Divers breathing from a hang tank in Smitswinkel Bay

Deep Specialty course

When I started diving, I did not like deep dives. I hated the boat rides to get to the dive sites – the combination of a vivid imagination and a few scary experiences makes me something of a tense sailor. I also get seasick when the boat stops and the sea is choppy – swell plus motor fumes is a bad combination!

Time has improved the situation. I’m a much more relaxed boat passenger than I was a year ago. I make sure to travel with skippers I trust. I make sure I’m seated near the back of the boat (for bumpiness), and I wedge my feet into the footstraps and hold on to the ropes. I’ve been lost at sea for a little while, and while unpleasant, it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

I’ve also conquered my fear of deep water. Friday’s dive in Smitswinkel Bay was the first deep dive that I’ve been totally relaxed about, before and during. I’ve learned to trust my equipment, and to trust my buddy. I know how I feel at 30 metres down (sharp as a stack of wet newspapers), and I consciously relax. I have breathed off Tony’s octo at the bottom of the ocean (I sucked air prodigiously on my first couple of deep dives) and both of us survived. The apparent viscosity of the water at depth (like swimming through honey) doesn’t surprise me any more, and I know not to over-exert. My buoyancy has improved greatly and I don’t get panicky when I have to inject several squirts of air into my BCD to slow my descent.

Deep dives are awesome. It’s incredible to see the colours come to life when you shine a torch on things, or fire off a camera flash. It’s also thrilling to be able to explore a part of the ocean that is completely inaccessible in the normal course of things.

I also love safety stops. I love floating in midwater, seeing everyone’s bubbles around me, and feeling like an astronaut. We did a dive on the SAS Transvaal in incredibly visibility, and this video Tony took on the safety stop captures the feeling of weightlessness and space.

The only frustration to me is how short the dives are. Because of the increased pressure at depth, you breathe a LOT more air out of your cylinder with each breath than you do on a shallow dive. At 40 metres, each breath consumes five times more air than at the surface. You also have to watch your dive time to avoid hitting the RDP limits at depth. A Nitrox course comes in handy here… But it seems that practice, and improved diving technique, are the key elements to improving air consumption, dive time and enjoyment of the whole experience.

The theory aspect of the course covers dive techniques related to drift and wall dives, decompression sickness and how to avoid it, safety stops and one or two other matters such as photography at depth. The skills required on the dives mainly relate to safety stops, different types of ascent and descent (with and without a reference line), and a little bit of navigation. It gives me great confidence to know that I am now certified to 40 metres, although, as the manual points out, 30 metres seems to be the “optimum depth” for the kind of scuba diving I enjoy.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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