Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Underwater World

If you've been following along, you know that I've been taking a class to become Scuba certified.  We spent time in a classroom, then time in a pool, and finally I had my first opportunity to to go for a real legitimate dive.  (In more than 7 feet of water.)

Our class uses the Crater in Midway, UT for our open water dives.  If you don't know what that is, it's an underground hot spring where they have dug into and built a space where people can come and float in the warm water or dive down deeper with Scuba equipment.  (Robyn and I went floating there for our Anniversary last year.)

The water is about 65 feet deep, which is perfect for Scuba certification because you only get certified to go 60 feet deep.  They say they don't want anyone touching the bottom anyway because there is so much silt that touching the bottom ruins visibility for a long time.

They've also setup the Crater as an ideal place to learn to Scuba dive.  In the video I linked above, we are floating next to some red buoys.  At the time we had no idea what they were, but they are attached to platforms beneath the water.   For our first descent, our instructor had us hold onto those ropes and lower ourselves down to a platform at about 20 feet in depth.

I was super nervous.  We had learned all the important skills, how to regulate the pressure in our ears, how to clear water out of our masks, how to share air with our buddy, etc.  But I was afraid because in the pool if anything went wrong, you could just stand up and you were in an environment with air.  Not so in the Crater.  One of the rules of diving is that you can't go up faster than 1 foot per second.  That means at 20 feet of depth, it should take you 20 seconds to get to the top.  That's a long time if you're having a panic attack.

Our instructor told us that if we panic we can go to the top, but he's going to grab us and force us to go at a safe pace.  He said, "Just don't forget you have a regulator in your mouth.  You can breathe underwater."

So all that made me nervous, but it turned out my fears were unfounded.  Diving deeper is no different than diving in a pool, except that it is more awesome.

On the platform at 20 feet he had us pass off many of the same skills we'd already passed off in the pool.  We had to take off our mask and put it back on.  We had to pretend we were out of air and ascend while sharing air with our buddy.  We had to lose our regulator and retrieve it.  By now these skills were old hat.

But then he let us swim around a bit.  I'm not gonna lie.  It was the coolest thing ever.  I honestly thought that diving at the Crater would be boring, because there are no fish and not a lot to see.  Well, it is kind of barren, but there's something magical about being in the underwater world.

First I looked down.  I could see divers down below me.  I was amazed how good the visibility was.  I could see way below me.  I watched the other divers exploring around, and then I started to notice there air coming up around me.

Most of the time, there would be lots of little bubbles, but every once in a while you'd get one giant bubble.  It was fun to watch that bubble slowly ascend and then pass me.  They looked like little jelly fish.

After a few of them went by me, I decided it was important to try to pop them.  Yes, I played the exact same game that fascinated the 3 year olds in our Sunbeam class last year: "Pop the bubbles".  It was neat to poke the jellyfish and watch it turn into 100 tiny jellyfish.

After I had had of enough looking down, I started to look up.  There were people floating in the surface, kicking their legs and moving around.  I realized they couldn't see me at all.  It occurred to me that this is what a shark sees.  It was eerie to realize that when you're on the surface, everything below you has a perfect view of you while you can't see below you at all.

It was so amazing to realize how much volume there is in just 65 feet of water.  The Crater is only maybe 25 feet across, it's not a huge area.  But looking at it 3-dimension-ally, it suddenly became a giant cylinder with near endless space.

After we had been down a while, it was time to ascend.  We ascended by holding the ropes again.  It's nice to have the ropes to be able to control the ascent.  It's hard to tell how fast you're ascending or descending without a frame of reference.  That's something I'll have to get used to when we're in the ocean.

The weirdest thing about the ascent was feeling the air escaping my ears.  As you ascend, the water pressure is decreasing and so the air in all your body cavities is expanding.  I'm not gonna lie, it was a strange sensation.

When we got to the surface, our instructor assured us that diving in the ocean is way more awesome, and don't be discouraged if that was boring.  I told him that experiencing an underwater world was absolutely amazing.  His response was that he had dove in the Crater over 3800 times.  The magic of just being underwater wasn't really there for him anymore.

But it was still magical for me.  I'm excited to be certified so soon.  Then, it will be time to do some real diving.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my fave posts. 3800 times?! That's a career instructor right there. Have lots of fun in the ocean. That shark perspective was freakkkky!


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