Sponsored content by Claudio Di Manao for DAN Europe
Header image by Julian Mühlenhaus
After a long winter—and an even longer coronavirus lockdown—nitrogen abstinence has reached its peak. During this very special spring, only divers with private pools or private access to sea/lakes/puddles were able to practice diving. If you don’t belong to this lucky category, you need some advice before taking nitrogen again in order to avoid overdosing and other hiccups. Refresh your scuba skills and equipment before you head back underwater with these 10 tips from Dan Europe.
1- Dive suits, both wet and dry, tend to shrink during periods of inactivity. (Ed. note-check your clothing as well. Mine seems to be shrinking) You can try to lose a size by walking to the dive site with bags on your shoulders, but only if you live at least 300km from destination. Alternatively, you can rent a well sanitised dive suit at your local dive shop, or purchase a new one. You’ll find that offshore factories continue to make mistakes on European sizes. Be cautious when predicting when you’ll get back into shape—you could spend years renting.
2- If dive suits shrink, batteries tend to run out. You surely noticed this when your scooter didn’t start back up in April. Keep in mind that, unlike the scooter’s batteries, which charge while moving, the batteries in your dive computer will NOT recharge during the descent. Get new ones where you’re sure you can find them. Another shameless tendency of batteries: in addition to discharging during the dive, there are many different types, and you may not find the ones you need in the shop right near the dive site.
3- The waterproof briefcase with your beloved save-a-dive kit is probably where you’ve last stored it. Did you do any housework in the meantime? No, I didn’t think so. Then try looking behind the paint buckets: if you live with a non-diver, it’s likely to have been mistaken for a drill case and not a crochet set. Found it? You’ll get your precious collection of O-rings and Allens, your half-a-kilo DIN adapter and the hard-to-find mignon tube of silicone. Is there a strap missing? It broke on the dinghy last September, remember? Now check if that spare mask is still in your BCD pocket.
4- Unpleasant creatures tend to gravitate to damp, uncrowded cavities. Dive suits and second stages offer maximum comfort for spiders, scorpions and cockroaches. The story of the divemaster who got a cockroach out of his bronchi is NOT an urban legend. So, check the mouthpiece before you use it and turn the dive suit inside out. Avoid transporting pests to places where they don’t belong.
5- It doesn’t look bad if you start over with a simple dive. Macho divers claim that there’s no fun in easy dives. However, if you don’t want to become the attraction, avoid starting back in with a challenging dive. If possible, make an easy dive from the shore. Rest assured that the ones who are pushing you into a complicated dive will be the first to complain about your less-from-perfect buoyancy, trim and consumption rate. A refresh is never dishonourable.
6- You already know this year’s novelty, it’s called COVID-19. In the name of social distancing, it would be good if you fill in a questionnaire about your (hopefully very distant) relationship with the virus, before going diving. You can find it HERE. Remember to maintain a physical distance of at least one meter (two metres are recommended in some countries) and wear a protective mask while at the dive centre, outside and on the boat or dinghy. Now breathe easy: underwater you can finally forget about it!
7- Three dives a day are probably too many, even for those who have already resumed diving. Make a maximum of two, and you will be at peace with your residual nitrogen, your ears, and your energy. Unlike computer batteries, human energy reserves increase with practice. For mysterious reasons, physical performance and concentration tend to drop with stress and fatigue, even when diving. And remember, your proper social distancing from DCI is 5 metres depth, for at least 3 minutes!
8- The buddy check is not an outdated habit, but a rule which is too often ignored. Due to the new C-19 prevention rules, of course, you are not allowed to touch your buddy’s equipment, but you can ask them to do it on their own under your watchful eye, while instructing them to check their BCD, weight belt, regulators, inflators, computer, gas reserve and valves (the valve should ALWAYS be accessible to the diver). Ask your buddy to do the same with you, and you’ll have brought back a safe habit.
9- Your DAN membership doesn’t last for life: it must be renewed every year!
10- Now you can finally relax: your diving license has no expiration date (unless you are a GUE diver)! It’s just your diving skills that need a refresh, and what better way to do that than go diving! ☺
P.S. Ah, you haven’t replaced that mask strap? According to Murphy, the tendency of a specific part to break is inversely proportional to the availability of spares for that part. Remember to call George: your spare mask is still in his BCD pocket!
GUE 25 Anniversary Conference Round Up
Global Underwater Explorers held a conference to commemorate the organization’s 25th anniversary. Held at GUE headquarters in High Springs, Florida, where it was founded by a group of cave divers founded in 1998, the organization convened instructors and divers from all over the world to recall the people and diving technologies that shaped GUE, how they’ve changed over time, and how they’ll evolve in the future.
In addition to celebrating the occasion, GUE convened speakers to present on topics related to its three biggest priorities: Exploration, Education, Conservation.
Shipwreck explorer Mario Arena, for example, gave a presentation on the “Battle of Convoys in the Mediterranean,” his 16-year project discovering and documenting dozens of shipwrecks left behind by the three-year-long battle during World War II and how his team is bringing the wrecks back to life using new technologies.
Cave explorers Fred Devos, Julien Fortin, and Sam Meacham gave a presentation on their efforts to document Ox Bel Ha, the largest underwater cave system in Mexico, a project which is concurrently celebrating its 25th anniversary. The project started out with, as Meacham called it, “two chainsaws, a compressor, and a horse,” and has begun to resurvey 144 square miles of caves with advances in diving equipment. Advances as simple as upgrades to lightbulbs and batteries, for example, enable the explorers to see through new passages.
Bill Stone, a cave explorer and head of Stone Aerospace, discussed “Recent Advances in Machine Exploration,” chronically how he’s used machines to explore underwater caves farther than any human. Stone’s autonomous drone, called Sunfish, uses sonar mapping to produce 3D maps and models deeper than photogrammetry divers can dive.
Ulrik Juul Christensen, a founder and chairman of Bonaire’s Area9 Mastery Diving Research Center, is developing an adaptive learning education platform for GUE and has spent about as much time as the organization has been in existence building education technologies. Christensen’s talk, “Learning That Matters,” focused on how to create new systems to help educate learners at their own pace so that knowledge, and not speed, is the priority.
In a complementary presentation, Sean Talamas, a managing partner and executive coach at leadership development consulting firm, discussed “The Depth of Character: Cultivating Grit, and a Growth Mindset.” The presentation focused on research by Angela Duckworth suggesting success is not achieved through talent, but a combination of passion and persistence she called “grit.”
GUE Instructor Trainer Andrea Marassich gave a presentation on “Building Capacity for Extreme Explorations” about the Sa Conca e Locoli Cave Project in Sardinia, Italy. Learning, he suggested, happens when you go out of your comfort zone, but not all the way to what he called the “panic zone,” where you are overwhelmed to the point that you don’t learn but instead shut down and it becomes extremely dangerous.” “You need a mentor,” Marassich said. “Someone who knows you enough to push you when you need to be pushed and pull back when you need to pull back.”
These were just a few of the education- and exploration-focused presentations. Speakers also included Blue Green Expeditions Managing Partner Faith Ortins on how divers can support environmentally conscious destinations, Peter Gaertner on citizen science conducted in the Caves of Gulf of Orosei project, Daniel Ortego on the Marine Genome Project, and Neal W. Pollock on the physiological limitations of technology in diving.
Max Deco & Bubble Trouble entertained conference attendees at the Friday night social with a pre-dive playlist of classic rock. Band members: John Kendall vocals, Gary Franklin vocals, Bill Stone lead guitar, Andrew Dow guitar, Francesco Cameli bass, Michael Menduno bass, Jason Cook drums.
You can find the full conference photo album here.