Getting my Advanced Diver Certification, and Diving with Sharks!

Published: March 5th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

A few weekends ago, I had the best weekend of diving I’ve had yet on the island. I’ve started doing my Advanced Open Water course for scuba diving and did 5 dives throughout the weekend, all of which were amazing. The way the course works is that I choose 5 “Adventure Dives” (a.k.a. specialty dives like deep diving, night diving, etc.), read a chapter and answer some questions about that special dive, and then do it. I did the course with a friend who works at one of the dive shops, and so far it’s been a really awesome experience.

The first day of diving, I did my deep dive and a buoyancy control dive. When you dive down deep, starting at about 100 feet, there is a potential for getting “narked”, or nitrogen narcosis, which I’ve been told feels like you’re tipsy underwater. Because of this, I had to do a “nark test” on my deep dive to see if I felt the effects of nitrogen narcosis or not. My nark test consisted of doing a few simple math problems and then putting together Mr. Potato Head- both of which I did quickly, thankyouverymuch, proving that I didn’t get narked. Diving deep was really cool because there’s different creatures than ones which are nearer the surface. Also, the colors from one end of the spectrum start to fade away, so things which used to be red and orange at the surface look more brownish.

After my deep dive I did a buoyancy dive, where you really learn to control your buoyancy with your breathing and get better at having neutral buoyancy in the water (a.k.a. neither floating nor sinking). For this dive we went to an underwater playground of sorts, complete with rings and other fun shapes to swim through. The idea was to swim through hoops of differing heights using only breath control to change depth instead of using arms or legs. We also played a “game” with weights set up in the sand, spaced a few feet apart. I had to hover upside-down and control my buoyancy to come close enough to the sand to knock each weight over with my mask (and preferably not crash head-first into the sand). It was challenging, but fun. Actually, the whole dive was difficult, especially considering that the current made me smash into the rings a couple times instead of swimming through them, but it was really fun and I think I improved my buoyancy skills a lot. Also, I have some nice battle scars to show for it. And by battle scars, I mean mostly minor scratches but one decent bruise on my leg.

The next day, I did my Underwater Naturalist dive and my navigation dive. Normally for the Underwater Naturalist dive, you go to a normal dive site and identify some fish on a slate. Because of some wonderful friends at the dive shop where I was getting certified, though, my Underwater Naturalist dive ended up being a shark dive!! I’d like to say that I was completely cool, calm, and collected the whole time, and didn’t spend the bouncy boat ride over to the dive site contemplating which extremity I would be most willing to part with. Once we got to the dive site, though, there wasn’t very much time left for contemplation. There were pretty big waves and a strong current, so we all had to backroll into the water and then quickly grab a line so as not to get carried away by the aforementioned current. As I got my gear ready, I did have a moment of uneasiness when my friend pointed out the dark, ominous shapes looming below. A few seconds after this I then plunged, headfirst, into the water and saw the menacing blobs turn into sharks. Surprisingly, the sharks scared me less than the blobs did. Once I was in the water, seeing the sharks was more just really cool than scary. There were 6 or 7 Caribbean Reef sharks swimming around, and a few got within a couple feet of me, but thankfully they were completely uninterested in eating me. This is not to say that I still wasn’t a tad distracted by them, to the point of not quite completely filling in my fish and coral ID slate like I was supposed to, but it was more of a “duuude sweeeet sharks!!” kind of distraction than a “I better not look away or these guys might think I’m breakfast” kind of distraction. (Side note- my inner voice doesn’t always speak in surfer dude lingo. Just sometimes.) But anyway, I think everyone should have to dive with sharks- it’s good to rid yourself of irrational fears by facing them.

My navigation dive wasn’t quite as exciting as diving with sharks, but it was still a really good dive. During the navigation dive, you have to use a compass to swim in a square and such, and then at the end of the dive you have to find the boat. I was worried about the latter, due to my propensity to be highly directionally challenged. The dive was at Mary’s Place- one of the top rated dive sites in Roatan, which is saying a lot. Mary’s Place is famous because it has lots of cracks that you can dive through with cool underwater flora and fauna to look at. Unfortunately for those of us who are trying to NOT get lost underwater, swimming through intertwining cracks at 70 feet can be a tad confusing. Luckily, at the end of the dive I decided to trust my compass rather than my sense of direction and got pretty close to the boat.

I still have to do my night dive to finish the course, but am waiting for the weather to get better because it’s been a bit windy and rough on the water. Sorry there’s no pictures; I was a bit preoccupied with sharks and getting lost underwater.

Some random notes:

Intellectual stimulation from school last week- having my kids spontaneously break into a Justin Bieber song. Also, having them play “poop monster” on the playground.

I then had my high school music class, where we’re doing a percussive sounds project. This resulted in someone demonstrating a rhythm on a wall and consequently putting a hole in the wall. Never a dull day.


5th March 2012

You never seize to amaze me.
Hi Rachel, You're unbelievable! I can't even get in the water if I see a jellyfish. I'm living my adventures through you, Becky, Jeremy and your Mom. You're an excellent writer and I feel like I'm there with you. Good thing, because I won't even put my head underwater. I hope Jessica follows in your footsteps and will not be afraid to try to do all of this. Can't wait to hear about everything when you get home. Do you know what you are going to do next year? Love, Great Aunt Joy
6th March 2012

map reading
all those years I tried to interest you in reading maps but never could get you interested!! Now you see why!

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