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

Enhanced by Zemanta

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

Enhanced by Zemanta

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
Enhanced by Zemanta

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
Enhanced by Zemanta