in Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Netherlands and the United States.  For 65 years, TUSA has shaped the future of diving and our dedicated team will continue to improve the water sports experience for future generations. 

About the Deepblu Platform: Deepblu is the fastest-growing online community for divers and ocean enthusiasts. It was released in November 2016 at the DEMA show in Las Vegas and has since brought tens of thousands of divers together.

About Deepblu, Inc.: Deepblu, Inc. is the company behind the COSMIQ Dive Computer and the Deepblu community. Deepblu, Inc. is a team of divers and technology enthusiasts whose goal is to use technology and the power of the internet to revolutionize the diving community and lifestyle. For more information, click here or send an email.

Decompression Diving for Beginners      

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The phrase “technical diving” conjures images of deep descents, cave exploration and squeezing through small openings on a shipwreck. However, that’s not how technical divers start their training. In an ongoing series exploring entries into technical diving, we first looked at technical diving for beginners. Here we’ll take a closer look at the initial stages of decompression diving.

Decompression diving for beginners

Just as recreational divers progress through a series of courses offering different levels of training, technical divers must start somewhere. Once they are comfortable with their equipment configuration — sidemount or twinset — it’s time to consider spending more time at depth. The deeper we go and the longer we stay, the more “penalty time” we incur.

In entry-level decompression diving courses, divers learn to distinguish between the working and the decompression part of their dive. They also plan bottom as well as decompression times accordingly. They also learn how to utilize different nitrox mixes up to and including 100 percent oxygen to make their decompression smarter.

What does decompression diving mean?

What does all this mean? Let’s look at an example. Diving to 148 feet (45 m) on air with a bottom time of 25 minutes incurs approximately 55 to 60 minutes of decompression – a long penalty time compared to a relatively short bottom time. A standard twinset of 11-liter aluminum or 12-liter steel tanks would not hold enough gas to complete this dive with a reasonable safety margin, meaning that 1/3 of the total gas supply remains in reserve.

If, however, we bring a dedicated decompression gas, such as nitrox 50%, we can shorten our decompression time noticeably. And, depending on which decompression planning model we used, we will complete our dive in less than an hour. Adding the ‘richer’ gas, with a higher oxygen content, means we accelerate our decompression.

Theory behind decompression diving

How is this smarter? First and foremost — accelerating decompression time isn’t just about getting out of the water faster. It’s about ending the dive in good time, having off-gassed sufficiently, but without taking unacceptable risks. As important as a conservative decompression schedule is, factors such as hypothermia and dehydration are just as important. The risk of both increases the longer we are underwater, so shortening our dive by reasonable means is beneficial.

How do we know how fast is fast enough but not too fast? During courses such as TDI’s Decompression Procedures, students learn about different decompression algorithms. They spend time planning decompression dives with tables (air only) as well as software that allows for acceleration. They learn to account for water temperature and diving conditions, exercise level during the dive and even age and fitness level.

Decompression Procedures qualifies students to dive to 148 feet (45 m) and complete unlimited accelerated decompression stops. It’s usually taught in combination with TDI Advanced Nitrox, which trains divers to use higher-percentage nitrox mixes up to pure oxygen. The Advanced Nitrox classroom work focuses on calculating oxygen exposure, maximum operating depths and best mixes for the planned dive, while the in-water classes focus on perfecting buoyancy control.

Controlling buoyancy

Shouldn’t divers be able to control their buoyancy already at this level? Yes and no. Prerequisites for entry-level technical diving training are relatively low, which means divers might still need some buoyancy work. Some divers may also be new to diving with more extensive equipment, and will still be getting the hang of managing the heavier load underwater. To safely switch to gases like EANx50, students must be able to control their position in the water exactly and without much adjustment.

The Decompression Procedures course builds on that by introducing decompression schedules, hard ceilings and lots of problem solving. Later, and with a minimum of 100 dives as a prerequisite, Extended Range Diver takes students to the limits of air diving at 180 feet (55 m) while using two different decompression gases to optimize their decompression schedule.

PADI courses

PADI’s introductory decompression diving classes are the Tec 40 and 45 courses. The prerequisites here are more detailed than TDI’s, including set numbers of dives or nitrox dives to certain depths, as well as PADI’s Deep Specialty, so logging dives is essential.

Tec 40 allows students to complete 10 minutes of decompression stops on gases up to EANx50. The decompression limitation automatically limits bottom time, too. Tec 45 then takes students five meters deeper to 147 feet (45 m) and qualifies them for accelerated decompression. However, course standards prescribe that decompression is completed (on the course) following an air schedule.

The curriculum also stipulates what tasks students must complete on each dive, usually heavily loading the first dive of each course. PADI’s air diving courses finish with Tec 50, adding — you guessed it — another five meters of depth. There’s also an introduction to two different decompression gases.

Other options

Of course, more than two training agencies offer decompression diving courses. SSI, for example, offers Extended Range (45 meters with accelerated decompression up to 100 percent O2) and Technical Extended Range curriculums. The latter allows students to dive to 197 feet (60 m) utilizing two different decompression gases. This is 15 feet (5 m) deeper than even the TDI Extended Range qualification. This is controversial course among some instructors and divers due to the narcotic load on air at those depths, as well as the density of the gas a diver is breathing.

These concerns led RAID to introduce Trimix earlier on in their decompression diving courses. There is an option to include it even in the initial Deco 40, which, as the name suggests, allows students to dive to 40 m (130 feet). In the next post within this series, we will look closer at the pros and cons of Trimix diving.

Wonder and Awe: Scuba Diving in Raja Ampat

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Video by Justin from Art of Scuba Diving

By the time my dive buddies and I arrived in Raja Ampat, we had already experienced some of the world’s best diving in Alor and Komodo. We’d battled the currents in both locations and danced with mantas. We hiked with dragons and floated in colorful, wild aquariums that left us stunned. What could the scuba diving in Raja Ampat possibly offer that we hadn’t yet experienced?

As it turns out, quite a lot. Just as with Alor and Komodo, getting to Raja Ampat was no small feat.  We took four different planes, a bus, and a boat to finally arrive at the Raja Ampat Dive Resort, a rustic place in the middle of a rural area surrounded by lush, green foliage and sparkling blue waters. Don’t expect Wi-Fi or much to do other than diving or communing with nature. Fortunately, that’s what we were there to do.

Top on my list to see here were wobbegongs, a shark species I’d yet to encounter, and one that calls Indonesia — particularly Raja Ampat— home. I’ll spare you a dramatic build up and reveal: we saw lots of wobbegongs, along with the largest schools of various fish I’d ever seen anywhere in the world. In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite dive sites in Raja Ampat.

Melissa’s Garden

This aptly named site is hidden between three small islets. It’s roughly 10 to over 100 feet deep (3 to 35 m). The shallower areas are home to gorgeous coral gardens, while in the deeper waters you can find wobbegongs, huge barracuda, and giant clams big enough for you to sleep inside.

Mioskun

This wall dive offered more wobbegongs lying in wait under coral overhangs, titan triggerfish, schools of snappers and, if you looked intently, pygmy seahorses on sea fans. This dive can be as deep as you want it to be, but we all stayed around 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 m). We moved against the current along the wall and then back again working our way up.

Cape Kri

This was by far the best, most diverse, and deepest dive I did in Raja Ampat. We broke the 120-foot mark (37 m) at the beginning of the dive while we were distracted by the massive schools of fish that you could easily get lost in. The site consists of a steep sloped wall absolutely covered in coral. Out in the blue, divers are likely to see scores of barracuda, surgeons, sharks, and possibly mantas. The sheer number of sweetlips, trevallies, mackerel and so many more left us feeling overwhelmed. To truly experience this dive site, you must dive it multiple times.

Arborek Jetty

Snorkeling, diving, or freediving, the Arborek Jetty gives you an underwater glimpse of the marine life that sustains Arborek village. Jacks congregate by the jetty in unimaginable numbers, just begging for amazing shots or video. The possibilities for photography here are limited only by your imagination.  Deeper into the waters, divers will find more giant clams and a small but bustling reef system that mirrors the larger ones elsewhere in Raja Ampat.

Topside in Raja Ampat

If you look up Indonesia online, and particularly Raja Ampat, you’ll see some iconic images of aquamarine waters surrounding lush, rounded islands. Most likely, you’re looking at Piaynemo. It’s an iconic view in Raja Ampat and a visit here wouldn’t be complete without taking in that view firsthand. Don’t just look at it, jump in the water for a swim too.

Our group also visited the Arborek village. Residents greeted us with a dance, after which we danced with them through the village and had lunch. This was the third village we visited to witness local, tribal heritage dancing — one in each location of Komodo, Alor, and Raja. While I was a bit ambivalent regarding the possible exploitation of the local people, I recognize that they are making a living by showing visitors their heritage and selling various items in their villages. If you do visit, please be respectful and please consider buying souvenirs there instead of at the larger airports or in larger cities.

If you’re planning on scuba diving in Raja Ampat, prepare to feel humbled among and outnumbered by the multitudinous, divers marine life you’ll be plunging into. Though this writer and diver couldn’t have been happier with the experience, I left wanting more and more. Give yourself enough time to truly experience Raja Ampat. That’s the best advice I’ve got for people thinking about visiting. Oh, and bring your senses of wonder and awe… you’re going to need them.

For more on diving and travel in Indonesia, visit Wonderful Indonesia.

Wonder and Awe: Scuba Diving in Raja Ampat

This post was originally published on this site

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Video by Justin from Art of Scuba Diving

By the time my dive buddies and I arrived in Raja Ampat, we had already experienced some of the world’s best diving in Alor and Komodo. We’d battled the currents in both locations and danced with mantas. We hiked with dragons and floated in colorful, wild aquariums that left us stunned. What could the scuba diving in Raja Ampat possibly offer that we hadn’t yet experienced?

As it turns out, quite a lot. Just as with Alor and Komodo, getting to Raja Ampat was no small feat.  We took four different planes, a bus, and a boat to finally arrive at the Raja Ampat Dive Resort, a rustic place in the middle of a rural area surrounded by lush, green foliage and sparkling blue waters. Don’t expect Wi-Fi or much to do other than diving or communing with nature. Fortunately, that’s what we were there to do.

Top on my list to see here were wobbegongs, a shark species I’d yet to encounter, and one that calls Indonesia — particularly Raja Ampat— home. I’ll spare you a dramatic build up and reveal: we saw lots of wobbegongs, along with the largest schools of various fish I’d ever seen anywhere in the world. In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite dive sites in Raja Ampat.

Melissa’s Garden

This aptly named site is hidden between three small islets. It’s roughly 10 to over 100 feet deep (3 to 35 m). The shallower areas are home to gorgeous coral gardens, while in the deeper waters you can find wobbegongs, huge barracuda, and giant clams big enough for you to sleep inside.

Mioskun

This wall dive offered more wobbegongs lying in wait under coral overhangs, titan triggerfish, schools of snappers and, if you looked intently, pygmy seahorses on sea fans. This dive can be as deep as you want it to be, but we all stayed around 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 m). We moved against the current along the wall and then back again working our way up.

Cape Kri

This was by far the best, most diverse, and deepest dive I did in Raja Ampat. We broke the 120-foot mark (37 m) at the beginning of the dive while we were distracted by the massive schools of fish that you could easily get lost in. The site consists of a steep sloped wall absolutely covered in coral. Out in the blue, divers are likely to see scores of barracuda, surgeons, sharks, and possibly mantas. The sheer number of sweetlips, trevallies, mackerel and so many more left us feeling overwhelmed. To truly experience this dive site, you must dive it multiple times.

Arborek Jetty

Snorkeling, diving, or freediving, the Arborek Jetty gives you an underwater glimpse of the marine life that sustains Arborek village. Jacks congregate by the jetty in unimaginable numbers, just begging for amazing shots or video. The possibilities for photography here are limited only by your imagination.  Deeper into the waters, divers will find more giant clams and a small but bustling reef system that mirrors the larger ones elsewhere in Raja Ampat.

Topside in Raja Ampat

If you look up Indonesia online, and particularly Raja Ampat, you’ll see some iconic images of aquamarine waters surrounding lush, rounded islands. Most likely, you’re looking at Piaynemo. It’s an iconic view in Raja Ampat and a visit here wouldn’t be complete without taking in that view firsthand. Don’t just look at it, jump in the water for a swim too.

Our group also visited the Arborek village. Residents greeted us with a dance, after which we danced with them through the village and had lunch. This was the third village we visited to witness local, tribal heritage dancing — one in each location of Komodo, Alor, and Raja. While I was a bit ambivalent regarding the possible exploitation of the local people, I recognize that they are making a living by showing visitors their heritage and selling various items in their villages. If you do visit, please be respectful and please consider buying souvenirs there instead of at the larger airports or in larger cities.

If you’re planning on scuba diving in Raja Ampat, prepare to feel humbled among and outnumbered by the multitudinous, divers marine life you’ll be plunging into. Though this writer and diver couldn’t have been happier with the experience, I left wanting more and more. Give yourself enough time to truly experience Raja Ampat. That’s the best advice I’ve got for people thinking about visiting. Oh, and bring your senses of wonder and awe… you’re going to need them.

For more on diving and travel in Indonesia, visit Wonderful Indonesia.

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