Tag Archives: deep sea diver’s den
August 1, 2008

Australia: Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Note the heavy grain, the terrible exposure.  We're in disposible camera country now.

You know what they say about a picture’s worth, right? Well, sadly, we have hardly any decent photos to show from our diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef, so I compensated by writing about our experiences instead. Here comes about 9 pictures’ worth of memories.
I’m kicking myself for not renting a digital camera for our dives ($150 for 4 days.) We bought a few disposable cameras instead, and boy, what a disappointment! Whole rolls of film went inexplicably unexposed. Others were trashed either in the development process or by the camera’s winding mechanism, resulting in double or even triple exposures. Consequently, some of the best moments of our dives live on only in these words or, at best, in severely grainy ISO800.

These dives occurred in November 2007. It didn’t take me nine months to write all this; rather it took that long to psych myself up for the task. Don’t worry, Oksana and I resolved to buy a proper underwater camera before our next dive.Okay, where were we? Oh, yeah:

I shuffled up to the side of the boat and fixed my mask into place. Left hand securing my weight belt and dive gages, the right pressing my mask and regulator to my face. I inhaled deeply, took a giant stride forward, stepped out into space. Here comes the Great Barrier Reef.

Wait a minute, back up. Before I took the plunge into the Great Barrier Reef, I was stopped at the edge of the boat by tug on my back. One of the divemasters on board had a hold of my tank’s valve. “Who’s your dive buddy?” he asked. “Uh, my wife. Why?” “Because your air is almost all the way off,” he said while twisting the valve all the way open. “Better talk to her about that.” Oksana was already in the water; she didn’t hear the exchange. “Thanks. I’ll make sure to mention it.” We were packed pretty tightly at the rail, and the boat was rocking side-to-side in the swells. With the divemaster cranking away at my tank valve, I almost lost my balance. I took a clumsy, half-step back before I caught myself, but the underwater photographer was right behind me. The bottom edge of my tank must have bumped into the huge glass port of her camera enclosure. Behind me, I heard her say, “Shit! Shitshitshit!” When I turned to look, she was pushing her way through the crowd and rubbing the glass with her finger. I felt guilty, and tried to apologize, but she was already gone. Dive 1 – Norman Reef: Plate Top. 32min at 12m I turned to step into the water. After plunging in, I bobbed to the surface, switched to my snorkel, and put some air into my BCD. The water was surprisingly warm, only 1 or 2 degrees colder than the air, but the wind was whipping the surface into a froth. Once we dipped below the surface, however, everything was calm. (more…)

July 22, 2008

Australia: Advanced Open Water Certification

Oksana and Arlo, masks too tight

I’ve gone snorkeling hundreds of times, but it wasn’t until Oksana and I were in Australia that I finally got certified to dive. I’ve been surrounded by PADI certified diver-friends since at least high school; I don’t really know why it’s taken this long. Although money was always a consideration, I think I could have overcome that obstacle if I really wanted to. In retrospect, I think the reasons for putting off diving were four-fold:

  • Not wanting to enroll in a course by myself
  • The additional cost the hobby would incur (i.e., buying or renting gear)
  • Thinking that snorkeling is essentially the same thing
  • And, don’t tell anyone, but maybe just a little fear about submerging myself in an environment so hostile to human life

In the last couple of years, Oksana and I have toyed with the idea of getting certified in Juneau. We’ve had friends watching out for classes, reminding us when they start, vouching for different dive shops. For whatever reason, the stars never seemed to align, but when we bought our airline tickets to Australia, I realized that a huge opportunity – exploring the Great Barrier Reef – might be missed.

Oksana didn’t have time to attend a class in Juneau before we left, so I looked into what it would take to get us certified in Australia. I had reservations about spending so much of our precious vacation time in “school,” but I couldn’t fathom skipping the Great Barrier Reef, either. The prices on the websites I found were comparable to Juneau; about $350 was the minimum for a 3-day, Open Water certification class. We could swing the cost, could we swing the time?

We made it a priority.