Today, Jo and I went scuba diving. Neither of us had been before, but after a short introductory DVD we dived down to the wreck of the Titanic. Or went in the hotel swimming pool to practise getting used to the equipment and do some safety drills. One of the two.
While I was initially confident breathing underwater, I soon became a bit paranoid about the exercise where you throw your regulator away before recovering it, purging the airflow, and then breathing normally. I tended to get the steps in the wrong order, and then panic when I couldn’t seem to reestablish a normal flow of oxygen without taking on water. Due to this, I was more than a little nervous about the forthcoming dive itself.
We travelled by boat to a bay which contained a coral reef and assorted marine life, and before I knew it I was preparing to roll backwards off the boat into the water. Next we had to make our way down the guide rope to the bottom, remembering to equalise the pressure in our ears every metre or so. When we were at the end of the rope, we were to swim off and explore the reef in the company of our guide, Helen.
After my pool experience I was mega-worried about my regulator taking on water, and so spent most of the “in” breaths holding onto it with my hand to make sure it didn’t become even slightly detached from my mouth. However, this strategy proved successful and I was able to traverse the sea bed, coming across some very cool formations of coral and swimming through schools of brightly-coloured fish. It was pretty spectacular.
After half an hour underwater I don’t know exactly what happened, but my regulator became waterlogged and normal breathing became impossible. Remembering my training, I purged the regulator, but for some reason I couldn’t make myself start breathing properly again. The panic only started when I tried the clearance procedure a couple of times with no effect, and signalled Helen that things weren’t going well. After one final unsuccessful attempt I pointed to the surface and headed up, lungs fit to burst. Of course, they probably weren’t going to – I likely had a number of seconds to calm down and think about what I was doing – but down there I had a sudden “ohhh shiiiiit” moment and felt for all the world that I had to get the hell out of Dodge. Luckily the dive was nearly over anyway.
I enjoyed the experience, but know that if I’m going to do it again I’ll have to somehow work my way through this regulator issue, as losing the ability to breathe, ten metres underwater, really isn’t fun.
My wife Jo, however, really loved the dive much more than she thought she was going to – so much so, in fact, that she’s planning to investigate the full PADI diving qualification after we get back to the UK. She’s always been much more comfortable in water than me, and seems to have found herself a new hobby. Maybe one day I’ll be able to join her.