Monday, November 29, 2010
Dive Dive Dive
3 days 6 dives and my advanced SCUBA certification. It has been so amazing I can´t even begin to put it into words. To SCUBA dive is to experience a sort of freedom. Temporarily free from the need to surface for air, floating weightlessly and able to move in 3 dimensions in a world so diffent from the terrestial happenings. What you aren´t free from though, is the need for good training. Poor training, or no training, is very bad judgement and has very simple and harsh penalties. Good training, and following proper procedure makes, on the otherhand, SCUBA diving a safe, highly enjoyable, and highly rewarding activity. To obtain my Advanced Certification I completed the following adventure dives.
Dive One - Refresher: I hadn´t dove for 7 years so it only made sense to reaquaint myself with the equipment as well as the 20 skills learned in the Open water Course I did back in ´03. These skills teach you what to do in case of emergencies, how to avoid emergences, how to deal with equipment issues, and basic techniques like buoyancy control. It all came back to me surprisingly quickly but I would not have felt comfortable with further dives if I had not taken it. At the end of the skills my instuctor, Jorgen, and I cruised along the reef checking out the coral, a lobster, loads of fish and a sea spagetti (a type of worm with tenticles) It felt so good to be back down there.
Dive 2- Underwater Navigator: This dive teaches general navigation such as natural navigation and compass work underwater. It was pretty straight forward but it is by no means precise, as elements such as current move you off course very easily. The importance of paying attention applies just as much as it does on land. Paying attention to the position and angle of the sun, landscape formations, biological communities, contours on the bottom, maps, and such must be noted as it is easy to become disorientated. We saw a lot of the same wildlife on this dive with the addition of a hawks bill seaturtle at the end of the dive.
Dive 3 - Underwater Naturalist: You can imagine by the title why this dive appealed to me. Ecology, ecosystems, and best practices in interacting with marine organisms were discussed. The dive consisted of me having to identify a number of invertibrates, vertibrates, and plants. I knew some of them already but had to describe a few, writing down characteristics on a slate to look them up later. Jorgen showed me all sorts of neat things, the highlight being 2 giant green moray eels, which can reach lengths of 5 feet. One of the eels was at least that.
Dive 4 - Deep Diver: Open Water Certification, my previous cert and the first in a journey to become a master diver, allows a diver to go to depths not exceeding 18 metres. The Deep Diver course brought me down to a maximum depth of 30.9 metres. It was a different world down there with different creatures and differnt light. Light is filtered out by the water. Its not just a loss of light but a loss of spectrum. We brough a colour card with us. At that depth red is no longer visible. The dive was short as air supply is used a lot quicker at depth. The gas is compressed, at that depth it is use 4 times faster than at the surface. This causes some other considerations to deal with. The air in the tank is compressed normal surface air. Normal air contains nitrogen which is simply expelled by the body. Breathing condensed nitrogen can cause an intoxicating effect called nitrogen narcosis. Nitrogen narcosis in itself is not dangerous but the effects can cause a diver to make irrational decissions putting them at risk. Its kind of like being drunk. The other thing with nitrogen is, again under pressure, in the body it doesn´t come out as fast. This can cause decompression illness, also known as the benz (or the ben´s if I didn´t follow procedure correctly) Decompression illness can be very serious and usually requires specialty facilities like a decompression chamber and straight oxygen. The procedure to avoid this illness is straight forward. A slow asscent with a saftey stop at 5 metres for 3 minutes is required. Then using a dive computer or chart you figure out how much residual nitrogen is in your body before subsequent dives.
Dive 5: Underwater Photography: Unfortunately I am still unable to upload photos. Might have to wait until I return. I probably didn´t get any National Geographic cover shots but I think I captured the world down there pretty good, at least for my own memories, with a simple point and shoot camera in a special housing, waterproof and able to withstand pressure.
Dive 6: Night Dive: Really, really cool. Fish were sleeping, lobsters roaming around, the coral was fuzzy as much of it was activley feeding on algae and perhaps the coolest thing, bioluminescence of plankton. I am not entirely sure what is going on here, whether it is somesort of defence mechanism or what. But agitate the water and it is like thousands of stars all around you. We spent a few minutes without torch light just watching it, between cruising around looking at the reef at night.
Now I am waiting on news about another dive. A shark dive! Hopefully I will be able to go tomorrow to a place where a lot of sharks hang out. Today I had no diving which was hard to do. Instead I lounged on the beach for a bit this morning and then walked into the next town in search of a haircut. My head has been too hot and I was starting to feel a little ¨clown like¨ I made my way along the beach towards West End about a 40 minute walk. It was nice just walking in the sand looking dreamingly out to sea and singing raggae tunes in my head. All was great until I had a not too nice of an experience. I heard a dog bark, very aggressivly, and turned to see a dog teeth out, face all scrunched up barreling towards me. I turned to face it and readied for a fight. Then another dog sped out flanking me on the right. It came in so fast but it was quiet. They weren´t huge dogs but they were big enough, probalby just a bit smaller than my dog Miko. I put put my hand out thinking it might smell me and calm down but before I knew it I felt its teeth penetrate my thigh. I roared and took a swing at it and it let go jumping back. The two dogs were continuing to bark aggresively and were circling around me. Having had enough of this already I took on the mentality of an enraged bear and growled, snorted and kicked at the ground. I advanced on them and they took off. I got some good teeth marks but am fine. They didn´t seem rabid just mean. As I carried on along the beach I wondered if I should take a different route back but decided that no stupid mut was going to dictate my day. I would just be ready for them next time.
I had a quick chat with a bar owner when I reached West Bay. He informed me that the only barber in the town was off today so I would have to go to the next town, Coxen Hole. As I tried to figure out my means of transport a young local guy asked me where I was going. I told him about the haircut in coxen hole and he came back with ¨my brother cuts hair¨ I thought what the hell, should be interesting. I got on the back of his scooter and he drove us a long a bumpy back street to his house. It was quite the place. Basically a ghetto. Out front were 3 old timers. One big lady, Craig, the scooter driver´s mother, and 2 old guys one smoking the absolute end of a cigarete. There were a bunch of kids running around, one naked todler and a few kids that proably should have been in school. There is a school, some go, some don´t. Out front of the house was a lot of exposed soil, a few trees, and a washing machine that looked like it died decades ago. The yard was littered with garbage and old broken machine parts. The house was small, run down and had no windows. At one point it proabaly did but they had long ago been boarded up. One of the oldtimers put in a call to the barber. It took him about 20 minutes to get there. He was very surely and didn´t say hi, only ¨how you want your hair cut¨ I explained it and we made out way to a chair at the side of the house, behind some laundry lines. He put a sheet around me. In front of the chair was old plastic table with a few very used clipper combs and a pair of scissors, missing a handle. He handed me a mirror, or part of a mirror to be more exact, to check out the progress. It had been a mirror of 2" or so but all that was left was one jagged corner. The haircut was a bit rough, not going to lie. My barber, not even sure of his name, pulled at my hair alot and seemed to comb my ear more than my hair. The thought came to mind of ¨what the hell am I doing¨ but I pushed it away. These people were nice and gentle (except the actual haircut) and I felt relatively safe. The job wasn´t too bad. Its a bit uneven and lumpy but I´m ok with that. My dad always said that a bad haircut will grow out in 3 days and if it doesn´t I don´t mind shaving the rest off. Barber asked for 100 lempires, about 5 bucks. I gave him 150 and a smile and was on my way. Definetly the most interesting haircut I have ever had!
It was time to make my way home. Again making my way along the beech but thinking about the ¨friends¨ I met on the way. They may have moved since my earlier walk so I started preparing myself early, finding a large, heavy peice of drift wood. As I got closer I bent down and picked up a handful of sand, keeping it my right hand, my throwing arm, and the stick in my left. If the dogs came at me again I would throw the sand in their eyes and pop the stick up into my right hand in a baseball bat position. If the dirty buggers got closer than 2 metres I was prepared to give them the good news with the club and if I was bit again I was going to bite back. I also stayed along the waters edge so I could step out into the ocean. A few metres in and I would be standing, the dogs swimming, and me with a big advantage. What I was really hoping for though, was that in the heat of the day they were lying under a tree somewhere and would not be a problem. I kept myself switched on tracking in the sand for their prints and stayed at the ready, not tense but ready. I soon passed the area that we would be in and made it past a pier that I was pretty certain they couldn´t pass. Lucky for me lucky for them.
I can hear the jungle screaming my name and should be there in the next few days...