Tag Archives: Scuba diving

Living in Paradise

Hawaiian Monk Seals at Play

Photo by Larry Hogan, taken March 8, 2013 while we were diving at Sea Cave, Oahu, HI

The breeze rustles through the palm trees as you store your gear on the boat and get everything ready for today’s dive. Once in the water you have the feeling of almost being weightless as you glide effortlessly and gracefully through the warm tropical salt water.

As you enter the open-top Sea Cave you start to watch three playful Hawaiian Monk Seals swimming overhead. As they watch you they become curious, and finally venture down from the surface to investigate.

For what seems like hours the playful seals gracefully glide past, seemingly performing an underwater ballet with you. They rub their whiskers on you to investigate you almost like a dog sniffing you.  They stare inquisitively at you only inches away, cocking their heads from side to side. From time to time sipping off of the air bubbles released from your scuba system so that they can stay down longer with you. You then realize that you are one of the fortunate few that will ever have the opportunity to swim with or even see the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals this close in person.

Scuba diving is an experience like no other. Once you become comfortable underwater, you start to feel at one with nature. On a Drift Dive, the feeling of floating where the sea takes you underwater is like no other, it is one of the most free feelings I have ever experienced.

Unfortunately living in Hawaii everyday you start to take it all for granted. You begin to just think of it as just another day like any other. You no longer notice the breeze as it gently drifts through the palms, or the slight salt mist in the air. You no longer appreciate the gentle tropical flower scents all around you.

I have lived in Hawaii for the past eleven years, and I do not know when this transformation happened to me. I did not even realize that it had happened until I started scuba diving this year. The more I dive the more I start to take notice of things again, like a veil is being lifted off of my senses. I start to appreciate again that yes, I truly do live in Paradise.

Honolulu Dive Club

HDCMeetupI recently found out about Meetup.com and while searching the list of local Meetup groups I came across the Honolulu Dive Club which has over 170 current members and organizes various diving events on Oahu for its members to get together.

And the best part is its FREE. I almost couldn’t believe it, a dive club that doesn’t cost anything to be a member of, and that organizes free dives for its members, what could be better than that?

I joined the group and signed up for a dive that was posted in the club which was this past Saturday morning at Makaha Caverns. When I arrived I started meeting several of the members while we got our gear ready for the dive. On this particular dive 14 members had made it for the dive. It turned out to be a great bunch of people and a lot of fun to be with.

Right away a mask strap broke and I heard one of the divers asking the other divers if they had a spare mask strap, which no one brought with them. She was just mentioning that she would have to miss the dive when I handed her one of the spares that I keep in my dive trailer – problem resolved.

At the end of the dive Tom, the Organizer of the club asked if I would become an Assistant Organizer and help them by organizing some dives for the members. Sure, since I will be diving myself anyway, I may as well post my dives for the group and see if anyone else wants to come along for the dive.

So now I am banging my head trying to figure out how to juggle everything that I have going, and planning future dives for the club at the same time. I am a gluten for punishment.

I am also a member of DiveBuddy.com so we added the Honolulu Dive Club on DiveBuddy so that other DB members can also find the dive club and join  us for dives.

Dive 91

Date: July 13, 2013       Repetitive Dive: 1 of 1

Time In:  08:43    Time Out:  09:29     Time:   :46

Dive Location: Makaha Caverns, Makaha, Hawaii

Dive Shop:  N/A

Purpose: Honolulu Dive Club Event

Dive Type: Shore    Environ: Ocean / Salt

Conditions:  Mild Current        Weight:  14lbs.

Visibility: 50-60′

Air Temp:   82      Bottom Temp:  78.2

Max Depth:  35.2′       Average Depth: 21.0′

Safety / Decompression Stops:  None

Start PSI: 3,080    End PSI: 522      Air/EANx:  21%

Exposure Protection: 3-Mil Full Wetsuit, Hood, Boots, Gloves

Equipment: 30cf Pony, iGills, Dive Light

Notes:

Today was my first time diving with the Honolulu Dive Club, a group of divers that I met on Meetup. This was also my first time diving at Makaha Caverns.

Unfortunately for some reason my iGills only recorded the first part of the dive and the end of the dive and showed me at the surface for the majority of the dive. I have no idea what caused that, so I also attached a snapshot below from my Suunto Vyper Air wrist computer DM4 software that recorded the whole dive.

We did not know exactly where the caverns were, just a general idea and so we finally found the “caverns” right at the end of our dive so we only got to see a small part of it. Will have to come back for another dive now that we know how to find the spot. We did see one small Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle and some fish, but not nearly as plentiful as Sharks Cove. Saw several moray eels and one lobster.

iGills Snapshot

91_2

Suunto Vyper Air Snapshot

Photo of Blake from Honolulu Dive Club in Makaha Caverns taken by Kenzie

Shark Incidents On The Rise In Hawaii

Courtesy of Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

This graphic depicts only confirmed unprovoked incidents, defined by the International Shark Attack File as “incidents where an attack on a live human by a shark occurs in its natural habitat without human provocation of the shark. Incidents involving…shark-inflicted scavenge damage to already dead humans (most often drowning victims), attacks on boats, and provoked incidents occurring in or out of the water are not considered unprovoked attacks.”

As you can clearly see from the graphic above shark incidents are clearly on the rise in Hawaiian waters on recent years, but an unprecedented 10 non-fatal shark incidents occurred in 2012 alone, more than any previous year in over three decades. 2013 started off with 3 incidents before the end of February and two of them occurring at different locations off the island of Maui on February 21st at 6:00pm.

Courtesy of Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

It is not known exactly what is causing the sudden increase in shark incidents in Hawaii. Even though incidents of sharks biting people are rising they are still relatively low, averaging only 3 to 4 per year.

One factor may include changes in the weather due to seasonal changes. As you can see from the chart at the right, more incidents occur between October and December than any other time of the year.

Courtesy of Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

Our activities in the water may also be a factor. Certain water activities have a higher than average number of shark incidents, like surfing and swimming as this chart shows.

One theory is that many sharks “hunt” from underneath and attack prey at the surface of the water like seals. With swimmers and surfers on the surface of the water, this makes them prime candidates for this type of hunting behavior.

But what about scuba diving? Does scuba diving lead to higher or lower shark incidents? Are diver vs. shark incidents more fatal?

Courtesy of Shark Attack File, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

According to the International Shark Attack File – a compilation of all known shark attacks that is administered by the American Elasmobranch Society and the Florida Museum of Natural History, approximately 20% of shark attacks on divers are fatalities.

This is a surprisingly high percentage when comparing it to other water activities, however the number of shark attacks on divers is extremely low compared to other water activities. One reason that more of the incidents result in fatalities could be that they happen when the diver is under water which could have lead to drowning. The diver vs. shark incident reports and statistics do not state how many of the divers died as a result of drowning because diver drowning is not asked on the ISAF reports being filed.

So, with all of this information, what can we do to make ourselves safer when diving? The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources offers the following Shark Safety Tips:

  1. Swim, surf or dive with other people, and don’t move too far away from assistance.
  2. Stay out of the water at dawn, dusk and night, when some species of sharks may move inshore to feed.
  3. Do not enter the water if you have open wounds or are bleeding in any way. Sharks can detect blood and body fluids in extremely small concentrations.
  4. Avoid murky waters, harbor entrances and areas near stream mouths (especially after heavy rains), channels or steep drop-offs. These types of waters are known to be frequented by sharks.
  5. Do not wear high-contrast clothing or shiny jewelry. Sharks see contrast very well.
  6. Refrain from excessive splashing; keep pets, which swim erratically, out of the water. Sharks are known to be attracted to such activity.
  7. Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present. Leave the water quickly and calmly if one is sighted. Do not provoke or harass a shark, even a small one.
  8. If fish or turtles start to behave erratically, leave the water. Avoid swimming near dolphins, as they are prey for some large sharks.
  9. Remove speared fish from the water or tow them a safe distance behind you. Do not swim near people fishing or spear fishing. Stay away from dead animals in the water.
  10. Swim or surf at beaches patrolled by lifeguards and follow their advice.

Remember, shark incidents involving scuba divers are extremely low. If you look at worldwide averages, of the average of 5 fatalities worldwide that happen each year, only 1 in those 5 worldwide would have been a diver (20%).

Now lets put that into some perspective. According to the National Safety Council, in 2000 alone in the United States 46,749 people died in “Transport Accidents”.

Looking at those kinds of numbers, I think I am a lot safer in the water with the sharks.

All Diving Certifications Are Not Created Equal

I always believed that scuba certifications from the various mainline agencies were basically all the same, just depended on which agencies name you wanted on the card. That is, until today.

I just found out that the Master Scuba Diver certification from NAUI is nowhere near the same level of training and experience as the Master Scuba Diver certification from PADI.

To achieve the PADI certification you have to have Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Rescue Diver, and 5 specialty diver certifications which take an additional 1 to 4 dives each to complete, and at least 50 logged dives.

For the NAUI Master Scuba Diver certification qualifications I looked it up on the NAUI website. Their course requirements are shown below, copied directly from their website:

“A minimum of eight open water dives is required. A maximum of three dives per day shall be applied toward course requirements. No more than one skin dive may count toward the eight dive minimum.

Required Dives

  • Emergency procedures and rescue
  • Deep/simulated decompression diving
  • Limited visibility or night diving
  • Underwater navigation
  • Search and recovery – light salvage

Elective Dives

  • Skin diving
  • Review of basic scuba skills
  • Environmental study or survey
  • Air consumption (practical application)
  • Boat diving
  • Shore diving
  • Hunting and collecting
  • Special interest

Prerequisites For Entering This Course

  • Age – Minimum is 15 years.
  • Diver Certification – NAUI advanced certification or the equivalent is required. The instructor is to ensure adequate student knowledge and capability before any open water training and shall use skill or other evaluations to do so.
  • Equipment – Students shall furnish and be responsible for the care and maintenance of their own diving equipment. The instructor shall initially assist the student in checking all student gear to insure it is adequate and in proper working order.”

So in other words, if a NAUI Advanced Open Water Diver wants the MSD rating, he can do it in just 3 days time with only 8 more dives? Thats less than ¼ as many total dives when you add up all the various specialty class dives required by PADI.

That is a HUGE difference in diving experience between NAUI and PADI certification requirements for the Master Scuba Diver rating. I thought the PADI MSD rating was quick to get, I should have just gone for the NAUI one, I could have had it months before I earned the PADI one.

This will make me take a good hard look at the qualifications for all of the other “mainline” certification agencies out there before I choose to dive with someone from another agency again. Apparently their Rescue Diver certification only takes one dive to complete instead of three days and multiple dives.

I clearly see that all certifications are definitely NOT the same.

Dive 90

Date: July 9, 2013       Repetitive Dive: 2 of 2

Time In:  16:49    Time Out:  17:19     Time:   :30

Dive Location: Kea’au Beach,   Oahu, Hawaii

Dive Shop:  N/A

Purpose: Solo Kayak Dive

Dive Type: Kayak    Environ: Ocean / Salt

Conditions:  Strong Current        Weight:  14lbs.

Visibility: 60-70′

Air Temp:   86      Bottom Temp:  76.4

Max Depth:  58.6′       Average Depth: 33.6′

Safety / Decompression Stops:  3 Min / 15′

Start PSI: 3,015    End PSI: 2,213      Air/EANx:  21%

Exposure Protection: 5-Mil Full Wetsuit, Hood, Boots, Gloves

Equipment: Spare Air, iGills, DPV, 2 Dive Lights

Notes:

Wanted to try a new dive site today that I have been looking at for a while. Getting out to the dive spot in the kayak was a bit harry today with the surf, but I finally made it after two attempts, just before I was going to give up for the day.

Lots and lots of fish, especially Tangs, Triggerfish and Barracuda and several Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. Inside one of the swim-throughs I saw a HUGE moray eel that must have been at least 5 or 6 foot long and fat. He definitely hasn’t missed many meals. Will have to come back and do this site again when I have more time.

iGills Snapshot

Dive 89

Date: July 9, 2013       Repetitive Dive: 1 of 2

Time In:  13:29    Time Out:  14:03     Time:   :34

Dive Location: Kaiser Reef,   Oahu, Hawaii

Dive Shop:  N/A

Purpose: Solo Kayak Dive

Dive Type: Kayak    Environ: Ocean / Salt

Conditions:  Moderate Current        Weight:  14lbs.

Visibility: 80-90′

Air Temp:   89      Bottom Temp:  77.2

Max Depth:  33.7′       Average Depth: 29.2′

Safety / Decompression Stops: None

Start PSI: 3,125    End PSI: 2,027      Air/EANx:  21%

Exposure Protection: 5-Mil Full Wetsuit, Hood, Boots, Gloves

Equipment: Spare Air, iGills

Notes:

Decided to do a kayak dive today back at Kaiser Reef since there was only one dive boat in the area this afternoon. Current was a little higher this time than on my night dive here the other night, so I decided to stay on the sheltered side of the reef for this dive.

Saw several moray eels and one Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle today along with a lot of tangs and Moorish Idols.

iGills Snapshot

Possible Dive Shop Employment Opportunity

IslandDiversHawaiiI was visiting Island Divers Hawaii, the new dive shop on Schofield Barracks yesterday and while talking to the store manager he mentioned some staffing issues that they were having and that they were looking for someone part-time for weekends.

I have thought about working part-time at a dive shop to get more experience with and knowledge about the various brands of dive gear that I am currently unfamiliar with. This may be the opportunity that I have been waiting for to get just that.

If I take the job, I would be running the dive shop from 6:00 in the morning until 5:30 in the evenings every Saturday and Sunday. It will be long hours, but the work is not very difficult or stressful. Unfortunately that would prevent any weekend diving for me though.

I mentioned that I may be interested in the position, and he is going to speak with the owner about choosing me instead of the person they just hired for the position and let me know if they can make the switch or not.

Perhaps if I take the job I can persuade them one day to consider cold-filling tanks instead of the dry hot-fill method they are currently using. Yes it takes just a little more time, but there is less stress on the tanks, and the customers get perfectly filled 3,000psi tanks every time that way instead of a range anywhere from 2,600 to 3,200 that I have gotten from them in the past.

And the thought of a 30% Employee Discount on equipment purchases doesn’t hurt either.

Tips To Help You Conserve Air

Today we are going to look at some tips that could help you control your air consumption. Making your air last as long as you possibly can is important in scuba diving.

Having more air means longer dive times, it can also mean the difference between life and death if a diver were to become entangled while underwater.

  1. Get In Shape – If a diver is overweight or out of shape, they are naturally going to consume more air than a diver that is fit and trim. The more streamlined you are the easier it will be for you to move through the water using less effort.
  2. Relax & Breath Slowly – Relaxing while diving is one of the most important aspects of air conservation. Take slow, seep, re;axing breaths. The natural tendency is to breath much faster than when on land due to stress and the anxiety of being under water. This translates into faster air consumption and shorter dive times. Breath normally, as on land in a slow relaxed pace.
  3. Don’t Use Your Hands – Waving your hands around to move and control your position causes your body to use a lot of oxygen. The muscles in your arms a much smaller than those in your legs and consequently if you use them to maintain position and move around with they need a lot more oxygen than the muscles in your legs do. Learn to swim with your arms at your side to stay as streamlined as possible and let those big leg muscles do the work for you.
  4. Slow Down – Scuba diving is not a race or a competitive sport. Learn to slow down and make your movements graceful and relaxed.
  5. Buoyancy Control – One of the biggest things that new diver can work on that will help them to conserve air is their buoyancy control. Staying neutrally buoyant throughout the entire dive not only protects the fragile underwater environment, but it saves energy and air. Being neutrally buoyant keeps divers from accidentally bumping into delicate coral which can take hundreds of years to grow and become established. If bumped and a piece breaks off, it can take up to ten tears for every inch of regrowth. When a diver is neutrally buoyant they are able to stop finning and remain motionless off of the bottom. If they are negatively buoyant they will sink to the bottom if they stop finning and if they are positively buoyant they will rise up. Getting buoyancy and ballast weighting correct will do wonders for a divers air consumption.
  6. Watch Your Weight – We already discussed your body weight, now we are talking about the extra weights that you will be putting into your BCD or weight belt. The heavier the diver is the more air they will have to add in their BCD’s to compensate to achieve neutral buoyancy. Think of your BCD like a big balloon strapped onto your back. As a balloon is inflated it gets bigger, and the bigger something is the harder it is to move through the water. This is because it is less hydrodynamic and streamlined and causes a lot of resistance when being moved through the water. The more streamlined an object is the less resistance it causes, and the easier it glides through the water. You need air in your BCD to compensate for your ballast weight to achieve neutral buoyancy, but by being weighted too heavy you will need more air. The heavier you are the more air you will need to compensate. I recommend taking a class like the Buoyancy Specialty offered by PADI. This class was one of the best classes that I have taken since I started diving. I learned so much in such a short amount of time about buoyancy control that I was immediately able to drop eight pounds from my weights just in the class. I have dropped an additional four pounds since the class by remembering what I was taught in the class. This immediately made me feel lighter and more graceful and made moving easier through the water which translated into less air consumption and longer and more enjoyable dives.
  7. Trim Down – We already discussed the need for being streamlined in the water and how it saves your air consumption, this also applies to your gear. Strap all of your gear as close to your body as possible, or secure it in your BCD pockets. This will do a lot for making you more hydrodynamic which will make it easier to swim through the water with less resistance. As for equipment, if you don’t need it for the dive you are on, don’t carry it with you.
  8. Dive, Dive, Dive – Air conservation comes naturally with the more comfortable you are in the water and the best way to get more comfortable in the water is to dive. The more often you dive the more comfortable you will become and the less anxiety you will feel when diving. This translates to using less air and having more enjoyable dives.

Scuba Diving Safety Tips

Fotografía hecha en Playa del Carmen, México, ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whether you are a seasoned diver or you are just learning how to dive, there’s a lot to learn and remember when it comes to diving. I am going to go over some handy tips that will help to keep you safe on your next dive.

  1. Get Certified – First and foremost, NEVER scuba dive unless you have been properly trained and are certified as a scuba diver by a recognized scuba training agency. Such training will make you aware of the more common problems you will face underwater, and how to reduce the likelihood of these problems occurring.
  2. Get A Checkup – Some medical conditions are not compatible with safe diving, while other conditions may allow you to dive safely with caution. Only a physician knowledgeable with scuba diving will be able to properly advise you as to your medical situation regarding scuba diving. Scuba diving requires a lot of strenuous physical activity and can be demanding on the body. A dive physical can help you identify any problems that you may not have even known about beforehand. Studies have shown that about ¼ to ⅓ of all scuba diving fatalities are from heart and/or circulatory problems.
  3. Relax – Being relaxed and comfortable underwater is key to a successful dive. If something happens:
    1. Stop
    2. Breathe
    3. Think
    4. Act

    The worst thing that you could do is to panic, it could make a manageable situation unmanageable very quickly.

  4. Never Hold Your Breath – Never holding your breath while scuba diving is the cardinal rule of diving. Always breathe as normally as possible to avoid the potential of lung over-expansion injuries. Delaying exhaling while ascending can cause damage to the alveoli in your lungs, and can therefore cause severe lung injury, and in extreme cases, death. Also remember to exchange carbon dioxide for good clean air by breathing deeply and slowly.
  5. Have Good Buoyancy and Secure Gear – Be sure your buoyancy skills are well honed before you go diving in any fragile environments. Coral takes hundreds of years to form and thrive, only growing about one inch each decade. Fragile sea fans and corals can be destroyed with the kick of a fin. Please make sure your feet are up and that you are always aware of your surroundings and your own placement in the water. Clip gauges, spare regulators, and other dangling equipment to your BC or secure it in pockets, so that you help save the environment and also to keep you from becoming entangled in fishing line or other objects underwater.
  6. Be Conservative – Dive tables or computer limits do not necessarily constitute a boundary between “bends” or “no-bends” and cannot guarantee that you will not suffer from Decompression Illness. The diving decisions you make should be based upon current suggested safety guidelines for diving and your own unique circumstances while diving.
  7. Keep to the limits — Stay well within the guidelines of the table or computer you’re using, and allow an appropriate surface interval between dives.
  8. Be Flexible – Be prepared to modify your dive plan for unanticipated factors such as exertion, cold or depth and personal physiological factors affected by your activities before, during and after diving.
  9. Be Prepared to Dive — Make sure you’re rested, healthy, well hydrated and well-nourished prior to your diving activities.
  10. Avoid Alcohol – Never drink alcohol before or between dives. Along with the inebriating effects that alcohol can cause including slowing down reaction times, it can also make the body dehydrated which can cause serious problems while diving.
  11. Equalize — Begin equalizing before your head submerges and continue to equalize frequently during descent.
  12. Descend feet first — This slows your descent some and makes it easier to equalize your ears.
  13. Ascend slowly — Always ascend at the rate of 30 feet / 9.1 meters per minute or slower.
  14. Make a safety stop — for three to five minutes at 10-15 feet / 3-4.5 meters on all dives.
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