Sunday, December 26, 2010

Scuba Diving Travel - What You Should Pack

WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 07:  ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Coming up with your packing list for your next big dive trip (or maybe even not so big) can be a big challenge. Whenever pulling together scuba diving travel plans, this is far and away the biggest question I get. What should you pack? Do you rent or bring your own gear? The answers to these questions are largely dependent on a few factors not the least of which is your own personal preference. Here's some overall suggestions.

Definitely bring:

* Certification card
* Dive log
* mask
* snorkel
* sunscreen
* swimsuit
* DAN card (this diver's insurance is an absolute MUST...don't leave home without it)
* safety equipment (ie. float, safety sausage, whistle, etc)
* basic mesh bag
* water shoes/flip flops
* seasickness medicine
* Possibly bring (in priority order):
* fins
* wetsuit or dive skin
* dive computer/watch
* regulator
* BC
* weight belts
* dive knife
* gear bag

Don't even think about bring your own tank that is much too much weight and hassle. Besides in this day and age of charging for every bag that is just a waste of a checked bag.

I strongly recommend if you are planning on bringing more of your gear besides the skin diving basics that you invest wisely in a good gear bag or suitcase. Personally, when my husband and I go on our scuba vacations we put all our gear, BCs, wetsuits, fins, etc in one Samsonite suitcase. This is the hard cover suitcase that the old commercial had the huge gorilla jumping on. Yep, that's our dive suitcase. Then we take our regulators, masks, and computers in our carry on bags. Finally, we throw two matching mesh gear back packs on top of all our gear before closing the suitcase. That way when we arrive we not only have our gear safe and sound but we also have the ability to break it up in two smaller bags so we can haul our own stuff. Now we don't always take all our own stuff but we do go through the hassle if we are traveling somewhere close or we know we can store our gear at the shop throughout our vacation, or we are not certain that the rental gear will be plentiful (ie. it's a really remote place where electricity is sketchy let alone reliable dive gear).

Waterproof all your gear---you have invested a lot in your gear---protect it!!!

Wherever you go, just take the extra time up front to make sure you have what you need for a great and fun scuba diving travel adventure. Have fun!

Thanks to Patti Gomes and Enzine Articles

Kathy Dowsett
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Underwater Riches: Sunken Treasures Around The World

From via Wikipedia

It would take over 400 years to excavate all of the wrecked ships currently unclaimed on the oceans floors. But just think of all the treasure you might find.

Flor de la Mar – Sumatra, Malaysia

Among the richest shipwrecks never recovered, the 16th Century Portuguese vessel, Flor De La Mar was lost around 1511 in a storm off the northern coast of Sumatra. Containing the stolen treasures of the Melaka kingdom in modern day Malaysia, the Flor de la Mar’s cargo, including 60 tons of gold remains undiscovered despite lying in some of the best diving waters of the world.

Merchant Royal – Dartmouth, UK

Britain’s largest unrecovered treasure haul lies just 21 miles (34 km) from Land’s End in Cornwall. The Merchant Royal, returning to England with a cargo of Spanish treasure sank in bad weather on 23 September 1641, containing 500 bars of gold, silver and precious stones. Bring a dry suit and a torch.

San Jose – Baru Peninsula, Colombia

In 1708, during the War of Spanish Succession, English Commodore, Charles Wagner captured and sank Spanish treasure ship, The San Jose in less than 1000 feet (305 metres) of crystal blue water, between the Isla del Tesoro (known as treasure island) and Baru Peninsula. The San Jose’s cargo is estimated today at a value of more than $1 billion.

Nuestra Senora de Atocha – Key West, Florida, USA

In 1985, Florida treasure hunter Mel Fischer hit the mother lode when, after 16 years of dedicated hunting, he located the wreck of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha about 35 miles (56 km) off the coast of Key West, Florida. Carrying a haul that included over 40 tonnes of silver and gold, 100,000 Spanish coins and Columbian emeralds, Fischer’s family now run diving holidays around the Atocha where artefacts continue to be uncovered.

HMS Victory – English Channel, UK

In 2009 US company Odyssey Marine Exploration announced that it had discovered the predecessor of Lord Nelson’s Victory, sunk in 1744, on a group of rocks known as The Casquets near to the Channel Islands. Thought to contain 100,000 gold coins, a legal row continues as to ownership of the haul.

Notre Dame de la Deliverance – Key West, Florida, USA

In November 1755 Spanish Galleon Notre Dame de la Deliverance left Havana with treasures collected from mines in Mexico, Peru and Colombia. A day later the ship was caught in a hurricane and sank with almost all hands, 40 miles from Florida’s Key West. Containing an estimated $2 billion in lost gold and silver, the site of the Deliverance was allegedly discovered in 2003 but has yet to be raised.

USS San Jacinto – Abacos, Bahamas

The waters off the island of Abacos in the Bahama’s combine some of the world’s best diving, plus an estimated 500 wrecks to discover and explore. Perhaps most interesting of the discovered wrecks in this area is the USS San Jacinto, an experimental civil war era gunship, among the first to be powered by steam, that sank off Chub Rocks in 1865.

Hoi An Junk – Da Nang Peninsula, Vietnam

During the 1990s a junk was discovered which sank in over 260 feet (79 metres) of water, 14 miles (22.5 km) from the Da Nang peninsula in Vietnam. Appearing to be of Thai origin, its spectacular cargo of blue and white and polychrome ceramics, painted with human figures, landscapes, fish, birds, and mythological animals, dates to Vietnam’s Golden Age of the mid-15th century.

Thanks to Sabotage Times

Kathy Dowsett
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Scuba Diving Travel Insurance

Cueva TainaImage by Bolivar Sanchez via Flickr

Scuba diving is a form of simple but heart touching fun. It offers a great thrilling. But the fact is that one must be aware of the danger of the Scuba diving. Because of the fear and danger it has one must pay some attention and it requires some extra precaution to be taken. There are some others form of diving. We all know about the cavern or cave diving where one enters an underwater cave or cavern and in these areas there are a number of rough coral and rocks. If you don’t pay your attention there is the real possibility of getting cut. It is obvious that if the cut is severe enough then you may need will for stitches or possibly, a hospital stay.It will cause a great misery ans it is really unwanted. This may be very serious if anyone get injured in foreign countries. Because there is no one to help you. There may be a lack of hospital insurance and allowances may be very high.What can a person do at that stage? They must need a Scuba Diving travel insurance and it will help them to pay the fees and other cost very easily. Otherwise one may have to pay out of their own pocket.Their insurance will ensure their safety and will minimize the cost of accidents and dangers. One may think that his insurance money now is making a lot of benefit for them. Scuba diving travel insurance is not very much different from other travel insurance plans.It gives all the benefits to the clients at time of danger. Divers get injured most of the time and there are number of fatal accident every year.The insurance provides solid safety for the divers. Scuba diving insurance policies are made specially for the divers.Most of the divers take this insurance seriously.It is a great advantage for anything that is unexpected and that is to be faced.It is a matter of realism and the understanding that any hobby may bring a little bit of risk and injury as well.Many other form of sports have the same insurance policies.In most of the cases it act like a future deposit. It is a smarter way to face anything that is dangerous to health.You can have a simple policy for you.The best thing is to choose such policy that is easier to maintain.All you need is your prediction and vast vision.You have to be very realistic and always should be very careful about your ambitions.Hope,you will get a easier insurance plan that is best for you for Scuba diving and enjoy the Scuba diving with a free mind.

Thanks to Ronty Jhodes and the Dive Site Network

Kathy Dowsett
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rough coral

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What is Decompression Sickness / Decompression Illness?

This surfacing diver must enter a recompressio...Image via Wikipedia

Decompression Sickness (DCS) (also known as: The Bends, Diver's Disease, Caisson Disease)are the symptoms which occur after a rapid decrease in pressure, normally caused by an uncontrolled or emergency ascent while diving. Decompression Illness (DCI) is the medical term for which both DCS and lung expansion injury are clumped under, because the medical treatment for both are identical.

During deep or long dives, inert gases (Nitrogen, sometimes Helium) become absorbed into the body's tissues at higher than normal concentrations. As the diver ascends to the surface, these gases leave the solution and form "micro-bubbles" in the bloodstream which can be exhaled safely through the lungs if the ascent is slow enough. If the ascent is uncontrolled or too fast these micro-bubbles can be occur within tissues and organs, which can potential be fatal.

The occurrence of Decompression Sickness is also affected by secondary factors such as; fatigue, dehydration, vigorous exercise (before, during or after the dive), cold, age, illness, injuries, alcohol consumption (before or after dive) and being overweight.

Because DCS stems from bubbles within the bloodstream it is possible that different areas of the body will be affected and therefore the symptoms will be different. It is very important you can identify the symptoms of Decompression Sickness, both for yourself and dive buddies. In all cases, the symptoms of DCS can occur anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours post diving.

DCS Type: The Bends

The bends is when bubbles form within the joints, which accounts for approximately 60-70% of all cases of DCS and is referred to as DCS I.

Symptoms of The Bends can include:

* A localized "deep" pain within the limbs of the body (most commonly in the shoulder)
* Pain can be aggravated by active or passive movement of the limb
* The pain may be reduced by bending the limb to a specific position

DCS Type: Neurological
Neurological DCS is when bubbles form within the brain, spinal cord or nervous system, which accounts for approximately 10-15% of all cases of DCS and is referred to as DCS II.

Symptoms of neurological DCS can include:

* Headache (Common)
* Visual disturbances, spots in field of vision, double vision tunnel vision or blurry vision(Common)
* Confusion
* Memory loss
* Unexplainable extreme fatigue or behavior change
* Seizures, dizziness, vertigo or nausea
* Vomiting
* Unconsciousness
* Abnormal sensations such as burning, tingling, stinging around lower chest / back
* Symptoms may work from feet up, bringing weakness in limbs / fatigue
* Abdominal / Chest pain
* Urinary or fecal incontinence
* General muscle weakness and twitching

DCS Type: The Chokes
The Chokes is when bubbles form within the lungs, which accounts for approximately less than 2% of DCS cases.

Symptoms of The Chokes can include:

* A deep burning chest pain under the sternum
* A dry and constant cough
* Shortness of breath
* Pain is worsened by breathing

DCS Type: Skin Bends

The Skin Bends is when bubbles form within the body's upper tissue, which accounts for approximately less than 10-15% of DCS cases.

Symptoms of The Skin Bends can include:

* Itching which most commonly occurs around the ears, face, neck, arms and upper torso
* Sensation of insects crawling on skin
* Mottled or marbled skin around shoulders, upper chest, abdomen with itching
* Swelling of the skin with tiny scar-like skin depressions

All of these symptoms generally come on gradually and persist, though they can be intermittent. Symptoms may occur together or individually. Regardless of the severity of the symptoms, all cases of DCS should be considered serious.

As discussed earlier, lung over expansion injuries and DCS can produce very similar symptoms, even though they are the result of two different actions (holding breath and exceeding ascension rates or safe depth/time). The first aid and treatment for both is identical so there is no need to distinguish between the two. If a diver is suspected to be suffering from Decompression Illness, Responding quickly will greatly reduce the chances of long term injury.
Treatment for divers suffering from DCI:

* End the dive immediately
* If the diver is conscious and responding, lay them on their back and administer oxygen
* If the diver is unresponsive and breathing, lay them left side down, head supported and breathing oxygen
* A diver who is not breathing will require CPR
* Contact local emergency medical care (emergency diver care such as DAN if available)
* Monitor the diver and prevent shock if necessary

While DCS is serious, if treated quickly it is rarely fatal. It is likely dive emergency services will arrange immediate transport to a re-compression chamber, this is normally achieved with specialist low-altitude flights.

Avoiding Decompression Sickness (DCS)

While Decompression Sickness is not fully understood and not an exact science, there are steps you can take to minimise your chances of getting DCS.

* Always make sure you dive well within the limits of your dive table and dive computer
* When you plan your dives, carry out the deepest dives first, then shallower dives
* Make sure your ascent rate never exceeds 18m/60ft per minute
* Always carry out your 5 minute safety stop, even when you are on a no decompression dive
* Dives which require a decompression stop and dives without a 16 hour surface interval give a higher chance of DCS
* Avoid flying 24 hours before or after diving

Above all, plan your dive and dive your plan - safe diving all!

Thanks to Scuba for this article

Kathy Dowsett
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What happens in a shark attack?

Great white shark. Photo by Terry Goss, copyri...Image via Wikipedia

We've all seen Jaws, but believe it or not most shark attacks don't end up with swimmers being dragged around in circles so that they look like they're being sucked down a plughole.

In fact there are three main types of unprovoked shark attack, and the experience and chances of survival vary dramatically depending on the behavior and intentions of the shark.

Here is a breakdown of what each one consists of.

Hit-and-run attacks

More often than not sharks will "attack" humans out of curiosity having mistaken them for a seal or other more common form of prey.

These attacks occur in shallow waters and surfing spots. The shark will usually give the swimmer or surfer a single bite before retreating and will often not return, having realized the human is bigger than, or different to, its normal prey.

Sneak attacks

As the name indicates, this attack happens without warning. Unlike hit-and-run attacks, sneak attacks are thought to be the result of feeding or aggression rather than mistaken identity.

The attacks usually happen in deeper waters and will usually involve a number of bites or injuries, often proving fatal.

Bump-and-bite attacks

Similar to sneak attacks, these usually take place in open sea and will tend to involve multiple bites because the shark's intention is to attack the victim, rather than simply investigate.

The difference is in the shark's behavior. Rather than pouncing unexpectedly, the shark will repeatedly circle the victim and bump into them in a sign of aggression before actually attacking them.

Thanks to ::: Florida Museum of Natural History and Nick Collins of the Telegraph

Kathy Dowsett

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Deepsea Habitats

Aquarius underwater laboratory on Conch Reef, ...Image via Wikipedia

Scientific divers that use SCUBA diving to conduct their research do have limitations that can inhibit their productivity underwater. Limiting factors such as, diving depth, gas mixtures and supply, weather, and decompression obligations can have a significant impact on the amount of time a scientist will actually have to conduct their research underwater. Saturation diving, a technique developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s, has proven to be useful to several scientists to extend their work time. Saturation diving works on the premise that if a diver's tissues are in equilibrium with the surrounding water, then the decompression time will not change for the length of time spent underwater. This "saturation" process takes approximately 24 hours and means that the diver needs to remain at the same depth.

The revolutionary development of undersea habitats (also known as undersea laboratories) has made "saturation" diving a reality for scientific divers. An undersea habitat is a pressurized facility that provides a living space for small teams of divers on the ocean floor that extends the depth ranges and time at depth for the divers.Aquarius resides in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, at a depth of 63 feet Divers can either undergo compression and decompression at depth in the undersea habitat or in a surface chamber.

Undersea HabitatsNURP provides the ability to live and work beneath the waves in the Aquarius undersea laboratory (right), the only undersea habitat in the world devoted to science. The habitat, owned by NOAA and operated by the Southeastern & Gulf of Mexico center, is located three miles off Key Largo in 20 m (64 ft) at the base of a coral reef within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, an ideal site for studying the health of sensitive coastal ecosystems. The habitat accommodates four scientists and two technicians for missions averaging ten days. Aquarius successfully supported 80 missions between 1993 and 2003.
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Thanks to Deep Sea Waters

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why scuba diving is necessary

US Navy Clearance Divers defusing a MK17 Buoya...Image via Wikipedia

Scuba diving is a form of diving both for personal reasons and professionals. This reckless diving has risk and every year there are a number of news of injuries and fatalities. But to do certain tasks underwater Scuba diving is necessary and is a inseparable part in underwater world. From the very ancient time, Scuba diving was performed for very different reasons. But today there are a lot of variations in tasks performed underwater and so Scuba diving is proving its necessity in various regard.

Source of recreation:

Scuba diving is sometime taken as a recreational diving for many tourist and vacationists. Cave diving, ice diving , wreck diving are very popular sort of fun. The personal interest and curiosity are the two important things for this kind of Scuba diving. Some sort of short term training is must be taken before performing Scuba diving for a beginner .

Professionals diving :

This form of Scuba diving involves business purpose under water. Various types of tasks are done by these professional divers. Though the divers must take some prerequisite courses from a well-known diving shop which offers Scuba certification courses. The professional divers are performing so many tasks like:

Natural forces exploration:

The seas are vast source of natural forces like gas, oil, petroleum and others types of mines. Scuba divers are employed to find the existence of such things and if it is found more advanced technology is used here to explore and extract the mines and gases. So under water welding and running such a project involves Scuba diving.

Ship maintenance and in naval engineering:

All the boats and ships need to be maintained very carefully. Scuba diving has great importance in naval activities. Cleaning and repairmen of ships and boats are done by these Scuba divers.

Military activities:

Scuba divers are inseparable part in military activities. All the marine navy organization has Scuba divers of their own. In war they perform a great job like mine finding under sea. They also participate in direct combat and placing mines for the enemy or in bomb disposal.

Rescuing Scuba divers:

Some divers are always ready to save life. They work in a team to rescue others.Some police agencies and fire department have this kind of lifeguard unit.

In movies and cinemas:

Underwater photography and underwater shots of cinemas require professional divers. They make sets underwater very effectively.

There are so many other necessity of Scuba diving and it is very hard to present all of this in one page. So Scuba diving is making its importance all the way in our day to day life.

Thanks to Dive Site Network

Kathy Dowsett

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Oceanic Defense: 10 ways to reduce plastics in your home

Oceanic Defense: 10 ways to reduce plastics in your home

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Common scuba diving blunders

A scuba diver in usual sport diving gearImage via Wikipedia

Way back in 892 A.D. before the wonders of electricity and the wretchedness of Rob Schneider films, was a man named Sigurd. I left out his last name, because Expedition Fleet does not promote tongue twisters. Anyway, Sigurd was a leader in a Viking conquest.

He was a very successful leader as he dominated foreign lands. He knew all that is to know in what he does.

In a typical day of land-domination, he beheaded a native ruler and strapped his head to his saddle as he rode home in victory. It was a bumpy ride, and the head, with its mouth open, kept bouncing off of Sigurd’s leg. One of the exposed teeth caused a small cut, which later caused an infection, which later caused a very sad thing called death. It is carelessness (and a little bit of tooth decay) that killed the confident and intelligent leader.

Scuba divers may not be prone to death by dead heads, but they are prone to carelessness, which may cause self-irritation, unwanted regrets, mild injuries, major injuries, or, if you’re unlucky enough, all of the above. Scuba divers need not suffer from carelessness. Below is a short list of mistakes- mistakes that are a product of willful ignorance or ignorant ignorance. Either way, they are mistakes that should not be.

Putting on too much weight- We love them weight belts. We put ‘em on correctly and with the right amount, and we sink to the ocean fast enough without any internal injuries. Put too much though, and we sink to the bottom faster than Chris Brown’s descent to infamy.

Forgetting to put on any weight- Unless you’re Justin Bieber who has an ego heavy enough to pull him down to the deepest corners of the Mariana Trench, you’re gonna need weight belts. You’ll need this if you want to explore the ocean depths. You ain’t no diver if you ain’t physically capable of diving.

Uncontrolled buoyancy- Buoyancy should be mastered by the scuba diver during his lessons beforehand. A diver who fails at this and dives anyway will, once in the ocean, become an assault on the corals, the fellow scuba divers, the marine life, and the common sense.

Straying away from the group or dive buddy- In a herd of sheep, when one separates itself from its fellow sheep due to bountiful distractions that are found at every turn, it becomes lost and terrified. Eventually, that sheep takes anxious breaths, and if it breathes from a scuba tank, things will get really bad. And if that sheep strays even farther, it may become prey to vicious animals. In this metaphor, the sheep is the diver, and the rest is handed to your imagination.

Aside from the possible pain and regrets that all these mistakes can cause, there is also a great chance of embarrassment.

Thanks to Sean Si, Editor-in-chief of Expeditionfleet Blog

Kathy Dowsett

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Fun Facts About Scuba

SCUBA divingImage via Wikipedia

SCUBA diving is a fast-growing, recreational sport that can generally be enjoyed by anyone over 12. Thanks to the world-famous explorer, oceanographer and inventor, Jacques Cousteau, we can easily explore the incredible undersea world. Scuba diving is now a multi-billion dollar recreational family activity, and is continuing to increase in popularity at an exponential rate.

About 70% of the Earth is covered with water, and 97% of that water is salt water – the oceans and seas.

In the early 1700’s, diving bells and large, bulky, sealed suits were developed which used air pumped from the surface to allow divers to spend a limited amount of time under the surface at a limited depth. In the 1940’s, Jacques Cousteau developed the Aqua Lung which allowed for a controlled flow of air under the water from pressurized air tanks.

New scuba divers often find it gross that spitting into your mask is the accepted way of stopping it fogging up at depth. You can buy inexpensive de-fogging solutions which professionals often refer to as spit-in-a-bottle.

Objects appear significantly larger underwater – so yes, you do look fat in that wetsuit.

Sharks don't like the taste of rubber, so always wear a wetsuit. Most sharks are more scared of you than you are of them, so don't panic if you see one. Sharks don't fill out questionnaires on their tastes and fears so both of the above facts could be wrong – proceed with caution!

Scuba diver Michael Proudfoot was diving in a wreck in Baja California, Mexico in 1991, when he accidentally smashed his regulator and lost all his air. He survived for two days in a bubble of air trapped in the ship's galley. There was even a tea urn full of fresh water for him to drink (but no tea). He snacked on sea urchins while waiting to be rescued.

A dance class of 74 scuba divers created a world record on October 27, 2006 at Olympic Park Aquatic Centre in Sydney Australia by dancing simultaneously for ten minutes. No one is yet sure why.

You can use your scuba diving qualifications as college credit for some courses. Who says college has to be hard work? (You'll need an official transcript from the organization that trained you – contact them to find out more.)

Ron Taylor invented a chain mail suit of armour to protect from shark bites and then tried to find out if it worked by letting a shark bite him. It worked, but was too heavy. Perhaps he should have worked out the heavy part first!

Whale sharks have a scary name and are the biggest fish in the ocean, but apparently they're scared of scuba bubbles (at least that's the explanation that locals in Exmouth, Western Australia offered as to why they seem happy to swim
with snorkelers but are wary of scuba divers).

Coral is a living organism which means that Australia's Great Barrier Reef
is arguably the largest living thing on earth.

Australian divers Ron and Valerie Taylor love to swim with Great White sharks, and were the first people to swim with the sharks without a cage and not be eaten.

Underwater weddings are offered by many companies around the world. The couples and guests can wear traditional wedding attire or wet suits. Vows are written on a dive slate, and the vows are 'said' by pointing at the words on the slate.

There are some 5,300 PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) Dive centres operating in 180 countries, and NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) claims to have tens of thousands of affiliated members, stores and service centres around the world.

If you dive with a cold or sinus problems it may be painful. More importantly, if you sneeze into your mask at depth the gross factor of having to spit in it will pale into insignificance.

Richard Presley spent 69 days and 19 minutes in an underwater module in a lagoon off Key Largo, Florida, in 1992, setting the record for the longest deep dive. His endurance test was carried out as part of Project Atlantis, which aimed to explore human tolerance to life in an underwater environment.

Have you ever seen those beetles that skate around in circles on top of the water in ponds and lakes? If you watch them long enough, you may see them dive under the water. When they do this, they take a bubble of air with them that gets trapped between their body and wing covers. They breathe this air while underwater, then come to the surface again when they need more.

The deepest dive using scuba gear is held by Jim Bowden of the United States. In 1994 he dived to a depth of 1,000 feet in the freshwater Zacatoa Cave in Mexico.

The most valuable shipwreck was discovered by the late Mel Fisher, a famous 20th-century treasure hunter. In 1985, Mel found the Nuestra Senora de Atocha off the Key West coast of Florida. The ship carried 36 tons of gold and silver, and 70 lbs. of emeralds when it went down in a hurricane in September of 1622.

Freedivers (those holding their breath) in Japan and Korea today still dive for oysters, edible shellfish and seaweed. Except for the lead weights carried on their belts and their glass face masks, these divers work in the same manner as did their ancestors thousands of years ago. Most of these modern divers are women. They can stay underwater longer and are better able to withstand the cold than can men. Divers of the Japanese Ama culture can spend four or five minutes underwater, and have been known to reach depths of 150 feet.

And last but not least-----You will never look graceful walking on land wearing a pair of fins – especially if you're also wearing full scuba gear!!!!

Kathy Dowset

The last of the Sea Nomads

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Basics of Ice Diving

Ice divingImage by asbjorn.hansen via Flickr

Ice diving is the practice of diving under ice. It is one of the more dangerous forms of scuba diving because of the extreme temperatures and the fact that there is generally only 1 exit, in turn it requires special training. Different scuba diving agencies have different ideas on what type of diving ice diving is, PADI for instance refers to ice diving as a form of recreational diving while NAUI and others refer to ice diving as a form of technical diving.

There are some basic procedures which are taught during ice diving training, without going into detail some of these would include: determining whether any given area is safe for diving, how ice is formed, dive site preparation, safety drills and equipment requirements.

Other topics covered during training include: Emergency situation procedures where divers will learn how to react should they become displaced from their line tender, dealing with frozen air supplies and how to handle the impact of the underside of the ice during an unexpected or uncontrolled ascent. Unlike most forms of scuba diving where gearing up, debriefing and a boat ride is all that is required to reach your destination; Ice diving requires a lot more effort and preparation- Divers will seek an area of potential and conclude whether the area is suitable for diving and if the ice holds the right requirements to perform a dive, next the divers will, in many cases, have to shovel the area clear of snow to reach the bare ice, this is then followed by cutting a hole in the ice using either a chainsaw or an ice saw. The final steps typically involve organizing the line tenders and gearing up.

The line tender which is attached to each diver is an important safety item in ice diving, this is because without them, divers could easily become lost. Should a diver lose sight of the exit/entry point he is likely to become extremely disorientated and could eventually lead to being unable to return to the surface (this has been a common cause of death in ice diving in the past), this is especially the case when diving in an area of low visibility, where you are more likely to lose sight of the exit/entry hole.

The scuba equipment used when ice diving is typically similar to normal scuba diving, although dry suits tend to take priority over wetsuits... And gloves, hoods and boots are definitely mandatory. One addition would be the line tender which tends to fit over the divers body between the wetsuit and the BCD, allowing for divers to shed their equipment if needed during an emergency and remain attached to the line.

It is very important that divers have reliable gear which is known to withstand the temperatures they will be facing. Some items on the market just can't keep up and fail under the freezing temperatures, make sure you do proper research into what gear is reliable for ice diving. It is also very important that all divers use regulators and not rebreathers, the rebreather has been at the center of ice diving deaths in the past.

Ice diving is definitely not for the weak and ice divers will tell you that straight. You need to be able to think clearly under stressful conditions, you need to be determined and you need to understand the risks. Though for those already involved in ice diving, they can vouch for the unique atmosphere present under the endless ceiling of ice with only their line tender holding them back from the abyss. Ice diving during the winter months will also, in some locations allow for water visibility that surpasses the imagination.

Thanks to Dive Time for this article

Kathy Dowsett

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Want to Learn Great Buoyancy Control?

Fotografía hecha en Playa del Carmen, México, ...Image via Wikipedia

I get asked all the time, “How can I improve my buoyancy control?”. Many people think that there is a silver bullet that will allow them to have precision buoyancy control. You want to know the truth? There is none. If you want to gain awesome buoyancy control, all you need to do is slow yourself down. If you can slow down your mind, you’ll start to think like an expert diver. If you can think like an expert diver, you’ll start to preform like an expert diver. Then your divers will be exponentially more enjoyable. You’ll be surprised how your mind can cause you to become a better diver.

The Buoyancy Paradox

One of my former instructors once told me, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” I never really knew what that meant, until I started to slow down my actions while under water. Once I started to move slower, I quickly realized that I was actually moving more efficiently than before. My movement became more deliberate. This deliberate movement allowed me to gain more control of myself while under water. The lack of useless movement allowed me to sit still. My hand and feet movement decreased and I was able to hover in a fixed position without swimming all over the place.

You’ll be surprised just how much small hand movements will move you around. Think of your hands as small oars on a boat. When you wave your hands around even the slightest, you’ll create resistance in the water. This is a tiny bit of propulsion. Combine this with foot/fin movement, you’ll move all over the place when trying to hover. The best thing to do when learning how to control your body movements while underwater is to simply grab yourself (no, not there). Fold your arms and hold onto your elbows. You can also extend your arms and hold your wrists. This is actually preferred as it puts your body into a stretched out position and allows you to remain in trim. Holding your hands like this will also help keep you from rolling to the left or right. It will square your shoulders and make difficult rolling.

Try swimming with your hands held out in front of you. It will force you to put more focus on propelling yourself with your feet. Then you’ll start to realize that you are swimming to fast and can start to develop those swimmer’s legs. That is, you’ll start to control your leg movement. Once you can minimize your hand and feet movement, you’ll start to stay put and can focus on using your breathing to control your movement up or down in the water column.

Give it a try. Make slow and deliberate movements and see how your buoyancy control improves.

Thanks to Duane of Precision Diving

Kathy Dowsett

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Peter's "Bucket List"

Cover of "The Bucket List"Cover of The Bucket List

Throughout his 55 years, Peter Gillard of Petoskey has lived life to the fullest.

"He's never let things slow him down," said Amy Gillard, one of Peter's two sisters. "There are things he knows he can't do, things he knows he'll never be able to do, but from an attitude standpoint, he just plows through."

With only partial sight in his right eye, Gillard has been legally blind since birth.

"Never does Peter lay in bed and say to himself, 'Life isn't fair and I'm not getting up today,' said Peter's sister, Lisa Blanchard. "Everything he's ever loved in his life he needs good eyes for, and he's never been crabby about it. He just says to himself that this is his life and this is how I'm going to live it."

Facing challenges head on -- for Peter, that's what life is all about.

So when he told his family he was going to take up scuba diving, an activity that challenges even those with perfect vision, they had no doubt he would succeed.

"I said 'Go Peter,'" Lisa exclaimed. "I knew he would do it."

"You can call it a 35 year goal of mine," Peter Gillard said. "Learning to scuba dive had been in the back of my mind as something I wanted to do some day. So when I saw the movie, 'The Bucket List,' I knew I had to do it."

In January of 2010, while preparing for a family vacation to Hawaii, Gillard decided it was time to test the waters.

"I went to Hawaii with my sister Amy and my mom and we had an old neighbor who now lives out there and she had started a diving company," Gillard explained. "She had me practice in a pool and then we went into a lagoon in the ocean. I saw a turtle and several types of fish and I thought it was pretty neat. I knew I had to take it to the next level."

When Gillard returned home, he scoured the Internet for local scuba instructors and classes and came across Murray Kilgour of Charlevoix.

Kilgour, a certified diving instructor with more than 1,600 dives under his belt, was apprehensive about working with Peter at first.

"I've worked with people with limited vision in the past, but not to the extent of Peter's," Kilgour said. "My first instinct was to refer him to someone else, but then I got thinking about it and realized that even if I lost a good portion of my vision, I'd still want to dive."

Gillard and Kilgour began meeting about once a week.

Together, they would go over diving manuals and worked on reading gauges.

Then on his own time, Gillard watched and listened to DVDs and CDs about diving and practiced procedures at his home.

In July, when Lake Charlevoix warmed up, Gillard began doing all his open water training at Depot Beach.

"Murray pretty much ran me through the ringer from day one," Gillard joked. "I wasn't ready, but I did it even though it was a lot of work."

That first day out, Gillard and Kilgour dove down to an old boat dock that was built in the 1860s, which lies in about 25 feet of water.

"It was just interesting to see, it's like seeing part of history," Gillard explained. "It's just fun being able to touch something that is more than 100 years old."

But there were some scary moments.

Gillard had to learn how to cope with getting water in his mask and had to work on becoming comfortable with his mouthpiece.

Then there's the heavy equipment, which adds about 60 pounds of weight.

"It's physically very tiring, but once you're under water, you're naturally buoyant," Gillard said. "Getting used to that feeling takes some practice and I'm still not good at it."

"He was really determined, that's for sure," Kilgour added. "Ninety percent of learning to dive is being comfortable in the water and he's been in the water his whole life so he came along really well."

After passing a test and several successful dives, Gillard received his scuba certification earlier this month.

Gillard hopes to use his certification not only in tropical locations, such as the Caribbean, but also wants to focus on local dives.

"I was raised in the Alpena area and one of my goals is to dive down to the Nordmeer, a German freighter that sank in 1966 in Thunder Bay," Gillard said. "The ship is kind of beaten up with giant holes in it."

Gillard also wants to work on more open water dives and meet others in the area who share his love of diving.

"I'm sorry I didn't do this 25 years ago," Gillard said. "I think if you want to do something you shouldn't put it off. No matter what it is, it's never too late to find something you really enjoy."

Thanks to Rachel Brougham 439-9348 for such an inspiring story!!!

Kathy Dowsett
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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Diving Gems of Eastern Canada

Harbour of Peggys Cove, Nova ScotiaImage via Wikipedia

When it comes to choosing a shoreline that is iconic to Eastern Canada, it’s hard to top Peggy’s Cove in the province of Nova Scotia. Situated on a rock-covered point of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean about 30 miles southwest of the city of Halifax, this beautiful quaint fishing village is a living post card. From the fishermen’s homes to the lobster boats and the old red-and-white lighthouse that is still in operation, Peggy’s Cove is a major tourist attraction. It is also a place to remember the 229 passengers and crew on Swissair Flight 111, who perished when their aircraft crashed into nearby St. Margaret’s Bay on September 2, 1998. Two memorials there pay tribute to their lives.

On a happier note, the shoreline in the vicinity of Peggy’s Cove is also one of dive instructor Andrea Skinner’s favorite places to dive. Andrea is a Lady Diver who runs a website devoted to Canadian women divers. Andrea along with her friend and fellow female instructor Shannon Gough, leads groups of predominantly women (but not exclusively) on diving excursions in the area. For the novice diver, Andrea likes a spot called Paddy’s Head, which is about a five- to ten minute drive west from Peggy’s Cove. “You can pull your car up to the site, get your gear on and walk right in. It’s an easy entry. There are no rough rocks, it’s nice and shallow and there is a lot to see.” There are lobsters, small rays, pollock and sea ravens, a red-colored fish that looks prehistoric.

Cranberry Cove, within sight of Peggy’s Cove, has lots of lobsters, and is Andrea’s favorite night dive spot. She says the sea life is more likely to come out at night and you will see many more lobsters than in daytime. Among the underwater sights at night are “gooseberries,” which are not a plant but a primitive animal, something like a jellyfish. When a diver shines their light on them they sparkle.

For intermediate or advanced divers, Andrea’s favorite daytime shore dive is at Birchy’s Head, which is farther west of Peggy’s Cove. “It’s a bit of a climb to get down from the highway and there’s a very rocky entry. It is unsteady footing at the best of times.” The reef goes down 40 to 60 feet and there are different types of fish to see. There’s a rip current at Birchy’s Head that goes out on one side of the cove and in on the other, giving the diver a free ride out to the deeper water and back in again when the dive is over.

For divers who enjoy exploring ship wrecks, Nova Scotia has the most wrecks per mile of coastline of any place in the world. Taking a boat west from Halifax harbor, some of them can be found out by Sambro Island. One of them is the steamer Daniel Steinman, which was wrecked there in fog on the night of April 3, 1884. Reports conflict on the death toll, ranging from 70 to more than 100.

Andrea’s first wreck dive was the Letitia, a First World War hospital ship that ran aground in heavy fog on rocky ledges on August 1, 1917. Thanks to prompt response from naval ships there was only one fatality, a crew member who was missed by rescuers and drowned trying to swim to shore. She says while you want to feel the history, when deaths are involved “there’s a sense of reverence and you want to be mindful of that. It’s important to me.”

To Andrea, the ease in access to good shore diving locations is a major asset for Halifax divers. “One summer I logged 50 dives. It’s so easy when you live here. You load up the car and you’re on the beach in 30 minutes.”

In the Canadian province of Ontario, much of the diving is concentrated in the Great Lakes, which include lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior and comprise 20 per cent of the world’s total fresh water. In Ontario, a popular diving spot is the small town of Tobermory, which is located on the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, straddling Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Tobermory’s attraction is the clarity of its water and the fact that its shipwrecks are generally well preserved because the cold water temperatures. At Tobermory Fathom Five National Marine Park there is diving to more than 20 shipwrecks and submerged geological formations such as cliffs, caves and overhangs.

Elsewhere in Ontario in the waters off Long Point there is a 25-mile-long sand spit on the north shore of Lake Erie which has at least 200 shipwrecks. This is explained by the fact that getting around the spit in a storm and into the protected waters of Long Point Bay provided refuge for ships. But often the ships, pushed by the high seas, ran aground on the spit. In the mid-1800's a storm had opened a “cut” (since closed) in the sand spit through which ships could gain access to the safety of the bay without going around the point. To help them find the cut, a lighthouse was erected. However, legend has it some people resorted to “blackbirding,” which involved setting up fake lighthouses when the visibility was poor, causing ships to run aground. The ships were looted when the crew abandoned them.

British Columbia, on the Pacific coast and Canada’s most westerly province, is famous for its dive sites. In fact, Tourism B.C. notes on its website that Scuba Diving magazine ranks B.C. as having the best diving in North America. From walls to reefs, shipwrecks and ocean creatures, the province has it all.

One of the many popular dives in B.C. waters is at Race Rocks, southwest of Victoria (the provincial capital located on Vancouver Island) at the convergence of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia. Investing in an organized dive with a local dive charter company is recommended here because of the tides and currents. Seals and sea lions are the stars of the show in these waters, but there are lots of fish species such as king crabs and even soft corals. Off Vancouver Island, Browning Pass is popular for its spectacular underwater scenery.

Among the wrecks to explore, is the GB Church, which first saw service as a Second World War supply ship. The ship was stripped and sunk in 1991 in the Princess Margaret Marine Park near Sydney, on Vancouver Island. Thus forming an artificial reef to attract divers.

No matter where you dive, for Andrea Skinner the sport is about more than just the dive itself. It’s also about bonding with fellow divers, especially for women. In Nova Scotia, Andrea often loads her hibachi into the car when she goes on night dives. “Afterward, we take our gear off, get dressed and drag the hibachi onto the rocks and cook like crazy,” says Andrea.

“It is having that time to spend with friends who are like minded. It’s that bonding experience. It gets to the point where you don’t even have to say anything. You kind of understand each other.”

Thanks to my Nova Scotia Friend Andrea and

Kathy Dowsett
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Swimming---Going to Great Lengths

A swimmer performing the front crawl.Image via Wikipedia

Swimming offers both a short - and long-term payback for those who do it regularly and with a reasonable level of intensity.

Quite simply, it can save your life. In the short-term and hopefully unlikely scenario – falling into deep water perhaps far from shore – the ability to remain calm and swim strongly can be a life saver. In the long-term, it is an aerobic exercise that boosts cardiac fitness and improves both quality and duration of life.

There is also the bonus of a “swimmer’s build” for those most religious in their workouts in the pool. But swimming isn’t just for elite athletes. Whether you do the breaststroke, side stroke, front crawl or even the dog paddle, any exercise in the water is beneficial. As your skill level and endurance increases, you may feel comfortable to increase the intensity of your workout.

Swimming has a long history, with its earliest records going back to paintings of about 7,000 years ago. It was part of the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. Thankfully, my roots in swimming are much more recent. I was born a water baby. Growing up near the St. Clair River and Lake Huron, I learned to love the water at an early age and was soon paddling and swimming through it. For me, swimming is both for exercise and a stress reliever. Working and standing on my feet takes a toll on my body, causing stiffness. Swimming loosens the muscles and provides a sense of well-being. Swimming laps can be boring, but I do most of my best thinking when in the water. It clears the mind.

But it is not so good for the hair and skin. Chlorine and salt water can also take a toll on your swim suit. It’s worth paying a little extra to get a good swim suit and good products to keep your skin from drying out and to prevent your hair from discoloring.

But any of these problems are easily remedied.

So what’s stopping you? Get in the swim.

Kathy Dowsett

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dive Women Canada

Diving pictureImage via Wikipedia

Mission / Vision


As a woman who has been diving since 2000, I was struck from the beginning at how few women expressed an interest in the sport. At one point in my life, not long after I was certified, I experienced a career crisis, and my best friend and partner suggested that I become a diving instructor. He felt that if I became an instructor, more women and particularly young women and girls may be inspired to learn to dive. It is eight years later, and for the past year and a half, I have been collaborating with another lady instructor, an extraordinary woman, Shannon Gough, and during that time, Shannon and I have gone from being the “token females” on a dive expedition to leading teams of predominantly women divers. Having said that, I want to make it clear that our goal is to not exclude anyone who wants to dive. Considering how we both earned our experience, not to mention some of the best memories of our lives being mentored by some of the finest men we have ever met, we just want to make sure that anyone who wishes to have these experiences is able to do so in an environment in which they feel comfortable, regardless of age, gender, or background. It is all about living life to its fullest and not living in fear of what lies out there in the abyss. Let’s see what’s out there together, and dive on!!!!!

‘When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.’

Friedrich Nietzsche

Thanks Andrea

Kathy Dowsett
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The last of the sea nomads

War Game-Messages trans. at sea (LOC)Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

For generations they have lived on the ocean, diving and fishing, and rarely setting foot on land. But now they risk destroying the reefs that sustain them…

Diana Botutihe was born at sea. Now in her 50s, she has spent her entire life on boats that are typically just 5m long and 1.5m wide. She visits land only to trade fish for staples such as rice and water, and her boat is filled with the accoutrements of everyday living – jerry cans, blackened stockpots, plastic utensils, a kerosene lamp and a pair of pot plants.

Diana is one of the world's last marine nomads; a member of the Bajau ethnic group, a Malay people who have lived at sea for centuries, plying a tract of ocean between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. The origins of the Bajau diaspora are recounted in the legend of a princess from Johor, Malaysia, who was washed away in a flash flood. Her grief-stricken father ordered his subjects to depart, returning only when they'd found his daughter.

Over generations, the Bajau adapted to their maritime environment and, though marginalised, their knowledge was revered by the great Malay sultans, who counted on them to establish and protect trade routes. They are highly skilled free divers, plunging to depths of 30m and more to hunt pelagic fish or search for pearls and sea cucumbers – a delicacy among the Bajau and a commodity they have traded for centuries.

Since diving is an everyday activity, the Bajau deliberately rupture their eardrums at an early age. "You bleed from your ears and nose, and you have to spend a week lying down because of the dizziness," says Imran Lahassan, of the community of Torosiaje in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. "After that you can dive without pain." Unsurprisingly, most older Bajau are hard of hearing. When diving, they wear hand-carved wooden goggles with glass lenses, hunting with spear guns fashioned from boat timber, tyre rubber and scrap metal.

The number of Bajau living on traditional lepa-lepa boats (narrow, high-prowed vessels, highly prized among the region's coastal populations) is dwindling fast, however. Nomadism has always been at odds with the fixed boundaries of the nation state, and over the last few decades controversial government programmes have forced most Bajau to settle on land. Today, many live in stilt villages such as Torosiaje, though the settlement is unique in that it lies a full kilometre out to sea.

Ane Kasim and her son Ramdan spend six months at a time on their lepa-lepa, subsisting on whatever they can harvest from the reefs. At dusk, they gather with the other boats in the lee of a small island, beside a mangrove forest where the water is calm. They build small fires in the sterns, grilling crustaceans and boiling thin mollusc stews. Their connection with the natural surroundings is vital: "I love being at sea – fishing, rowing, just feeling everything, the cold, the heat," Ane says.

It's not an easy life. Most lepa-lepa have rudimentary engines, but Ane can't afford one. "When I go to Torosiaje, I have to row. We don't have anything; my husband died from the cramp." She means decompression sickness, or the bends. These days, those who can afford it dive using compressors. Air is pumped through a garden hose so divers can go deeper for longer – 40m or more. Unaware of the need to restrict their exposure to pressure, countless Bajau have ended up crippled or killed by deadly nitrogen bubbles in their bloodstream.

The practice continues, however, because it's lucrative – especially when potassium cyanide is involved. Cyanide fishing was first introduced in the Philippines by Hong Kong fishing boats looking for reef species such as grouper and Napoleon wrasse to satisfy seafood restaurants' rising demand for live fish. It quickly spread throughout the Coral Triangle, a bio-region that spans six south-east Asian countries and is home to the planet's greatest diversity of marine species, including 76% of all known corals. Divers use plastic bottles to puff poisonous clouds at target species, stunning them and damaging the coral habitat. Today, the industry is worth upwards of $800m a year, according to research by WWF.

Torosiaje used to be flanked by teeming reefs; now there are only wastelands of broken coral, the legacy of years of dynamite and cyanide fishing. It's a common story throughout the Coral Triangle – communities destroying the environment that sustains them, driven by voracious global markets. Thankfully, things are beginning to change. Charities such as WWF and Conservation International are helping create marine management programmes that encourage sustainability through no-fish zones and a return to traditional fishing methods. It is often the Bajau who pass on such programmes to local communities.

Traditional Bajau cosmology – a combination of animism and Islam – reveals a complex relationship with the ocean, which for them is a multifarious and living entity. There are spirits in currents and tides, in coral reefs and mangroves. Such reverence and knowledge could be used to conserve rather than destroy.

Thanks to Guardian in the UK for a great piece!!

Kathy Dowsett
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ear Pressure Equalisation

When you're diving, the air in the closed spaces inside your ears is compressed which gives you a "squeezing" feeling. It is necessary to prevent ear damage to "equalise" the pressure.

How to properley equalise your ears

Step 1: Descend until your head is just below the surface.

Step 2: Pinch your nose and firmly but gently breath into it

Step 3: Make sure you control your descent and continue to equalise as you go down

Step 4: If you're still having trouble clearing your ears, try tipping your head to either side as you do this.

Ear Equalisation Tips

Tip 1: If you are experiencing pain in your ears, ascend slowly until the pain is gone and try equalising again.

Tip 2: Never go diving when you are congested or have a cold - even with medicine, if you become congested again underwater you'll get reverse block on the way back up

Tip 3: Equalise early and equalise often! Once you have got the technique down, you should not be experiencing any pain whatsoever!

Tip 4: If you are still having trouble equalising, try the alternate methods of moving your jaw or swallowing.

Tip 5: Take it slowly, a lot of people have trouble equalising after not diving for a while!

Kathy Dowsett

Thanks to the Scuba Site
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