Newsletter: Chamber, wind and water

Hi everyone

Sodwana is booked and deposits paid (I have paid for those of you that have yet to pay your deposits so don’t let me down), the current water temperature there is 29 degrees celcius… I am so looking forward to warm water diving.

The pictures are some that Clare took on Sunday at Long Beach when Marinus and Dean were doing their first two sea dives for their Open Water course.

Fat plough shell at Long Beach
Fat plough shell at Long Beach

Clare has put together the chamber dive and we have 8 confirmed so far. The chamber holds 5-6 people so there is still space, mail me if you are interested. For those that don’t know, the chamber dive is to 50 metres, but you don’t need to be anything other than a qualified diver as it is a “dry” dive and requires you to sit on a bench and equalise your ears whilst the chamber is pressurised. Your behaviour, voice and senses will all experience the effects of a dive to depths of 50 metres but there is no water!

We will have dive computers in a bowl of water so you can learn about how a computer behaves at those depths… Computers are not as smart as us so they need to be in water. (Some dive computers have “wet contacts” and will only go into dive mode if submerged.)

Ribbed turrid at Long Beach
Ribbed turrid at Long Beach

The southeaster continues to pound the coast and we have only had three days of diving this week.

Tuesday was a surprise and delivered good conditions, warm water, 19 degrees and 4 metres visibility. This weekend and the best part of next week will again be hampered by the wind so we will only be diving on Sunday, doing a few deeper dives to complete a few Advanced and Nitrox courses.

Dean on his first Open Water sea dive
Dean on his first Open Water sea dive

I am not sure of how many of you read the blog but this is a very interesting post by Clare on “the bends” and why DAN insurance is such value for money. Alistair was kind enough to relate his story and how it impacted on his life. I am sure it costs under R1000 a year, read this and decide if you can afford not to join.

https://www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/2011/02/12/diving-medical-insurance/

Marinus gets a personalised application of Vaseline
Marinus gets a personalised application of Vaseline

Permits… You do need one, you know the story… Post office…

best regards

Learn to Dive Today logoTony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog
Diving is addictive!

<img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-486″ title=”Learn to Dive Today logo” src=”https://www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/small-colour-e1284626229322.jpg” alt=”Learn to Dive Today logo” width=”73″ height=”67″ />Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
<a href=”http://www.learntodivetoday.co.za” target=”_blank”>www.learntodivetoday.co.za</a>
<a href=”https://www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog” target=”_self”>www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog</a>
<em>Diving is addictive!</em>

Diving medical insurance

A large part of diving training involves making sure that you are a safe, competent underwater adventurer. You learn the consequences of various actions on the air spaces in your body, and the physiology related to breathing compressed air at depth, including how long it’s safe to stay down, how fast to ascend, and all about safety stops. The training you will do teaches you to manage your buoyancy so as not to make uncontrolled ascents or descents. All this minimises the chance that you will need emergency medical care after a dive.

Diving accidents are uncommon, but when they do happen, the cost of treatment is likely to be high. In the event that you’re bent – or possibly bent – you’ll have to go to a hyperbaric chamber for recompression treatment. For some perspective on what this involves, and what this feels like, I spoke to Alistair Downing of Underwater Explorers, technical diver extraordinaire. He’s been bent twice – here’s how he describes the first time (in 2003), after a deep dive on trimix out of Hout Bay, involving numerous long decompression stops:

The dive and deco went great. No problems at all.

On my final ascent from 6 metres (doing 1 metre/minute ascent rate), I felt a slight twinge in my thigh muscle, but put it down to being really cold and immobile for such a long dive – roughly two hours!

Finally surfaced and felt a little dizzy, but assumed with the rolling seas, it was a little seasickness (not that it is usually a problem…).

By the time the boat picked me up, I was exhausted. I couldn’t unkit and needed the safety diver to get my gear off me.

I just made it into the boat and needed to lie down. Just felt really, really tired. Again put it down to exhaustion, having just done a massive dive.

About two minutes later I called for the O2 – thought it can’t hurt.

A few minutes onto the O2 the pins and needles all over my body started – time to go!

We were all DAN members and as per DAN’s protocol, we contacted DAN first. They then contacted Kingsbury Chamber and we were advised to proceed there. At this stage, I was aware of my surroundings and besides the pins and needles, was doing OK. We were 16 kilometres out to sea from Hout Bay and en route my condition deteriorated. Some of these I can recall, but others were relayed to me after the fact. By the time we got to Hout Bay harbour I was paralysed from my waist down, had lost sight in both eyes, apparently had stopped breathing on several occasions and was basically out of it!

They had initially arranged for an ambulance to collect me at Hout Bay, but there was a delay so my crew decided to transport me in the back of a bakkie – I have only one fleeting memory of the trip from Hout Bay to Claremont.

DAN had put Kingsbury on full alert and soon after I arrived, Dr Rosenthal arrived. I basically went straight into the chamber and was there for about 8 hours. I forget the exact details of the treatment, but Rosenthal has all these details. What I can recall is that it was not a pleasant experience. Lots of pain, confusion, too hot, too cold, thirst, nausea, and feeling very uncomfortable. That evening I was admitted to High Care and spent the night there on oxygen. At this stage I was generally pain free, except for one mother of a headache… and a general ‘pap’ feeling.

Over the next several days I went for about five follow up treatments of about two hours each. I was also on massive doses of medication, specifically to reduce the swelling of my brain. I was not allowed to dive for a year, which in itself almost killed me! It also took about 6 months before my headache went away…

I was diagnosed with neurological bend, most likely caused by a helium bubble. After the year, I passed my medical and it was all systems go again.

Alistair dived with the same buddy both times he got bent, and his buddy experienced no problems either time. Alistair was later diagnosed with a PFO (patent foramen ovale, or hole in the heart that did not close completely at birth – about one third of people have them) which may have  predisposed him to getting bent despite meticulously following safe decompression schedules and experiencing nothing untoward on either dive. He had this surgically repaired and since 2009 has been back in the water with no problems!

DAN emergency noticeboard at Long Beach
DAN emergency noticeboard at Long Beach

DAN stands for Divers’ Alert Network. They’re an international organisation that provides top-up medical aid cover for divers, as well as diving medical information and research, evacuation services, and training in diving safety.

Alistair’s treatment for the bends he’s experienced cost between R30,000 and R40,000 each time – and if a helicopter evacuation had been required, that cost would have increased sharply. Here’s what he said about the extent of the cover by DAN:

DAN covered me in full for both bends – picked up all the bills, including medicine. I basically did not pay a cent and as a DAN Business member, was really happy about this. They however did not cover anything linked to the PFO operation, as it is post injury elective surgery, not bends incident related.  All in all, a good showing by DAN and reason enough to get cover from them.

While we trust medical aids to provide the peace of mind that your costs will be covered when you require hospitalisation or emergency treatment, the truth is that in many cases they will do everything they can to avoid paying out your claims. You should be certain that the medical aid cover you have will pick up the tab if you incur an injury while diving – many medical aids classify scuba diving (even recreational scuba on air to less than 40 metres’ depth) as an extreme sport, and treat associated claims accordingly – in other words, with great reluctance.

(As an aside, if you have life cover, you should make sure that the life insurance company is also aware of your diving activities for their records.)

Learn to Dive Today is a DAN Business Member, which means that we are able to supply you with application forms and membership information, and have access to DAN training on emergency procedures and management. It also means that we are kept up to date with developments in diving medicine, and have access to the extremely efficient DAN team in South Africa for any assistance we require.

If you dive frequently, if you like to dive in remote places, if you have a penchant – or desire – to push the limits of recreational scuba, and especially if you fit into one of the risk categories for diving (old age, overweight, heart problems), you should have this kind of insurance. If you want more information or to discuss the various options DAN offers, email Tony or contact the DAN Southern Africa office. They’re very friendly and super efficient!

Magazine: Submerge

Submerge is the other not-for-free South African diving magazine, alongside Divestyle. (The Dive Site is the free one, and is preferable not only for the reason of its cost…)

The Submerge website is smaller and contains less current diving information than that of Divestyle, and while the Current Affairs section on the website is interesting, the absence of dates on the posts makes for frustrating reading. The same section in the magazine is far more useful.

The magazine itself has a more dated look than Divestyle but I find it to be more content-rich and the photographs are more numerous and in general magnificent. Valda Fraser is a regular photographic contributor. She’s the co-author of More Reef Fishes & Nudibranchs, a stalwart on our Sodwana trip (the book, not Valda).

Regular sections include an Ask DAN column, in a sort of agony-auntie format, and the magazine seems to have a close affiliation with DAN. There are also regular Instructor Diaries (often more than one), and a double page spread of Current Affairs. For those who like to (or bother to) tweak their photos after the fact (clearly I am not one of them), there’s a regular Photoshop section that demonstrates simple effects and adjustments for underwater photographers.

One of my favourite sections is the Portfolio section, where an underwater photographer gets to show off a sample of his or her best work. There are the usual features on gadgets and gizmos, including lots of photographic gear.

There are several regular sections that make Submerge a magazine you want to keep:

  • There’s a regular Dive Sites section, with photos and useful facts about dive sites all along the Southern African and Mozambican coastline.
  • Species Focus is a short one or two page bullet-form article with photos, concerning a particular species
  • There’s a “collectable” fish ID section of which Dennis King is often co-author and photographer. This is very useful for distinguishing different types of ray, butterfly fish, nudibranch, or other marine creature. There are sometimes multiple fish ID sections per issue.

Submerge does sometimes have a column or two on technical diving, but it’s much less of a feature than it is in Divestyle.

Like Divestyle, Submerge comes out six times per year, lagging Divestyle by one month.

Latest issue (February/March 2011)

Submerge (February/March 2011)
Submerge (February/March 2011)

The latest issue is rich on dive travel features, something at which Submerge is very good. Adam Cruise writes an article on diving in Pomene in Mozambique – seahorse heaven apparently! – and there’s a gorgeous photo spread by Valda Fraser of creatures seen on a night dive in the same location.

The featured underwater photographer in the Portfolio section is Mark van Coller, and the cover image (a beautiful seal) is also his. There’s also a feature (with lovely photos) on the destructive crown of thorns starfish. Species Focus is on batoids (skates and rays). Unfortunately our own giant short-tailed stingray was missing!

Submerge is running a series on shipwrecks at the moment, compiled by Wreckseekers. It’s more about the legends and history than about diving the wrecks, but interesting nonetheless.

If you had to choose between Divestyle and Submerge, I’d subscribe to Submerge, particularly if you have a special interest in underwater photography, dive travel or species identification.

Why I teach PADI

I do not profess to having much insight into how other certifying agencies equip their Instructors but I do know how PADI does.

PADI slates for the Instructor
PADI slates for the Instructor

As PADI Instructors we are kept up to date with the latest training information quarterly, and we receive an up dated Instructor’s Manual every year with all changes, alterations and additions to the curriculum. We attend forums where we are given the latest info, what’s new for the year, statistics and on the PADI Pro website there is a host of white paper topics relating to marketing, training and PADI programs, and an endless supply of diving related indemnity forms etc. For every program there is an underwater slate, detailing the requirements for each dive. PADI do ensure that we, as instructors have every bit of information available.

PADI Open Water Training DVDs
PADI Open Water Training DVDs

For every program, training course or any aspect of your diving business PADI has made all the info readily available for Instructors. PADI also continues to evolve an often leads the way in improving the training courses.

PADI Open Water logbook
PADI Open Water logbook front cover
PADI Open Water logbook
PADI Open Water logbook adventure dive information pages

For example, the PADI Open Water course training materials – crew pack as we commonly know it – originally contained a manual and a dive tables. Today it also contains an electronic dive planner, your own set of DVDs, an amazing log book for all your courses (Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, Specialty courses, and forty odd fun dives), plus loads of information on specialties, and a booklet giving you some insight on the diving options you have. All this in addition to the manual!

PADI Electronic Dive Planner
PADI Electronic Dive Planner

Learning to dive in Cape Town with me at Learn to Dive Today means you also get a SURG slate on the common creatures we have here, plus free DAN diving medical cover for the duration of your Open Water course.

SURG Marine Animals of the Cape Peninsula slate
SURG Marine Animals of the Cape Peninsula slate
SURG Marine Animals of the Cape Peninsula slate
SURG Marine Animals of the Cape Peninsula slate (reverse)

DAN Business Membership

DAN Business Member
DAN Business Membership

I’m happy to announce that Learn to Dive Today is now a DAN Business Member. By supporting DAN we are helping to improve dive safety standards for everyone, and doing this will also enable us to provide an enhanced service for my students. As a DAN member, I am able to arrange free diving-related emergency insurance cover for my entry level (Open Water) students for the duration of their dive courses.

DAN, which stands for Divers Alert Network, is a non-profit organisation that provides medical advice, research and insurance for diving related injuries and emergencies. They are at the forefront of diving safety and we are proud to be associated with them.

You’ll notice the DAN billboards at several of the popular Cape Town dive sites, with emergency procedures and contact details. There’s one at Long Beach and one at Miller’s Point.

What’s in my dive bag

I have travelled around a bit and dived in some very remote places, miles from a dive shop. Over the years I have collected an array of gadgets. Dive shops are full of shiny things you had no idea you needed until you saw them for the first time. There are some very important basic add-ons to your standard battle dress, things that no self respecting diver would dive without, and then there is a range of nice to have items, and then the usual ”not required but I have it anyway” list.

Must have items

DAN medical insurance

DAN tag and spare O ring
DAN tag and spare O ring hidden on the hose protector

Attach the red DAN tag to your BCD or regulator so that in an emergency your rescuer can get you the help you need. DAN will cover you for the expensive possibility that you need recompression in a chamber if you have a suspected case of the bends, as well as for any other diving-related medical emergency treatment that your medical aid refuses to cover. An ordinary medical aid will probably not pay for recompression treatment. Visit the DAN (Divers’ Alert Network) website for details.

A surface marker buoy (SMB)

Reels and surface marker buoy (SMB)
Different sized reels and surface marker buoys (SMB)

Reels come in all shapes and sizes, with thumb reels, small reels and large reels. I use a small reel on shallow dives and a large reel on deeper dives.

In a rough sea or poor conditions an SMB makes you far easier to see than a head and shoulders dressed in black bobbing on the surface. You should not dive without one in Cape Town.

Dive Knife

This should be big enough to cut fishing line in case you or your buddy get tangled up (or need to rescue something or someone). Not to be used for stabbing sharks, or your dive buddy! You can buy huge dagger-type knife, but it may be an overkill, unless you have aspirations to be a pirate. Small cutting tools that you can wear on your gear are more practical.

Dive torches and a handy-sized knife
Dive torches and a handy-sized knife

Torch

This should ideally be small enough to keep in a pocket, unless you’re doing a night dive and need some serious light.

You don’t necessarily need a torch only on night dives – you may want to see something that’s hiding in a dark environment, or it might be an overcast day. On a deep dive, a torch is essential because the colours can look so washed out.

Compass

Knowing where you are going or where you came from is quite useful at the bottom, as on land. Enough said.

Dive compass styles
Dive compass styles

Dive computer

There are many different styles. Some can be worn as everyday watches, and others are only for diving.  Here are three variations:

Dive computers
Dive computers in three styles. The two on the left can be worn as dress watches.

Signalling devices

Signalling devices
Signalling devices, from left to right: shaker, air horn, whistle.

A whistle is required for the surface (many BCDs come with one attached – you may not have noticed it as it might be helpfully coloured black to match the inflator hose). An air horn works above and below the surface and a shaker works best underwater but can be used on the surface.

You can also use a hard object like a dive knife to rap on your cylinder, which will be audible to your buddy underwater, but don’t necessarily rely on having something suitable to hand – or having the presence of mind to look for it – in an emergency.

Slates

Dive slates
Dive slates: the one on the left is useful for compass navigation. The one on the right is a wrist slate (note the mysterious arm it’s mounted on).

Underwater slates come in all shapes and sizes. A wrist slate can be pleasant as it’s always close by but easily accessible. Flat slates must be clipped to a D ring – and don’t forget to secure your pencil!

DIN adaptor and O rings

DIN adaptor and O rings
DIN adaptor and O rings. The little blue cylinder clips to your keychain and can be used to store spare O rings.

Some resorts only have old style aluminum cylinders and if you have a DIN regulator they don’t fit as there is no removable insert. Here you will require a DIN adaptor so make sure you enquire as to type of cylinders available when you book your vacation, if you intend using your personal regulator.

It’s also handy to have an allen key to remove the inserts if you routinely dive with your own regulator.

Nice to have items

Clipping things to your BCD is a surefire way to ensure they do not become lost property. There are many different types of clips available. No matter what I take underwater, it will always have a clip attached that will enable me to clip it to my BCD if I suddenly need both hands for something.

Cyalumes, mouthpiece and spare finstrap
Cyalumes, mouthpiece, clip and spare finstrap

Spare mask and fin straps are nice to have particularly if you have a odd type of fin or mask.

Spare octo clips are handy as well as a few cyalumes in the event of an impromptu night dive.

If you travel to remote locations in your own 4WD you may find yourself with a puncture, so a tyre inflator is a handy addition to the dive bag. Deep divers know the benefits of Nitrox and the risks involved in diving with the wrong mix so a Nitrox analyser helps you to double check the reading reached by the dive store. If you find your reg breathes with difficulty, or you second stages constantly leak, checking the system pressure with your own handy pressure gauge will give you an indication as to the root of the problem.

Nitrox analyser and pressure gauge
Nitrox analyser (top) and pressure gauge

FAQ: If I bleed in the water, will I attract sharks?

Hollywood has a lot to answer for!

For the girls

Ladies
Ladies

I get asked this question quite often by girls who are worried about diving while menstruating. The short answer, which should make you breathe a sigh of relief, is no – regardless of what feminine hygiene products you prefer to use. (While we’re on the subject – forgive me boys – but tampons are perfectly safe to use while scuba diving and nothing strange or frightening happens to them inside your body on a dive. If you’re really worried, and there’s no reason to be, use a Mooncup – get one at Wellness Warehouse.)

DAN has a useful answer to this question on their international website. The research that has been done indicates that menstruating women are at no greater risk of shark attacks than men, or women who aren’t on their period.

What you should be aware of is that if you’re a woman, you’re more susceptible to dehydration during your period, which in turn increases the risk of decompression sickness. There is also research that indicates that the use of oral contraceptives may marginally increase a woman’s risk of DCS. So be sure to stay hydrated, do your safety stops, dive conservatively – and enjoy your diving!

For the boys (and the girls who are still reading)

Gents
Gents

Sharks are not interested in human (mammal) blood – they prefer fish! And what’s more, unless you’ve experienced massive trauma (in which case I doubt scuba diving will be the first thing on your mind), only miniscule quantities of blood will be leaking out into the water – whether it’s because you’ve got a cut or scratch on your body, or (if you’re a girl) you’re menstruating.

(To clarify, in case you’re puzzled: I took these photos of the signs on the restroom doors at the Southern Sun Grayston hotel in Johannesburg with my dodgy cellphone camera while I was there for a conference in June. I’ve been itching to use them since, and frankly didn’t have time to organise a photo shoot of a woman in white trousers frolicking alone on a beach!)