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.  

Fish Surveys, Divers as researchers

fish surveysDid 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.

fish surveysOn 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, a love story for sharky?

Tiger sharksSharks (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.

sharks finWe 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

Too Much Oxygen can do what?

oxygenHow 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.