Thursday, June 23, 2011

Science Diver Training

Yesterday started American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) dive training here at BIOS. Science diving is different than recreational diving since collecting data/samples while diving takes a different sort of concentration and skill set. Ours is not a particularly big class; there are only seven of us.

First on the docket was the swim test: a 400-yard swim in 12 minutes, tread water for 10 minutes (the last two minutes with your hands out of the water), tow a person 25 yards, and swim 25 yards underwater. In hindsight, this was a fairly easy test for someone in shape, but my fellow classmates and I had been agonizing over the 25-yard underwater swim. We’d been practicing in the Reach (with no success) for the better part of the week, psyching ourselves out.

Swim test accomplished it was time to dive. Well, no, it wasn’t time to dive yet, it was time to stand in the middle of the soccer pitch with buckets on our heads. Seriously, that’s what we did!

We were practicing navigation. Going back and forth and making shapes using only your compass as a guide is important because underwater there aren’t really landmarks to base your swim on. Oddly enough, it seems that navigating squares is my downfall. Reciprocals and triangles I’m a master of, but adding and subtracting 90 is apparently the limit of my mental prowess.

We also entertained the weekly Wednesday tour when they walked out of reception while we were in the field in bathing-suits with 5 gallon buckets on our heads. I wish I had pictures.

The two dives after lunch were better than I hoped; we got to explore the reefs a bit. While our bottom time was primarily a checkout dive (ensuring we could all take our masks off and replace them while submerged, dump and replace our weight and BCD, share air with our dive partner, and retrieve a lost regulator) my favorite part was just exploring Cathedral Reef.

I’m from New England, originally, and that’s where I’ve been diving my whole life. While I’ve been snorkeling since I’ve arrived, diving is just something completely different. There was one tunnel we swam through that had light streaming in from the surface, we decided it felt like a scene from The Little Mermaid, and (much to the dismay of the two men on the boat) started singing “A Part of Your World.”

I really don’t know how I’ll go back to a visibility of five feet after diving here.

Tests today, no diving. Still: Two dives down, a summer full of awesome left.

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