10 6 / 2014
26 5 / 2014
This morning got off to an adventurous start as I waddled down to the harbour of Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria with a 20lbs oxygen tank strapped to my person along with counter weights at supposedly the same weight. Walking like a penguin, I carefully descended down the wet, slippery stairs leading me down into the depths of the shallow end.
Mike, my SCUBA instructor for the half-day insight, was explaining the hand signals and performance I would soon practice submersed under the water’s surface. I grabbed his hands and we started to swim as we left the stairs where he could properly adjust the amount of air in my jacket which made it impossible to sink and therefore drown. I was very happy about this. The scary occasion arrived soon after, though, as he let some of that air out to bring my body below the surface and down to the harbour bed at about 5 metres. I freaked out and asked to shoot up to the surface. Sorry Mike, although it was reassuring to hear that almost every novice diver starts off the same way. We descended again, everything went slightly murky as we went down and down, the pressure in my head starting to become noticeable and therefore having to blow out my ears by holding my nose - this technique is used often out in the ocean. I freaked out again, so for the second time I was raised up to the surface.
The abnormal feeling was of being unable to breathe at all through my nose which I’m obviously so comfortable with on a daily basis. Now was the time I had to man-up and just go for it because I even said to Mike I would have to quit the experience should I repeat the whimp phrase once more. So we went down, I relaxed my head and my body and respired very carefully and deeply to ensure the oxygen circulated my trembling nerves and racing heart. The first OK signal was asked by Mike and returned by me. I did it.
So, initially that was the hardest part. Now I had to perform a few exercises so ensure I would be safe should anything go wrong. I learned the signs for OK, up, down, you, watch, me, this way, that way, there is a problem, look at that and blow through your ears to release the pressure inside your head. Simple. Now I had to take a deep a breath, blow three bubbles and then open my mouth wide (yes, underwater!) and put back in the mouthpiece, blow hard, and then force an excess amount of gas through it which happily cleans my mouth of any saltwater. In addition, I could successfully blow any unwanted water in my mask away by pushing a finger on my forehead where the mask was positioned tightly and blowing hard through the nose. This was fun! At this time, I was ready to set sail out into the diving zone and begin the real adventure!
I met a 10 year old girl and her grandfather who both had the 12-metre diving license (thanks guys, now I feel very novice). They seemed nice people so we all went together along on the boat with Mike, Steve and another diver I will one day learn the name of. Exiting the harbour, the driver sped up the engine and we traveled like a rocket on water with a 250 engine pushing the water at an incredible pace.
We arrived at the zone. I was last to exit the boat after my gear, including flippers, were strapped to me. One hand on my goggles around the nose and with the palm pushing the mouthpiece into my gob, and the other hand on the back of my head. I fell back gently and span around so I was bouncing up and down, head above the water. We descended.
It was a slow and very beautiful 30 minutes under the water. Mike and I stayed close while the others went somewhere else. Exploring the seabed even just a few years from the cliff of Puerto Rico was somewhat adventurous because there were fish everywhere. Sea urchins and coral where very common but I saw no sharks this time! We floated weightless through the water having good fun and seeing what there was to see - I even brought back a shell which I will treasure for life.
It was amazing!!
Maybe I should return next week and get that 12m diving license. Watch this space, Ocean! You’re going to have another regular marine friend very soon indeed.