Author Archives: Damian

Hand Signals That Can Save Your Life

Relatively speaking, I’m no expert scuba diver yet and I would still even consider myself as a novice. If not for my passion for the underseas, I also would not have started this blog as it takes my time away from where the real action is.

That said, I am climbing my way up to be a master diver and perhaps get an ISO 24801so that I can perhaps be an instructor one day when I retire. Teaching, by the way, is another passion of mine.

So today, I will focus on teaching you the basics — communication. As you very well know, it is useless and almost impossible to make clear sounds underwater. Obviously, the regulator sufficiently grasped between our teeth presents a barrier to communicating using our mouth alone; hence, the importance of our limbs, particularly our hands.

I will enumerate the following critical hand signals when you are going deep into the blue, including our Top Five. These hand signals have variations in some locations but most of them (about 9 in 10) are universally similar.

The I’m-On-The-Surface (Safely Above Water) Signal 

Photo by Peter Southwood is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

A variation on this for some divers is to close their fist and put it over their head in the same manner as above.

The I-Need-Help (Emergency) Signal 

Dive Angelfish Hand Signal

Photo by Peter Southwood is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Perhaps the most life-saving gesture you could ever make throughout your scuba diving experience, this one is very critical. Wave your hands as wide and far as you can to draw attention to your peers whether on the surface or deep down the ocean.

The I’m-Perfectly-Fine (OK) Signal

Photo by Peter Southwood is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

This one brings relief to your peers and gives everyone the assurance that all is well, especially when one of you just encountered a potentially threatening situation or creature for that matter.

The Hang-On, Don’t-Move (Stop) Signal

Photo by Peter Southwood is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

When you encounter or sense something that requires you all to be alert and freeze in your underwater tracks, make use of this very helpful sign. Don’t move your fingers a bit but be firm in showing the palms forward sign.

The I’m-Having-Cramps Signal

Photo by Peter Southwood is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Although relatively less common, this signal can also save a life. There are many kinds of muscle spasms or conditions that can hit you underwater especially at that pressurized level below. But cramps is one that can potentially be deadly. So make sure to have memorize this handy sign by heart so you can flash them when you need to.

Below is a more comprehensive list provided by PADI in their website.

Photo by PADI via Twitter

That’s it for now. Remember these two words before you embark on any adventure, especially non-land-based ones: SAFETY FIRST. Stay well!

Titanic Tours: The Dive of a Lifetime

Titanic Tours in London

underwater tour of the RMS Titanic

You must have heard of the news March this year where, finally,  an underwater tour of the Titanic is now available for the most avid historians, scuba divers, Titanic buffs and ocean enthusiasts.

Much can be said about the ill-fated RMS Titanic wherein the demise of this maiden voyage back in April of 1912 resulted in countless interviews, documentaries, books, and even pop culture, making its way to the movies, TV shows, magazines and souvenir items. But seriously, seeing that doomed ship which claimed the lives of 1500 people firsthand is an experience of its own, far worth than any possible underwater or land-based tour in our opinion.

The Telegraph reports, however, that the slots offered by a London-based tour operator named Blue Marble Private are very limited albeit more slots are going to be opened by 2019. It also says that the tour will consist of eight days where the activities range from acquainting yourselves with the crew and scientists onboard, riding in a helicopter and later on transferring to an expedition support yacht, as well as actually operating the sonar and underwater navigation equipment

Naturally, the best part of that undersea expedition is the actual segment where three people will climb aboard a mini submarine-like seacraft cramped together. This will take place aboard the support ship when the weather conditions are most favorable to ensure no safety compromise.

The excitement of seeing that grand staircase as depicted in the 1997 movie Titanic is perhaps beyond compare. For sure, the seacraft will be sailing over its deck about ten to fifteen thousand feet below sea level. It is a truly awesome experience with an awesome price tag as well. To be exact, it costs about US$ 110,000 or around £90,000 per head.  And this is not without basis, the same source reveals that a price of a first-class Titanic ticket back in 1912 would have cost the exact amount of the tour’s ticket when adjusted for inflation all throughout the past hundred and so years.

How to Be a Scuba Diver

SCUBA stands for “Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.”

Make Sure You Want to Do It

Determine how serious your interest is. Will you dive in warm waters a few times a year at some pricey resorts, or are you interested in hardcore cold-water diving and exploring shipwrecks? It’s important to ask yourself such questions because you can enjoy diving without becoming certified. If you vacation in popular diving spots like the Caribbean, Acapulco or the Florida Keys, you will easily find offers for “resort” dives. These are usually one-day or weekend crash courses in diving that include a guided dive with a dive master. You do not get certified and cannot go unsupervised, but you are certainly allowed to enjoy the marine life in the area. Although often expensive, this type of introduction to diving is a wonderful way to decide if you want to pursue certification. You will probably even get a few underwater disposable-camera shots of yourself with colorful fish.

If you have a more vested interest in diving and want to become certified, there are physical and mental aspects of the sport that you should consider. It’s fairly obvious that this is a sport with a healthy amount of risk.

You first must determine whether you are physically able to scuba dive. Even if you know how to swim, scuba diving can be tiring, so your swimming skills should be fairly strong. If you are overweight, tire easily or have diabetes, a heart condition or any other predisposition to drowning, talk to your doctor before scuba diving.

Some people have problems getting used to breathing through their mouths instead of their noses. This problem can be easily fixed through practice with a snorkel or regulator in “safe” environments like a pool or bathtub. A harder problem to overcome is equalizing the pressure in your ears as you descend lower and lower into the water–that is, being able to “pop” your ears, like on a plane. As you go deeper in the ocean, pressure builds, and it is crucial to your physical being that you be able to pop your ears. Some people find this easier than others. Some can just swallow, yawn or hold their noses and blow gently. Others like to yawn and wiggle their jaws from side to side. Whatever the method, it sometimes takes a pretty long time to kick in. If you are having trouble equalizing, don’t go any deeper. Tell your buddy (more on him below) to hold up, and make sure you pop your ears because the alternative can be ruptured eardrums.

When you have congestion, it’s very hard to equalize. People with colds and allergies should reschedule their dives.

There are also mental considerations. You must not panic while scuba diving–not necessarily in case you get in trouble, but in case your buddy has a problem. Whenever diving, you should always have such a “buddy,” someone who you’ll stick next to, and who will watch over you while you watch over him. If your buddy has a problem, it’s your responsibility to get someone (most likely, the dive master) to help him. If you panic, your buddy might not get such help.

Diving with a friend or loved one makes you feel safer because you can pretty much count on her to watch over you. You really have to trust your buddy in what could be survival conditions, and you may both have to breathe out of the same regulator if something disastrous happens. So if you are a bit shy around people you don’t know and don’t feel comfortable being paired up with just anyone you meet on a dive boat, consider snorkeling instead. You must communicate with your buddy.

It’s true that you would rarely encounter things like sharks, barracudas, and piranhas, but how do you feel about jellyfish, slimy stingrays and thick kelp forests? If you get revolted by the thought of encountering such phenomena or even swallowing sea water, you might not be the best candidate for scuba diving. And if you are prone to seasickness, remember that scuba diving involves going on boats to get to dive sites.