A Bucket List, from my point of view

When you think of a bucket list, you generally gravitate towards places that make one feel awe or some emotional tug. I guess in a sense this little exercise in creating my personal bucket list is much along that line. Some have things like the glaciers in Alaska or the Northern Lights, mine is a little different. No, running with the bulls in not on this list, but cage diving with Great Whites would be there. While a safari in Africa might top the list for some, for me it is down the list quite a bit.

bucket list nemo

Quite a few years back, I wrote another scuba bucket list post. Not sure it has changed much over the last 6 years. But, then again, I have had the opportunity to dive with a whale shark since then. That is the beautiful thing about your own personal bucket list.  It is an ever evolving and changing list. Now while Rome and Greece might be higher on my list than yours, since I had a thing for mythology growing up. I will try and keep this scuba related.

On my bucket list are places such as; Lembeh Strait and the Philippines (might want to watch for the 2021 trips) along with Raja Ampat and the Maldives. All for their little creatures and the bigger animals such as Giant Manta Rays. Places like Guadalupe and Socorro, well refer to the Great White comment, but the other big animals such as Whale Sharks and Mantas are on the list. Chuk Lagoon, if there is a World War 2 expert along for the trip to educate me on all the history. Cuba will forever be on my bucket list as it is a place that I have wanted to visit since I was a wee lad.

bucket list nudi

While all these places on my bucket list offer amazing underwater experiences. They also offer much culturally topside to experience. After all, you can only absorb so much nitrogen, before you need a surface interval.

Earth Day, Sharks and Coral Reefs. Are they connected?

 Earth Day is fast approaching. Shark populations are dwindling and, in some cases, nearing extinction. There are reports that the Great Barrier reef is losing its ability to recover from another bleaching incident. How are all these events related. Well, read on my friends.

Look at this picture of the plant we call Earth. See anything that strikes you? Like all that blue water? The Ocean covers over 70% of the plant, and yet we call it Earth Day. I won’t go into the history of Earth Day, you can do that for yourself. And yes, taking care of our precious “land plant” with recycling and other wonderful things is awesome. But what about “Mother Ocean”?

earth day

Well, in honor of Earth Day, let us consider the apex predator of the Ocean and what losing sharks means to us all.  Sharks are often the top of the food chain in their eco system. They remove the weak, injured and sick of many different species. Sharks that reach adult hood have few predators. So, think of the Ocean as a huge food chain. Big fish eat smaller fish, and so on. But if we remove the apex predator what happens? Simply put, fewer apex predator mean more lower level carnivores which leaves fewer herbivores which then leaves more macro algae. I am sure as divers you have seen more algae on the reef. That algae is smothering the corals. And with less corals we have other issues coming from the sea.

For Earth day let us try and understand what this means. Studies of remote reefs have revealed ecosystems that are very different from those we know today.  Yes, humans are creating major issues both on land and at sea.

A study of reefs in the Northwestern Hawaii Islands found that apex predators, including sharks, comprise over half of the fish biomass compared to less than 10% on reefs that are fished. On the unaltered reefs the sharks are bigger and populations of all species are far greater. Additionally the unaltered reefs are home to a larger variety of other species than regularly fished reefs.

yes that is a fishing hook in the sharks mouth

The presence of sharks can also protect seagrass beds from over-grazing by dugongs and green sea turtles. These animals prefer to eat in the middle of a sea grass bed where the quality of food is the highest. But it is harder for them to escape a hunting shark from the middle of a large seagrass bed, so they stay on the outside when sharks are present. Seagrass beds are an important habitat for many fish and invertebrate species.

So for Earth day let us expand our thoughts to “Mother Ocean”

How is your scuba fitness?

Scuba Fitness? What exactly does that mean? Well, think about it this way. Seams like these days everyone has a personal trainer. And one of the first things that trainer ask you is what are your “goals”. Then they attempt to design a workout plan to achieve those goals. Well, we can do the same thing with our scuba fitness goals. Afterall the better our fitness the better our diving.

scuba fitness

So how do we design our scuba fitness plan? I think we should break down diving into the core “movements” and muscle groups that we use. Starting with cardio. It is no secret that the better our cardio the better, well everything is better. Our air will last longer. The currents aren’t as tiring. The long walk to the entry point with our gear on is easier. So hit that elliptical trainer and improve your cardio. Why the elliptical? Well you can set the resistance and incline to also work the largest muscle group that we use in diving. The legs are our pistons. The are the driving force within our scuba fitness. They carry us and our gear to the boat or entry point. They propel us under the water and allow us to visit the beautiful landscape that we all love.

What other muscle groups might be better off with a little focus on scuba fitness? Well the arms and shoulders are easy targets to guess. And I will make a small wager that you are probably already targeting those muscle groups in your every day workout routine. But there is one major area that most don’t pay much attention to in any work out. Your lower back and core muscles need some love in your scuba fitness routine.

Think about the stress and strain on your lower back and core. Just climbing up the boat ladder. Walking with all that gear on. Just about everything we do while diving. Now I am not saying that your trainer or your workout programs are wrong or not effective. But just maybe we could add an exercise or two.

 So how is your scuba fitness?

Scuba Bucket List, what is on yours?

As the adventure that was 2018 melts into 2019, it is a wonderful time to review your scuba bucket list. Places, animals or just experiences. What is on your scuba bucket list? Do you have a bucket list? I actually have 3, but we will just concentrate on my scuba bucket list.
I was fortunate to mark an animal off my list on our spring adventure to Costa Rica by having a whale shark cruise by. Alas the Hammer Head remains on my scuba bucket list along with a yellow head jaw fish that has eggs in his mouth. I would add in cage diving with Great Whites as well.
I have been very lucky to be able to travel the Caribbean and visit all the islands except for Cuba. Even though I have been blessed to have been and seen so many amazing places, there are some special spots and even a few “unique” places to explore still. One is going to be our spring trip for 2020 with a trip to The Villa on the Rock in Honduras. As for other places on my scuba bucket list, the Pacific Ocean is calling as well as the Indian Ocean. I know that leaves some places to your imagination, but I cant give away all my list. And after all the oceans cover over 70% of the planet. You will just have to follow along on our adventures to explore some of them with me.
You might even have a new diver rating on your scuba bucket list. Maybe Master Scuba Diver or even Dive Master. 2019’s adventure just might be the time for you to check your scuba bucket list and check off a few places, animals or classes off that really long list. 

We all have our dream adventures. Things and places we want to see and experience. This year instead of resolutions, why not make a small bucket list. As I said I have a few different list. They relate to things I like to do and by keeping them separate it keeps my list manageable. And unlike resolutions, I won’t be breaking any of them. Just adventuring.

Scuba Cylinders: Myths and some Facts

scuba cylindersScuba Cylinders, the not so sexy, sort of heavy thing that holds our breathing gas and allows us to spend some time in the underwater world. What do most of us know about them? Other than we may recall that during our open water class we heard about some test that are required. And there are different sizes. But the scuba cylinders are somewhat of a mystery outside of that.

The making of scuba cylinders is an interesting process. From how they are formed from a solid piece of aluminum or steel to the final product that you find on your dive boat. They are the heart and soul of any dive adventure, since without them we wouldn’t be underwater very long. And with proper care, they will last a very long time.

Did you know that the amount of air inside an 80 cubic foot tank contains the amount of air that was found in a traditional phone booth? Do you remember phone booths? And that amount of air has approximately 1.3 million-foot pounds of energy. Scuba cylinders a like a bomb on our backs. Ok, maybe more like two hand grenades. And we are taking them into the ocean and they are getting banged around on the boat and at the dock and yes, even when they are getting filled. Amazing that scuba cylinders are so stable and safe.

This is the reason that we have those tests. And every 5 years we have them hydro statically tested. Basically, we try and blow them up. Then they are visually inspected. And every year all the scuba cylinders and visually inspect them. The biggest failure spot in scuba cylinders is in the threads. A small hair line crack that runs through 2 to 3 threads is a major weak spot. They are usually found with magnification or a light electrical current. Any weak spot with that much energy pushing against it, is dangerous. We also, look for pitting and other anomalies.

Can scuba cylinders explode if left in my trunk all day? Well, not really. Charles’ Law will tell us that as the gas warms inside the cylinder in your trunk, that gas will expand. Your cylinder has a burst disc in the valve. Most are rated for 3500 PSI. So, when the pressure of the expanding gas reaches 3500 PSI it will “pop” that safety disc and the air will bleed out. Yes, the noise will scare the senses out of you. But it is not going to go shooting off in your car and bouncing around.

Now for the big myth. I will leave you with the TV Show Myth Busters.

Underwater Images or Making Memories?


Underwater Images, the new fancy term for taking underwater underwater imagesphotos. Are you taking pictures for the sake of taking an underwater image or are you making and recording memories? Both, that is the awesome answer. Because after all they are both, your memories and your underwater images.
We spend so much time and past blog post about how to take and improve our underwater images that I do not want to belabor the point here. Shoot up and into the sun. Get lower than the subject. Blah, blah and more blah. Heck, as the Imaging instructor I as guilty as anybody in trying to get that perfect shot. Swimming harder than I should and yes maybe getting a little deeper than I really needed to be.
And then there is the post dive processing sessions. How was my lighting? Editing and cropping and all the other stuff. For the record I only crop my photos with very little to almost zero correction for color or light. But some spend hours in photo shop and other image altering programs. Matter of fact that is all part of the class for Underwater Imaging. Some instructors (a famous one in Grand Cayman) spend over 85% of the class time on Photoshop and other post dive processing.
But what about the memories? This year I have gotten to dive with whale sharks and a free swimming anemone and so many turtles. Got to watch as a turtle just ate its fill of a sponge. Yes I did take my images, but I also stopped and just watched. Captured the memory, but enjoy the moment also. It is hard to capture the size of a whale shark. But I can tell you that I felt very small as it slowly swam past me. Or the free swimming eel that played with us in Grand Cayman this summer. I swear it was trying to show us something. Those are the memories that go along with the underwater images.

Instructors Creed or Super Power or Both?

instructors creedThe instructors creed something every new instructor sees it, usually right after they pass the instructors exam. We have had many opportunities over the last years to see it play out. And this last weekend as we finished prepping another candidate for the exam I got to listen to a slightly different version of the instructors creed.

Course Director Kelly was talking about “our super power”.  Now, I know you are thinking like some sort of Marvel comic books super hero. But, when you think about we do have a “super power”.

 

 

As a scuba instructor, I have the opportunity to see:

  • Fear change to courage
  • Faint-heartedness converted into accomplishment
  • Timidity transformed into confidence

As a scuba instructor, I can:

  • Open hearts and mindsto the hidden beauty of nature’s creation and our obligation to protect it
  • Foster self-esteemin another person
  • Teach thevalue of character and integrity
  • Transformanother human being and change a life for the better and forever

Plus, we get to teach people how to become fish and breathe underwater.  Pretty cool “super power” when you stop and think about it.

The first section of the instructors creed alone is a special moment. Many times we have had a student that starts with a discover scuba session and they think they can’t do it. Too claustrophobic or want ever. Then, they think maybe it isn’t that bad. Next thing they are in a full class. Still struggling a little, but you can see they are determined. Then that darn mask skill comes up.  Somehow, someway they get that silly thing cleared of water. And again and yet they do it again. Still not liking that skill, but accepting it. More practice. Getting easier, but yet still. Then the magic happens. They find a way that works for them. BOOM! But they still don’t like it, but they got it. Now they are now sneaking off to the corner of the pool to practice some more. They don’t want us to see. But we do. We just watch, knowing that confidence is growing in them. The instructors creed is happening all over again.

Yep, maybe just maybe Course Director Kelly is right. We do have a “super power”

Recycling, But my cups decompose

Recycling as you may know is sort of my “pet project”. But did you know that there is more ways that we as consumers can reduce the amount of “trash” that goes into our landfills and oceans and we don’t have to worry about recycling?

recyclingYou see those cups sitting there so pretty in the islands? Did you know that they are made from corn and decompose in the trash? The straws? They are paper. There have been recent articles in the local paper and stories on the KREX TV news about recycling in the last month. And while I applaud the attention that is being given to the recycling effort. There is still so much more that we as consumers can demand and do.

Let’s take a look at my little corn starch drink cup. The famous Solo cup, now you are singing that song. The line goes something like, “… it is cheap and disposable and in 14 years they are decomposable….” Well, the truth is not really. It is more like over 100 years. Whereas, my little decomposable plastic cup will decompose in the landfill in less than 180 days. Actually most decompose in as little as 45 to 60 days.

Now take a look at the bottom of that solo cup. You see that little recycling symbol with the number 6? Those cups are notorious for being difficult to recycle and be toxic. I am fairly sure that my little corn starch cup isn’t toxic in any way.

But regular plastic cups are cheaper that my little decomposable cups right? Well, you can price them out here . The bottom line truth is that they are virtually the same cost. And let us be honest, I bet all of you will pay 5 cents more for your cool or hot drink in my little corn starch cup and not even know it.

I am looking at your City of Grand Junction, Grand Junction Rockies, Colorado Mesa University and all the places that serve the public cool refreshing beverages. It is time to change your purchasing habits and do your part to ease the burden on the recycling system.

So, the next time you are at a Grand Junction Rockies game and enjoying that cold beer. Think about your cup. Will it decompose before winter?

Fish id, just the basics to help you enjoy your dives

fish idFish id is a fun and passive way to spend our dives. Hunting for different critters that we have never seen is definitely one of the highlights of all of our dive adventures. So far we have been very lucky and usually manage to fine 1 or 2 that we haven’t seen before. Or at least that is what we claim. So how do we identify the ones we haven’t seen? Well having a slate helps and a camera is even better and there are so many books with awesome pictures in them to help.

But Fish id does have some basics that you can apply without all those hand reference tools. With over 21000 species of fish and over 4000 of them found on coral reefs, just about only the most astute scientist can id them all. But you can use a few fish id tools to help you id most of them.
This about it this way, you spy a fish you have not seen before. What does it look like? All the fish are divided into roughly 30 or so “families” and they are then broken down into only twelve common groups. This will make your fish id dive much easier and more fun. We are not trying to be perfect, just getting close will help us when we get back to the boat or resort and can start looking at the reference books.

fish idThe twelve family groups to help you in your fish id dives are:
1. Butterfly, Angel and Surgeon fish
2. Jacks, Barracuda, Porgy and Chubs
3. Snappers and Grunts
4. Damselfish, Chromis and Hamlets
5. Groupers, Seabass and Basslets
6. Parrotfish and Wrasse
7. Squirrelfish, Bigeyes and Cardinalfish
8. Blennies, Gobies and Jawfish
9. Filefish, Triggerfish,Puffers, Trunkfish, Cowfish, Goatfish, Trumptfish and Drums
10. Eels
11. Sharks and Rays
12. Flounders, Scorpion, Lizard and Frog fish.

By thinking about fish this way, you can see how it will make your fish id adventure easier. But lets just take the first of these family groupings.
Butterflys, Angels and Surgeon fish usually have rather thin bodies and are oval or disk shaped. They are all generally brightly colored and have interesting patterns. So, how to distinguish them. Well in true fish id techniques, Butterfly fish are generally smaller and more round. They may have a longer mouth. Angelfish are generally darker in color, have a more rounder forehead and long dorsal fins. Surgenfish, aka Tangs are generally a solid color and have spines that stick out at the base of their tail.
And there you have the basics of Fish id.

Coral Reefs are amazing!

coral reefsCoral 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.

coral reefsAs 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.