Coral reefs are amazing. I know a rather simple statement and one as divers we will all agree with. But did you know that coral reefs cover approximately 110,000 square miles? That is about the size of the state of Nevada. Feels sort of small. And yet coral reefs are home to over one third of all fish life and act as nursery grounds to over 25% of all known marine life.
Just about 8% of all coral species can be found in the Atlantic while the rest are to be found in the Indo-Pacific. (I think more adventures to the Indo-Pacific are called for.) What is odd is that between the two oceans they share only 8 of over 100 know corals.
Soft corals, hard corals, small and large are classified as animals. But they are a unique combination of plant, animal and mineral. Coral reefs are varied and vibrant play grounds. As divers we know this and the best way to protect them is to have wonderful buoyancy control. Here are a few crazy facts to keep in mind about how coral reefs grow. Did you know that coral reach sexual maturity between 7 to 10 years of age or when they are about 4 inches? Staghorn and Elkhorn corals are among the fastest growing corals at approximately 5 inches a year. Whereas, most corals grow only a fraction of an inch a year. Think of some of the size of corals you have seen and imagine how old they must be.
As we all know coral reefs are in trouble worldwide. That is why I found this article so fascinating and hopeful. Along with all the places that are working on coral nurseries around the world there is hope for our coral reefs. There is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of research, but maybe we can help the coral reefs thrive.
Did you know that you can do fish surveys on any dive? If you are a member of REEF you can. A few weeks ago on our trip to Costa Rica, a lady was doing fish surveys. I knew about them, but thought they would be rather complex. But turns out I was wrong in that thinking.
Reef is free to join but like most organizations they survive on donations. But by joining for free you can become part of the “world’s largest citizen science program”. Which in and of itself is cool, but you can then participate in fish surveys.
It is the volunteer Fish Study program. Diver scientist are grouped into 5 different levels and you can level up by doing fish surveys and participating in on line quizzes. Sounds like a cool on line game. You can even level up by completing the Aware Fish Id Speciality. These fish surveys are done by what they call the “roving diver technique”. As you enjoy your dive and see all the wonderful fish, you make little notes on your underwater slate. Angelfish, Butterfly fish, what sizes and how many. All types of fish. And if you are unsure of what type of fish you saw, use the fish id books and slates that are at just about every dive place we go. Or just use the on line resources to help you identify fish.
Simple, right? Then just go on line and complete the on line forms and submit. It is that easy. There are even on line tutorials to help you and they are only a few minutes long.
On our last adventure to Little Cayman, the staff there was talking about some of the groupers and turtles that had been tagged. Turns out that this is all part of REEF. The Grouper Moon project started in Little Cayman on 2002 and of course there is a Sea Turtle program as well.
Every dive can be a survey if you wish or maybe just a few per trip. It is easy and fun. So who is ready to join me in doing some fish surveys?
Sharks (you can hear that music right) people have 2 reactions to just the word. Love or fear. Pretty simple statement I know, but just ask your friends and you will get only those two responses.
If you are reading this post then I will guess that you fall on the side of love for sharks. And you might guess, so do I. I want to share a few things that I found interesting as I prepare for teach my new specialty Shark Conservation Diver .
Let’s start with this little tidbit. The first shark appeared in the oceans more than 150 million years before dinosaurs. Just about 400 million years ago. No wonder they look so prehistoric. There are over 500 different species of sharks. The smallest is the dwarf lantern shark that is only 7cm. Two can even go between fresh and salt water, the bull and the aptly named river shark.
Did you know that sharks are more like whales and elephants when it comes to having babies? It can take one to two years for the female to give birth. They generally have small numbers of offspring and after birth it is generally a year or two before they become pregnant again. And some like the dusky shark can take up to twenty years to reach sexual maturity.
Yes, most sharks are apex predators. The top of the food chain. But think about this, less sharks means more lower level carnivores that leads to less herbivores which gives us more algae and stuff covering the coral reefs. Which we know creates a very unhealthy reef.
We have all heard about shark fin soup and the horrible thing that is shark fining. But here are a few other facts about sharks. Porbeagle meat is thought of as “veal from the sea” in France. Shark meat is common in fish and chips and other things like fish fingers.
Approximately one third of all open ocean sharks are threaten with extinction. Hammerheads have declined by over 80% in the Atlantic. Sharks are in trouble and we can help and we should help. Want to learn more and start your own love affair you can go here
How can the air we breathe be so harmful to us, after all isn’t oxygen good for us? Well, we do know from our Enriched Air aka Nitrox class that under pressure can become toxic to our body and cause a host of issues.
We can avoid all of those issues by paying attention to our dive computers and by setting our oxygen levels on our computers correctly. Let me provide an example that actually happen to me of all people. A day before we went to the crater I was showing a diver how to set the oxygen limits on one of my dive computers. This particular computer you can actually set up to 99% oxygen. By the way at that level the maximum dive depth is 13 feet. Well instead of making sure it was set back to regular old 21% air, I must have left it at 99%. Well you can just imagine the grief that the computer was giving me after only 5 minutes of the first dive at the crater. As most of you know that dive is usually between 16 and 25 feet. Well after 5 minutes my computer was telling me that I was approaching my oxygen limit for 24 hours. And after 10 minutes I was way past that limit. I knew I was fine and I knew what had happened. But of course my computer didn’t know that I was fine and actually diving 21% or just regular old air.
Of course I finish both of the dives with the class and one extra for the advanced open water students. At this point I was curious what the computer would actually do. I was definitely on the naughty list as far as it was concerned. But after 14 hours of being out of the water the computer was much happier and allowed me to reset it to 21%. After 3 more dives with the class the computer was showing only 5% of my daily oxygen exposure had been reached.
One of the most common questions we get is, “what piece of dive equipment should a new diver buy first?”
Well, that is an easy one. After a good set of mask, snorkel and fins, a new diver’s first purchase should be a dive computer. Unless one gets cold really easily, then they should add a nice wetsuit to that order. I know that you can rent a dive computer and or a wetsuit any where you go diving. But, here is why these items should be 1 and 1A on your wish list.
A dive computer is the most important piece of diving equipment a new diver should have, because there is a learning curve with every dive computer on the market. If you are spending extra time or worst yet not even bothering to learn what your dive computer is telling you. Well, you are putting yourself in danger. All dive computers function basically the same, but how you access that information is different on every one. Some are 1 button where you press, press and then hold to access the sub menus. Some are 2 or 3 buttons. But they are all different. By having your own dive computer you take that learning curve out and you will know your dive equipment. I tell every new diver that once they make the commitment to purchase and own their own dive gear, they instantly become a better diver. Why? Because they know their equipment and can operate it without thinking about it.
As for 1A, well if you get cold easily then a nice fitting high quality wetsuit should be right there on your list. There is nothing worse than being freezing cold on a beautiful dive. Being so cold that you cannot even enjoy the beauty that you are there to see and the playful fish is just no fun. Being warm and comfortable and knowing your dive gear does make for many happy dives.
When you are ready come on into the shop and we can show you all your options.
Does your emergency contact have all your info? Sounds like a crazy question and a crazy blog post, but it isn’t. One of our divers was on a wonderful trip with his buddy and his buddy had a major heart attack and passed. It took almost 3 months to return his body to the states. Sounds crazy and sad, but a little extra info could save you and your family some serious aggravation.
Does your emergency contact have all your personal information? Things like date of birth, social security number are fairly common for that person to have or know. But how about your parents names? They were important in the case that prompts this post to help identify the person. But also how about your medical insurance and DAN insurance numbers? Blood type? And in this sad case, how about what to do with the body?
If your emergency contact has to deal with the State Department all of that information is going to be needed and relevant. And of course if they have to deal with the federal government the more information that they can provide up front will help expedite the situation.
Take some time and write down all the pertinent information on a nice piece of paper and place it in an envelope for your emergency contact to place in a safe spot. You do not have to tell them what is in it. On the outside, you can write all the travel information. Such as what resort you are staying at. What time your flights arrive and depart. The phone number to reach you if a situation arises. You know all the normal stuff. Then tell them that if some major happens, the information is inside that they will need. After your safe adventure and return home, your emergency contact can hand you that unopened envelope back and all is good.
The diver that told me this story asked that I write about it and place it out there for others. If it saves just one family extra grief then it was worth it.
As I have written a few times before the instructors creed is an awesome thing and the fun little thing is I get to see it happen almost every weekend? Overcoming fear, turning “I cant” into “I can”. Turning bad into fun and wonderful. But I see and hear so many instructors that are bent into one way to do a skill and that is just not fair or right. There is no where in the instructor manual that tells us how a student must perform the skill other than they must have “mastery” of said skill. I take that to mean the student must be able to do the skill in a manner that they can repeat comfortably and again and again. There is also no place in the instructor creed or manual that states a student must enjoy the skill and we all know that some skills are just not the most fun anyway.
So if I marry the instructors creed with the instructor manual on say mask clearing, what methods do I come up with to teach? Well there are so many ways. First we have our traditional way. That is you have no issues and water maybe up your nose doesn’t bug you and you just simply exhale out your nose and mask is cleared. But if you have the once in awhile thought to breathe in your nose and snort some pool water this little skill will drive you crazy. So, while it isn’t “text book”, but if you have the urge and need to hold your nose while you take your mask off and even flood it, that is ok. You will need to let go of your nose at some point, but if that is what it takes for you to get the timing down so you can clear that mask, ok with me.
The instructors creed guides me to allow you to hold your nose. The instructor manual allows me to let you do this also. So I tell you I don’t care if you need to hold your nose because to put your mask back on you have to let go of your nose. You relax and next thing you know you are removing and clearing your mask, heck you might not even be holding your nose. The instructor creed and instructor manual allow for what ever the student can do time and time again to be a safe diver. If I have imparted this to you my student and fellow diver then I am happy and have hopefully lived and seen the instructor creed come to life.
Scuba Burger? What are you talking about? Well, you see last month or so there was this survey that ranked 5 Guys ahead of In-N-Out and since there is both on the way to the Crater we decided that it was about time for a Scuba Burger Review.
Both chains have a very loyal and sometimes outspoken following and both offer a very limited menu. And yes both have “secret menus”. A point in favor of 5 Guys is that their menu offering is a little larger than that on In-N-Out, offing hot dogs and a few sandwiches. Both offer fresh never frozen burgers and fries. They even have the same basic color schemes in their restaurants. And the time it took to get our meal was about the same. And the line was much shorter at 5 Guys. So what is the difference in these two icons of scuba burgers?
Well 5 Guys gives you an amazing choice of toppings. I dare to say too many, but I guess that is why some people love them. So to make the test fair I went with the same toppings I would find at In N Out. The burger is huge, a good 30% more meat than In-N-Out (to be fair it is also about 2 times the price). It was tasty, fresh and very good. Now the fries, I found them just ok. I guess cholesterol free peanut oil isn’t for me when it comes to my fries.
In N Out just as good, just as fresh and as comfortable as my favorite shirt. A small disclaimer, I grew up in So Cal and In-N-Out was one of our hang outs on Friday nights.
So which is the favorite Scuba Burger? They are both wonderful and fresh. 5 Guys will cost you more but you will get a little more and you will have a larger choice of toppings. But for this guy growing up with In-N-Out carries my vote and I like the fries better. Now if you want fries you must go to WhatABurger on the island of Bonaire
After all we can’t dive all the time
A dive computer is a wonderful and very useful piece of equipment to own. I would say right after mask, snorkel and fins your next purchase should be a dive computer or a wetsuit. Just as there are many different types of people there are many different styles dive gear for you to pick. And a dive computer can come in many different styles. And they are all nitrox compatible right out of the box. All dive computers track your nitrogen loading and your safety stop. Most water activate and have altitude adjustments.
The basic “puck” style of dive computer is first up. A very popular entry level option, it can be worn on your wrist or in a console attached to your first stage. The come in 2 basic styles, the one button or two buttons. Both are very easy to learn to use, but the one button does take a little bit extra to learn. When you reach the setting you want to change you need to hold the button down for a few seconds. It takes just a little to get use to it. The Aqualung i300 has come along and made the two buttons even easier to use. They labeled the buttons advance and select.
Next is the watch style or wrist dive computer. And of course with in this style there are 2 main types, air integration with a transmitter and non air integration. I have personally dived both and own both. For teaching classes I use the non air integration style. It gives me all the information that I need and I have an SPG for air pressure. For my dive travels I am even more stream lined by having all my dive info on my wrist and no console or hose.
Finally we have the air integration console style computers. Most of these have quick disconnects so you can take the computer off the hose for easy logging of your dive info. Most will have bigger screens for those of us that might be a little eye sight challenged.
With just about any dive computer, you can download your dive information into an e-log book. Some have blue tooth capability. With one dive computer you can upload 3d maps of the dive sights and some have color screens. Most now have user changeable batteries and one even has a heart rate monitor.
So which dive computer is right for you? Well that depends on you, but I can offer one suggestion. Take the time to visit with your local dive shop as they can show you your options and walk you through the differences for each style and in our case even a few different manufactures.
Project Aware and Dive Against Debris is one easy way that we can all help save and project Mother Ocean. I am sure that most of you have heard some horror stories about how there will be more plastic and trash in the ocean than creatures in 30 years. So how can we do something about it? The following is taken from the Dive Against Debris survey guide.
First safety is our primary consideration. If you are unsure about any item please leave it in place. If you see weapons or ammunition, leave it and mark its location and inform the local authorities. Also take great care with rusty items as they may be sharp or could leak chemicals that maybe harmful.
Consider the material the item is made from. Glass and steel cans are not going to cause much more harm than they already have, but if they have been long enough they just maybe home to some creatures. Also consider that eggs maybe attached, if they are mark the location and return at a later time to safely remove the item. Remove non-natural items such as plastics. These items break down into smaller parts and can cause more harm. Use your judgment in removing these types of items, it may be better to remove it even if doing so will cause some harm as the impact will be less than that of leaving the item.
On a Dive Against Debris, items such as car batteries and other containers that contain chemicals should be removed but only if you can safely remove them. Remember that we should be using lift bags for object that weigh over 10 pounds. If you are removing larger and heavier items it might be a good idea to take the Search and Recovery specialty class or if you have hitting the pool for a little practice time with the lift bag.
Finally on our Dive Against Debris, we have all seen videos and pictures of sea life caught up in fishing line and other items. These items are a menace and should be removed, but coral could have grown around it. You might need to cut around such a growth and remove just what is easily taken and leave the rest imbedded in the coral. Trying to cut it out of the coral will only cause more harm. Using trauma shears is better that a dive knife as they require less of a sawing motion and are general sharp enough to cut even wire.
Just a few ideas to help all of us protect Mother Ocean and Dive Against Debris