do I go about doing a dive course?
courses are conducted by dive shops located throughout Australia, specialist
dive training schools, and resorts. Dive trainimng is also done in schools
and other education organisations, but always by someone qualified to an
acceptable standard. Make sure your dive instructor is properly qualified.
will I know that my dive instructor is qualified?
the person in charge. Because the school itself may teach to a recognised
standard does not in itself mean that the instructor is qualified - but
he or she should be. The training associations have strict rules about
this. You should have no problems if the school itself is so qualified.
who are these training associations?
are many throughout the world. In Australia, the main associations
National Association of Scuba Diving Schools
- Australian Underwater Scuba Instructors.
- National Association of Underwater Instructors
- Professional Association of Diving Instructors
- Scuba Schools International
there are specific training and administrative differences between the
associations, the student diver need not be too concerned about these.
Sufficient to say that all have a dive training standard suitable for sport
divers at entry level. If you wish to dive you will need to complete an
‘Open Water' course, or Scuba Diver certificate - we used to call this
a C-card until a few years ago. You may then continue on with Advanced
Training if you wish. All standards are recognised throughout the diving
world. Although standards may be similar, each dive course will have a
different itinerary and venue. Some courses may be held over a number of
evenings and weekends, or may be concentrated over one full week. And although
the dive shop may be located near to your home or work, the training may
take place in another location which may not be so convenient. Talk to
the staff of a few shops if you like and see what suits you best. And don't
go too much on price. Some courses may require you to hire some gear, or
may include only one or two boat dives. If comparing course benefits, find
out what is included - and excluded. Better still, talk with someone who
has done the course.
that it is in the best interests of these associations to maintain high
standards of safety, course content, and condust, and to balance these
with a reasonable expectation of commercial reward. It is reasonable to
say that PADI is the largest of them all, workwide.
does a Scuba Diver course include in the cost?
are offered by a number of dive training organisations. Some course operators
may include a number of enticements such as overnight accommodation, additional
boat dives, free transport to the course. Some Queensland operators are
in a position to offer free or cheap resort accommodation. I stress that
cost is only one factor in considering which course to take. Nonetheless,
the final dollar figure is important, and like anything in life, you need
to know what you are getting for your money. Most schools also have incentives
added to the course cost, such as free airfills for three months, or free
dive charter vouchers, or whatever seems a reasonable commercial gift.
Take these into account, as they can lead to substantial savings. But the
bottom line is the cost of the course itself. Looking at real examples
collated late 1998: .
school. Option A at $360, includes basic Open Water course, with all equipment
supplied, and certification. Option B at $599 provides a more intimate
course with a student to instructor ratio of 1:1 or a maximum of 4:1, and
can be adapted to the individuals available time. This is an excellent
offer as not everyone can fit in with a particular timetable, and some
people may prefer more personalised training. This same school offers an
‘early bird' discount for booking well in advance of the course - an advantage
to the student, but also shows that the dive shop has the intelligence
to approach their objective in a business-like manner, considering the
students needs, and their own long-term viability. I would certainly consider
a dive operation that takes a no-nonsense approach to its training over
one who is attempting to discount and provide ‘ad-hoc' incentives to sign
NSW: $280, includes 5 academic modules, 5 pool modules, 4 ocean dives,
certification fees, hire gear, wall certificate.
5-day Open water course $475.
all courses are different, so use these prices as a rough guide only.
price be a major consideration in selecting a dive course?
selecting a course don't make a judgement based solely on price, nor duration.
There are some dive schools who attempt to put a student through to full
Open Water level within less than four days, and some who offer ‘special'
or ‘bargain' rates. These may be quite valid, particularly during a quiet
period of the year. Talk to other divers and select a course that is run
by professional instructors with high standards and an attention to detail.
After all, your life is at stake. Dive schools like all commercial businesses
must be competitive, but dive instruction must not be compromised because
of cost. Unfortunately this sometimes happen in the industry. This is not
to suggest that the cheapest course is not up to an adequate level of both
dive safety and teacher standard, but a very cheap course should at least
start a few bells ringing. I prefer not to give an indication of what a
cheap course is because prices change depending on the season - and there
is always inflation to consider, and now the GST. But you'll know a cheapie
when you compare others. The important thing is to evaluate exactly what
you get for your dollar. For example, are all class notes and text books
included; is all equipment (hire) included, including a wet suit if required;
are there any hidden expenses with the sea dives; does the cost include
certification and registration with the appropriate instructor body. Some
schools hire out all or part of the equipment separately. That's fine,
so long as you know. You should know exactly how much a course costs right
through to qualification and certification. If you are ‘hit' with any additional
charges that you were not aware of prior to signing up for the course,
you would have every right to ask why.
there any hidden extras?
could be costs associated with the instruction manual s that you will use,
and the final certification. It is important to determine what exactly
is included in the ‘advertised' cost for a course. Manuals can set you
back maybe another $20-$50, and the actual obtaining of a certificate from
the applicable dive training organisation can be an additional similar
cost. You need to determine this before signing up. Most schools
make it quite clear what is and is not included. Some schools may include
the cost of the pre-requisite medical examination, but this is not usual.
(Refer above question).
do I need to bring to the course?
dive medical is of prime importance. Two passport photos are required for
your certification. Some snorkelling equipment (mask, snorkel and fins)
may be required - due to hygiene reasons, most courses require the student
to bring or purchase a snorkel. Others supply a snorkel, and give you the
mouthpiece free of charge. A wet suit is generally not required. Pen and
paper is always a good idea. And a towel (and bathing suit) of course.
The school should list what you require.
not too sure about all of this. Can I just have a go first and see what
the stress on safety during training, it may seem incongruous, but yes,
many dive schools provide a ‘try dive'. This may be just in the training
pool, or at the beach, but it will give you the opportunity to feel what
it is like to be underwater with a mask on and a regulator in your mouth,
breathing air. Some schools also run information evenings where you can
watch a video or two and have a glass of wine and a nibble. These are social
and promotion sessions, and are excellent for the novice as they allow
you to meet fellow students (some of whom may also have a few reservations),
and your instructors.
hear it's a great way to meet chicks?
can think of easier ways to meet the opposite sex, and if that is your
sole intention, perhaps your heart is not in diving. But I'll tell you
what - diving is a wonderful social activity. It brings people together
because of a wonderful common interest. I have seen a boat load of divers,
all strangers, travel out to a dive site in virtual silence. But after
the dive it is as if everyone is a friend and the chatter is incessant.
The psychology of this is simple. You are no longer strangers because you
have all shared a common experience - and a remarkably enjoyable experience
at that. And there are no barriers to the friendship - no racist or religious
barriers, no age barriers, no gender barriers (as male and female divers
are on an absolute equal). Yes, it is a great way to meet people. But if
you have diving of another sort in mind, give it a miss and go to a nightclub.
scuba diving dangerous?
we enter a strange environment we place our lives at some level of danger.
This even applies when we leave the relevant safety of our home and place
ourselves behind the wheel of a car. But if the diver, like the driver,
has two specific qualities the danger is reduced to a minimum - Skill,
and Attitude. If the diver knows what he/she is doing, knows his/her level
of capability and takes the ‘right attitude' there is little danger. Diving
has no room for the impertinent know-all who will not heed guidance or
instruction. It is not a macho sport as some would have us think. Anyone
with commonsense and reasonable fitness will become a good diver. A good
diver reduces danger to a minimum through knowledge and attitude..
question is always asked by a non-diver, but rarely by a potential diver
some reason. I am not sure why. Perhaps the thought is present but there
is a reluctance to ask the question. My answer generally depends very much
on my mood at the time and the apparent intelligence or otherwise of the
enquirer, but assuming that I am now in full control (and talking to myself!!)
I will attempt to answer the question.
are magnificent. They are one of the true wonders of nature, the perfect
animal, one that commands respect even from the dominant homo sapien,
one that has a grace and beauty outstanding in a world of fierce competition.
Like most divers I thoroughly enjoy seeing them - well, most of them anyway.
I have never been harmed by a shark but that does not present a complacency
in me. I have the utmost respect for them. Oh yes, they do bite occasionally.
But let me put it to you this way. Your chances of seeing a ‘dangerous'
shark other than one of the totally harmless species is next to zero. In
twenty years I have never seen a White Pointer and have only once glimpsed
a Tiger Shark that was more petrified of me than I of him (although it
probably didn't know that!). The majority of shark species in temperate
and tropical waters are either harmless or disinterested. But yes, there
are dangers. It would be foolish to deny that. But they are statistically
and practically minimal. Providing you do not do anything untoward or foolish
you have a greater chance of winning Tattslotto than being nibbled by a
shark. There have been quite a few spearfishermen, snorkellers and swimmers
taken, particularly late this year (2000) but in the history of diving
in Australia only two scuba divers have been known to have been killed
by a shark.
I have to be a good swimmer?
really but it would help. It is more important to be confident in the water,
and have good fitness - stamina. If you have no fear of the open sea and
swim or snorkel with ease then you will be fine. Swimming skills don't
actually apply whilst underwater (the technique is different) and there
are many competent divers who are very poor swimmers. But for personal
safety an ability to swim is important, as distinct from being a strong
am not particularly fit - does that matter?
is a relative term and needs to b considered in the specific context of
scuba diving. Obviously the fitter you are, the more stamina you have,
and thus the more relaxing and enjoyable you will find scuba diving. It
is not a particularly strenuous activity but there may be times when a
high level of exertion is required. Being overweight for example is not
healthy irrespective of the consideration of diving, but in itself it should
not prevent you from being an active scuba diver. (I have to say that as
I am overweight!). The important thing is to know your limitations. If
you are clinically obese, your doctor may have something to say about that,
and may suggest that you loose weight before attempting a course. I stress
again that weight is not a preventer but a delimiter, and the fitter you
are the more you will enjoy diving. And I have seem some pretty big fellows
in wet suits that make them look like whales when underwater.
I too old to learn?
knowing your age and condition, the answer is No!. Age per se has nothing
to do with it. But general fitness and health is important. The dive medical
examination will highlight any problems. If you feel comfortable in the
water and confident of passing a course, go for it. You may feel more comfortable
doing a ‘Try Dive' session first if you are not sure. That of course applies
to anyone. Don't let anyone put you off diving just because you may be
over sixty or whatever.
a pregnant myopic teenager with a mild history of epilepsy and asthma,
and an attitude problem. Can I learn to dive?
would prefer not. Lets take each one of these factors in turn. Being a
woman is certainly no problem and although women need to consider a few
medical situations, these are certainly not a limiting factor. Being pregnant
is a problem. Don't even consider doing a course whilst pregnant. There
is some confusion at the laymen's end as to what problems actually exist
if diving whilst pregnant. Even the medical experts can't agree. But I
guarantee that every one would say - don't take the risk. A dive
course can wait till after the happy event. Having eyesight difficulties
is no hindrance. Masks can be fitted with prescription lenses. Do not dive
whilst wearing contact lenses. (The new ‘long term' lenses may be okay
- I have no idea. Check with your optician.) The problem with contact lenses
is loosing them if your mask fills with water. Epilepsy is a problem and
will more than likely prevent you from diving depending on its frequency
and severity. This is entirely up to your physician. There was a thought
that any history of asthma would automatically fail a divers medical but
again it depends on severity and frequency.
have a history of mild asthma but have been told that I will not receive
a fitness to dive certificate. I really want to dive even if I am restricted
in some way. Should I disclose my condition ?
course you must disclose any history of illnesses as requested by your
doctor, and asthma is important. But it may not restrict your diving. Your
doctor will advise what is best for your safety. There is no one simple
answer to the question. You may even want to receive a second opinion from
an experienced hyperbaric-trained doctor.
don't wish to become a scuba diver but wouldn't mind learning how to snorkel
problems. To many it may seem unnecessary to take lessons for snorkel diving.
After all, all you need is a mask, snorkel and a pair of fins and off you
go. But there is more to it than that. Like any activity, the more knowledge
you have the more enjoyment you gain. And there is also the safety factor.
All dive training associations now have a Snorkel Course standard. You
will learn the use of the equipment (how to clear a snorkel for example),
the art of free-diving using minimum energy expenditure, what to be aware
of in-water conditions, marine life (particularly the nasties) and basic
physiology. The enjoyment from the knowledged gained from instruction in
marine life is justification enough to do a course. Don't be too complacent
about snorkel or free-diving. Just because it looks easy doesn't mean that
there is nothing to learn. And remember that more people get themselves
into danger, sometimes tragically, whilst snorkelling than scuba diving.
I have the option when I can do the training?
school has set times and durations. Scuba courses can run over several
days ‘full time' or may be spread out over several weeks on a part-time
evening and weekend basis. Some courses include accommodation for the full
course or perhaps for a weekend or two whilst doing the sea dives. Each
dive school has a number of different options; there is sure to be a program
that suits your available time. The cost may be a reflection on the type
of course itinerary that you choose.
what is a ‘try dive'?
‘try dive' concept was initially marketed in Queensland where a great many
tourists wanted to experience the Great Barrier Reef, and yet were not
qualified to dive. It also gave interested non-divers an opportunity to
see if they enjoyed the exciting activity of scuba diving. Many people
who were perhaps not confident in their swimming ability, or maybe had
fears of putting their head underwater, had the opportunity to ‘try' a
dive before actually doing a full course. The concept has spread to other
states of Australia as it provides a wonderful opportunity to see and experience
what recreational scuba diving is all about without the commitment to a
full course. The ‘Discover Scuba Experience',or 'try dive' session, varies
depending on the diveschool, but will always consist of some brief theory
training, practical equipment training, and then a fully supervised ‘hand-hold'
dive. Safety considerations for the novice is considered a priority, as
it is with all training, so a ‘try dive' becomes a safe way to determine
if you wish to proceed with training. The professional dive school should
not overly encourage you to proceed - that is always a personal choice.
Needless to say, a try dive session in Queensland may give you an opportunity
to dive the Great Barrier Reef, but rest assured that a try dive in virtually
any environment is a wonderful experience. And of course you need no equipment
- other than a towel and swim costume - as all equipment is supplied in
the course. The cost varies depending on exactly what is offered. Costs
can vary from $30 to $85 depending on the number of dives offered, and
the equipment included in the cost. Some shops offer full refund on the
‘try dive' if a full course is subsequently taken.‘Try diving' can be cheaper
in tropical waters as there is generally no need to hire a wet suit, and
the dive operators are geared-up for tourist interest. On the other hand,
there will be a cost component for joining a dive boat travelling out to
do I know that my instructor is a fully qualified professional?
ask to see the instructor's identification card or certificate issued by
the dive instruction association. Make sure he or she is fully qualified
to Instructor Level or higher (not Assistant Instructor or Dive Master).
Make sure that the dive training association is one of those listed in
this book and that the instructor is training you to that standard. (The
instructor may be certified to more than one standard). The certificate
you receive on passing the course must be one that is issued by one of
the recognised dive instruction associations. On some courses, particularly
those with a large class, the Instructor may be assisted by another Instructor,
or Assistant Instructor or Dive Master. This is fine, so long as the senior
instructor is indeed qualified as an Instructor, and that he or she is
available at all times. Having said all this, you should also look toward
your instincts. If you feel comfortable with the instructor, if he or she
acts professionally toward you as a student, if they demonstrate confidence
and knowledge in a quite determined manner without a ‘know-all' attitude,
you may have found a suitable instructor. Needless to say, personal referrals
are also a good guide. Perhaps you know someone who has already done a
course with the particular dive school and instructor.
live in Melbourne and want to dive the Great Barrier Reef. Should
I do a scuba course whilst I am on holidays.?
reason why not, but you should be aware of a few points. Most coastal towns
and resorts, particularly in Queensland, have fully qualified instructors
available, either at an independent dive shop, or at a resort. These are
difficult to evaluate from a distance and often the decision will be made
for you once you select your resort. Even so, find out as much as you can
about the course beforehand; and if you do have a choice of instructor
whilst on holiday , make the same enquiries as I have previously suggested.
It is also important to consider two major points. Firstly, your time is
precious, particularly on holiday. If you were to learn diving whilst ‘at
home' you would them be qualified whilst on holiday and could make the
most of your time and enjoy more dives on The Reef. Secondly, if you do
learn to dive ‘up north' in warm tropical waters, you need to advise your
dive master when you first dive in temperate (cooler) waters back home,
as the conditions are not the same. Just wearing a bulky wetsuit is enough
to put some divers off their mark. You will not have to be retrained, but
you may need some guidance. Talk to the divemaster. I should also mention
that if you are trained in temperate waters, you will have no problems
in tropical seas - in fact, the freedom you experience will be exhilarating.
have heard stories of male dive instructors coming on to women in the class
and giving them undue attention. I don't want to be hassled.
are male instructors who demonstrate more than a reasonable amount of macho
bravado and some whose motivation may be directed by a high level of testosterone.
I have known some instructors to regard each class as a new concubine.
These fools are, fortunately, few and far between. If you, as a female
(and indeed, as a male), feel uncomfortable with undue attention, you have
every right to speak your mind and make it clear that you are here to learn
scuba diving. If unwarranted attention is persistent, you have the right
to take it up with the dive association with which the instructor is affiliated.
These associations speak freely of quality control and ethical standards.
If an instructor seems to be stepping out of line, make it clear first
to the antagonist, then to the instructor's school manager, and then, if
no satisfaction is received, with the relevant training association. This
applies of course not only to matters of unwarranted sexual harassment,
but also to anything that appears not to be ethical or correct. The one
good thing about competition and commercial motivation is that if a school
or instructor gets a bad reputation, they will get less business. That
in itself should keep the instructor on the path to righteousness.
closely do the dive training associations monitor their instructors?
immediate answer is, not frequently enough. But one must consider that
the training associations have costs to consider, and it is impossible
to have inspectors checking randomly on instructors. From the point of
view of knowledge, dive instructors must attend various instructor update
examinations -the infrastructure of these varies between associations.
Generally, a fully qualified instructor will know his or her stuff.
Part of instructor training and examinations involves teaching, so a qualified
instructor should be able to impart knowledge in a professional manner.
Where the difficulty often lies is in monitoring the behaviour off the
instructor, and the standards of the school. Knowing what to teach, and
knowing how to teach, does not necessarily mean that the full subject matter
is actually taught. Of course, it generally is, as most instructors take
pride in their work. The point is that the dive training associations cannot
be present at each and every course. This leaves the associations acting
only on complaints - a management by crisis situation of you like.
One measure of a dive training association is the willingness to investigate
a complaint in a professional and thorough manner. If a flippant attitude
is taken by the executive of the dive training association, then you may
have recourse to take a complaint further - maybe the Small Claims Tribunal,
or maybe an Equal Opportunity Board. Having said this, it should be stressed
that the reason for establishing the dive training associations in the
first place is to ensure a high standard of instruction. Okay, I appreciate
that financial gain is also a motive, but if an association drops
its standard, it will become uncompetitive and any financial gain will
be diminished. A good dive training association will not let the macho
male instructor through the system in the first place.
can I find out more about scuba diving?
are plenty of books and magazines on the market but the best way to find
out more about diving is to talk to divers. Find out where divers are likely
to congregate for a dive and simply have a chat with them. Tell them you
are interested in diving and you are sure to get an enthusiastic response.
Subscribe to one or more of the Australian dive magazines - Sportdiving,
or Scuba Diver, and keep a look out for any trade shows or dive festivals.
Get to know your local dive shop operator. If they are worthy of their
position they will only be too happy to advise on all aspects of the sport.
Check out the books on the Oceans Enterprises website.
The book Dive Australia by yours truly is a
still not too sure. What if I run out of air?
very reason you do a scuba course is to learn, amongst many other things,
not to run out of air. If you are correctly trained and follow normal diving
practices, and you have the appropriate equipment in good working order
and nothing untoward happens on a dive, you will not run out of air. Equipment
malfunction is rare, and even if you do, there are several procedures that
will ensure your safety. These are taught, indeed stressed, during your
basic scuba course.
really do want to dive - what do I do now ?
probably know a few scuba divers already. Talk to them about their dive
instruction experiences, particularly if they completed a recent course.
Obtain their comments, and if they are satisfied, consider using the same
dive shop or instructor. Personal recommendation, particularly from a diver
who has been recently certified but has been active in the interim, is
invaluable. If there has been some dissatisfaction for whatever reason,
determine the grievance, evaluate its relevance and if in doubt talk to
the dive shop or particular instructor about the problem. You needed name
names - after all you are just making a sensible enquiry. If you are not
satisfied, try somewhere else. If you have no friends to talk to about
diving, approach your most convenient dive shop and have a talk to the
staff. Make sure you talk to a person qualified as an instructor which
may well be the proprietor or shop assistant. See a listing of dive shops
and schools in Peter Stone's Dive Australia
as a guide to the dive shop nearest you, or see the Yellow Pages, or Telstra's
Internet directory. Don't be afraid to approach several shops until you
feel comfortable with a particular one. Prior to making the final decision
it is a good idea to meet the instructor that will take the class that
you are interested in. This may not always be possible as many well qualified
scuba instructors have other non-related jobs, but you should be able to
‘see them in action' on a current course. You will need to evaluate the
course offered, and you will quite naturally consider the cost of the course.
Obtain precise details as to just what is offered. Make a specific note
of the actual sea dives that are offered. The majority of the dives offered
must be from a boat (as distinct from diving from a jetty or from shore).
Finally, if you have any doubts at all about a particular course, or even
any general enquires, contact the appropriate dive training association.
Once you have made up your mind, approach the dive training school, pay
your deposit, pick up your medical forms, do your medical, and turn up
on the date and time required.
I need to purchase anything before the course ?
but generally no. It depends on the inclusions of the dive course. You
may need to hire some gear but that is arranged at each appropriate session,
and you should know that by now. You may prefer to buy a wet suit (rather
than use a suit provided by the dive school, if indeed they have them)
particularly if you are learning in a colder temperate climate. Wet suits
must fit comfortably and although a good school will have a range of suit
sizes, only you can determine if you are not of a ‘standard size'. If in
doubt speak with the dive shop. You may also like to buy your own mask
and snorkel, and perhaps fins which can always be used just for snorkelling
even if you do not pass the certification. The mask in particular is important
as it must be comfortable and closefitting. (At least one dive school requires
all students to have their own mask, snorkel and fins. They provide everything
else. This cuts the course cost marginally, and the purchase is never a
waste). You will of course need to have a pen and writing paper for the
theory sessions. Other than that, the dive school will advise.
I have to buy all my equipment from the same dive shop after I finish my
not. You will no doubt be encouraged to buy your gear from the same dive
shop where you did the course but you can shop around. I strongly recommend
however that you buy equipment from a professional dive shop which provides
a guarantee for its equipment throughs the appropriate manufacturer and
distributor. After sales service is vitally important with most dive gear.
Remember, you life depends on it. If you can't afford to buy a full kit
immediately, consider renting equipment whenever you need it. Aim for the
more ‘personal' items first, like the wet suit and mask. These must fit
comfortably and although they may be hired from most professional dive
shops, you are better off with your own. You would probably want to buy
your own snorkel, fins and weight-belt also just for the convenience. Next
consider a regulator and a suitable combo set consisting of at least an
air contents gauge and a depth gauge. You will also need a divers watch
(which cannot usually be hired) or at least a dive timer of some sort.
Next purchase would be the buoyancy compensation vest. Leave the air tank
to last. (I know many regular divers who do not own a tank simply because
it is more convenient to hire one. They don't have to outlay initial cash
and don't have to worry about annual inspections.) The dive computer and
camera gear can come later. The important thing is to feel comfortable
in the water, and that is best done with your own gear.
I buy second hand equipment?
definitely yes. Newspaper are full of classified adverts for used gear.
But remember the saying, buyer beware. Have an experienced diver check
out any equipment, and ensure that the regulator has been recently serviced,
or have it serviced even if it ‘appears to work okay'. Air tanks must never
be purchased if they are out of test. There are also several dive
shops who have second-hand gear. Don't be penny pinching. Good equipment
is absolutely necessary. Your life depends on it.
exactly happens on a scuba diving course?
general there are five phases of a course. Phase One - there
is an introduction talk covering the course itself and diving in general,
more to get you enthused than anything else. The initial pool session will
also involve swimming and basic in-water procedures, more to test your
confidence than anything else. Phase Two involves theory sessions
in a class-room environment, accompanied perhaps by video and audio-visual
presentations depending on the sophistication of the course. During these
sessions which will amount to about four to six hours in total you will
cover the theory of scuba diving. This involves a knowledge of the basic
physics of diving and what happens to your body under pressure; a basic
understanding of the medical ramifications of diving including first aid
and safety practices; an in-depth look at the equipment used and how it
is used; and dive planning and practice. Most divers find these theory
sessions just as enjoyable as the practical pool and sea sessions as they
provide the opportunity to ask questions and dismiss the many myths associated
with the sport. Some courses may briefly cover specific aspects of the
scuba diving such as marine animals (you will most certainly learn about
the nasties and how to avoid them), or perhaps photography. These sessions
are just to maintain your interest however. Specialty courses are offered
for more detailed instruction. Phase Three is the practical sessions,
usually held in a swimming pool, but any calm water of varying shallow
depth may be suitable. This is where you get wet, and go downunder for
the first time on full scuba kit in a totally protected environment. Practical
pool sessions are fun but don't take the sessions too lightly - you may
miss an important point. You will learn about the use of all standard equipment;
dive procedure ; safety and rescue. Phases Two and Three are interspersed.
Four covers the sea dives where you actually conduct several dives
from a boat, jetty, or shore. Preferably all three with the emphasis on
boat diving. Phase Five concerns the evaluation of the potential
diver and involves periodic theory testing and practical evaluations.
happens if I just don't like it after the first few sessions?
is rare indeed that a person gives up because they don't enjoy the training,
but if there is some aspect of the course that you cannot understand or
perform, instructors will take it step by step and not proceed until you
are confident. There is some flexibility in course structure to handle
this. On the other hand, if you have a genuine reason for dropping out
of the course, perhaps for medical, family or business reasons, most dive
schools are reasonable enough that they will consider your personal situation
and refund part of your money. If time or personal circumstances are the
problem, consider deferring the course until it is more convenient. It
is important to remember that if you are not happy with continuing the
course, for whatever reason, speak up. Remember Rule Three above.
there dive clubs where I can have social contact with other divers?
and it is a good idea to join a club, particularly in the early stages
of your diving career. Dive clubs provide the opportunity to meet with
other divers both on organised dives and socially. Most dive schools (dive
shops) have associated dive clubs. Some may be rather large and less intimate
and 'social' than you may prefer but you have a choice. There are still
many private dive clubs around (in that they are not associated with a
dive shop). You usually find out about these from friends but you may like
to contact one of the diver associations.
can I do if I am totally dissatisfied with my dive school or dive shop?
talk with the dive shop proprietor or your instructor. Direct confrontation
and communication overcomes most problems before they get out of hand.
If still not satisfied, you have two directions depending on the severity
of the complaint. Contact the appropriate dive training association if
it is a dive training matter. There may also be a dive industry trade group
in the state. Remember that the dive industry is very much aware of the
need to be self regulated and to act in a totally responsible matter. Your
query will be investigated and acted upon accordingly. If of course you
are still dissatisfied even after communicating with the appropriate group,
the normal avenues of commercial law apply, usually commencing with a visit
to the state Consumer Protection offices.
I guaranteed of being awarded the certificate?
- no. It would be a most unfortunate situation if certification was handed
out to all and sundry irrespective of ability. The failure rate is low
but you do need to show competence in the theory and practical sessions.
If for some reason the instructor believes that you haven't quite got what
it takes to complete the course, he or she may suggest that you do not
proceed. But that is a rare situation indeed and would only occur after
the instructor made every attempt through patience and attention to ensure
that it was beyond your grasp. It can and does happen, particularly if
the student is not confident in the first place. But don't give up too
easily. It is assuring to know that an instructor will tell you if there
is a problem in you continuing the course. You certainly don't want to
waste your time but more important, the student needs to have the confidence
in the instructor so that when you do pass, you know you are indeed capable
of being ‘a scuba diver'. It is a most irresponsible instructor who passes
a student and provides certification if they are not capable of performing
in a competent and safe manner.
I legally a scuba diver once I pass the course?
the time of writing there is no legal definition of a scuba diver.
Generally, there is nothing that can prevent you from scuba diving if you
have not been qualified. Likewise you can use old and dangerous gear, dive
in a surging sea, ignore tide tables and shipping warnings and put your
life and that of others at risk. Unlike ballooning, hang-gliding and ultra-light
aircraft flying, recreational scuba diving has not required government
legislation except where it occurs in the ‘workplace' - that meaans basically
where you have paid for a service. Maybe this is because the scuba diving
industry is a responsible body of people, well controlled with a high standard
of instruction and safe procedure practices. Lets keep it that way. If
you act irresponsibly (by ignoring the rules above) you not only put your
own well-being at risk but also that of thousands of recreational divers
and the dive industry as well. What is controlled strictly is the commercial
aspects of diving, particularly of those offering charter boat services.
In general, if you are not certified as a scuba diver you will not be permitted
to engage in any scuba diving involving some aspect of commerce, be it
the hire of equipment, the use of a charter boat, or an organised dive
or dive tour. It should be said that simply having a card indicating that
you are certified does not require the commercial operator to accept you
as a diver. There may be other factors that ring alarm bells in the mind
of the commercial operator.
then does it mean to be certified ?
at the successful completion of the course means that you will be registered
with the appropriate diver training association and will be permitted to
participate in, or perform certain activities relevant to the training
received on the course. Certification is recognised within the industry,
by dive shops, dive boats, resorts and all relevant businesses. For example,
a basic Scuba Course will permit you to participate in most scuba dives
conducted by a shop, dive boat or resort; will allow you to hire scuba
gear including an air tank; and will allow you to have an air tank filled.
You can also of course participate in any private dives. Some conducted
dives may be of such a level (of difficulty) that they may require special
training, such as Deep Diving, or perhaps an Advanced level of training.
Certification from one of Australia's recognised dive training associations
is generally accepted anywhere in the world.
I go off and do my own thing once certified?
course, but I need to temper that with some advise. Let me give the appropriate
analogy of a car driver's licence. You will appreciate that once you have
the licence you are permitted to drive subject to certain provisional requirements.
And certainly, you are defined as a car driver. Yet only the foolish would
think that you have adequate skills to cover all circumstances. In effect,
once you have the car licence you are only just beginning to drive, to
gain experience and knowledge, each step increasing your personal safety,
the safety of others, and adding to your enjoyment of driving. So it is
with scuba diving. Your certification makes you a diver - no doubt of that.
But you are a very inexperienced diver who has much to learn about the
sea environment. (And indeed that is all part of the fun.) You would be
much better off diving with more experienced divers who can provide further
guidance and instruction if necessary. Many inexperienced divers continue
to dive with the dive school instructor or at least dive school dive leaders.
Most dive schools have regular scheduled dive trips which you are now qualified
to participate, and many schools have dive clubs for further diving and
social benefits. A further word of warning if I may. Even if you are fully
qualified, do not dive in unfamiliar waters without a ‘local' experienced
diver on hand.
qualified, can I get a job as a diver?
of course depends on the job. As a diver, and as you gain experience, you
will gain knowledge that would be useful in a number of professions. You
may be training as a marine biologist for example, or want to extend your
photographic career into the underwater environment. But generally,
the Open Water Diver qualification is only the start of several stepping
stones toward a career as a diver (or where diving is part of your professional
activity). You may have aspirations of being a divemaster at a resort
for example. If so, you will need to progress on to an Advanced Diver course,
a Rescue Diver Course and a Divemaster Course. From there you could go
on to Instruction. Careers in the forces, police, ports and harbours, search
and rescue, the oil industry and dozens of other career possibilities generally
require further extensive training under the respective organisation's
own direction. If planning a career in diving, become familiar with the
demands of the career, the pre-requisites and qualifications required;
and note the requirements of the Australian Diver Accreditation Scheme.
far can I go with further qualifications?
far as you like right up to Master Instructor and beyond to even an Examiner
of Instructors if you like. Of course it all depends on dedication and
skills and whereas there may be some limit to the actual qualification
you receive, there is no limit to the extent of learning. Diving is such
a diverse activity opening up a number of fascinating specialities. I became
very interested in shipwrecks. My studies and diving led me to becoming
fairly knowledgeable on the subject which gave me great satisfaction. I
extended my land photography interests into underwater photography opening
up a whole new meaning to light and composition. Others take an interest
in the fascinating world of marine life giving immense satisfaction in
coming to terms with a completely new environment. Some prefer wreck diving,
others prefer coral reefs, or freshwater diving. In all these fields the
diver can either study privately at his/her leisure or do one of a dozen
specialty courses encompassing specific diving techniques (like Deep Diving),
or specialist fields of knowledge (such as Marine Science).
understand that some dive operators place a limitation on your diving even
if you are fully qualified.
may well be so, and depends on the circumstances and location. I know of
some dive operators in Queensland who place a depth limit of twelve
metres on the diver. This may appear restrictive but is done to increase
the safety standard. It is generally not a restriction as the dive sites
offer all that you could wish for within the 12 m limit - and it increases
your bottom time anyway. The bottom line is - the divemaster has full responsibility
for his or her charges and has the right to increase the safety factor
by whatever means. Any specific ‘rules' or ‘limitations' should be advised
by the divemaster before departure. Dive operators to the wreck of the
Yongala require evidence of experience as well as qualification, and set
a minimum of dives prior to diving the famous wreck. This was introduced
predominantly because many holiday divers were being trained in Queensland
and then heading out to the wreck. Some operators are known to limit deep
penetration dives (into the submarines of Victoria or long caves in New
South Wales for example) to those who have had Advanced or specialist dive
training. And as indicated elsewhere, the freshwater caves of Mt Gambier
definitely require further training before a permit is awarded to dive.
This is one of the few legal requirements for further specialist dive training
some of the limitations seem too restrictive.
may appear so. Some restrictions may be seen to be at odds with the rights
of the diver to enjoy his or her sport to the limit, and not infrequently
divemasters have been criticised for not allowing some specific dive procedures,
like penetration, whilst divers are under their charge. Firstly, the divemaster
has every legal right to determine the dive plan. The divemaster is in
an unenviable position as he or she must balance up the risk factor
with commercial viability and the needs of the diver. In so doing, the
divemaster must not only consider the diver's safety as paramount, but
also the future viability of the dive industry. Consider what happened
at the Coroner's Inquest for the diver lost on a Victorian wreck. The Coroner
placed a large portion of the blame on the divemaster, even though the
diver in question was experienced. It is the divemaster who is in the hot
seat when something goes wrong. So in protecting the diver's butt, the
divemaster is also looking after his own - and so it should be, for if
the standards of the divemasters drop, there is a great possibility that
state or federal government bodies will clamp down on specific dive sites
and prevent diving all together. Remember it is easier for a government
to simply ban something, rather than lay down rules to reduce the risk
factor. If there are a spate of incidents on a particular site, irrespective
of whose fault it may be (even if nature's fault), there will assuredly
be restrictions. It is better that the sport diving industry lays down
the restrictions in the first place, to prevent any further tragedy, and
to prevent the government from making decisions on our behalf. By all means
question your divemaster - in that way, you, the diver, will learn. But
at all times listen, and respect his or her decisions.
is all very well, but I understand there are indeed laws that govern how
we are to dive.
there are laws, and there are standards. Standards Australia is drawing
up a standard to cover divers in the workplace - DR00219. The standard
becomes law when it is adopted by the respective state governments. Queensland
already has appropriate laws. These are called ‘Workplace' standards
and are applicable to anyone in "the workplace". The workplace is the pjysical
environment where a ‘worker', ie a paid professional, opertaes. Due to
Work Cover situations, specific laws must be raised to determine the practice
of those in the workplace. These apply predominantly to the ‘worker', ie
the dive master or the charter boat operator. But even the recreational
diver who enters the workplace must also be covered by certain practices.
These are fairly straight forward and being safety considerate, should
not impinge on the enjoyment of the dive. The laws or standards applicable
to a recreational diver in the workplace predominantly concern your training
and expereince and health.
if I dive with a charter boat operator, I am not in my workplace. I just
want to enjoy a dive without all thes hassles.
the standards are not meant to delimit your enjoyment. On the contrary.
If they improve your safety and give your peace of mind that those who
are looking after you must show a duty of care to you, then you should
have no difficulty enjoying the dive. Secondly, the dive site may not be
workplace, but is the divemasters workplace (if the person is accepting
a fee for services of course), and as such you must follow the rules for
the workplace. It is like visiting a construction site - you still have
to wear a helmet don't you?
have heard about basic equipment that allows you to dive with air supplied
from the surface. Do I need training for this.?
definitely. Surface supplied equipment is used extensively by abalone divers
and is commonly called ‘hookah' equipment. The physical concepts are exactly
the same as for scuba diving with the exception that the diver is supplied
air from the surface ‘on demand' using a normal regulator, thus eliminating
the need for a scuba tank on the diver's back. There are advantages and
disadvantages to hookah. The obvious advantage is that the diver is tethered
to the surface (this may be a disadvantage in some situations), and the
air is constant - so long as the surface compressor keeps working, you
won't run out of air. The disadvantage is predominantly that you need a
person on the surface at all times to tend to the compressor and for general
safety. Because it is possible to stay down for a long time, because
you have ‘unlimited' air supply, there can be a tendency to overstay your
welcome, and at anything over ten metres that can be dangerous. Hookah
diving requires additional skills, but these can be readily gained once
the diver is trained in the use of scuba.
what about these sport units I have heard about that seem so simple and
can be put on the back of a boat and don't need a compressor?
is the master of necessity - or a quick buck as the case may be. Beware
of any ‘sporting' unit that ‘can be used by all members of the family',
that involves going underwater. Do not - repeat do not - use any ‘special'
device that is not supported by a professional dive shop. I have seen adverts
for ‘diver helmets' that look like plastic buckets with a window, that
claim to allow diving at ‘shallow depth'. (This was an original concept
two centuries ago - we have move on from then). I have seen equipment that
is designed to pump air down from the surface in a long tube by working
your legs, underwater, like a bicycle. The latter gear may have been thought
ingenious by the inventor but they forgot about the practicalities. If
you stop ‘pedalling' your air supply stops - so what happens if you get
the cramps. This particular piece of equipment was advertised to be shown
on the Beyond 2000 program many years ago but the feature was dropped when
the dangers were realised. The device was actually legally banned in some
states. The bottom line is, there is no easy simple way for ‘the whole
family' to jump overboard, admire the underwater world - and survive. If
that is what you want, stick to snorkelling. If you stick your head underwater
and breath air under pressure, you need training. It is as simple as that.
Your life depends on it.
the open water course teach you how to use mixed gases or rebreather equipment?
These are covered in speciality courses. The Open Water Course covers the
use of compressed air in scuba tanks using a regulator for supply. Maybe
in the future other forms of breathing underwater will be the norm, and
the old scuba gear will only be found in a museum. But that day is a long
way off, if indeed it ever comes.
many others can I expect on a course?
hard to say. Ask the dive shop. General practice indicates that a ratio
of one instructor to ten divers is acceptable - the less the better.
I've signed up - what now?
first important requirement is to do an appropriate medical examination
that will identify and indicate any problems that may prevent you from
taking up scuba diving. Your doctor will be looking specifically at your
breathing systems, sinus and ears, and general fitness. It is important
that you take the medical examination with a doctor qualified in some aspects
of hyperbaric or 'underwater medicine' or at least has an understanding
of what is required in the act of diving under (water) pressure. Your dive
school will provide a list of local doctors and may also provide the relevant
form that the doctor must complete. Although there is some misunderstanding
as to whether a medical examination is necessary prior to commencing a
dive course, or prior to final certification, a responsible dive school
will insist on such a medical examination and will only commence dive instruction
if the medical practitioner certifies the patient as being "fit to scuba
dive". And of course it is in your best interests to do a medical examination
also. The medical examiner will be specifically seeking any problems with
your breathing and lungs, and ears. What the doctor is looking for is a
healthy body which he can be reasonably assured will stand up to the alien
environment of changing pressure and moderate exertion. If you have any
queries on the matter of diving medical examinations contact the South
Pacific Underwater Medical Society.
passed the medical examination and am about to start the course. What do
I need to do in preparation?
short answer may be - nothing, but usually some preparation is required.
You must ensure that you have the course dates committed firmly in your
diary and that you have allowed yourself some time in your busy work and
social calendar for private home study. Your will have to do some reading
at home to supplement your class theory session, and will have to work
out a few basic arithmetic exercises during the course. Although sometimes
it is unavoidable, missing a theory or practical session can be annoying
to both yourself and the instructor. All schools will allow you to make
up the time at a later session but it can be disruptive to what are usually
very carefully prepared schedules. Missing one session may result in a
delay of your final certification till the next scheduled course. Most
schools however have some flexibility. You may also like to prepare yourself
for the first pool session by swimming and maybe a few exercises just to
get you better in trim. The first pool session will be a physical swim
and ‘in- water' evaluation. It is not difficult and there is no stop- watch
placed on you. All that the instructor wants to determine is if you can
swim and how you cope with being in water. You may also like to read the
dive instruction manual recomm-ended for the particular course. There are
many general texts on the market but you would be best advised to read
the instruction manual for the dive association that is about to train
you. Some schools may provide the manual beforehand so you do some preliminary
is the cost of equipment to hire?
varies of course from shop to shop, but as a guide only, the following
are the prices charged by a large professional dive shop servicing the
northern New South Wales coast. Full set of gear for a charter boat dive,
which consists of tank, regulator, BCD, weight belt, wetsuit, mask, snorkel,
fins and boots is $30. It is an extra $15 if no joining one of the dive
shops charter boats. (Note - most divers will have at least their
own mask and snorkel, and usually fins and boots.) This is an excellent
package for a visiting diver, particularly an overseas or interstate tourist
just wanting the occasional dive. Just a tank and reg would be $20; tank
and weight belt $15, tank $10. They offer hoods and gloves at no charge.
A torch is $10, and a Sea and Sea Camera, including film, is $50. With
hire service like this, it makes it easy for the light traveller to tour
the country and yet have an occasional dive. A major Victorian dive shop
rents a tank at $15, a regulator and gauges at $20, wetsuit $20, or ‘the
lot' at $65.00. (Discount for club members). Several shops provide all
equipment for $50, providing you dive with them.
QUESTIONS - FROM EXPERIENCED DIVERS
can I teach my own kids to dive?
per Golden Rule Two, don't teach your kids yourself unless you are a fully
qualified instructor. Dive associations lay down the minimum ages for Scuba
Diving students but it is important also to consider the physical
and mental attribute of the child. The child must be able to adequately
lift a scuba tank and kit up on his/her own. (There are various sizes of
air tanks so this should not be a problem). More important however is the
matter of general attitude and shall we say maturity. Whatever you do,
don't push or entice in any way, particularly a child, to take up the sport.
See Golden Rule Three.
understand they use computers now in diving, but I am totally computer
are used in equipment that show depth and duration of the dive. Don't worry
- you need have absolutely no knowledge of the workings of computers.
this technical diving stuff?
you may ask, for it is the ‘new rage' with many experienced divers. Sydney
diver, photographer and explorer Mark Spencer suggests that it is
the use of skills ‘to meet those challenges that lie beyond the normal
parameters of recreational diving'. The US cave diving guru, the late Sheck
Exley defines it more precisely as ‘a discipline that uses special methods
and equipment to improve diver safety and performance, enabling the user
to conduct dives in environments and perform tasks beyond the scope of
recreational diving'. Gary Gentile, another US based ‘technical' diver
suggests that ‘tech' stands for ‘both technique and technology - the acquisition
of esoteric knowledge in the use of state-of-the-art equipment'. He continues
to suggest that ‘a new generation of explorers has arrived in the guise
of the technical diver'. There you have it. All ‘definitions' serve to
give some idea of the level of diving that a ‘technical' diver engages.
Basically, it is the discipline of using the latest equipment - not fads
and new-improved BCs, but equipment at the forefront of undersea technology.
In Australia, this predominantly means the use of alternative breathing
mixtures, and breathing equipment, such as Nitrox, Trimix and other ‘mixed
gases', and rebreather systems. Whereas some divers no doubt get a deserved
thrill out of using the latest equipment, others see ‘technical' diving
as a further means to an end. Gary Gentile suggests that most technical
divers are wither wreck enthusiasts or cave diverse - they wish to go deeper
to see the wrecks (or stay longer), or wish to penetrate further. The technical
diver tends to be a very skilled scuba diver, which generally means that
you don't finish an open water course and then go straight into a technical
diving course using mixed gases - but you could. Commensurate with the
use of new equipment however is the development of associated skills such
as deep diving and cave penetration. Those divers ‘developing' the concepts
of technical diving now are paving the way for, perhaps, a more general
use of specific technical equipment (read also gases) for the recreational
diver of the future.
have completed a Scuba Diver course in Queensland, and now want to dive
in Melbourne. Will it be the same?
diving conditions are different between tropical and rtemperate waters.
Diving in a thick 7mm suit is a totally different experience requiring
modified skills from that diving in tropical waters wearing bikinis or
a ‘Sports Suit'. In such circumstances, tell the dive shop and dive leader
exactly your situation. Don't be afraid of doing a ‘check-out' dive first
with the dive leader. Your safety depends on it.
use diving in my work - do I need special qualifications?
your diving is part of your ‘work place' then the answer is yes. Each state
of Australia has its own workplace health and safety regulations, administered
by a department such as Industrial Relations and WorkCare (the names vary
for each state). Construction and rig divers, and abalone divers, most
definitely need special workplace cover. Their employers will know the
rules. Where there is some doubt, and maybe controversy, is that of the
self-employed scuba diver who uses diving as part of his or her work. An
example is a photographer who sells work as a predominant means of making
a living; or perhaps an underwater film crew; or even a self-employed marine
consultant. These people may be required to complete an Australian Diver
Accreditation Scheme. It is, for example, a contentious issue as to whether
I, as an an author of a book about scuba diving, and therefore one who
dives to ostensibly check out diving sites, should be further qualified.
Nobody has managed to answer that question. If it came to a point of law,
it would have to established that my ‘workplace' is under the sea - and
not 15 hours a day at a computer! The important thing is to be sure of
your own situation, particularly when it comes to insurance.
dive boat operators have to be certified in any way.
definitely yes. Anyone taking passengers on board a boat, for whatever
reason, must be qualified according to the appropriate state maritime legislation,
and the boat must be in survey to a level appropriate for the purpose of
the charter and the relevant waters. It is illegal for a anyone to charge
for services even if it is a member of a dive club with a boat who charges
a set amount for a dive. There is of course no problem with a group of
divers chipping in for fuel but that's where it ends. I repeat - all dive
and charter boats used commercially with paying passengers, i.e. divers,
require a survey authorised by the appropriate Marine Survey Board which,
inter alia, refers to the number of passengers allowed, and the area in
which the boat may operate. Divers who pay for a service on an unsurveyed,
or inappropriately surveyed boat, may find legal implications should there
be an accident. Moreover, divers who use illegal boats are in effect contributing
to unsafe and illegal practices and are depriving those professional boat
operators, who have done the right thing, of continuing their business
in a legal, ethical and safety conscious manner.
am a qualified diver but I haven't dived for a few years. What should I
certification is granted for a lifetime, and hence it is all too easy to
drag the old regulator out of the cupboard, dust off the cobwebs from the
deteriorating dive suit and head off for a dive after a few years. You
may get away with it, and although diving is like riding a bike - you will
never forget how, it is a wise diver who assesses the situation and seeks
experienced company on that first dive after an appreciable period. Whatever
you do, tell your divemaster. Don't assume that all is the same. It is,
paradoxically, the experienced sensible diver who will seek assistance
from the divemaster after an absence of diving. And another brief warning.
Make sure you clean out your vest as a number of nasty bacteria can congregate
if the vest has not been used. Clean the bag, hoses and fittings with a
strong disinfectant of the type used for baby care. Most dive operators
have the facility for a qualified diver to ‘brush up' on his or her skills.
This generally means taking an ‘Introductory' or ‘Check-out' dive where
you are supervised on (perhaps) a one to one ration. There is nothing demoralising
about having a young divemaster take you through your paces again even
if it was his bum that was constantly wet for other reasons when you first
took the plunge. And remember that you may also have to show a current
been diving for twenty years and started when there was no alphabet soup
- no PADI, NAUI or FAUI - the Disney characters of diving. With no
C-card how can I join a charter boat?
should be no problem as the onus is on the divemaster to establish ‘capability'
of diving in the workplace. Such determination is usually established by
the showing of a dive card, but it does not have to be this way. (I understand
in Queensland it is mandatory to have at least an Open Water Card). Perhaps
the best thing to do would be to get a good instructor to take you through
your paces and for you to be examined - theory and practice - and get an
Open Water card. It can save a lot of hassles. You would not need to do
a full five-day course for example. But to get the qualification, you will
need to be properly examined. Failing that, no card does not necessarily
mean no dive. The onus is on you to prove your current skills - not the
fact that you were a test pilot for Draegar just after the war. If
you have been a regular scuba diver, then you will have kept a log book
like all good divers do. This may well be your passport for charter boat
diving. I heard that some years ago Ron Taylor was refused an airfill in
Queensland because he was not qualified. So he bought the compressor.
do I need to go on a boat dive?
- your equipment, your qualification card - and be on time. The amount
of equipment that you need to bring depends on what you own and what is
available for hire. Always check with the dive operator well before the
departure as hire equipment is not generally stored aboard the boat. One
dive operator lists the following points in his brochure.
have and show proof of their diving qualifications when requested;
have and wear a buoyancy compensating vest on all dives;
have a cylinder contents gauge, depth gauge and a means of timing your
have an octopus regulator for all dives;
have an efficient torch and a Cyalume light stick for all night dives;
have all equipment in good working order.
same dive operator also requests that if the diver has not dived previously
with the operator, or is not known by the operator, the diver is restricted
to within 20 m depth unless under supervision. This particular dive operator
is a professional - he communicates, wants people to enjoy themselves -
and wants them to come back alive and well. The better dive operators have
a promotion kit that explains what you need to bring on a dive.
night dive? What could you possibly see at night?
The ocean comes alive at night. Not that it is particularly dormant during
the day but many marine species ‘come out' at night, particularly the invertebrates.
It is a thrilling experience and requires no special training except for
the learning of a few basic procedures. The only additional equipment required
is a good torch - preferably two. You will probably take a small torch
on a normal day dive (to peer into nooks and crannies) but you should have
a good powerful torch for an enjoyable night dive.
is an octopus regulator?
is just an amusing name for an extra demand regulator coming off your air
tank, the whole contraption generally called an octopus rig - although
if we ever get to the stage where we have eight libnes coming out, then
is the time to give the game away!!. It is becoming mandatory for
recreational sport dives in the workplace (one where you pay for the dive)
as it increases diver safety. If your main regulator second-stage malfunctions,
you have a back-up. And if your buddy has a problem with air supply you
can share your air and return to the surface.
buddy dive? There seems to be a lot of talk lately about diving on your
diving is a controversial issue, and this is not the place to enter the
debate. A diver can decide to go solo only when he or she has the experience
to make the decision. Buddy diving increases the safety aspect of the dive
as you have a partner who can help out if needs be. This will be discussed
during your course. When diving with a dive operator (ie in the workplace),
the usual requirement is that you must with a buddy. And remember, when
diving with a dive operator (on a charter boat perhaps) you must follow
the dive masters instructions. If you want to ‘do your own thing' you had
better check with the divemaster first. You have no right to insist on
a solo dive if in the workplace, and indeed, it is no doubt illegal to
solo dive in the workplace.
all charter boats have oxygen on board?
and you could ask why not. Oxygen should be standard equipment on any dive
charter boat - and someone on board should know how to administer it under
emergency conditions. I am sure it will become a prerequisite in time.
other safety precautions should I look for in a dive charter boat?
is nothing more important than the maritime skills and local knowledge
of the boat skipper, and the maturity, skills and local knowledge
of the divemaster. (They may of course be one and the same person, depending
on the intention of the divemaster to dive with the group). Their skills
is something that the casual tourist cannot readily determine, but their
professional manner and attention to detail, safety briefings and the individual
diver's needs is paramount. We have mentioned oxygen on board. You could
also make sure that there are additional, full, air tanks just in
case a rescue is required. Needless to say, it is assumed that the dive
boat is fully surveyed according to the marine laws of the state. Any boat,
even privately owned, must be fully surveyed for the service offered, if
used commercially - ie, if you hand over your money.
about dive boats leaving divers behind on the reefs - like the Lonergans?
thought someone would ask that. A most important question. Firstly, there
is no valid reason whatsoever for this to happen. Secondly, you have the
opportunity to ensure that it doesn't happen. During the first six months
of 1998, no less than five divers were left behind by dive charter boats
on the Great Barrier Reef. You have probably only heard of two of these
- the ‘mysterious' disappearance of Tom Lonergan and his wife Eileen. They
made press headlines, as, unlike the other three, they were never rescued.
It was on 25 January 1998 that the Lonergans joined a charter boat for
a trip out of Port Douglas to St. Crispin Reef. The fact that the couple
was not reported missing for more than forty-eight hours is a travesty
- the search for the missing divers did not commence until 63 hours after
they should have returned on board. Apart from the tragedy of it
all, the media had a field day and it was not long before Eileen's diary
was found, and a ‘suicide pact' was mentioned. Over the next few months,
items of diving gear including a tank, vest and slate, were washed up on
shore, all identified as belonging to the Lonergans. The National Search
and Rescue Organisation (AusSAR) reported no trace of the couple despite
flying 58 sorties over 8629 square nautical miles of the Coral Sea. Excuses
were made of course, and an inquiry held which makes for fascinating reading
in itself, and shows how easy it is to slip up on what should be standard
procedure. Put all the emotion, innuendo and supposition aside, and consider
this. The Code of Practice for Recreational Diving insists that a count
be made of divers going in and coming out of the water, and that a roster
is kept. A count is clearly insufficient, as has clearly been proven. It
is important that the NAMES of each diver be clearly logged, on a sheet
(that can be retained), recording at least their entry and exit times.
This must be the responsibility of the divemaster. Other responsible operators
may also decide to record maximum depth attained, and also air consumption
(based on retained air in the tank). By recording the name of the diver,
there is a dramatic increase in safety potential over a simple head count.
You can ensure that this procedure is adopted simply by asking the question,
and making sure it happens. It could be suggested that on a boat with a
small number of divers, say six or so, the name recording may not be necessary,
but I do not believe this. The recording of the name encourages discipline
by the divemaster. It also provides a record of dive time duration (and
interval time between dives) to cross check with the diver wanting
a further (repetitive) dive. (This should be the divers responsibility
however). The diver however cannot control the premature departure of the
dive boat, but he or she can ensure that the highest safety potential procedures
are followed. Make sure that your NAME is recorded. And just to be
on the safe side, particularly on a boat with a large number of divers,
befriend someone on board if you don't know anyone and make sure that you
look out for each other after the dive. That person should not be your
dive buddy. Finally, just remember that your safety is your responsibility,
and whereas you must at times rely on others, you have every right to ensure
the highest safety potential for your life and that of others. If in doubt
to the Lonergans. Even if the unfortunate idea that they had entered into
a suicide pact was true, and that they purposely ‘disappeared', it does
not make one iota of difference to the responsibility of the dive operator.
Their disappearance should have been noted immediately their dive time
was up. And how would the dive master know when their time was up? Because
he or she had recorded the entry time on the dive log. Being alerted a
matter of minutes after the expected end of a dive is better than discovering
a problem when back at port. And just as a matter of interest, check this
out. Divers with this dive charter that took the Lonergans out were asked
to remove their shoes before boarding, to protect the decking of the boat,
a common and acceptable practice. These shoes were waiting for the divers
on the jetty when they returned. And guess what. When the divers departed
the jetty, there were two pairs of shoes left (and other items). Even this
did not alert anyone.
then can I expect of a competent dive boat operator?
requirements are laid down in the relevant Code of Practice for boat operators;
the actual document varies between the states. Ask to see a copy of the
WorkCare procedures in place.