I did the 4th of my 5 dives for my advanced course this Saturday: the deep dive. It sounds a lot more menacing than it actually is. We dove to about 24 meters to satisfy the advanced diver requirements, and of course to see some cool marine life! We went to the local Argentina dive site where the water was about 30° C and the visibility was excellent. My instructor, instructor’s assistant, buddy and I dropped down among the fish and followed the slope of the ocean floor until we reached depth. When we reached our turnaround point we compared depth gauges to see how some equipment reads more or less conservatively than others, and looked at a slate with different colors on it with and without a light to see how depth and light absorption affect perceptions of colors.
On our way back to our ascent line we saw some really interesting marine life. A small octopus was hiding out in the crevice of a large rock formation and we saw a lobster waiting for its lunch in another crop of rocks. There were also several leopard snake eels among the rocks on the ocean floor.
The second dive of the day was the underwater navigation dive, which my buddy needed to do for his advanced course. I had already completed this dive but was grateful for the extra experience with the compass. We were challenged in a way that I wasn’t on my initial navigation dive; the current had picked up significantly by the time we reached the dive site, which made simple tasks (like swimming in a straight line) difficult. At first I felt very frustrated by the difficult time that I was having with completing the performance requirements, but then I stopped, cleared my mind, and found the humor in the situation. Here were three highly qualified dive professionals and two advanced open water students all kicking hard to go in our desired direction but all the while not moving an inch. What a funny sight! After having this moment of clarity, I finished the required tasks to the best of my ability while accepting that my results would not be quite as clean as when I did them in calm waters.
I think that doing this dive in both calm and rough conditions actually helped me as a diver. Anyone can navigate around a calm dive site, but it takes a degree of concentration and skill to use navigation tactics in a strong current. In fact, these skills will likely prove more useful in these types of conditions during future dives. Strong currents make getting blown off course a much more real possibility, but now I feel confident in my abilities to get myself back to the original intended direction, more than I would have if I hadn’t experienced these conditions in the learning-type of environment that was created through the advanced course.
Ascending was another humorous occasion. After struggling against the current to make it back to the line we began our ascent and made our safety stop. We all had to cling to the line to avoid getting swept away by the sea, so every few seconds we were all being pulled to a completely horizontal position, as if we were flags whipping in the wind on a flagpole. What could have been a stress inducing experience was made an entertaining one. It’s all about perspective.