Friday, May 25, 2012

Tips for Choosing the Best Dive Centre for Your Next Scuba Diving Holiday

If you're planning a dive trip to some exotic location that you've never been to, chances are you probably want to do some research before choosing the right diving center.

You want to make sure that your experience will be fun and exciting, but safe and well-thought out as well. As there are a lot of disreputable dive centers as there are respectable ones, it is extremely vital to make the right choice.

Moreover, choosing the right dive shop will make the difference between an awesome scuba diving holiday experience and a botched one.

That said, there are certain things to keep in mind when doing your research, several of which I've listed below:

•Read the online reviews on sites such as or Although these review sites aren't 100% accurate as there have been efforts by businesses to skew the reviews, most of the time, the reviews will at least give you some sense as to whether a business is doing okay or terribly. Try to ignore the extremely bad or extremely good reviews, and focus on the ones in the middle. Those tend to be the more accurate of the reviews.

•Call or email the dive shop in advance. And remember to give yourself enough time to contact them. One of the ways you can gauge how good a dive shop is based on how responsive they are. I've seen countless people get turned off by a certain dive center simply because they never heard back from the staff. I know, I have. Usually, but not always, a dive shop that doesn't get back to you in time or simply ignores your email, is probably not going to be too concerned with the overall guest experience.

•Once you've established contact, ask if they have dive packages, and see if they are willing to offer you special scuba diving package deals. This is especially true if you'll be doing multiple dives over several days.

•Also, check to make sure the dive center is up-to-date with safety equipment such as oxygen kits, AEDs, emergency kits, as well as safety procedures. Unfortunately, there are a TON of dive centers out there lacking the basic safety equipment and standards, which makes it extremely dangerous if you end up diving with such a dive center. A simple asthma attack can turn deadly if the proper equipment and procedures aren't set in place.

•Always trust your gut instinct. From your correspondence with this dive center, do you get an overall good feeling? If something seems off or doesn't sit well with you, look for another dive center.

Taking these steps is by no means a guarantee for a fool-proof scuba diving holiday trip, however, it will help you eliminate many dive operations that are not up-to-par, and save you the headache from a completely botched dive vacation.

Article Source:

Kathy Dowsett

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Muck diving: A unique form of scuba diving in the South Pacific

When most people think about scuba diving and what you see underwater, they think of colorful reefs, crystal-clear water and plenty of fish swimming around. A growing number of divers have discovered a unique form of scuba known as "muck diving".

It's exactly what it sounds likes - diving in the "muck" or sand. According to "muck" enthusiast Jerry Cummins of J&D Scuba in Allegany, New York, "You can't fully appreciate 'muck diving' until you've done it. There is a diversity of marine life in the sand that most people don't take the time to appreciate."

During a recent trip to Atlantis Resort in Dumaguete, Philippines, Cummins and a group of dive professionals spent quite a bit of time in the "muck" and "sand" just off the shoreline. What did they see? Everything from colorful nudibranchs and shrimp to the elusive "flamboyant cuttlefish". The catch? Almost all of these creature would fit nicely on the top of a silver dollar.

"You have to take your time and look in places you might not normally look," Cummins said.

Muck Divers are an exclusive bunch that travel with large photo and video cameras, bright lights and have an eye for the "little critters". "There is a sense of accomplishment when you catch a photo of an animal you've been trying to see," said another member of the dive group. "Here in the South Pacific, you can see things that are nowhere else in the world. While they might be in the 'muck', they are there and it's great to be able to see them."

Thanks to Scott Jones from the Scuba Diving Examiner

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, May 17, 2012

200-Year-Old Shipwreck Found in Gulf of Mexico

A newly discovered shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico may have originally gone down 200 years ago. The ship is full of glass bottles, ceramic plates and boxes of muskets.

The shipwreck was discovered 200 miles (321 kilometers) off the Gulf Coast in more than 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) of water by a Gulf of Mexico mission led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The wooden hull of the ship has nearly disintegrated, but a greenish copper shell that once protected the ship's wood remains behind.

"Artifacts in and around the wreck and the hull's copper sheathing may date the vessel to the early to mid-19th century," Jack Irion, a maritime archaeologist with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), said in a statement.

The first hint of the shipwreck came in 2011, when a sonar survey by Shell Oil Company turned up an unknown blip on the seafloor. BOEM requested that NOAA explore such unknown blips during a recent expedition by the ship Okeanos Explorer. The ship returned April 29 from its 56-day mission exploring unknown areas of the Gulf.

Along the way, the researchers imaged deep-sea corals near the Macondo well, the site of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. They explored a thick forest of corals at the West Florida Escarpment, an undersea cliff. And they installed a device on Okeanos' remotely operated vehicle to measure the rate that gas rises in the water column.

The research team also explored four shipwrecks on the ocean bottom. One, explored on April 19, was first discovered in the 1980s, but has only been investigated by deep-sea archaeologists twice. This wooden-hulled ship dates between the mid-19th and early-20th centuries, though its story is currently a mystery. An exploration of another wreck, this one near the mouth of the Mississippi River, revealed that what was once thought to be a ship cannon was actually a bilge pump.

But the most scientifically interesting ship explored was the copper-plated wreck found 200 miles off the coast, according to Frank Cantelas, a NOAA maritime archaeologist. The ship was full of interesting artifacts, a remotely operated vehicle exploration revealed.

"Some of the more datable objects include what appears to be a type of ceramic plate that was popular between 1800 and 1830, and a wide variety of glass bottles," said BOEM's Irion. "A rare ship's stove on the site is one of only a handful of surviving examples in the world and the second one found on a shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico."

Thanks to LiveScience senior writer Stephanie Pappas

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What to Do if Your Kayak is Attacked by a Shark

Director George H. Burgess of The Florida Museum of Natural History has written up suggestions for divers encountering aggressive sharks that lend some helpful insights to kayakers so I have integrated them here.

If you see a shark from your kayak, do not panic. Most likely the shark was attracted by something you were doing or by something in the area of your activity. If you are fishing and have a bait bucket over the side, let it go. If you think some catch of yours is attracting him, let him have it.

Regardless of the reason for its attraction do what you can to eliminate it and calmly start toward shore, keeping your eye on him, paddling with smooth gliding strokes, not frantic splashing. Gather up close to a paddle buddy as sharks are less likely to go after a group. Stay in your kayak until you reach shore. If you are far from a landing try to get up against a cliff (in calm water of course) or wall to minimize the directions he can approach you from.

Should the shark be making aggressive advances toward the boat, your paddle is the best weapon to discourage him. Hitting him on the snout should work but if he comes back go for the sensitive gill or eye area. I've wondered why I can't find expert advice on hitting them in the gills or eye to begin with. My conclusion is you do not want to assault a shark just because it is curious. The snout bump let's him know you are not helpless. Sharks are scavengers often looking for an easy meal like sleeping fish as a midnight snack so playing dead doesn't work here. Let him know you have a paddle and know how to use it, but like he and most creatures of nature do, showing ability to do battle is safer than an actual battle for all concerned.

If he knocks you out of your kayak, hold onto your paddle with all your might. Leap back onto your boat and swiftly, not frantically, paddle into shore. If you lose your paddle or kayak, swiftly, smoothly swim to another kayak or to shore. Let the kayak find its own way in if necessary. If you can't get to shore find a way to back up against something to again, limit the directions he can approach you from...and again, don't play dead. Use your hand to bump his snout if you lost your paddle. Leaping onto your kayak swiftly, quickly, even effortlessly, from deep water is achievable and an invaluable skill all sit on top kayakers should aspire to master.

Thanks to

Kathy Dowsett

This You Tube video is strickly for your viewing---is not related to the above story!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Big Sharks Close Up

George Bartsch wanted to swim with Great White sharks.

He quickly came to his senses.

“I had the desire to dive outside the cage, until I saw one. Then I was glad to be in the cage,” the Simcoe, Ontario, scuba diver says of his trip in February to South Africa, where he witnessed close up the size and power of the Great White.

George, a scuba instructor who opened his own dive shop in Simcoe two years ago, went out with Shark Diving Unlimited to Dyer Island (also known as Seal Island) off the coast of Gansbaai, South Africa. There, he got in a steel cage attached to the boat that would offer protection from the giant predators.

The cage is rectangular, ten by four feet, and occupancy is limited to six people at a time. Once they enter it the lid is closed.
“They do a very good safety briefing,” says George. This includes a warning to keep all body parts inside the cage. The grid is large enough that sharks can be photographed with your hands and camera inside the cage without the bars showing. Children as young as seven view the Great Whites from the cage.

George and the others in the cage, who included his niece, did not use scuba gear at all. It isn’t needed because the top of the cage is above water and scuba bubbles tend to scare away the sharks.

“When the sharks come, you hold your breath and pull yourself down. The passes only last a few seconds, says George. “You get a fleeting glimpse. They come several times, about 30 to 35 passes. They’re very fast and agile.

“I’ve seen other kinds of sharks but this is the first time I’ve seen Great Whites. At one point we had five different sharks. The largest was five and a half metres and it would weigh about a ton and a half. It was a female and it came up right close and personal.”

On the way out, the boat operator dumps tuna blood into the ocean, creating a chum slick that the sharks follow. Once the boat is stopped and the customers are in the cage, they bring the sharks in close by throwing out a rope that has large tuna heads attached to one end. Close to the cage, they pull it out of the water before the sharks can strike.

“They are careful to make sure the sharks don’t get the tuna heads. They don’t want them to associate people with food.”
“It was breath-taking to say the least,” says George. “The mouth was right in front of us. You could see the teeth and the eyes.”
The sharks bumped the cage so hard it rocked the 22-foot, steel-hulled boat. They never did bite down on the steel bars, but large foam tubes on top of the cage had bite marks.

“The water was very cold but the adrenaline was pumping so hard you didn’t feel it,” he says of the 52-degree Fahrenheit water temperature.

While seeing Great Whites so close was obviously exciting, George also found the whole experience educational. A marine biologist was onboard the boat to answer questions. Someone wanted to know if the Great Whites’ appearance in the area was seasonal. They were told that while some of that species do migrate, those common to this particular area do not because the seals (food for the predator sharks) are there all the time. The boat operator’s success rate in finding sharks is 90 per cent.

Little is known about Great Whites, including where they breed or the length of the gestation period.

While Great Whites are aggressive, George says the much smaller bull sharks, which are at most six or seven feet long, are probably even more threatening. “You see them in Florida. A lot of the incidents (attacks) there are by bull sharks that come into the shallows.”

With the Great White experience now ticked off on his bucket list, his next project will be a trip to Utila, Honduras, to see the whale sharks. Growing up to 40 feet in length, they’re even bigger than Great Whites.

But there will be no need for a steel cage on this adventure. Whale sharks eat plankton. Not worried about becoming their dinner, divers often snorkel on the surface with whale sharks.

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Scuba Diver Jobs: Commercial and Recreational Scuba Diving

Are you one of those people who look forward to get away from it all and just dive? For the weekend scuba diver who can't get enough of the thrill of floating weightless underwater may want to do this every single day. If you are thinking about leaving your desk job to become a full-time professional diver, here are some things that you need to know.

First of all, if you plan on making your time underwater as your permanent job, you need to understand that being a professional diver is just like knowing how to drive a car. Scuba diver jobs are divided into two categories: commercial and recreational. Unless you want to just be a "driver," you have to combine scuba diving with another skill to rake in the big bucks.

Commercial Scuba Diver Jobs

If you plan on making it as a commercial scuba diver, consider combining scuba diving with underwater engineering, photography, and research. A full-time diver who knows how to work machinery or tell one kind of marine mammal from the other can really make it commercial scuba diving.

If something more dangerous calls out to you, you can join the military. The military constantly needs and trains divers for their underwater infiltration operations. Another dangerous but equally well-paying job is being a Hazardous Materials scuba diver, which means you clean up oil spills, recover bodies, and repair underwater machinery.

Recreational Scuba Diver Jobs

Succeeding as a recreational scuba diver is hinged on becoming a dive master as well as being a great people person. While the hourly rate will probably never be as high as an executive, you often make up for it in tips. Scuba diving jobs can be found in resorts and cruise ships. This is a great way to break into diving when you need the experience.

Another perk of being a recreational diver is the fact that you can practice your trade in exotic locations like Thailand, Hawaii, the Philippines, and many more. If you are business-minded and are willing to take on extra work, you can set up your own dive shop, too.

Whether you decide to become a recreational diver or a commercial one, one thing is for sure. This job is great for those who are young, restless, and want to spend as much time underwater as they can. If this sounds like you, take a chance and be part of the exciting and potentially lucrative scuba diver industry.

Article Source: and Matthew Nathan

Kathy Dowsett

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Salt Water Aspiration and Scuba Diving

Thanks Natalie Gibb

As a scuba instructor, I tend to err on the side of over-caution. The dive equipment set-up and revision which I teach my students is very meticulous, and I insist that they perform these checks on every dive. One piece of equipment that I see many divers (and scuba instructors) overlook during their equipment set-up and inspection is the regulator mouthpiece. A mouthpiece's bite tabs may wear down or break off after many uses. Mouthpieces also tend to develop holes where the plastic tie-wrap holds them in to the regulator second stage. This is dangerous! Any mouthpiece developing holes must be replaced before diving. Holes in the mouthpiece can lead to salt water aspiration - a little-recognized syndrome that divers should know about.

Accidents happen. I observed an incidence of salt water aspiration (thankfully not on my dive!) at the beginning of my dive career. A diver ran low on air at the safety stop, and the instructor handed the diver his alternate air source regulator to allow the diver to breathe from his tank. All appeared well when the two surfaced and boarded the dive boat. The instructor had just launched into a lecture about the importance of carefully monitoring one's air supply underwater when the diver began to have difficulty breathing. He coughed, gasped for air, and felt weak. Suspecting decompression sickness, the instructor administered oxygen to the diver. When the boat reached the dock, and ambulance rushed the diver to the hyperbaric chamber.

The diver was not bent. He had inhaled a fine mist of salt water through a hole in the mouthpiece of the instructor's alternate air source regulator. The droplets of salt water were so fine that the diver didn't notice that he was inhaling anything other than air. When the dive gear was inspected, the hole discovered was so small that it was not visible unless the mouthpiece was pulled on and twisted. The diver, stressed from the low air situation, had pulled the hole open by looking around during the safety stop, and inhaled enough vaporized salt water to cause salt water aspiration syndrome. After treatment, the diver recovered and was perfectly fine.

What Is Salt Water Aspiration?:

Salt water aspiration may occur when a diver inhales tiny droplets of salt water due to an equipment malfunction or poor diving technique. Salt water aspiration may also occur in near drownings, or in any other scenario in which salt water is inhaled.

Salt water does all sorts of nasty things to a diver's lungs. One of the effects of inhaled salt water (without getting too technical) is that the high saltiness of the salt water in comparison to the relatively lower saltiness of the fluid in a diver's lung and body tissues causes body fluids to move through the walls of the divers' lungs (specifically the alveoli) and into his breathing spaces, making breathing difficult, if not impossible.

Symptoms of Salt Water Aspiration:

Salt water aspiration may be difficult to diagnose, because it mimics many of the symptoms of decompression illness. Some divers may have severe reactions to salt water aspiration (such as those with a history of asthma or hay fever) while others may have a much milder reaction. Symptoms are usually delayed from one to fifteen hours and may include the following:

difficulty breathing and chest pain
a cough that produces phlegm
flu-like symptoms including body aches, exhaustion, fever, nausea and headache
pale skin

What Is the Treatment for Salt Water Aspiration:

Most cases of salt water aspiration are mild, go undiagnosed, and resolve within a few hours. If a diver feels sick enough to suspect salt water aspiration, he should seek immediate emergency medical care. The symptoms of salt water aspiration mimic those of decompression sickness, and decompression sickness must be ruled out before salt water aspiration is diagnosed. Some of the treatments include administration of oxygen, rest, and administration of bronchial dilators. Treatment may also be required for infections caused by bacteria in the inhaled salt water. With treatment, even severe cases of salt water aspiration have a high chance of resolution.

How to Avoid Salt Water Aspiration When Scuba Diving:

Correct gear maintenance and diving procedures should prevent most cases of salt water aspiration. Check to make sure that your regulator mouthpieces have no holes. Be sure to stretch and pull the mouthpieces to ensure there are no hidden holes and check carefully around the margin of the mouthpiece where the tie-wrap holds it in place. Do this to both your primary and alternate air source.

More tips for safer diving:

• Why You Should Never Use the "Up" Button
• 8 Tips for Being a Safer, Better Buddy
• What Are No-Decompression Limits and Why Are They Important?

Check to make sure that the regulator's exhaust valves seal properly before diving. With the first stage dust cap in place, place the regulator in your mouth and inhale. If any air leaks in, the exhaust valve is not sealing properly, and will breathe "wet" when diving. Any regulator that leaks through the exhaust valve or breathes wet underwater requires maintenance.

Follow diving protocols that minimize the chance of water entering your mouth. Seal your lips well around the regulator mouthpiece, and be certain to block water from entering your mouth when using the regulator purge button. Exhale, or block the opening of the mouthpiece with your tongue when pushing the purge. Avoid removing the regulator underwater whenever possible, and refrain from flipping upside down or into unusual positions when diving. Most regulators will breathe a little wet when inverted.

The Take Home Message About Salt Water Aspiration and Scuba Diving:

Salt water aspiration is fairly uncommon in scuba divers, but it does occur. The condition may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic those of decompression illness. With this in mind, be sure to check your gear carefully before a dive (especially rental regulator mouthpieces), and follow procedures to prevent salt water from entering your regulator second stage.

Thanks to Natalie and

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Do You Practice Your Scuba Diver's Skills To Keep Them Sharp?

No law requires that scuba divers become skillful at the sport of diving.

Once a diver gets that basic level open water certification nothing says you need any further training for the rest of your life.

No professional dive operation will fill your scuba tank without seeing your certification card. At the same time no dive operation expects to see certification levels beyond the first training stage of scuba.

So why should you bother to get more training, or worry about getting better at your scuba skills, once you have that basic open water certification card? After all, your basic card is good for life. It shows everyone who's interested that you are a certified scuba diver.

That card doesn't make you a skilled scuba diver though.

If you don't practice your observation skills you risk losing sight of your dive buddy. You won't know, and can't help, if that buddy gets into trouble during the dive.

And you can't get help from a buddy that's out of sight, and unable to see when you get into trouble yourself.

I know of one diver whose octopus hose tangled under a training platform as she carved a pumpkin one time. She had no idea of the entrapment. Fortunately a pair of divers happened along, noticed her entangled hose, and set it free. She finished carving her pumpkin, and returned safely to the dock.

Without help, and low on air after carving a pumpkin, she faced a potential life-threatening situation.

If you don't practice your breathing techniques you enjoy the underwater world a lot less. You run out of air so fast that you barely get to diving depth before you must return to the surface, and end your dive.

Here again is a situation that not only negatively affects your diving fun, but also destroys the pleasure, and disappoints, other scuba divers. When you burn through your air like a space shuttle sucking rocket fuel you force your buddy to quit the dive early too. Safety demands that your buddy return to the surface when you do.

Ever experience a short dive because you or your dive buddy ran out of air too fast? How did you feel when your buddy signaled a low air condition, after 20 or so minutes into the dive? How did you feel when you saw the look on your buddy's face after you made him quit diving 30-minutes earlier than he expected?

When you fail to sharpen your skill of buoyancy control you risk destroying the underwater pleasure of all scuba divers.

Poor buoyancy control causes you to bounce all over the place during your dive. That takes away from your buddy when he must keep an eye on you in case of a sudden dangerous ascent. If your buddy is a conscientious diver he also must watch to make sure you don't slam into the reef during uncontrolled plunges.

And of course every time you do plunge into the reef you kill coral. That means it won't be there for future scuba divers to study.

Scuba training courses above the basic open water level give you more information, and help you improve your diving skills by showing you how to practice for improvement. Your basic course is merely a door that opens the way to learning this underwater sport.

Don't just step through that door, and decide you've completed your training. Do us all a favor, including yourself, and keep learning your scuba diver's skills. And practice them to keep yourself at expert skill level.

Joe Jackson is a PADI certified dive master who just enjoys being wet. His eBook, "How To Save Air While Scuba Diving" offers methods for conserving scuba air. Get details at: Sip Your Air.

Kathy Dowsett