Thursday, September 4, 2014

Scuba Diving Is A Wonderful Sport: Just Eliminate The Risks

Adventure channels and tourism channels show glorious breathtaking visuals of blue skies and crystal clear water and people scuba diving among the fishes. The question that arises is whether we are safe, amongst a vast variety of underwater life, some of which can be extremely dangerous and in territory that is alien to humans, we are not born to swim and we cannot breathe underwater, can we?

The simple answer is yes and no. It is similar to mountaineering. When Edmund Hillary was asked whether mountaineering was dangerous he said, not if you respect the mountain. Scuba diving is also not dangerous if you respect it. It is not dangerous as long as you follow security guidelines, have the right equipment, know your limitations and stay within those constraints.

A little risk is involved, the operative word being 'little.' According to the DAN Diving Fatalities Workshop Report, fatalities are extremely rare and in their 2010 survey they found that fatalities happened once in every 211,864 dives. How risky is that? More drivers die in road accidents and chances of you dying in a long distance race are higher than in scuba dying - so the likelihood of your dying in scuba diving is rather remote.

As with any extreme sport, an element of risk is always there. Divers are totally dependent on their equipment to breathe. Their journey back to the surface depends on their skills, using gear rightly and emergency training. Approach the sport with the right spirit and character. Grow into it with practice and training. Don't take undue risks. The larger fish down there may seem docile, but they are not dogs that you can pat and hug so maintain a reverential distance.

Surveys have revealed that most of the fatalities that have occurred in the sport were caused by human errors and were completely avoidable. The three prime causes were a pre-existent disease in the diver, straying beyond one's capability and descending rapidly.

People who died owing to a pre-existent disease did not declare their medical conditions in the scuba diving medical questionnaire. Had they done so they would not have been allowed in the waters. Descending rapidly makes for poor buoyancy control and makes the diver panic and make mistakes. Finally you are so pumped up and in over-confidence you stray beyond your limits and cannot alert your partners when an emergency occurs - false bravado often ends in disaster, not only in scuba diving, but in all walks of life.

To ensure that your scuba diving is a great fun-filled experience, just make certain that you plan your dive before you step into the water. Never dive deeper than your first dive. Check your dive gauges continuously and stay within the prescribed ascent and descent rates.

Carry a 3-minute safety stop halfway in the dive, to see if everything is under control and don't continuously ascend and descend when you are under the water. And never exceed the limits of your training and skills.

What if you were to suddenly encounter a shark? Don't panic, be calm and remain close to your dive buddy. Sighting one is rare and an awe inspiring sight, so enjoy it. However, maintain a respectful distance and don't swim away rapidly. You cannot out-swim it but after its curiosity is satisfied it will swim away. This is what happens almost every time - think of the great time you will have regaling your friends and family about your great shark encounter.

Article Source:

Kathy Dowsett

Friday, August 22, 2014

Can I Dive With.......

Reprinted from Scuba Diving:::::

Dive doctors and operators have long lowered their own risk by limiting yours when certain medical conditions enter the picture. Asthma? Sorry, no dice … or dives. Ditto for diabetes, heart disease and other conditions that increase the odds of something going wrong down below.

But the tide is slowly turning. For more than two decades, the Divers Alert Network has compiled information on divers from around the globe, many who continued diving despite disqualifying diseases. Likewise, dive doctors and scientists like those belonging to the Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) have conducted their own studies.

"When we first started devising prescriptive guidelines for who was fit to dive and who wasn't, we didn't have hard data, so all the axioms were based on theoretical risk," says Edmond Kay, M.D., a diving medical officer at Seattle's University of Washington. "We now have facts and figures." He has studied dive fitness for the past 20 years, and in that time, he has seen a lot of changes in the way medical professionals approach diving with certain conditions. "The thinking has turned from 'If you have this disease, you can't dive' to 'If you have this disease, you must be able to manage the symptoms, and then you may be fit to dive.'"

Kay helps us explain the newest approaches for managing some of the most common dive disqualifiers.

Diagnosis: Asthma

Back in the day, if you mentioned asthma to a dive instructor, you'd likely hear a firm "No, you can't dive." The disease affects those all-important diving organs, the airways, making them inflamed and susceptible to irritation. At its worst, asthma attacks tighten the muscles around your airway and constrict airflow to the point where you can barely breathe. Therein lies the risk. A number of factors inherent to diving can trigger an attack, including exercise and breathing cold and/or dry air, and an underwater attack can easily escalate to panic and drowning. Doctors theorized that this narrowing of the airways could also trap breathing gas in the lungs, which could expand before it could be exhaled during ascents, causing lung-expansion injuries. However, data presented during a 1995 international asthma symposium sponsored by UHMS showed no increased risk for lung injuries among asthmatic divers.

Diving with asthma: Anyone with severe asthma — meaning they have daily, chronic symptoms — should not dive. If your asthma is mild, intermittent and controllable, you may get clearance if you can show that you're functionally normal — that you manage it with medication to the point that exercise and typical asthma triggers don't cause an incident.

Today, DAN estimates about 4 to 5 percent of the diving population has asthma. To see if you qualify, take an airway challenge — a test where you exercise at increasing intensity on a treadmill, while a doctor measures your airflow to ensure you're stable even during vigorous exertion. You'll also need to show stability when exposed to triggers like cold, dry air, which is what you breathe from a scuba tank, Kay says.

Talk to your doctor about dive-friendly medications. Aminophylline, an older oral medication that opens air passages in the lungs, not only dilates the smooth muscles of the airways but also the arteries in the lungs, which decreases your lungs' ability to filter bubbles and increases your risk for DCS. Newer medicines, bronchodilators like Albuterol for example, can relax the airways for four to six hours and haven't been found to dilate the arteries in the lungs, Kay says.


Kathy Dowsett

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ask an Expert: Should Divers Reveal Their Medications?

Is the average dive professional really qualified to safeguard — never mind interpret — your personal medical history?

By Larry Lozuk

Several years ago while managing an IT project at a large health-care provider, I witnessed my team lead being a perfect gentleman.

As we returned from lunch, he held the door open for a woman who happened to be walking into the building just as we were. She introduced herself as the facility’s compliance director for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or HIPAA), requested his badge, and asked that he accompany her.

His seemingly innocuous act of chivalry had violated a security regulation, by passing the badge-reading system and potentially allowing someone unauthorized through an employee entrance. This led to hours of retraining for the entire team, once again covering the complex tangle of rules around security and privacy of medical records. The work we were doing was only tangentially related to health care, yet we were subject to the same confidentiality and security policies as the medical professionals who dealt directly with patient-health information.

In the scuba industry, we aren’t interested in the health of our customers, or what medication they might be taking. Really, we just want them to have a good time and then go home as healthy as they were when they came in.

However, by demanding and storing medical histories and medication lists, we willingly put ourselves in the same position as doctors’ offices, clinics and hospitals. We assume the responsibility to safeguard our customers’ medical information that, improperly disclosed, can affect their credit, their livelihoods and their lives.

We should all cringe to think of what is stored in those unlocked filing cabinets at countless dive shops across the world.

We also open ourselves up to liability by assuming the mantle of experts. While I can teach you all of the nuances of buoyancy, trim and different types of fins, I haven’t the slightest idea what drugs interact badly with one another, or with increased partial pressure of nitrogen or oxygen. Yet when I request a list of your medications, you probably have the expectation that I’m doing so for a reason, ostensibly to see if you have any conditions that are incompatible with scuba diving.

Would you be disappointed if I disclosed that I don’t even recognize any of the medication names?


Kathy Dowsett

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Volunteering in film re-enacting fatal shark attack a solemn memory of Shark Week for BadDiverBill

BadDiversTV is behind Bill Hill now but his love for scuba remains and two new passions -- music and promoting causes -- have been added.

When a funding deal fell through for BadDiverBill’s Quest, which was to find the most interesting DIVE sites, Dive buddies and DIVE bars, Hill's pseudonym of BadDiverBill was set aside, along with his trademark "adult beverages," hat and sunglasses. They're gone, but not forgotten. If the opportunity arose, says Bill, "BadDiverBill would don his hat and sunglasses and make a cocktail." However, exists online forever.

Still, the character he created is not what drives him now. Instead, it's his growing awareness of causes that have become important to him, namely, protecting the ocean and supporting an orphanage in Honduras. He came face to face with both causes through diving and is expressing them with music.

The song "Weightless," for which he wrote the lyrics, embraces the magic of both diving and its medium, the sea. A portion of the song’s downloads will go to The Ocean Conservancy.

It was his passion for diving that took Bill Hill to Honduras, but it was the needs of an orphanage in that country that captured his heart. He has made nine trips there, combining diving and helping out at the orphanage. There, he met Paola, a young girl who was abandoned by her mother. She is still in school there.

Hill was inspired by her and decided to make a little video and write a song about her, which he called Pequena Rosa (Little Rose).

"Dancing was her thing. She dances to forget about things. All the girls take care of each other," says Hill, who wrote all the lyrics for the song on the flight from El Salvador back home to Los Angeles. "I look forward to dancing with her to this song."

HIs friend, musician Jeff Alan Ross, wrote the music. Some of the proceeds from the song will go to the orphanage.
On the flight home, Hill came up with another idea that he called "Your cause, your anthem," which is to help others promote their cause.

Back in the water, August is the month of Shark Week, in which Hill served as a safety diver for a movie to re-enact the death in May of 2008 of a 66-year-old diver who was attacked by a Great White just north of San Diego. The shark was estimated to be about 12 to 17 feet in length. To illustrate the damage to the diver’s legs by the attack, the filmmakers wanted to cut up the legs of the wetsuit the actor playing the deceased man would wear. In choosing a wetsuit to destroy, they were looking for the one that was in the worst shape, with the promise that the donor could buy a new wetsuit at cost. They chose BadDiverBill’s wetsuit.

Bill was one of three safety divers on the "Body Glove" boat owned by Bob and Pattie Meistrell. Bob and his late twin brother, Bill, had been innovators of wet suits. "I was honoured and privileged to be on the Body Glove boat when he was the captain.

"One day we were shooting the actor stuff of them swimming when he (the victim) was hit, the panicking and the swimmers coming to the rescue. A lot of my job was just being behind the camera man about 15 feet down, or on the boat with no scuba gear."

Hill remembers "the kind of respectful feeling on the boat" because they were re-enacting a man's death.
He was told his job was finished for the day so he took off his gear. Then they decided to take one more shot on the other side of the boat. The actress swam quickly to the side where the shooting was to be, but the older actor portraying the victim of the shark attack seemed to be struggling in the water. He kept going under the surface in his attempt to get to the other side of the boat, the challenge made more difficult by wearing BadDiverBill’s damaged wetsuit. Knowing the actor had been in the water all day and was probably tired, Hill dove in, grabbed him and took him to the other side.

Another chapter had been written in the evolution of BadDiverBill.

Copyright Kathy Dowsett

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wood off Shipwrecks

Reprinted with permission from Dr Lee Spence

WOOD OFF SHIPWRECKS: People are always asking me whether wood survives on shipwrecks. The answer that I always give them is "it depends" (meaning there is no easy answer). Preservation of wood depends on a wide variety of factors. They range from whether the wood is buried or exposed on the wreck, to what type of woods are involved, and even whether the wood was treated or painted before it was lost.

These two pieces of wood came off the wreck of the Civil War blockade runner Georgiana, and I brought them to surface over 40 years ago. I photographed them (earlier today) to help shown the wide range of natural preservation in wooden artifacts recovered from wrecks (and in this particular case from the same wreck).

The piece on the left is one of the handles from the captain’s wheel or helm of the steamer Georgiana. If you look carefully, you will note that one end of the handle is charred (burnt), while the rest is almost perfect. This matches with contemporary accounts, which say that after the Georgiana was wrecked she was set afire while her decks were awash. This part of the ship's wheel was obviously protected from the fire by the water.

The piece on the right is part of a crate found in the forward cargo hold of the Georgiana. It was of a softer wood and has suffered more damage.

Both pieces had been covered by mud & sand, and were thus protected from damage by sea worms (teredo navalis), which quickly destroy most exposed wood on shipwrecks.

Photo © Copyright 2014 by Dr. E. Lee Spence

You can read more about the Georgiana at

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Too Old To Learn Scuba Diving?

Reprinted from Enzine Articles

We are always told we should learn sports when we are young, when our bodies are more resilient to the bruises and bumps which can be afflicted on us when we learn a new sport. This is true to a certain extent.

Take for example, my experience learning wind surfing. I learnt the sport when I was 26. If I were to learn this sport now at age 42, chances are I would not go far and would probably give up after 1 or 2 tries. Learning wind surfing was like battling with all the forces at the same time! We're talking about trying to balance on choppy waves on a slippery wet board, at the same time maneuvering a sail which weighs more than you in the correct direction that you want to go.In the process, I contributed blood and flesh from cuts on barnacles and bruises from hitting the surf board more than once before falling into the waters.

But there is a huge difference with scuba diving. YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN SCUBA DIVING. I can never say this enough. I learnt scuba diving when I was 38. Now I'm not saying that 38 is a ripe old age but still, the body does feel somewhat less strong and less resilient. Added to that, as we get older, we also seem to have more fears. Perhaps we feel we have more to lose if something should happen to us.

I say middle age and beyond should never be a factor in learning scuba diving BUT you do need to have these:

1) an intense love for the sea

2) a willingness to learn from someone younger than you

3) relatively good health and lastly but very important

4) time and money

Now I'm assuming that you are thinking of learning scuba diving because you want to make this a sport that you can enjoy every other weekend if time and money permits and not just learning for education's sake.

An Intense Love for the Sea

To enjoy a scuba diving trip, you will have to love the sea and I mean really really love it with all its wonderful creatures large and small. You will know what I mean on your first ever scuba diving trip after you have cleared your Open Water tests.

It is unlikely that your scuba diving buddies on your first dive trip will be the same classmates in your scuba diving course. Because of time and money constraints, you will find that you may be the only one keen enough to join a scuba diving trip soon after your certification.

More often than not, your dive buddies will be a dive-crazy bunch who will do at least 4 dives a day plus another at night. This means that on a scuba diving trip, most times you will not do anything but dive, talk about the sea creatures and encounters of each dive, before suiting up for the next dive. For someone who only wants to do one dive a day and then go shopping, he/she may be disappointed as many great scuba diving spots have few of these shopping and entertainment facilities.

In case you are already getting stressed just thinking about this, don't be. Every scuba diving newbie goes through this. Just have an attitude of a newbie, be humble and you will find that the seasoned divers are more than willing to share tips and may even help you to gear up before a dive.

A Willingness to Learn from Someone Younger than You

Your scuba diving instructor is likely to be someone much younger than you. Some dive instructors have an attitude and are cocky so you may have to live with it for at least 3 weekends before you become certified - 1st weekend for classroom and theory, 2nd weekend for pool sessions and a 3rd weekend for the actual open water tests. Put aside your ego and just bear with it, it'll be worth it in the end.

Having said that, that's not to say that there are no good and kind scuba diving instructors around. I was fortunate to receive dive instruction from PC, a very kind and patient man, without whom my dive learning experience would not be as smooth and enjoyable.

Relatively Good Health

It's not necessary to be in peak fitness before you can take up scuba diving. However, you would need some strength to be able to walk with full scuba diving gear strapped on you. Once you enter the waters with all your gear, you are almost weightless. But it's the few steps you have to make to get into the boat or to cross the beach into the water that may be a challenge for a person who is not used to carrying heavy loads on them.

Having said that, some scuba diving resorts have fantastic dive staff who can help to overcome this by carrying the tanks and gear to the boat for you to suit up inside the boat. And of course if you are on a live-a-board (live, eat, dive, sleep, on board a boat throughout the dive trip), then this may not be relevant.

Time and Money

This is probably the 2 most deciding factors of whether someone continues to enjoy scuba diving after passing the Open Water tests. Getting certified through a scuba diving course is very fast, just 3 weekends basically. And not too expensive, probably about $300 to $400, including an out-of-the country dive trip for the open water tests. But unless you live near a scuba diving area, you are most likely going to have to travel a distance or even out of the country to do a good dive.

Now just think how much each trip is going to cost you and multiply that by how many times you would love to do scuba diving in a year. When you do the sums, it can be staggering. So you cut down the number of dives you want to do in a year, and then calculate and cut down some more.

In our scuba diving class, my husband and I were the only ones who continued to dive after the class was over. Even then, we did not manage to do the number of dives we would really have loved to do in a year. That's how it finally ends up that we are doing an average of 1 dive a year. This more or less ensures that we will always be diving as a "scuba diving newbie" (hence the blog's name). A scuba diver gets "rusty" when the interval is too long between each dive trip. Ideally, we should dive at least once each quarter.

I have not even gone on to calculate the other "investments" to personalise your gear such as your own BC (buoyancy control), your own octopus (breathing appartus) and your wet suit.

Having said all this, I still believe it's never too old to learn and enjoy scuba diving. Even with our limited dives since we were certified and diving as scuba diving newbies, we enjoy each and every one of our dive trips. Find the right people to dive with, find a fantastic dive spot that suits your preferences (whether macro, to check out small sea creatures, or see bigger fish) and nearby spa facilities to sooth your body aches after a dive - it's a wonderful combination that will almost always ensure a great scuba diving experience!

A scuba diving newbie can still enjoy happy diving!

Kathy Dowsett

Article Source:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Wanted :: Adventurers and Explorers for Shipwreck School

Shipwreck School Graduates its First Class

World renowned side scan sonar expert, Garry Kozak recently completed the first “Side Scan Sonar Operators Course” this past May for Shipwreck School. The Five participants received 3 days of comprehensive training on the school’s new EdgeTech model 4125 Dual Frequency Side Scan Sonar System. The course consisted of 8 hours of classroom and 8 hours of hands on sea time over a 3 day weekend. Shipwreck Schools offers professional training courses anywhere in the world on various side scan sonar systems, marine magnetometers, ROV’s and more?

Have you ever watched the Jacque Cousteau TV Specials or any number of shipwreck TV documentaries about searching for shipwrecks on the Discovery or the History Channel? Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a part of one and actually get to experience one of the last greatest adventures on earth?

Welcome to Shipwreck School!

The idea for this venture was born out of a desire to offer an opportunity where one could learn about shipwrecks, including exploration methodology, hands-on training, historical significance, current political climate surrounding shipwreck exploration, and the list goes on. Furthermore, the vision for the school has always been to be a place open and of interest to both scuba divers and non-divers alike. Finally, the ultimate goal of the school is to promote and foster private exploration of shipwrecks. To date, it seems there is no other institution in the world specializing in shipwreck education.

Shipwreck School has been designed to offer information and instruction to people anywhere in the world. It offers a unique opportunity in the form of a diverse selection of courses and seminars designed to train, educate and inform. Given that the topic of shipwreck exploration is so broad and diverse and can be both complicated and controversial, Shipwreck School offers a balanced and well-rounded approach. It achieves this by offering training from a variety of perspectives, including that of marine archaeologists, seasoned explorers, and exploration technology gurus. What’s more, instructors at “Shipwreck School” are well-equipped to provide training based on experience versus opinion or policy. In fact, each one is a respected professional in their respective fields and has a minimum of a thousand hours or more of actual “field experience”.

Shipwreck School is pioneering new and unique, yet convenient and ultra flexible Seminars and Courses ranging from a basic entry level “Shipwreck Hunting” seminar to a 3 day hands on “Side Scan Sonar Operator” course.

Terry Dwyer

An adventurer, entrepreneur, wreck diver and explorer who has been studying shipwrecks for the past 35 years. He published his first book; Wreck Hunter – The Quest for Lost Shipwrecks in 2005. That book went to a second printing in 2008 and he is currently working on volume two, Wreck Hunter 2– The Adventure Continues, which is due out this Fall. Terry has authored and published numerous articles on scuba tourism, shipwrecks, shipwreck diving and exploration in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on shipwrecks in Eastern Canada. His fascinating presentations include information about scuba diving, scuba tourism, shipwreck hunting, and shipwreck projects that he has worked on in Nova Scotia and in Newfoundland over the past 35 years. Terry is the primary host and coordinator for Shipwreck School and will organize, schedule and coordinate the courses, seminars and expeditions. To learn more about Terry, please visit his website:

Kathy Dowsett