Saturday, August 28, 2010

“Plan your dive, dive your plan”

Scuba diving class I photographed in Monterey,...Image via Wikipedia

Tips for scuba diving emergencies

For a scuba diver, panic is one of the most dangerous circumstances that can occur. A diver in a panic will forget all they have learned about self-preservation and will become a danger to others around them. The longer that a diver is in a panic, the more likely exhaustion and drowning will occur. Basic training in emergency response techniques could help assist someone in a panic before it can turn into a tragedy.

There is the perception; however, that one does not need to know basic water safety and emergency response skills unless you are planning to become a certified rescue diver. Unfortunately, this makes for a large percentage of divers who have inadequate training to handle an emergency, or to be capable in preventing one. I am not talking about managing an underwater crisis, but situations and events that happen at the surface. Let’s face it; all diving emergencies eventually will come to the surface. That is why it is prudent that even the most novice diver be prepared to assist in aiding a victim, or at minimum, be alert to the potential dangers.

Ultimately, non-swimming rescues are the safest option. Most of the time, though, you find yourself already in the water or the diver is out of reach. If you do attempt a swimming rescue, and are not wearing a buoyancy compensator, remember to take a floatation device to aid in the assist. If you are wearing a BC, be sure that it is slightly inflated. The best way to perform a swimming approach is to use a heads-up front crawl. This will allow you to maintain visual contact with the victim in the event they begin to submerge. Do not come within reaching distance of the person until you assess their level of stress. Panicking is one of the greatest threats to both the victim and the rescuer in an aquatic emergency. If they seem to have some control, close the distance to assist. Make sure you do not over-exert yourself. Take into account that your own safety is the primary concern when assisting a diver in distress, and that practice and repetition are essential to executing a successful rescue. Never attempt anything that is beyond your capability.

When assisting a panicking diver, you should:

1. Try to communicate with the victim, be calming and reassuring.

2. Establish buoyancy for the victim. Inflate their BC by circling around behind them and reaching over their shoulder for the power inflator. Keep your other hand on their tank valve so they cannot turn around.

3. Assist the diver in recovering their regulator and keep them turned away from the waves so the water does not splash into their face.

4. If the victim begins to struggle, you need to maintain a defensive position. Swim away on your back while keeping your eyes on the victim. Bring your knee up with your fin extended towards the victim. If they get too close to you, place your foot gently on their chest and push them away. Do not kick at them as this may cause injury. Swim in the direction of safety, as they may continue to follow you there.

5. If you cannot retreat to a safe distance then as the diver reaches for you, respond by grasping their wrist with your opposite hand and pull them hard towards you. This will cause you both to spin with you ending up behind the victim.

6. If the victim has grasped you around the head or neck, they will try to climb you. To escape, you need to turn your face away from the crook of their arm and towards their hand. Then grasp their elbow with your hand closest to the crook of their arm while grasping their hand or wrist with your other hand. Push up on their elbow and pull out on their hand, and as you sink, twist their arm away from you. Immediately swim clear and prepare to regain control.

The optimal way to assist a panicking diver is to not let them panic in the first place. It is much easier to lend a hand to a tired diver then it is to help one in a panic. Be observant of divers lagging behind or off by themselves. Before the onset of panic, almost all divers will show signs of fatigue. If you notice this, talk to the diver to determine the potential problems (i.e. muscle cramps, overweighting, onset of hypothermia, etc.) and ask if you can help. Always talk calmly and try to be reassuring. If it is necessary to tow the diver back to safety, then ask the diver to stay on their back. Grab them by their tank valve, being sure to make yourself buoyant first, and then pull them along while you swim. If the diver is able, have them fin as much as they can. If they are hypothermic, though, have them keep as still as possible. Excess movement from the victim will decrease body temperature when swimming in cold water. Be sure not to tire yourself out, taking a slow and steady pace and resting when needed.

A diver is not required to hold a Rescue certification to be a conscientious and observant diver. Common sense and a little practice will enable any diver to be able to avert a potentially dangerous situation. Scuba diving in general is a well-regulated sport, but it is up to the individual diver to make it a safe sport. Even if you never intend to go past Open Water certification, check with your local scuba diving shop to see if they teach any basic water safety courses. If they do not, check with a Red Cross chapter in your area. Most have water safety classes, though not diving specific, that can teach you excellent water safety and rescue skills. Keep in mind that these skills are applicable for all who participate in aquatic activities, not only for scuba divers.

Thanks to J.W. Dawson

Kathy Dowsett

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Marine Creatures to be Aware of

Coral reefs in Papua New GuineaImage via Wikipedia

So without further ado, here’s the rest of the dangerous marine creatures:

Puffer FishIn the last list of marine creatures to be aware of, we talked about sharks, sea urchins, box jellyfish, sea snakes and stingrays. Those were already a handful and so I saved up the rest of the list for this entry.

The importance of this is to be aware of what creatures you’ll encounter when you’re scuba diving, why they are dangerous and how you can avoid them or treat the damage they can cause you.

So without further ado, here’s the rest of the dangerous marine creatures:

Puffer FishPuffer Fish
– If only this fish was as kind as Bloat in Finding Nemo, but it’s not. This fish is known to contain enough toxin that it can kill 30 people. The sad fact about it is that there is no known antidote, what one can only do is support the respiratory and circulatory system until the poison wears off.

What’s very ironic is that this fish is considered a delicacy in Japan, so if you have a loved one that’s been a victim of this fish, go ahead and eat one for revenge.

Stone FishStonefish – This fish is known to be the most poisonous fish in the world. It’s also good in camouflage that people accidentally get too close to it. This fish has 13 spikes on its back that contains an extreme venom. If not treated, it can cause death to a person in hours. Be aware of this fish because not only is it good in camouflage looking like rocks but it usually hides in coral reefs and can be found at the sea bottom.

Catfish – No matter how good they taste and how crispy they can get, these fishes can be a potential danger to humans. When it feels threatened, it puts out spikes that contain venom and cause severe pain. Though very rare, there have been cases that death has been caused by such. Catfish venom still remains in them after a few days, so if you’re planning to cook one, be aware and cautious and handle it with care.

Blue Ringed OctopusBlue Ring Octopus
– Though these creatures are small, they are known to be the deadliest sea creatures ever known. They will attack anything, even humans, when provoked. Their poison is enough to kill 20 people or more in minutes. Their venom can cause paralysis and respiratory arrest. Again, there is no known cure for it.

Cone ShellCone Shell
– No matter how attractive these may be, be careful before you pick them up. These are snails that have teeth like harpoons where venom passes through. Such venom’s symptoms are pain, swelling and numbness and, in some cases, can lead to death.

Lion FishLionfish
– These fishes have long poisonous spines that are deadly to a variety of marine creatures. Though not known to be deadly to man, it causes severe pain, headaches and vomiting. They don’t attack people unless provoked but if you get stung by one, soak the affected area in hot water and immediately get medical help.

These are some of very dangerous marine creatures known to man, but we should always remember that we are more dominant than them because we have the brains to keep ourselves safe.

Always remember to be alert and cautious. Seek medical help immediately when needed. Never, ever provoke such animals because most of the ones listed here will only attack when they are provoked.

Thanks to Sean and Expedition Fleet Liveboards

Kathy Dowsett
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Disabled aim high, dive deep

Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year...Image via Wikipedia

Jackie Danielsson quickly experienced the joy scuba diving instructors feel when they see their students succeed.
Little did she know at the time that satisfaction would be magnified for her even more in the specialized field of scuba instruction she would pursue.
Jackie and Roger Haseltine, who had taught her to dive, would later establish Adaptive Scuba Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to introducing disabled children, adults and military veterans to the underwater world of scuba.
Adaptive Scuba Network, which operates out of Northern California’s Napa Valley, gets its inspiration and training from Diveheart, an Illinois-based pioneer in the field, whose long-term goal is to make scuba as available to the disabled as skiing is today.
Jackie contacted Diveheart founder Jim Elliott, started helping his organization, and, in turn, Jim decided to train Jackie, Roger and a few others to be dive buddies and instructors for the disabled.
The Adaptive Scuba Network offers scuba training to people with a variety of disabilities, from quadriplegics, to paraplegics, those with traumatic brain injuries, the blind, deaf and people missing limbs. It also works with the Yountville Veterans Home in the Napa Valley with its Pathway Home program for returning veterans or those still deployed who have problems re-adjusting due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
“If possible, we certify everyone to PADI standards. If not, we certify them as HSA (Handicapped Scuba Association),” said Jackie.
For Jackie, the stimulus to get involved in this project came at the Northwest Dive Show in Washington State, when she met a medic who had returned from the war in Iraq.
“He wouldn’t go outside. Any noise set him off,” said Jackie. “Scuba diving saved his life. He was the one who set it in stone for me to pursue it.”
Impressed with the work of Diveheart and its ability to reach out, Jackie and Roger decided to work with that organization and help any way they could. They are currently creating an adaptive scuba website with chat rooms for the various groups they serve so people with disabilities can talk with others around the world. “Jim (Diveheart’s Elliott) will train them. We will be an aftercare.”
The website, which Jackie hopes will be available in about a month (late September) will be and her email at the organization is
Adaptive Scuba Network is supported by fundraisers such as a golf tournament on Oct. 3 or from money that comes in from teaching able-bodied divers to be dive buddies for the disabled.
For Jackie Danielsson, who always wanted to be a scuba diver but didn’t know if she could handle it until a ride on a river raft gave her the confidence to try, it has been quite a journey. She has worked her way up to be a dive master.
Seeing their students’ eyes light up when they accomplish something they believed was beyond them is special for most people who teach. But given the disabilities of the students she teaches, it is extra special for Jackie.
They are students like Chris, a quadriplegic who needs dive buddies to push him through the water. But he flourishes with the underwater experience.
Then there’s Tiffany, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in an automobile accident. Such injuries often result in short-term memories, prompting Tiffany’s mother to worry that her daughter would never remember the hand signals divers are taught.
“Three weeks later she still remembered the signals. Her mom was floored. She was like ‘I cannot believe what this has done for her.’ ”
That, for a teacher, is the ultimate reward.
Thanks to Jackie Danielsson

Kathy Dowsett
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spinal Cord Injury Persons Go Scuba Diving

Do Scuba Divers Need to Carry a Scuba Dive Knife When Underwater?

Fishing LIne and Purple Reef fishImage by tiswango via Flickr

Carrying a scuba dive knife looks impressive, but is a knife a necessary item of scuba equipment on all scuba dives? A knife can provide a sense of physical security, but in most scuba dives it is probably an irrelevant item of scuba equipment.

Fishing Line and Carrying a Scuba Dive Knife

A scuba dive knife could be handy when diving on a site covered with old fishing line and the scuba dive plan is to recover some of the lost sinkers for making into scuba dive weights. Prising the sinkers and fishing line out of the nooks and crannies of the underwater seascape with a scuba dive knife may be a good justification for carrying the knife.

Reasons to Carry a Scuba Dive Knife

Some other reasons for a scuba diver to carry a knife could be:

* Diving in heavy seaweed, such as kelp
* Search and recovery type dives where ropes and the possibility of getting tangled may be present
* Drift dives where there could be the possibility of getting tangled in the rope dragging the scuba dive flag
* Equipment failure may lead to problems underwater where a knife may need to be used to cut-away equipment. Maybe the weight belt buckle can’t be opened due to damage; or a similar problem.
* It could be useful for dive masters or scuba instructors to carry a knife in case students may need some assistance with equipment.

A Scuba Dive Knife and the Marine Environment

One of the reasons for many scuba divers to carry a knife is to pillage the ocean. Carving off oysters, coaxing crayfish out of a crevice or opening anemones to feed the fish are all uses for a knife.

Using a knife for this type of activity should be discouraged. Interaction in this manner by scuba divers with the marine environment is not good. It not only kills off the life, but also decimates the environment for future divers.

The image of a rugged scuba diver battling a ferocious, teeth filled shark is something that should be left to the realms of fiction. Not only would it be near impossible for a scuba diver to kill a shark with a scuba dive knife, it would be extremely dangerous with a wounded shark flapping around.

Communicating With a Scuba Dive Knife

It may sound a bit strange to communicate underwater with a scuba dive knife, but it is possible. The knife can be used to gain a dive buddy’s attention. Banging a knife on a steel or aluminum tank is one of the best ways to get the attention of another diver.

A simple message previously developed with the scuba dive buddy could be used. It would even be possible to tap out Morse code on the tank!

There are specific reasons for a scuba diver to carry a knife. However, a knife should really only be carried if warranted by the expected diving conditions.

Thanks to Suite 101 and Bruce Iliff for this informative piece

Kathy Dowsett

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

How To Wash Your Scuba Gear

A shorty wetsuit.Image via Wikipedia

Taking good care of expensive scuba gear is a very important trait that a scuba diver must get accustomed to. An exceptional part of this effort requires you to wash your scuba gear meticulously after a day of diving activity. This ensures that your precious equipment functions safely and at the same time also prolonging its life span.

Tip 1

You can start by setting up two large tubs, one filled with fresh water and the other one containing water and detergent. You may also use a hose for cleaning your scuba gear. These are basically the necessary preparations for this activity. Make sure that you rinse off sand and dirt before washing your scuba gear.

Tip 2

Always clean your scuba gear individually as each piece involves a specific methods of care to be undertaken. Let’s begin with the regulator. Now the first rule in cleaning this piece of equipment is to ensure that the dust cap is properly attached. This prevents water from entering the first stage regulator, as it contains internal components sensitive to moisture. With dust cap securely in place, submerge the regulator in fresh water for at least 4-5 minutes. Once done, allow the regulator to dry.

Tip 3

Next on our laundry list is the BCD. Start by soaking the BCD in water, shaking it up and down to wash away saltwater and dry salt crystals. Once the outer part is clean, proceed by washing its inner portion. Push down the deflate button of the low pressure inflator and use a hose to pour fresh water into the exhaust valve. Let the water flow in the bladder until it is about one quarter full then shake the BCD around until thoroughly cleaned. After doing this, empty the bladder and allow it to dry. Now you’re done cleaning the BCD, move on to washing your other scuba gear.

Tip 4

Washing the remaining pieces of your scuba gear are much easier than the previous tasks. Some of the other items remaining on the list are your fins, mask, and snorkel. Clean these items simply by submerging them in a tub of fresh water while dunking the scuba gear up and down. Once done, hang the scuba gear and allow it to dry.

Tip 5

Lastly, wrap up your scuba gear laundry session by cleaning your wetsuit, boots, and gloves. They should also be washed in fresh water, but it is also ideal to use a specialized detergent available in many supply stores. Make sure you also have a strong hanger for your wetsuit. Again, hang the scuba gear you just washed and allow them to dry.

Thanks to Scuba Dive Maldives.

Kathy Dowsett
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Friday, August 6, 2010

What should a scuba diver do if you encounter a shark ???

Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) off...Image via Wikipedia

So you're enjoying a leisurely scuba dive with your buddy and suddenly you encounter a shark. In light of next week's Shark Week programming on Discovery Channel, this situation may be something you want to know about. We talked with noted shark and marine photographer Andrew Sallmon about what a scuba diver should do in they encounter a shark.

If you see a shark while Scuba diving consider the following tips.

1. Remain calm and stay with your dive buddy. Sharks are naturally curious, not the horrible monsters portrayed in television and the movies. They sometimes come in to see what divers are doing and then leave. It’s actually a rare opportunity to see one. If you sight one that stays in an area, just remain alert and swim out of the area, near the bottom. Sharks will sometimes stay in a local area possibly because of fishing activity and the chance for an easy meal of scraps. They are natural predators and scavengers, not monsters of the deep.

2. Maintain a respectful distance. Most sharks don’t want anything to do with divers. Some such as nurse sharks, leopard sharks and horn sharks lie on the bottom and can be closely approached. Divers that grab at or harass a shark are often bitten as a defensive action not aggressive. Respect them and they will respect you.

3. Prey swims away rapidly…. You shouldn’t. If approached closely by a large shark like a great white, tiger or bull, stay near the bottom, hold your position and face the shark. You can’t out swim it anyway! Again, these animals are so misrepresented by the movies that most divers fear their mere presence. They are not there to bite or attack. They live in the ocean and on the reef and are very curious, a clear sign of intelligence actually. If you hold still and face them they will go away after a close inspection and once they realize what you are. Sudden rapid movements are not a good idea. After the shark passes, swim away slowly, near the bottom with your dive buddy.

4. Swim toward it. If a shark persists in checking you out, and you are concerned for some reason then stay close to your dive buddy and swim toward it. Humans are fairly large in the water and two together forms an even larger presence. The shark knows that prey does not swim toward it, so will turn away.

5. Do not spear fish without safety precautions and training. Spear fishing is a very popular sport for a few scuba divers and especially free-divers (breath hold). Many experienced underwater hunters have had an encounter with a shark. Usually they have to give away their catch to get the shark to go away. The shark should not be speared. It will make matters far worse. Unfortunately, some have speared a large shark only to find themselves now attached to it by their single-shot speargun. If you want to spearfish, keep your catch on a float 15-20 feet towed behind you. Take the time to properly research the subject of spear fishing and then learn to do it with experienced underwater hunters in your area. Don’t go out alone.

Thank you!!!!! Andrew Sallmon's work has been featured in a variety of publications. He is an in-demand speaker, expedition leader and photographer traveling throughout the world. For more details, visit

Kathy Dowsett
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