When I first started diving my friends and family would often refer me to others, saying;
“This is Andy – he’s a deep sea diver!”
|I Are Deep Diver|
I knew I had reached a very bad place on a particular occasion when I explained to a guy from work that I didn’t breathe ‘oxygen’ at depth, as he suggested, but would only use said gas to aid decompression and in fact breathed air when diving. I then proceeded to explain humans couldn’t breathe oxygen when ‘deep sea diving’ due to an elevated PPO2 level, would definitely convulse and most likely die.
He proceeded to explain that I was not a deep sea diver, but was in fact, a dick. I was then treated to a brief outline as to why that was the case.
The whole point of scuba diving is to go under water. I was able to work that concept out very early on, even without my PADI training. However, once you are trained to scuba dive it brings a whole new question; “How deep can I go?”
When I completed my initial PADI courses I was qualified to 30m with no decompression allowed. Now I’m qualified to 45m with as much deco as the dive requires. I know plenty of divers that can dive to 60m, and there are those who can, and do, go deeper. So, what’s considered to be “deep?”
I discovered very early in my diving that depth is not a number. Depth is relative.
|PADI Deep Diver|
I will never forget my first ‘deep dive.’ As part of my PADI advanced open water course I had to complete a number of dives that exceeded my current training at the time of 18m. I did my PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses back to back so the increase in depth was quite a fast tracked affair.
The majority of my training at that stage was conducted in shallow waters of 8-12m. I had grown quite accustomed to those numbers and when I was told that I would be diving to 22m on the next training dive I nearly did a poo. As usual, my ever faithful wife-buddy was by my side and also nearly did a poo.
Not only was the prospect of the deep dive truly frightening, but we also had to wait an entire week before it would actually happen. This was brilliant, as it gave Kerri and I a whole 7 days to look up lots of tragic scuba diving related deaths of divers going ‘deep.’
The week quickly disappeared and the cold February morning soon arrived bringing the ‘deep dive’ along like its evil twin. When we got to the dive centre wife-buddy and I stayed close together, huddling as if to somehow combine what element of courage we had left into a suitable quantity that could be used to conduct the actual dive. We picked out the gear we needed from the schools supply and headed to the hard hull boat nearby.
Suppressing incredible fear we boarded the ship and headed to the dive site out in the middle of Strangford Lough. I can’t remember the actual name of the dive site; I was more focused on the regulators I would be using…. the "Cressi Sub" ones.
Let me explain.
The dive school had a big old box of regulators. They all worked fine(ish) but some worked better than others. The Tusa regs were always picked first as they breathed quite well, whereas the "Cressi Sub" was the fat, ginger child with thick glasses held together with elastoplasts. In short, no one wanted to use them for any sport, let alone diving.
|Big old box of regs|
I sat on the boat staring at the heavily worn second stage and browning mouthpiece of the "Cressi Sub," attempting to create a valid situation where they could fall overboard, leading to me getting my paws on the magnificent Tusa regs. Despite many failed scenarios of tripping, passing out and feigning temporary insanity I begrudgingly set my kit up knowing that every rotation of the A clamp was effectively a nail in my coffin.
I glanced at wife-buddy who was putting together her personal brand new set of Tusa regs. Such dark thoughts….
We received our dive brief, buddy checked and conducted a giant stride off the ship and surface swam over to the shot line. Once everyone signalled they were good, I put the old banana coloured mouth piece in and descended into the gloom.
The divemaster escorting us was excellent. He descended backwards looking up at me constantly as the metres ticked by; 2m ………. 5m ………. 10m ………. all the way down to 22m. I held his gaze as if his eyes were providing the very air I was sucking, like a cheap Thai boy, from the "Cressi Subs."
In true PADI fashion I hit the silty bottom on my knees and froze.
When I first decided to be the best scuba diver in the world, wife-buddy and I spent a lot of time reading all the internet, especially anything related to diving. We quickly learned that we would become qualified to dive to 30m, and then dive the world. A little research also showed that The Titanic was 3810m deep. How the hell was I supposed to dive that with a PADI Advanced Open Water certification card? 30m was not deep at all.
Oh, how wrong was I?
At that moment 22m was deep.
I stared at the divemaster as he continued to give me the OK signal. Finally my senses returned, I sucked some more air down the "Cressi Sub" and returned the signal. I wasn’t really ok in the normal sense but I was convinced I could hold it together for the short dive we were briefed on.
I followed the DM away from the shot, never allowing his fins out of my sight. A beluga whale could have asked me directions to the local tanning salon and I wouldn’t have allowed my sight to deviate from those Tusa split fins. Tusa = safety, that was the rule for the day.
15mins later I signalled 50bar and thumbed the dive. I had done it, I was alive and thank all the gods there had ever been, it was time to go.
I couldn’t believe what happened next.
There I was, ready to go, and the DM was fooling around with some stupid reel and a big plastic orange sausage thing. It seemed to go on FOREVER. I was now at 49.6bar. I had to leave. I tugged his shoulder and gave the ‘low on air’ signal and thumbed up again. I began to get agitated. The guy had lost it, what was he doing?
I was now at 49.2bar. This was getting critical.
The DM finally appeared to have finished whatever he was building and gave me an OK signal. Then the devil himself must have possessed him as he grabbed my octopus and purged it into the orange sausage.
What the hell was this maniac doing?!! That’s MY air you bastard!!
|SMB - for rogering|
Before I could instigate a form of defence against the subsequent orange balloon invasion, and a suitable explanation for Kerri, it shot out of sight with the reel spinning away below. Swiftly the DM started to ascend giving me the thumbs up. We were finally going up, and no rogering. Thank Christ. 5 mins and a safety stop later we were back on the boat.
Deep dive done.
As usual, wife-buddy and I had our own private de-brief about the deep dive on the journey home. As usual, we drew the same conclusion as each other; in this case that deep diving wasn't all it was cracked up to be and we wouldn’t be repeating it. The Titanic dive was going to have to be delayed until the next ice age when the sea level dropped accordingly, to around the 10m mark.
Since then, most of my dives are in the 20m range, and have recently been venturing past the 40m mark. I have only done this as I completed further training to dive deeper. It took me quite a few dives at the 20m mark before I was happy, and the same has proved true of the 45m dives. It’s all about building experience.
I prefer a little depth when diving, I’m in my element at 25m yet one of my favourite dive sites is only 8m deep. At the end of the day I only dive to a depth where I can see stuff.
- Deep diving uses the same techniques as diving shallow.
- There is no need to dive deep just for the sake of it.
- Don’t dive outside your training.
- Make sure you know how to use smb’s, they’re useful for deep dives.
- Work your way down slowly and get used to diving deeper.
- Don’t bore your friends with diving stories.
- If Cressi’s are the only regs left in the box – sit out the dive*
*Cressi regulators are good regs, it's just that the ones at the school could have done with a service about a decade previous to my use!