Respect, discipline, practice, balance, awareness, focus, fitness,
and knowing your limits are critical components of two pursuits that
have more in common than you might think. In this month's cover feature,
"The Martial Arts of Diving: Unlikely Parallels and Uncommon
Connections," author Robert Rossier explains how an appreciation of
martial arts can help make us better divers.
EVERYBODY WAS KUNG FU DIVING
By Alex Brylske
It's said that, while the 20th was America's century, the 21st will belong
to Asia. If you doubt that, just take a look at the "made
in" tag on almost anything that you own. In North America, Asian car sales
now exceed Detroit, and an electronic device manufactured in this country is
about as rare as a Jamaican snowman. But there's one import from the Far
East that long predated the rise of the Asian economic juggernaut; and one
with which we've had a love affair since the days when Kwai Chang Caine and
Master Po graced TV screens across America. The object of that love is
I never really associated Kung Fu with Jacques Cousteau, at least not until
I read Bob Rossier's feature article this month, "The Martial Arts of
Diving: Unlikely Parallels and Uncommon Connections." I have to admit that,
at first glance, I wasn't sold on Bob's "Crouching Tiger Hidden Diver" view,
but after reading it, it makes perfect sense. I don't want to steal all his
thunder, but I can say that Bob makes a very compelling case for why factors
such as awareness of one's surroundings, maintaining focus, studying your
opponent and conflict avoidance are all critical to both martial arts and
It's also interesting that, in the context of diving, our sparring partner
in the match isn't another individual but the environment in which we
operate. Yet, as diving isn't a competitive sport, that's not really
surprising. I studied karate for a brief period as a high school student (I
stopped because it interfered with my diving). Like most testosterone-filled
teens, the machismo of knowing that I could "kill with my bare hands" was
too strong to resist. At first, I was deeply disappointed that, rather than
immediately learning how to tear an opponent to shreds, the instructor - an
affable Brit, ironically - started going off on themes like peace, poetry
and serenity. (Did I sign up for the right class?) It took several sessions,
but I persevered and by the end of class was at least starting to understand
the real point and power of martial arts: It wasn't what it taught me about
others but what it taught me about myself. The idea wasn't to have a skill
with which I could dominate others, but having the self-knowledge that, if I
mastered the art, it should never be necessary to use it. While I did earn a
yellow belt, what I really took away from that class wasn't anything
material; it was my first real lesson in self-awareness and mental
Bob's article recalled those days from so long ago, and made me realize for
the first time just how much my introduction to martial arts stayed with me
in my far longer career as a diver. After all, when trying to survive in the
ocean, what use is dominance and brute strength? Both safety and fulfillment
come from learning to deal with the environment, not oppose it. "Would you
be as the rock?" my sensei would ask. "Then be as the water that carries the
rock away." I've tried to carry this little tidbit of Taoist wisdom with me
ever since, though I never imagined that it applied so well to diving. Now,
grasshopper, if I could only find a keikogi that would fit under my wet
Regarding the article "Backup Plans: Adapting Your Diving to Avoid
Aggravating Your Back," in the Scuba Skills section of the January 2008
issue of Dive Training: Although the article content was extremely useful I
found that the photograph on the first page related to "Photo 1" caused me
some concern when seeing the diver dragging his scuba system, with an
apparent weight-integrated BC (buoyancy compensator), through the water by
the regulator second-stage hose. I can't imagine anyone advocating this
procedure to float your gear for any distance. I'm sure there must be more
gear-friendly alternatives to the pictured method. Like using the handle on
the BC. If reach is an issue, attach a fin to the BC using the fin strap to
gain length and close the gap or a lanyard of some type.
Auburn, New York
"Backup Plans: Adapting Your Diving to Avoid Aggravating Your Back," in your
January 2008 issue was a useful overview of some of the alternate entry and
exit/gear-handling techniques divers can use to dive in spite of back
But did you have to show a diver towing his scuba unit by the second-stage
hose in Photo 1? While the chance of damage is small, the avoidable strain
on the hose, connections and second stage is ill-advised. If an extension is
needed to tow the scuba unit in shallow water, a suitable nylon strap or
length of rope can be attached to the BC (buoyancy compensator), and either
tucked behind the diver's back or carried in a pocket while diving.
Capt. G.A. Bell
I look forward to each issue of Dive Training, particularly articles written
by Lynn Laymon, Linda Lee Walden and the accompanying photos by the
Guimbellots. I had the pleasure of sharing a dive boat with them last year
and really enjoyed their company. I enjoyed the article about tips to save
your back ("Backup Plans: Adapting Your Diving to Avoid Aggravating Your
Back," Dive Training, January 2008) but wonder about the picture showing
gear being towed by the second-stage hose. I suggest that pulling one's rig,
which is partially submerged, puts undue stress on the second-stage hose.
The point of the article, which is well-written, is to use buoyancy to
lighten the load on your back. I wonder if pulling by the cummerbund would
be an alternative. Thanks for great articles and informative continuing
Wait to Don Wet Suit
I have enjoyed your mag for many years now and finally something caught my
attention. In your January 2008 issue of Dive Training, on Page 28 of "The
Amphibian Adventure: A Dive Vacation is More Than Just a Vacation," you show
"Jim and Gina" showing up at their dive boat in wet suits. This can cause
them to become overheated before they reach the dive site, which is a big
The divers depicted in the photo you refer to are partially dressed in
tropical-weight wet suits which are pulled down at the waists. While
overheating is indeed a situation that should be avoided, in some
situations, such as having a relatively short ride from the dock to the dive
site, and also having plenty of shade available on board, the risk of heat
stress is negligible. The divers in the photo remained heat stress-free en
route to the dive site.
Rite Bites and Dependent Divers
I read the "No Dumb Questions" article ("Jaw Pain and Diving, Vacuuming
Coral Reefs, Teaching Scuba to Family Members") in the December 2007 issue
of Dive Training, and have two comments.
I have suffered from TMJ (temporomandibular joint) syndrome for the last 27
years. I stumbled across Rite Bite at the "Our World-Underwater" show about
15 years ago and have been using Rite Bites ever since, and love it. I can
teach, or dive, all day pain-/fatigue-free.
[On the subject of teaching scuba to family members,] I am an instructor and
a member of a diving club based in Des Plaines, Illinois. We do not allow
our instructional staff to participate in instructing family members or
"significant others." We follow the same policy with our external students.
Our rationale for this policy is that we do not want any divers to form
"dependent diver" relationships. We explain the "dependent diver" syndrome
this way: If the dependent diver has an issue, he or she presumes someone
else will take care of it, and does not learn the skills to be
self-sufficient. If diving with a different buddy, or if their co-dependent
buddy develops a problem, this diver is unable to assist either him or
herself, or the buddy. When I teach for a dive shop, I follow the same
I enjoy the magazine; keep up the good work.
I applaud Dive Training for publishing a magazine with informative articles
to educate the beginner diver, but in your article, "Final Check: What It
Looks Like When ... Bubbles Mean Trouble," from your January 2008 issue, a
concerned customer (who receives your magazine) brought to my attention a
few statements that were inaccurate. As one of the hose manufacturers for
the scuba industry, I felt it was important to address these issues.
The raw hose manufacturers perforate (pinhole) the outer cover to allow
trapped air, when pressurized, to be released into the atmosphere. Hoses are
made of synthetic rubber products, and depending on the density of the
tubing and cover, bubbles will form and collect on the outer cover. As the
hose is used, these bubbles will disappear. Without these pinholes, the
outer cover would blister, and could weaken the integrity of the hose. It is
when bubbles are continual (one after the other, rising to the surface) or
streaming from anywhere on the hose (like what was shown in the picture with
this article), that you have a problem and should replace the hose
These continual or streaming bubbles could happen for one of many reasons.
The perforation could have been applied too deep and has simply punctured
the inner tubing, or there may be a small slice in the inner tubing that
occurred during the cleaning process, or a crimp may be too tight, or too
loose. Although not all of the reasons for the continual or streaming
bubbles are life-threatening, they should be taken seriously, and alert you
of a potential problem.
Thank you and dive safely.
Editor's note: The writer is correct. In the January 2008 article explaining
when bubbles mean trouble, we should have written that one sign of a problem
is when "continuous" bubbles flow from a hose. The escape of a few bubbles
is not necessarily an indication of trouble.
By Gene Gentrup
FEDS SEEK GREATER PROTECTIONS FOR THREATENED ELKHORN AND STAGHORN CORALS
The federal government is proposing to extend most of the prohibitions of
the Endangered Species Act (ESA) - normally applied only to endangered
species - to the threatened elkhorn and staghorn corals.
NOAA biologists estimate more than 90 percent of elkhorn and staghorn corals
have been lost because of coral bleaching due to rising sea temperatures,
disease and tropical storm damage. Both species were listed as threatened in
"These were the most dominant and important coral species on Florida and
Caribbean reefs," said Roy Crabtree, NOAA Fisheries Southeast regional
administrator. "Since their decline, they no longer fulfill their important
ecosystem role, which includes protecting coasts from storms and supporting
Species listed as endangered under the ESA are automatically covered by a
suite of protective measures and prohibitions in the law. However, for
species listed as threatened, such as elkhorn and staghorn corals, these
same measures and prohibitions do not automatically apply. Therefore, NOAA
Fisheries Service developed a separate proposed rule, called a 4(d) rule
after section 4(d) of the ESA, detailing the prohibitions necessary to
provide for the conservation of elkhorn and staghorn corals.
The proposed rule would prohibit the take, trade and all commercial
activities involving elkhorn and staghorn corals. For corals, collection or
any activity that will result in mortality and harm is considered a "take"
of the species. Other prohibited activities include anchoring or grounding a
vessel on the coral, dragging fishing gear on the species, removing or
altering the corals' habitat; or discharging any pollutant or contaminant
that will harm the species.
Allowable activities are limited to qualified scientific research and
enhancement and restoration activities carried out by an authorized agency.
NOAA's Fisheries Service developed the prohibitions and exceptions from
suggestions by federal, state and territorial resource managers, fishermen,
environmental organizations, universities, and coral research institutions
during a series of workshops in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin
The public can comment on the proposed rule, which is available at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov,
by contacting NOAA's Jennifer Moore at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax
request sent to (727) 824-5309.
For more information, visit www.noaanews.noaa. gov/stories2007/20071218_coralprotection.html.
FORMER GRAY'S REEF SANCTUARY VESSEL GETS SECOND LIFE
A former Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary research ship sunk last year
18 miles (29 km) off the Georgia coast as an artificial reef is now home to
an array of marine fish and invertebrates after only four months on the
bottom, NOAA scientists say.
The 63-foot (19-m) Jane Yarn was sunk in September 2007 at a site off the
Georgia coast, outside of the Gray's Reef sanctuary, by the Georgia
Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Since then, researchers have made
periodic visits to the site to document the ship's colonization by fish and
other marine creatures. It rests under 72 feet (22 m) of water on a
sandy-bottomed area called J Reef.
Researchers are surprised at the speed by which fish have inhabited the
vessel's steel hull. They expected fish to take to the Jane Yarn but thought
a year would pass before it occurred. In one-fourth of that time the vessel
has become the home of barracuda, schools of amber jack and spadefish, as
well as black sea bass, grunts and cigar minnows.
Off the Georgia coast, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is one of the
largest nearshore live-bottom reefs off the southeastern United States,
covering about 23 square miles (60 sq km). Loggerhead sea turtles, a
threatened species, use Gray's Reef for foraging and resting. The reef also
is near the only known winter calving ground for the highly endangered North
Atlantic Right Whale.
For more information on the artificial reef, visit www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2008/20080117_grayreef.html.
HMAS ADELAIDE TO BE SUNK FOR DIVERS
HMAS Adelaide, the Australian ship that rescued solo yachtsman Tony
Bullimore, is headed for the New South Wales Central Coast to be sunk as an
artificial reef for divers about 0.6 miles (1 km) off Terrigal, resting in
115 feet (35 m) of water.
The Adelaide recently was decommissioned, marking the end of 27 years of
service for the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) oldest frigate.
The 455-foot-long ship was one of the first Australian warships to be
deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1990 and was deployed to the Gulf on two
more occasions - in 2002 and 2004.
In peacetime, the ship was sent to rescue both stranded Briton Tony
Bullimore and French solo yachtsman Thierry Dubois from the Southern Ocean
Adelaide, built in the United States and commissioned into the RAN on
November 15, 1980, was the second ship in the RAN to bear the name - its
predecessor was a light cruiser that served from 1922 to 1946.
For more information, check out www.navy.gov.au/ships/adelaide/default.html.
For more than a year now all people traveling by air between the United
States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean have been required to
present a passport to enter the country.
On January 31, 2008, the rule was supposed to extend to travelers entering
the country by land or sea. After intervention from federal lawmakers, that
date has been pushed back. Exactly when is unclear but some have intimated
summer 2008 as a possibility. So for now, if you travel to Canada or Mexico
by land or sea, you can get away with showing just a birth certificate and
government-issued photo ID. But don't get too comfortable. Federal
authorities strongly recommend applying for a passport now. Processing times
are far better than they were at this time last year, with a current
turnaround of just a few weeks, but that can always change. For more
information on passport requirements, visit
ALTERNATIVE TO TRADITIONAL
PASSPORT AVAILABLE TO SOME TRAVELERS
For travelers entering the country by land or seaports, the new U.S.
Passport Card might be all that you need. Application acceptance should now
be under way for the card, which is designed to expedite document processing
at U.S. land and seaports of entry when arriving from Canada, Mexico, the
Caribbean and Bermuda. The card may not be used to travel by air. It will
otherwise carry the rights and privileges of the U.S. passport book.
The passport card is designed for border resident communities as a less
expensive and more portable alternative to the traditional passport book.
The card will have the same validity period as a passport book: 10 years for
an adult, five for children 15 and younger.
For adults who already have a passport book, they may apply for the card as
a passport renewal and pay only $20. First-time applicants will pay $45 for
adult cards and $35 for children.
For more information, visit
LITHIUM BATTERY RULE NOW IN EFFECT
If you like to travel with an extra lithium battery for your camera, cell
phone, computer, or any other electronic device, how you transport it is now
Fliers may no longer check luggage containing loose lithium batteries; the
battery must either be installed in an electronic device or stored in a
carry-on bag. And even that carries some restrictions. If opting for storing
the batteries in a carry-on bag, the batteries must be packed in plastic
bags, and no more than two batteries per passenger are allowed.
The reason for all the fuss? The U.S. Department of Transportation is
concerned the batteries might spark a fire. The following quantity limits
apply to both spare and installed batteries. The limits are expressed in
grams of "equivalent lithium content." A total of 8 grams of equivalent
lithium content is about 100 watt-hours. A total of 25 grams is about 300
watt-hours. Under the new rules, fliers can bring batteries with up to an
8-gram equivalent lithium content. All lithium ion batteries in cell phones
are below 8-gram equivalent lithium content. Nearly all laptop computers
also are below this quantity threshold. Fliers can also bring up to two
spare batteries with an aggregate equivalent lithium content of up to 25
grams, in addition to any batteries that fall below the 8-gram threshold.
Confused? Visit http://safetravel.dot.gov/whats_new_batteries.html for more
Shipwreck explorer Patrick Clyne, whose career includes the recovery
projects of the Spanish galleons Atocha and Santa Margarita, is the
scheduled speaker for the California Wreck Divers Annual Banquet. The event
is planned for March 1 at the Hacienda Hotel in El Segundo, California.
Clyne was executive vice president in various Mel Fisher enterprises for
more than 35 years, and has been chief videographer for nearly all Mel
Fisher expeditions, as well as captain of Fisher's largest salvage vessel.
His photos have appeared in dozens of books and magazines and his video
footage has been featured on numerous television productions by National
Geographic, A&E, Discovery Channel, and The Learning Channel.
For more information, call Steve Lawson at (949) 462-0462 or visit the
California Wreck Divers Web site at cawreckdivers.org.
GHOST SHIPS FESTIVAL MARCH 7-8
The ninth annual Ghost Ships Festival is set for 3-8:30 p.m. Friday, March
7, and 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at the Wyndham Milwaukee
Airport & Convention Center, across from the Milwaukee airport in Wisconsin
(formerly the Four Points Sheraton).
Advance tickets are $20 and day-of tickets are $25. To purchase a ticket or
for more information, visit ghostships.org or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Those interested in hotel accommodations can contact the Sheraton at (414)
481-8000 and ask for the Ghost Ships room discount.
The festival will feature Ralph Wilbanks from the National Underwater and
Marine Agency (NUMA). Wilbanks, who is part of Clive Cussler's search team,
will share his experience locating the Confederate submarine CSS Hunley, on
The Hunley, a submersible known as the "South's secret weapon," was the
first sub to sink a ship in battle, the Union blockader USS Housatonic. The
fate of the Hunley and its nine young volunteer crewmen remained a mystery
for more than 131 years. Novelist and adventurer Clive Cussler and divers
from NUMA searched for the elusive Hunley for more than 15 years. Cussler's
team, which included Wilbanks, finally found the sub in 1995 buried under 3
feet (1 m) of silt four miles (6.5 km) outside Charleston, South Carolina.
The sub was raised in 2000 and is housed at the Warren Lasch Conservation
Center in Charleston.
Other speakers are being added to the festival lineup. An updated speaker
schedule will be posted at ghostships.org.
The Ghost Ships Festival brings together top Great Lakes maritime
historians, authors and divers from throughout the country. The festival
includes films, workshops and seminars devoted to shipwrecks, diving and
BOSTON SEA ROVERS ANNUAL CLINIC
The 54th Boston Sea Rovers Annual International Clinic is scheduled for
March 7-9 at the Fairmont Copley Hotel in Boston.
The three-day event includes a Saturday night film festival with video and
still images from places few ever get to visit.
Clinic programs cover subjects as diverse as reefing the Texas Clipper,
"Global Climate Change: Why It Matters to You," "Underwater Video: Tips and
Tricks From The Pros," "Sharks and Shipwrecks...Can it get any better?," and
"Thermal Considerations for Exploration Divers."
For more information, call (617) 424-9899 or visit www.bostonsearovers.com.
BENEATH THE SEA
Beneath the Sea's 32nd annual Ocean Adventure Exposition and Travel Show is
scheduled for March 28-30 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus,
Ocean Pals, Beneath the Sea's environmental education program for children,
on Sunday, March 30, honors the winners of its 2008 poster contest and hosts
a party for children. For more information on Ocean Pals, visit
Also planned: The Women Divers Hall of Fame, www.wdhof.org, will presents a
series of events and its new inductees. For more information, call (914)
664-4310, e-mail info@Beneaththesea.org, or visit www.Beneaththesea.org.
SOCIETY CONFERENCE APRIL 18-20
The Historical Diving Society has scheduled its 2008 conference for April
18-20 at the Monterey Maritime and History Museum, in Monterey, California.
Tom Kendrick, presenting "Swimming with Sea Monsters: 22 Years as a
California Sea Urchin Diver."
Nyle C. Monday, presenting "Dragons Under the Sea: the FUKURYU and the
Underwater Defense of Japan, 1945."
Chris Swan, presenting "The Development of Commercial Helium Diving."
A. L. "Scrap" Lundy, presenting "The Divers Who Made Cannery Row the
Sardine Capital of the World."
The weekend event will be held in conjunction with the Association of Diving
Contractors International Western Chapter meeting. The society will hold its
awards banquet the evening of Saturday, April 19.
All weekend events are open to the public. Complete details of the
gathering, including exhibits, additional speakers, banquet guest speaker
and full weekend program can be found at www.hds.org.
OCEAN FEST DIVE &
ADVENTURE SPORTS EXPO APRIL 18-20
Billed as the "only dive show where you can dive at the show," the Fort
Lauderdale, Florida, event also offers more than 150 exhibitors, free daily
seminars, live shows and underwater treasure hunts.
Ocean Fest will be held on the beach in Fort Lauderdale on A1A just south of
Las Olas Boulevard north of the Yankee Clipper Hotel and the Bahia Mar
Resort and Yacht Club and Bahia Cabana Hotel.
Admission is $9 per person per day. Children under 12 are admitted free, and
admission includes all exhibits, seminars and presentations. Three-day
discounted passes for $19 per person are available. Discounted tickets are
available online. For more information, call (800) 513-5902 or (954)
839-8516, or visit www.oceanfest.com.
SCUBAFEST 2008 SET FOR APRIL 25-27
Dan Orr, chief operating officer of Divers Alert Network, is the keynote
speaker for this year's Scubafest, scheduled for April 25-27 at the Holiday
Inn at Roberts Centre in Wilmington, Ohio. The show also features an
underwater photography contest, exhibits, "discover scuba," workshops and
Show hours are 4-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4
p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit www.scubafest.org.
DIVE & TRAVEL EXPO MAY 3-4
The Dive & Travel Expo is scheduled for May 3-4 at the Greater Tacoma
Convention and Trade Center, Tacoma, Washington.
The weekend event will include 129 exhibitor booths, seminars, a treasure
hunt, the opportunity to try scuba for free in an indoor demonstration pool,
and new products.
The show is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 3, and
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 4. For more information, visit
DIVING BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN:
A Cultural Exchange With Polish Dive Buddies
Story and photo by Marty Snyderman
To escape religious oppression, my paternal grandmother fled Poland in the
early 1900s. She lived in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, until she was 16,
and by that time life for Jews in Poland had become rather precarious. Mamaw,
as I called my grandmother, had relatives in the United States and, in
search of a more promising future, at 16 boarded a ship in Poland bound for
Philadelphia and the open arms of relatives. Or so she thought. To Mamaw's
surprise her ship docked in New York, where the passengers were put off.
Welcome to your new life in America.
When Mamaw arrived in New York she spoke very little English. So little, in
fact, that she had made the oceanic crossing with a sign hanging around her
neck that identified her and her relatives. But somehow, with a lot of grit
and good fortune, Mamaw finally met up with her family in New Jersey.
Early on in my childhood when I was a kid growing up in Little Rock,
Arkansas, my parents thought it best if I didn't know too much about all of
the horrors in Europe that occurred during the period leading up to and
during World Wars I and II. As a result I was told to leave the room when
related topics came up in adult conversations. Like most kids, as soon as I
knew I wasn't supposed to hear or do a particular thing, I became bound and
determined to do it. So shortly after being whisked away, I would sometimes
go outside only to turn around a few minutes later to see if I could sneak
back inside and put my ear up to the door and listen to my grandmother, my
parents and their friends and relatives talk about politics and world
affairs. With my ear to the door, and later by asking my parents, I learned
about the threat of Nazi oppression, the threat of the Soviet Union and
communism, my grandmother's childhood, how she made her way to the United
States and the horrors of war, including the sadness in my family over the
death of one of Mamaw's sons, an uncle I never met who was serving in the
U.S. Army in Germany toward the end of World War II.
No doubt, I learned that some terrible things happened, and that my
grandmother was one tough-minded lady. But it took me until much later in my
own life to appreciate her guts and grit. As a kid I was much more aware of
the fact that Mamaw spoke English with a strong Polish accent, and that her
accent embarrassed me, especially when my friends were around. I suppose I
feared that in some way my grandmother's accent made my family seem
different, and I wanted to fit in with my circle of friends.
The Familiar Voices of Strangers
Mamaw passed away many years ago, but if I shut my eyes and sit still for a
minute I can still see her face and hear her accented voice in my head. It
was the same accent I heard when I stepped onto the dive boat in Yap this
past October while being introduced to three people I would be diving with
during the Manta Fest dive festival. The instant that Bartosz extended his
hand and said hello my mind flashed back to my grandmother. I said hello to
Bartosz and the other two members of his group, Marek and Jan. After a few
mostly silent, somewhat awkward moments, in an effort to be friendly and
make some idle conversation, I asked the trio where they were from. I was
already quite certain their answer would be Poland, and in heavily accented
English, Bartosz confirmed my suspicion.
None of the three spoke much English, but even their poorest English was far
better than my Polish. As a result we spent our first few diving days
together smiling at each other on the boat and handling camera equipment in
and out of the water, but we didn't speak much. Just the same, I was very
interested in Bartosz, Marek and Jan as divers. Over the years I have dived
with people who live in and learned to dive in a variety of foreign
countries, and I am always interested to discover how they learned to dive
and about their diving experiences and practices.
When I first broke into the diving business almost every certified diver I
met was from the United States, Canada, Germany, England, Australia or New
Zealand. Back in the 1970s scuba diving as a sport was still in its infancy
and it was pretty rare to meet nonmilitary divers who learned to dive in
Third-World countries. During the 1970s I never met a sport diver from a
Diving Behind the Iron Curtain
Much to my surprise, in the mid-1980s while teaching a seminar in underwater
videography on a live-aboard dive boat in Belize, I learned that one of the
participants, a young man named Vladimir, was from Russia. Vladimir was not
a very experienced diver at the time, and, in my judgment, his diving skills
were somewhat lacking. But Vladimir was a human sponge. He listened, watched
and read about diving and underwater videography every waking moment during
Vladimir was extremely appreciative of the opportunity to dive and learn new
skills, and at times he was emotionally overwhelmed by the sheer joy of
being able to take an underwater video system on a dive just for the fun of
it. I have vivid memories of Vladimir telling me that when he was a kid he
just wanted to have two shoes that were a matching pair. The thought of
ocean exploration and movie making were completely out of the question
during his childhood.
Not long after meeting Bartosz, Marek and Jan, I thought about Vladimir.
After all, for many years Poland was behind the Soviet Union's Iron Curtain.
As I often am when I meet divers from other countries, I was curious about
their diving experiences and skill levels. Honestly, I expected the Polish
trio to be as diving-raw and inexperienced as Vladimir was when I first met
him. But I was wrong. All three were very strong, safety-conscience divers,
and Bartosz proved to be quite a good photographer.
Even more surprising to me, I soon learned that Bartosz owns and operates a
travel agency in Poland that specializes in dive travel. I am sure I would
have bet more money than I can afford to lose that no one in Poland had a
business like that. After all, my impressions about Poland were borne of the
hardships and risks of my grandmother's childhood and my impressions of life
behind the Iron Curtain under Communist rule. I had no idea how much life in
Poland had changed in recent years.
Scuba as a Shared Language
Despite our language barrier, over the next two weeks while diving together
in Yap and Palau, Bartosz, Marek, Jan and I managed to strike up a good
friendship. We communicated via hand signals, facial expressions, body
language, charades, broken English and some Spanish, a language that all of
us speak to some degree. Over that time I did my best to learn about their
For all of my life I thought of the people of modern-day Poland who were
oppressed by their government, and as a result I thought most were very
poor, a scenario that would make sport diving unavailable to the masses, and
that would make the thought of owning a profitable business that
concentrated on dive travel seem laughable. I was aware that life in Poland
had offered greater hope to the average citizen due to the successes of the
trade union Solidarity movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s led by
Lech Walesa, and the eventual fall of communism in Eastern Europe. But
despite all of the political changes that occurred in Poland I never
considered it a nation where an average citizen could learn to scuba dive. I
would have guessed that there was a lack of diving equipment and
instruction. When I shared my thoughts with Bartosz, Marek and Jan, all
three said they understood my misconceptions, and all three laughed as they
assured me they are merely average citizens without any special connection
to government officials, just like me.
I told my new Polish friends that meeting them in Micronesia while scuba
diving with manta rays, sharks and mandarinfish was quite a surprise to me.
Over dinner on the last night of our trip in Palau I told them about my
family and my grandmother's journey to America, and each of them told me the
stories of their families. I learned that some of their relatives, too, had
fled Poland over the years. They had lost touch with some, but not with all,
and none of their families had escaped World War I or II without losing
I told my Polish friends that when I first expressed an interest in scuba
diving that my parents encouraged me to chase my dreams, but they didn't
have a clue what the diving world was all about. Bartosz laughed out loud
when I told him that, because his parents had the same response and, like
me, he had struggled to help them understand his enthusiasm for diving and
all things ocean. Over dessert we wondered aloud if one day almost a century
ago my family and theirs might have been neighbors, known each other or even
have been friends.
On the airplane ride home I found myself thinking about my grandmother, and
I couldn't help but wonder what she would have thought not only about my
chosen career path but about how in the world it had become possible that
her grandson might meet and dive with three average Polish citizens in
Micronesia. In the fantasy of my mind I tried to imagine what Mamaw would
have thought about our ever-changing world if she could have listened in on
our conversation the last evening of our trip as Bartosz, Marek, Jan and I
shared our love of diving and the stories of our families and lives
no dumb questions
CORAL REEFS CAUSING RAIN, REGULATOR CARE,
DCS CONCERNS, DIVER RECALL FLAG AND HELP FOR TMJ
By Alex Brylske Cathryn Castle Whitman Photo
Q:New diver Sheryl Hackleman asks about a very recent finding scientists
have made concerning coral reefs. "I'm a marine biology student and recently
earned my Open Water certification. My passion is coral reefs, and I
recently watched a Discovery Channel documentary on the Great Barrier Reef.
In it they stated that one way reefs combat bleaching is to induce cloud
cover and make it rain. They didn't get into any detail, but said that it
had to do with some chemical that coral reefs can emit when under stress. I
would never have believed such a thing, but the rest of the show seemed very
credible. Have you ever heard of such a thing?"
A:Having a great interest in reefs myself, I try to stay on top of what's
happening in the coral reef science community; and the show you saw eluded
to some exciting new research. A story in a February 2005 issue of New
Scientist reported that coral reefs may affect local weather patterns in
ways that we never dreamed. The hypothesis is that reefs, as a mechanism to
cool themselves, can actually create clouds and make it rain.
Research from the Great Barrier Reef shows that corals contain a chemical
called dimethyl sulphide, or DMS, for short. When DMS is released into the
atmosphere as an aerosol, it stimulates cloud formation, blocking out
sunlight. Clouds form, and eventually rain, because the tiny particles of
DMS facilitate condensation; it acts as a "seed" around which water vapor
can collect. Scientists have known for some time that large amounts of DMS
are produced by many marine algae, but until recently no one had thought to
explore whether coral reefs might do the same.
Researcher Graham Jones of Australia's Southern Cross University measured
DMS concentrations around coral reefs and found that the mucus exuded by the
coral contained the highest concentrations of DMS so far recorded from any
organism. In fact, he and his colleagues found that a rich layer of DMS
formed at the sea surface above the reef, and is picked up by the wind.
This phenomenon not only cools the surface water, but could have a large
effect on the local climate. Quoting from the New Scientist article, Jones
said that, "Although globally the emission of DMS from the Great Barrier
Reef is not huge, on a regional basis it is very significant." But, he adds,
"We don't know how the DMS emitted by the coral relates to cloudiness and
the radiative climate over the reef."
To what extent, if at all, the corals are responding to the stress of high
temperatures isn't known. But lab experiments have demonstrated that corals
produce more DMS when the symbiotic algae inside their tissues become
stressed by high temperatures or ultraviolet radiation. "We've got a long
way to go to conclusively demonstrate this, but we've got a lot of
ammunition," Jones says. As you're a marine biology student, I thought you
might want to read the researcher's original article, which can be found in
the journal, Marine and Freshwater Research (Volume 55, Page 849).
Q:Sy Halberg, a longtime reader of Dive Training, writes, "My wife and I
received the very first issue of DT magazine when we were certified in 1991.
Eleven hundred dives later we still eagerly await the arrival of the next
one. My question concerns regulator care. Periodically we read articles
stressing that regulators should not be hung by their first stages as this
puts unnecessary stress on the connections between the first stage and the
hoses. Considering that low-pressure hoses are constructed to withstand
hundreds, and the high-pressure hoses thousands of psi of pressure, could it
be possible to damage the connections as a result of the minimal weight of a
second stage regulator, or even the somewhat heavier load of a console
hanging at the other end of the hoses (especially with protectors supporting
the hoses where they curve at the connection)?"
A:Any strain that bends a hose out of alignment will cause wear, and what
you describe does that. However, the issue is really a matter of duration.
Think about it: Just how often is your regulator attached to a tank and
subjected to the kind of stress at issue here? Even considering the time a
regulator spends curled up in your dive bag, and on the ride to and from a
dive site, it still spends most of its life in storage. At best, unless a
regulator is in rental, it might be used for a few days, but stored for
As to the construction of hoses to withstand pressure, that's, of course,
true. The problem is the pressure they're designed to withstand is internal,
not being bent at the connection point, which is the weakest part of any
But, even with the best of preventive care, no hose lasts forever.
Eventually all hoses, regardless of how well they're maintained, will reach
the end of their useful lives and must be replaced. This is why, in addition
to proper storage, all regulators should have annual service by a qualified
technician. Just continue to store your regulators as recommended - without
hanging them up - and you should get a normal life span. As to hose
protectors, many equipment technicians contend that they not only provide no
real protection, but actually hide early signs of wear.
Q:Tom Francis wrote with some concerns over decompression sickness. "I
just started my Open Water course and have a question that no one seems to
be able to answer to my satisfaction. It seems that we spend a great deal of
time talking about decompression sickness, learning how to use tables and
singing the praises of dive computers. However, I'm told that even if we do
everything right, we can still get the bends. Isn't there some way to avoid
this altogether? I mean, couldn't dive tables and computers be adjusted so
that you'd stay safe if you didn't violate the rules?"
A:I don't mean to sound glib, but the only way that someone can absolutely
avoid the risk of decompression sickness is not to dive. Any excursion into
a high-pressure environment involves some risk, albeit dives to very modest
depths above 25 feet (7.5 m) present very little. Although it's extremely
rare, decompression sickness has occurred to divers in depths shallower than
two atmospheres. More importantly, decompression sickness occurs to divers
who have not exceeded the so-called "no decompression" limits at any depth.
This may be frustrating because we're used to understanding limits as
absolute, immutable points at or below which one need not worry.
Unfortunately, that's not the way it works when it comes to decompression
and the fickle human body.
Perhaps some perspective into the nature of decompression models will help.
While recreational diving has seen an extremely low incidence rate of
decompression sickness, bends does occur and probably always will. No dive
computer, table or decompression model can completely prevent it from
happening. The models that dive computers and tables are based on are
mathematical representations of how we think nitrogen or other
physiologically inert gases behave in our body. But our bodies are not
mathematical representations; we're individuals each with a unique
physiology. While a model may simulate to a very high degree of accuracy
what happens in most people, most is not all.
Of course, the shallower you are, and the shorter time you remain at depth,
the less likely you are of succumbing to problems. But you're not immune.
Frankly, given recreational diving's almost 50 years of experience, and
outstanding safety record, the risk of DCS is pretty minimal for someone who
follows the rules. The perspective that I like to provide folks with your
concern is this: I've been an active diver since 1966, and have amassed
somewhere around 5,000 dives (I long ago stopped keeping a log book). And in
all that time I've never witnessed a verified case of decompression sickness
or any other pressure-related injury. Certainly, we could adjust
decompression models to yield more conservative results in the tables and
computers derived from them. But given the safety record of diving, when
people use the existing models appropriately, there just doesn't seem to be
any reason to do that.
Q:Jim Corbat sent an inquiry about flags, but it's not the usual
question involving the well-known "diver down" variety. He asks simply, "Is
there really a 'diver recall' flag and what does it look like?"
A:There are numerous systems to recall divers, but every one that I'm
familiar with is audible. This makes sense, as when divers are underwater,
making contact by sound is really the only effective option. However, in
cases in which a diver is on the surface, perhaps it might be useful to have
a signal letting them know that they should immediately return to the boat.
The only relevant reference that I could find came from an excellent Web
site devoted to dive flags (www.dive-flag.com). According to that site, the
"P" (Papa) flag - a blue rectangle with a smaller white rectangle inside -
is sometimes used in diving operations as a diver recall signal. I also
consulted the International Code of Signals (INTERCO), which is a signal
code used by merchant and naval vessels to communicate important messages
about the state of a vessel and the intent of its master or commander when
there are language barriers. INTERCO signals can be sent by signal flag,
blinker light, semaphore, Morse code, or by radio. They state that the Papa
or "Blue Peter" has two meanings. When in port or at anchor, it signals,
"All aboard, vessel is about to proceed." At sea it signals, "Your lights
are out or burning badly." I assume that it's based on the former meaning
that some have used it for diving operations. Still, the best way to recall
divers is through an audible signal, which can come from a device made for
this purpose or, in a pinch, by banging on the boarding ladder or another
submerged metal object.
Q:Finally, Dennis Gumuka didn't ask a question, but provides an
additional solution to a reader's question that I addressed a few months
A:"In your December column you addressed the father/daughter jaw pain
problem. Here is a solution that has worked for many. Use a
longer-than-normal hose for the primary regulator, and pass-route the hose
under the arm rather than over the shoulder. Some regulators are also better
at reducing the tendency for the second stage to be pulled out of the mouth.
With the hose coming under your arm, chances for snags and pulling are
virtually eliminated. There are also many different swivels available that
can be mounted between the hose and second stage, allowing greater
articulation of the second stage and reduce the pulling effect. These
adaptations have worked well for my own daughter."
Test your knowledge of the information featured in this month's issue of
1. The karate equivalent of a dive
instructor is called the:
2. In dry air at sea level with a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21
degrees Celsius), the speed of sound near the water's surface is slower than
in seawater with a temperature of 68 F (20 C) and salinity of 35 parts per
thousand near the surface.
3. The first long-distance sound recorded through water was detected on what
4. Divers should stay near the bottom and swim perpendicular to the current
until it diminishes, then make their way back toward shore when caught in
what type of current:
5. A situation in which the bottom is out of sight and no reference points
are visible in any direction is called:
C. White water
D. Blue water
6. The primary responsibility of a dive trip leader is to ensure that
A. Has a good time.
B. Gets in the water.
C. Tips the dive crew.
7. The most significant feature of Little Cayman's Bloody Bay Wall is what?
A. Surface conditions, which are typically calm with no prevailing winds.
B. A drop-off that begins at a little more than 15 feet (5 m) and plunges
straight down 6,000 feet (1,818 m).
C. Underwater visibility, which averages 100 feet (30 m) or more.
D. Minimal runoff and pollution because the island is low and flat, and only
100 people live there.
8. The single foot that queen conches use to propel themselves across the
ocean bottom is called the:
9. The only way to avoid the risk of decompression sickness is not to dive.
Answers: 1. C 2. A 3. D 4. C 5. D 6. A 7. B 8. C 9. A