From Divers Alert Network
From simple cases of swimmer’s ear to the serious and sometimes lasting damage of barotrauma, divers are vulnerable to ear problems because the delicate mechanisms that govern our hearing and balance just aren’t designed for the rapid pressure changes that result from diving.
Fortunately, ear injuries are preventable.
Your middle ears are dead air spaces, connected to the outer world only by the Eustachian tubes running to the back of your throat.
If you fail to increase the pressure in your middle ears to match the pressure in your outer and inner ears, the result is painful middle ear barotrauma, the most common pressure-related ear injury.
The key to safe equalizing is opening the normally closed Eustachian tubes. Each has a kind of one way valve at its lower end called the “Eustachian cushion,” which prevents contaminants in your nose from migrating up to your middle ears. Opening the tubes, to allow higher-pressure air from your throat to enter your middle ears, normally requires a conscious act. Swallowing usually does it.
You equalize your ears many times a day without realizing it, by swallowing. Oxygen is constantly absorbed by the tissues of your middle ear, lowering the air pressure in those spaces. When you swallow, your soft palate muscles pull your Eustachian tubes open, allowing air to rush from your throat to your middle ears and equalize the pressure. That’s the faint “pop” or “click” you hear about every other swallow.
Scuba diving, however, subjects this equalization system to much greater and faster pressure changes than it’s designed to handle. You need to give it help.
All methods for equalizing your ears are simply ways to open the lower ends of your Eustachian tubes, so air can enter.
requires no effort
Typically occurs during ascent.
-Voluntary Tubal Opening
Tense Your Throat and Push Your Jaw Forward
Tense the muscles of the soft palate and the throat while pushing the jaw forward and down as if starting to yawn. These muscles pull the Eustachian tubes open. This requires a lot of practice, but some divers can learn to control those muscles and hold their tubes open for continuous equalization.
Pinch Your Nose and Swallow
With your nostrils pinched or blocked against your mask skirt, swallow. Swallowing pulls open your Eustachian tubes while the movement of your tongue, with your nose closed, compresses air against them.
Pinch Your Nose and Make the Sound of the Letter “K”
Close your nostrils, and close the back of your throat as if straining to lift a weight. Then make the sound of the letter “K.” This forces the back of your tongue upward, compressing air against the openings of your Eustachian tubes.
Pinch Your Nose, Blow and Swallow
A combination of Valsalva and Toynbee: while closing your nostrils, blow and swallow at the same time.
Pinch Your Nose and Blow and Push Your Jaw Forward
While tensing the soft palate (the soft tissue at the back of the roof of your mouth) and throat muscles and pushing the jaw forward and down, do a Valsalva maneuver.
Pinch Your Nose and Blow
This is the method most divers learn: Pinch your nostrils (or close them against your mask skirt) and blow through your nose. The resulting overpressure in your throat usually forces air up your Eustachian tubes.
But the Valsalva maneuver has three problems:
1. It does not activate muscles which open the Eustachian tubes, so it may not work if the tubes are already locked by a pressure differential.
2. It’s too easy to blow hard enough to damage something.
3. Blowing against a blocked nose raises your internal fluid pressure, including the fluid pressure in your inner ear, which may rupture your “round windows.” So don’t blow too hard, and don’t maintain pressure for more than five seconds.
Swallowing—and various methods of equalizing—are all ways of opening the normally closed Eustachian tubes, reducing the pressure differential between the outer ear and inner ear. The safest clearing methods utilize the muscles of the throat to open the tubes. Unfortunately, the Valsalva maneuver that most divers are taught does not activate these muscles, but forces air from the throat into the Eustachian tubes.
That’s fine as long as the diver keeps the tubes open ahead of the exterior pressure changes. However, if a diver does not equalize early or often enough, the pressure differential can force the soft tissues together, closing the ends of the tubes. Forcing air against these soft tissues just locks them shut. No air gets to the middle ears, which do not equalize, so barotrauma results. Even worse, blowing too hard during a Valsalva maneuver can rupture the round and oval windows of the inner ear.
To learn more, please visit www.DAN.org/Health to view the Smart Guide on Ears.
Descending and ascending are often overlooked as critical diving skills, usually outshone by the need for perfect trim and buoyancy once the dive is underway. However, being able to descend and ascend slowly and safely, while maintaining good positioning, is something that new divers can struggle with, and should be practiced just like any other skill.
Use your logbook to keep track of how much weight you’re using on each dive, and whether it was salt or freshwater. It will also help to keep an exact record of the kind of equipment you used: steel or aluminium tank? 10 litre, 12 litre, or 15? Short or long wetsuit? 3mm, 5mm, or 7mm? All of these things contribute to accurately estimating the amount of lead you’ll need on your next dive. Make sure you’re writing down as many details as you can, as this will help you and your next dive professional to add or subtract some weight based on your previous dives.
Many divers don’t realise that it should actually be an effort to get down. If you’re dropping like a lead balloon on your descents, chances are you’re over weighted. It’s always good to carry as little weight as possible, particularly for shore dives or challenging diving environments (who wants to carry an extra 10kg up a beach, when they could be carrying eight? or six?) Descending slowly and then maintaining your buoyancy throughout the entire dive – safety stop and all – are serious skills to master, but once you have, you’ll find yourself shedding the pounds.
If anything has changed since your last dive – such as diving environment, exposure suit, or even body mass – conduct a proper weight check before your dive. Properly weighted, you should float at eye level holding a normal lungful of air with an empty BCD. Take care not to kick or scull while you do your check; this will only keep you near the surface. Let yourself hang vertically in the water column with minimal movement, and then exhale fully. If you drop like a sack of bricks, you need to take some weight off. Ideally, you’ll start to sink slowly, giving yourself plenty of time to equalise early and often on the way down.
Your descent should look similar to your weight check as you fully deflate your BCD and hold still and vertical- no kicking! Empty your lungs completely. Make any inhales as small as possible, and emphasise the exhales, so that your out-breaths are much longer and stronger than your in-breaths. As you feel yourself start to freefall, use your abs to bring your upper body into a face down, horizontal position so that the weight of the tank can’t pull you over backwards. Squeeze your glutes and push your belly out to bring your hips and legs up behind you, and add some air back into your BCD to avoid contacting the bottom.
It takes time in the water to really get comfortable and realise what works for you, so it’s worth experimenting not just with the amount of weight you carry, but how you carry it too. Take time to get good at ascents and descents, and you’ll find that the rest of your dive gets easier too! Take out Peak Performance Buoyancy course to further improve your buoyancy skills.
About the Author
Originally from the UK, Liz Wilkie has been working, writing, and diving her way around Asia, Australia, and Europe since 2010, and is currently a PADI MSDT in Cyprus. She’s trained in Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia, and teaches English Language during the off-seasons.
From Divers Alert Network April 2020
COVID-19 symptoms range from mild to severe. Some people have no symptoms at all while others require complicated stays in ICUs with ventilatory support to recover. In addition to the impact of the primary viral infection, factors such as underlying medical conditions, age, secondary complications and more will affect recovery.
COVID-19 shares many features with other serious viral pneumonias and requires a period of convalescence before returning to normal activities. The amount of time needed to recover will vary, as will the long-term effects of COVID-19 such as pulmonary function. As information becomes available it will be incorporated into COVID-19 prevention, treatment and follow-up guidelines.
Determination of your fitness to return to diving after a COVID-19 infection will require assessment by your physician team confirming your full recovery and ability to safely perform unrestricted vigorous activity.
If your doctor needs to consult with a dive medicine specialist, DAN doctors are here to help. We also have a database of dive medicine doctors and can provide referral information. Call us at +1 (919) 684-2948, 9am-5pm ET, Monday thru Friday.
In addition, we urge all divers who have recovered from COVID-19 infection to call DAN for up-to-date information. As always, continue to follow all recommended precautions and stay safe!
We all know how incredible the ocean can be to explore underwater, but wouldn’t it be even more amazing to share these moments with your family? Children as young as 8 years old can be introduced to scuba diving through the PADI Bubblemaker program. While those aged 10 years or older can embark on their PADI Junior Open Water Diver course. It’s never too late to get scuba certified and start living the dream as a scuba family. Not convinced? Check out these 5 reasons why you should get your family certified.
If you’re a parent you would know the struggle of trying to find a weekend family activity that everyone enjoys and agrees on. However, if your family becomes scuba certified you will always have a new dive site to explore, new skills to learn and new marine animals to spot underwater – no two dives are ever the same. Scuba diving is the perfect activity to show your family the beauty of the underwater world, inspire ocean conservation and create memories that will last a lifetime.
In this day and age, technology has become an integral part of our daily regime (whether we like it or not). From answering emails to playing games, watching YouTube or going on social media, technology is everywhere. Scuba diving allows your family to be immersed in nature and the outdoors, while also eliminating the possibility of anyone being able to check their phones. Who else knows a family member that could do with a scuba diving technology detox?
If you’re a diver you would already know how hard it is to scuba on a family holiday. From finding spare time outside of activities to organising babysitters or even destination choices – fitting in just one dive can be hard, let alone a few! Instead of watching your family snorkel above you or leaving them on the dive boat, why not show them the oceans beauty from another view? Not only will you be able to experience incredible adventures underwater, but your family will also be bursting with conversation topics for years to come – who doesn’t love a good diving story!
Deciding on what destination you should choose for your next holiday should be exciting not challenging. For some families this decision can erupt in chaos with disagreements over what destination to choose – hot or cold, history or scenery, ocean or no ocean. However, when you share a common interest these discussions become easier and arguments begin to dissipate among family members. With a scuba family your holiday planning becomes simplified to ‘what diving destination do you want to cross off your bucket list? Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia or maybe Egypt?’ Once you have chosen your holiday destination you can then start planning some diving activities that the whole family can enjoy together.
Are you someone who loves sharing photos on social media or maybe you love putting together a photo album after your holiday? Imagine the phenomenal photos and videos you will be able to capture while diving on a family holiday – we bet none of your friends will have family photos quite like yours! Not only will you have beautiful photos and videos to share from your trip, but you will have many diving stories to share. Diving with your family is an incredible experience that will leave you with many treasured memories (and photos) for years to come.
Want to start living the dream as a scuba family?
Are you a scuba diver looking for a new challenge? Or maybe you’re wanting to explore underwater places deeper than 30 meters or that nobody has ever seen before? Then the PADI Tec 40 course might just be for you. Not only is this course a great place to start your technical diving journey, but you will also have the chance to build on and advance your recreational skills.
You may have looked at or heard about technical diving and thought, is this for me? As a Tec Deep Instructor Trainer, I would conduct a casual interview over a coffee with anyone who expressed interest in technical diving. It is important to discuss the aspects of the course and the general attitude required to take this kind of challenge on. It takes discipline and commitment to really get stuck into technical diving, as well as an adventurous mind set. Most of all I like divers having a good reason to get started, not just “I want to go deep”. I prefer hearing that someone has a goal that they’re wanting to achieve using the technical diving system.
To start your technical journey with the Tec 40 course, you must first be a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver, Enriched Air Diver with at least 10 dives logged using enriched air deeper than 18 meters/60 feet, Deep Diver with at least 10 dives logged at 30 meters/100 feet and you must be at least 18 years of age with a minimum of 30 logged dives. Completing the Tec 40 course will allow you to extend your deep bottom time while exploring wrecks or deep reefs, for longer. The Tec 40 course is also the stepping stone to PADI Tec 45 and PADI Tec 50 courses which extend your depth, capabilities, skills and bottom time even further.
The PADI Tec 40 course is your first step into technical diving. It is a basic level of decompression diving that will allow you to dive with redundancy of gases, higher mixes of Enriched Air of up to 50%, decompression on EANX 50% for conservatism and up to 10 minutes of decompression. With the Tec 40 certification under your belt, you will certified to make limited decompression dives to 40 meters/130 feet.
This is one of the coolest things about technical diving – it can be completed almost everywhere! PADI has over 366 TecRec Centres in over 64 different countries, worldwide. This diversity allows you the freedom to pick from the top diving destinations with the most skilled technical instructors, worldwide. Whether you want to dive in search of 40 meter wrecks in Malta or if you want to cruise with hammerhead sharks 40 meters down in Borneo, you will be able to find a PADI TecRec Centre to achieve your goal.
The simple answer – when you’re ready. This could be when you’re an Advanced Open Water Diver with 40 logged dives or when you’re a Master Scuba Instructor with over 500 logged dives. Despite if you have been diving for 6 months or 10 years, it’s all down to the individual’s skill level and attitude. A quick discussion with a PADI Tec Instructor will help you answer this question. Our main aim is to keep everyone safe, so we don’t let anyone expose themselves to this level of diving before they’re ready. But when you’re ready, you will know and so will your instructor!
For so many reasons! You will enhance your skills learnt from your experience as a recreational diver, you will learn gas planning, buoyancy control, you will become a problem solving master, and much more. With guidance from your PADI Tec Instructor and the use of the technical syllabus, you will learn a range of extra skills that will take your diving skills from being advanced to expert.
Are you interested in having more time to explore places that others have never seen before? Or maybe you just want to advance your diving skills?
As certified divers, we should already have a pretty good understanding of how to dive safely. But many of us have found ourselves in unsafe diving situations such as diving beyond our training or diving despite apprehension or discomfort. Many of these dangerous situations result from poor decisions made before a dive, but why do divers make bad decisions when we know better?
I have found myself in several unsafe situations in diving. Once a dive operator encouraged me to go on a dive that was deeper than I was trained to go. Another time one put together my equipment for me, and when I went to double check it he told me not to bother, saying they had "been doing this for years." Many divers give in to this sort of pressure, but why does this happen despite all the training we've undergone?
We could say these dive operators have an unsafe dive culture, but I think we must examine how such cultures arise. Many factors contribute to unsafe diving. One is pluralistic ignorance, which is when people act as if nothing is wrong because nobody else is acting like anything is wrong. In diving, this can occur when someone suggests something unsafe and nobody speaks out against it. When this happens we tend to look around, notice that nobody else seems to be concerned, and think something like "Well, nobody seems concerned, so maybe I'm paranoid; it must be OK." We must not take the inaction of others to mean that everything is as it should be.
Another factor is known as diffusion of responsibility. This occurs when a person's sense of responsibility diminishes in the presence of other people. In diving, we might see something that is inappropriate but say nothing because we assume it is someone else's responsibility to say something. It is particularly easy for novice divers to fall into this trap since they tend to assume that everyone else is better suited than they are to take responsibility for the dive. Remember, you are the best advocate for your own safety.
Deindividuation is another factor that can lead to unsafe diving. This phenomenon is often called "being lost in the crowd," but it doesn't necessarily require a large group. We feel fewer constraints on our actions when many people are around us, as might be the case on a full dive boat. When we are lost in the crowd, we tend to act more impulsively and may thus be more prone to making errors.
Close-knit groups of friends can be particularly prone to groupthink, which is when everyone in a group agrees with each other without thinking things through. Someone might suggest an unsafe dive, and everyone gives their assent without much thought.
On the other hand, diving with people you don't know can also be problematic. We tend to want to be liked by others, so we sometimes do things we normally wouldn't to get along or for others to like us. Often called normative social influence, it can encourage us to make an unsafe dive in an attempt to be liked by others. If someone suggests diving deeper than you are trained to, you might feel pressure to say yes if you want to be liked by that person. Although putting your life in danger just to be liked might seem strange, normative social influence is powerful and should be taken seriously.
Informative social influence is a bit different. This is when we do as others do because we think they know what is best. We learn from them and follow their lead. This is a good thing as long as the person we are learning from is doing things properly. Unfortunately, novices often look toward anyone with more experience, but not every diver is a worthy role model.
The good news is that we can counter these unwanted influences in many ways, including reading articles like this one. The simple act of learning about these influences can be enough to weaken them. We can also do the following:
· Take control. Don't assume somebody else will say something is amiss. Review your training, and stick to it. If someone suggests doing something outside of your training, say you aren't comfortable doing it. Chances are that someone else in the group is similarly concerned but is too shy or uncomfortable to say so.
· Slow down. We tend to act impulsively around other people, so slow down and think. Rarely do we have to make split-second decisions before we dive. Taking a minute or even just a few seconds to think things through can effectively counter errors due to impulsiveness.
· Play devil's advocate. It's natural to blindly go along with the crowd at times. To counter this, think about what might go wrong. We won't always identify plausible concerns when we play devil's advocate, but sometimes we may notice potential problems.
· Rely on your training. Part of safe diving is recognizing unsafe diving. If you are unsure, consult your manual or ask a diver with knowledge, experience and a commitment to safe diving. You can often tell who these people are: They tend to talk about safety, have advanced training and help novices before dives.
· Model good behavior. If you are an experienced diver, lead by example. Don't be afraid to go out of your way to make it clear you are a safe diver. For example, you might invite novices to plan their dives with you. This helps create a climate that benefits everyone.
· Role-play. Practice with a friend what you would do if someone pressured you to make an unsafe dive. We often make poor decisions because we are put on the spot and don't have time to think things through properly. Practicing what you would say and who you would say it to can make it considerably easier to make the safe decision. Prior to doing something exciting like diving, we tend to respond with our dominant response, but a beginner's dominant response is not always the correct one. Through role-playing and practice you can make your dominant response one that supports safety.
Most of us understand, intellectually at least, the risks associated with cutting corners, rushing dives and not being fully prepared.
By learning to recognize factors that lead to unsafe decisions, we can help keep ourselves out of dangerous situations.
As PADI Torchbearers, we explore and protect the ocean. We make the world more vibrant through our choices and voice. Our adventures fuel our passion, our actions support a healthier planet and our collective example shines a light of hope leading the way for others to join the movement.
Age simply isn’t a factor when it comes to protecting what we love. For proof, you need look no further than two of our young AmbassaDivers – Riley Hathaway (from Young Ocean Explorers) and Luca Hales.
Together with her underwater videographer dad Steve, Riley’s ocean advocacy takes shape in the form of stories that inspire kids to fall in love with the ocean. Check out their TedxAuckland presentation for more info on Young Ocean Explorers.
Luca, based in Sharm el Sheikh, is a man on a mission. Or “boy” on a mission, whatever you prefer. That mission? Inspire kids in diving to be custodians for the underwater world.
Soon, we’ll be hosting an Instagram Live with these two, chatting together about conservation and how their individual contributions can make a difference. If you don’t want to miss out, make sure to follow us.
If we are to reach our goal of one billion torchbearers, we need every last one of us. The youth are no exception. In fact, they might be the most important group of divers out there as we seek to restore balance between humans and the ocean. We need to pass the torch to this new generation of divers and get them excited about conservation so they are able to continue PADI’s mission to save the ocean for years to come.
What can you do to foster the next generation of torchbearers?
Be a mentor. To raise a new generation of conservation-savvy divers, we need to set an example that they can follow. Join the Torchbearer movement yourself, and in doing so get educated on ocean issues and take action to save the ocean.
Teach them to swim. A future in diving begins with your relationship with the water in it’s most simplest form: whether or not you can swim. It’s all about laying the foundations of a positive connection with the ocean.
Allow them to breath underwater. If you’re looking for a memorable gift for that special 8, 9 or 10 year old, you need look no further than a Bubblemaker experience.
Introduce them to the underwater world. Once those kids reach 10 years old (minimum age requirements may be higher in some locations due to local laws and regulations), it’s time to sign up for the Junior Open Water Course. It’s the exact same lifetime qualification as an adult course, only limited on maximum depth and necessity to dive with a PADI Professional or parent/guardian.
Teach them to see beauty in nature. The saying goes ‘People protect what they love’, and never has this been so true as with the underwater realm. Go diving with your kids, let them in on what made you fall in love with the ocean and encourage them to find out what does it for them.
Show them why we must respect nature. Read age-appropriate books with them that explore of the dangers of climate change and what we can do to prevent the worst of it.
Include them in your dive travel. As a parent (or other guardian), introducing your kids to new underwater experiences and different cultures is one of the best things you can do to build their confidence. That confidence is what’ll allow them to stand up for what they believe in the future.
Join us for International Youth Day in conversations with the next generation of PADI Torchbearers who are committed to uniting more people in their fight for a healthier ocean planet.
While scientists, politicians and other experts remain unsure about the pandemic’s long and short environmental effects, one thing it’s clearly not affecting is the PADI family’s passion and concern for the underwater world. Even as the world’s still focused mainly on COVID, 19-27 September hundreds of PADI Resorts, Dive Centers, Professionals and Divers stepped away from their new-normals to conduct and take part in ocean conservation efforts as part of the third annual AWARE Week.
Using face coverings, distancing and other measures as required, throughout the week divers cleared hundreds of kilos of garbage in Dive Against Debris® surveys and conducted ocean conservation outreaches to communities, and engaged people in other environmentally-focused events – check out some of the action here.
Beyond these events, AWARE Week touched the lives of at least 3.8 million people via social and conventional media. On behalf of the entire PADI organization, thanks to all of you who were part of these.
AWARE Week also marked the formal introduction of the five central PADI Torchbearer goals – broad actions that anyone who cares about healthy sustainable seas must be aware of and take, and that I imagine most Torchbearers already do.
1. Stand Up for the Ocean. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh said, “It’s almost as easy to stand up as it is to sit down,” and that’s certainly true for us. As PADI Torchbearers, we often make a huge difference just by adding our names to petitions for conservation and the environment, writing government authorities, uniting with other groups for common purpose or simply (politely and respectfully) correcting health-of-the-seas misinformation in everyday life. Often, it takes at most minutes, yet it’s how we’ve added dozens of threatened shark species to the CITES protection lists, and it was public support helped get Florida’s ban on shark finning through – on 18 September, the day before AWARE Week started.
2. Assume Responsibility. It’s scary to look in the mirror and say “it’s up to me.” It means we’re taking on the role of ocean caretakers and stewards, no matter what others do. If the seas don’t do well, it’s on us – no excuses and no finger pointing.
But while scary and challenging, taking responsibility is an empowering decision –weight on our shoulders gives us traction, metaphorically speaking. It gets us going and unites us as a global community acting on behalf of, well, the bigger global community because everyone needs a healthy ocean, whether they realize it or not.
3. Dive with a Purpose. As PADI Torchbearers, we are the hands, eyes and ears for ocean science, the arms and legs for ocean cleanup and the mouth for the ocean’s voice. Diving with purpose elevates every dive from just-another-sightsee to opportunities we don’t want to waste: surveying, research participation, debris collection, teaching, restoring, documenting.
At the very least, every dive is an opportunity to share what we saw – for better and worse – with the rest of the world through social media. “What [human]kind wants is not talent;” said English stateman Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton, “it is purpose.” Being PADI Torchbearers gives us a purpose in spades – saving the ocean.
4 & 5. Reduce Our Carbon Footprint and Make Sustainable Choices. It wasn’t long ago that reducing carbon and choosing sustainable were not something we did easily. And, while it’s sometimes still cumbersome, as people like you and me speak up, demand and expect it (Goal 1), consumer choices are pushing things the other way. A decade ago, you rarely saw EVs (electric vehicles); today they’re common in many places, and in a decade they’re expected to outsell fossil-fuel vehicles. Similarly, recycle-sourced products, plastic alternatives and dozens of low carbon, sustainable new choices are available – and it’s our responsibility to buy accordingly (Goal 2). This not only drives the demand, but trends sustainable, low carbon footprint products toward lower cost and rising availability.
Again with EVs –prices are declining, batteries are improving (range is no longer an issue for most purposes) and the operational costs are already considerably lower than gas vehicles. It’s expected that by 2022 EVs will be the better choice economically, not just environmentally. Why? Largely (arguably not entirely) because we’re buying more and more EVs.
Sometimes environmental messages rage against the shortsightedness of previous generations – forgetting that hindsight is always 20/20. Sometimes they express despair – forgetting that while there’s a lot to do, things are far from hopeless. I prefer playwright and humorist James Thurber’s perspective when he said, “Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.”
Seek adventure. Save the ocean.
President & CEO PADI Worldwide
There is a hurried frenzy on deck as the first divers hit the water. A fitful swell makes things more difficult as we motor up the reef to drop the next pair. I look to Kitty and we make our final checks: mask; fins; weights… tape measure; quadrants; slates and pencils; cameras. We’re up, and like two sets of jangling keys we launch into the waves. It’s taken a few days but we’re starting to get used to the extra gear. After all, it’s the reason we’re here.
The Bay Islands rest on the Southern tip of the Meso-American reef. The waters here are set apart from the rest of the Caribbean in terms of the range of life they support. It’s the sort of thing that really gets a group of biology students going and an ideal location to set into motion the aqueous aspects of a science career. We have come to Utila Island, just off the Honduran coast, to develop a toolkit of techniques necessary for scientific research in the deep blue. At the end of an arduous day on the water I decided to find out what had taken my peers this stage, and how SCUBA had been a part of their story.
“My grandparents started a dive center fifty years ago, so it was going to happen”, begins Leah, a master’s student from Malta. Starting with her Bubblemaker aged eight, she is now a PADI Instructor. Towards the end of high school, she put her skills to use in an underwater clean-up with a group of friends. “It was a time that I noticed that this sort of thing was needed”. After working at an aquarium and a fish farm, Leah returned to her family dive center to find that she “had gained so much knowledge about what was going on, just from interacting with marine life”. It was enough to encourage her to take up an undergraduate course in marine biology. Coming back to work at her grandparent’s dive shop every summer, she found that each time she had something new to pass on to customers as she gained in her understanding of the undersea world. She points out that as she’s gone through her education, more of her peers have taken up diving and been able to put it use in their studies.
By midday, the dive gear is hanging to dry and been traded in for laptops and notebooks. Discussions fire around the room on which statistical analysis to use while students bash out numbers into spreadsheets and others debate what species of parrotfish is lurking in a photograph. “A lot of the time I’m sitting in a lab. For my thesis I’m staring at bacteria under a microscope. It’s not all fun but it’s also important”, adds Leah.
Megan took up diving after six months of working with turtles near the Ningaloo reef, Western Australia. “I kept learning little bits about the reef as I went along, asking more and more questions, and that pushed it [diving] into the forefront of what I wanted to do”. The expense of diving was a restraint on her ambition, something that she got around by taking an off-season course in a quarry in Wales. “It wasn’t very glamorous”, she adds, noting that getting qualified was something she had put off and wished she had done sooner.
There is no doubt that diving is a useful skill to have if you’re going down this route of study. Dr Dan Exton is head of research at Operation Wallacea, an organization that provides fieldwork opportunities for students. He says, “In order to properly prepare the next generation of tropical marine scientists and conservationists, it’s critical that they have the opportunity to immerse themselves in these incredible ecosystems”. Diving is also something that isn’t accessible to everyone at the early stages of their career. While it is specific to universities, this is something that is recognized, with one admissions officer saying that they are primarily looking for people who can demonstrate a passion for their subject. If diving is “something an applicant was interested in and they used that to further their learning and passion, then they could make it relevant”, he added.
A curiosity for marine life is something that accompanies many divers’ passion for the sport. “The ideas of diving and marine biology came around at the same time, and they kind of influenced each other with the possibilities that one could provide for the other”, begins Kitty, a second-year undergraduate student. Finishing school, Kitty spent her savings on a journey to Australia, where she went from PADI Open Water Diver to Divemaster. “When I got there and did my first dive, I was absolutely terrified”, she says. But after qualifying, Kitty was ready to put her new skills to use as a research assistant. She spent the next few months collecting corals in a shopping basket and growing them in tanks to forecast the effects of ocean warming and acidification. Getting some experience of real-world scientific research can give some perspective on what you are working towards, explains Kitty, especially when you’re putting long hours in at a desk at university. “Becoming a PADI Divemaster gives you great confidence and responsibility… and transferrable skills that I’ve been able to put to use throughout my studies”.
Several of the students have ambitions for PhDs on topics from marine mammal behavior to sea grass and climate change. Previous students on the course have gone on to be marine biology lecturers, researchers, documentary producers and dive guides. It may be hard work but there is great fulfillment in experiencing an environment that you have poured so much into learning about, putting yourself in a position to work for its protection. Dr Exton finishes by saying that “although the wonders of technology have made virtual learning much more immersive, there really is no substitute for getting your hands dirty through practical learning to complement the theory”.
The PADI Specialty AWARE courses, as well as Underwater Naturalist and Fish Identification might be good places to start if you want to boost your skills. There is also a whole range of organizations offering fieldwork and volunteering projects for divers. Some of these can be awfully expensive but there are often funding and scholarship opportunities if you do some digging. Getting in personal contact with someone who’s work interests you can also be good way of seeking opportunities for experience.
2020 was a time for all of us to pause, reflect, and focus on what is truly important as well as what makes us healthy and happy. Now, more than ever before, we see how vital it is for people to connect with nature, for both their physical and mental wellbeing. Divers around the world have developed an even greater personal connection to the ocean, bringing about further inspiration to protect what they love. As we reflect on the year past, and begin a new year, we have the opportunity to continue to focus on these positive effects of the pandemic as well as our shared passion for adventure, community, and the ocean.
There’s Still Time to Save the Ocean
Throughout 2020, it became clearer than ever that we can, and must, save the ocean now. For a time, the decline in ocean transport as a result of the pandemic created a quieter ocean – providing the underwater world a much needed break and chance for recovery. Resurgence in the world’s marine ecosystems gave us tangible evidence that healing is possible and conservation efforts do matter, giving people around the world hope for a brighter future.
PADI engaged with millions of divers and ocean enthusiasts around the world, finding creative ways to take action for the ocean in the virtual space. On World’s Ocean Day, PADI announced the creation of the new Torchbearer Community, designed to unite PADI Divers and ocean lovers in the movement for ocean protection. As we begin this new year, we invite you to Deepen your commitment to ocean conservation by joining the Torchbearer Community; Learn more about how our global community can mobilize for action in 2021;
Use Time at Home to Hone a New Skill
With most people spending more time at home than ever before, thousands of divers (and soon-to-be divers) took the opportunity to continue (or begin) their diving education in 2020 and use those new skills to explore local dive spots. Taking time to focus on yourself and your connection with nature, while learning an epic new skill is something we can all see value in as we enter the new year.
With PADI eLearning, divers can first complete the online portion of the course at their own pace through our easy-to-use interactive program. Then, divers can connect at any time with a PADI Dive Center or Resort to complete their in-water training. With the added flexibility that eLearning offers, PADI’s wide array of courses will surely allow you to seek adventure in 2021. As we begin the new year, we invite you to:
For the global dive community, 2020 was definitely the year of discovering local dive sites. Thousands of divers around the world downloaded our easy-to-use app to discover incredible dives near them.
As it did in 2020, PADI Adventures will continue to make booking dives easier than ever. This app has everything you need to get diving in your local area in 2021. Whether you’re looking to start a new hobby, to do a fun dive with your family, or earn a new PADI certification, finding and booking underwater adventures has never been easier. The PADI Adventures is truly the ultimate local diving app. As we begin this new year, we invite you to:
Have you ever dreamed of coming face to face with the massive toothy grin of a hammerhead shark? These seemingly prehistoric creatures are intelligent and aggressive hunters, but are rarely any danger to humans. There are places all over the world where you can go diving with hammerhead sharks, some of the most fascinating sharks alive.
Where will your adventures take you?
5. Florida Keys, Florida
Accessible and world renowned, the Florida Keys are an excellent jumping off point for diving with hammerhead sharks. There are several species of hammerheads in the warm waters that surround the keys, some of which can reach 1,000 pounds (450 kg). In addition to the many hammerheads that patrol the shallows, there are bull sharks, tiger sharks, lemon sharks, mako sharks, black tip sharks, and reef sharks.
The hammerheads often feed on stingrays and fish, and you may even get lucky enough to watch them stalking their prey. Occasionally, these fantastic fish throng in the hundreds, making for an unforgettable and impressive display.
4. Lahaina, Hawaii
Scalloped hammerheads prowl the waters around Lahaina, a town on the shores of Maui. The channels that run between the islands of Maui, Lanai, and Moloka’i are ideal feeding grounds for hammerheads and other large marine life.
The two dives sites that are particularly popular are Fish Rain and Fishbowl. Fish Rain is a drift dive with a moderately strong current, and ranges in depth from 70-130 ft (20-40 m). While idling through the water, you have a great chance to see dolphins, ahi tuna, and other large sharks.
Fishbowl is slightly shallower, ranging from 50-90 ft (15-27 m). Though it is also a drift dive, your dive operators may choose to drop anchor alongside the bowl. Looking out over the edge you can spot plenty of reef sharks, octopi, and hammerheads galore.
3. Darwin Island, Galapagos
As if floating through a dream world, Darwin Island is a unique dive site where you can go diving with hammerhead sharks. Found in the northwest corner of the Galapagosarchipelago, Darwin Island is the remnants of an ancient volcano and is located 563 mi (906 km) off the western shore of Ecuador. Although hammerheads may travel solo near the shore, your chances of seeing massive schools are relegated to deeper water.
Visit from January to May for your best chance to see both hammerheads and massive manta rays. June to November gives you the greatest opportunity to swim with whale sharks, so it may be in your best interest to enjoy an extended vacation on these magical islands.
2. Bimini, Bahamas
Not far off the eastern shore of Miami, FL, Bimini is home to one of the best hammerhead shark dives in the world.
Certain dive shops offer expeditions to dive with hammerheads, who swim by the islands every February. Massive sharks arrive by the dozens, and although these fish are usually shy and apprehensive, many individuals in the area are content around divers.
Although sharks are given a bad reputation, your experience in the Bahamas will turn around any anxieties you may have about getting in the water with these fascinating animals. Tiger sharks, bull sharks, reef sharks, and black-nose sharks may also make an appearance on your dive.
1. Cocos Island, Costa Rica
Cocos Islandis widely appreciated as the best place to dive with the mighty hammerhead. Found 342 mi (550 km) from the mainland, Cocos Island is completely uninhabited, except for a national park ranger station. Diving is the activity of choice on this primordial island, whose rocks jut high out of the Pacific, the waves crashing on its stony shores. The best sites for hammerhead sightings are Bajo Alcyone and Punta Maria.
Schools of shark’s swarm around the island, whose perimeter is surrounded by deep crevasses and outcroppings. Be aware, strong currents flow past the rocky formation, making for difficult yet rewarding diving. Because of the cold currents and abundance of sharks, only highly experienced divers are recommended to take the plunge.
What are you waiting for?
Put your trepidation behind you. Hammerhead sharks are gentle, curious creatures, and diving with them will be the trip of a lifetime. Get a glimpse of these gigantic fish and watch them in their natural habitat, hunting and exploring. Head to one of these exciting destinations to get up close and personal with hammerhead sharks, creatures that have been patrolling the deep for thousands of years.
Book your trip to go diving with hammerheads on PADI Travel today.