How low can you go? – Deep Diving

Malta - Scuba diver exploring the underwater world Courtesy Divewise Today, I was meant to be starting my Search and Recovery or my Wreck speciality. However, as with everything in life the plans changed. I arrived at the dive shop at 8.40am (I was late because the owner of the B&B wouldn’t stop talking) and was promptly told that I was going to Gozo, but more specifically the Inland Sea and the Blue Hole. I have always wanted to dive these places so I was quite excited to go.

Unfortunately when we arrived we had too many “inexperienced” members in our group to do  the Blue Hole due to the fact that it was quite rough. So we settled for doing both dives from the Inland Sea.

Today’s dives were to be Dive 2 and 3 from the Deep Dive speciality. The plan for the first dive was as follows: we’d descend to 12m, keeping to the left we’d pass through the tunnel, once we were half way through we would descend to 20m and by the exit of the tunnel we’d be at approximately 30m. At that point Howard would give me the compass, ask me to set a bearing and then we’d follow it. We’d also look at an empty sealed plastic bottle that we had brought to notice the compressing effects of the pressure. The turn around was when someone reached 120 bar. We’d then come back, keeping to the right of the tunnel, and perform a safety stop at the end.

For the most part the dive went like that. Unfortunately when we went to turn around there was an up-swell and this caught a few divers off-guard. Luckily I was watching Howard and when I saw that he was caught in it I was able to dump enough air to stop anything bad from happening. There was quite a strong current on the return, so we descended to 14m and made our way inside the tunnel. Everything was going fine until the safety stop. The swell was terrible and it was pushing everyone around. Unfortunately, two of the “inexperienced” divers had actually run out of air and had to use their buddies’ octopus for the duration of the safety stop. This led to more bedlam.

Luckily everyone survived and we all made it quickly out of the water and on to land. After a surface interval of about 90 minutes a group of 5 of us decided to go back in. I was to do my Deep Dive 3 and the other guys were just along for the ride. As I was using EANx 30, that gave me a maximum depth of 35.5m before the Oxygen partial pressure would rise above the recommended 1.4 ata / bar.

The plan for this dive was similar to the last but instead of swimming along the reef we would swim out and look around the rocks at the foot of the entrance to the tunnel. For this dive, Howard asked me to write a sentence backwards. I managed this but had real difficulty writing the work “international” backwards, that was before we’d even got in the water.  He also gave me a torch to take so that I could look in the nooks and crannies for marine life.

So we all entered the Inland Sea and made our way through the tunnel. At the other side we descended to 34.8m. I knelt on a big rock and was given a slate. Here was my chance to see the effects of nitrogen narcosis first hand. To be honest, the first few words were easy but I got stuck on the same word. I think it was because my left fin kept getting lifted up by the current and that distracted my attention long enough to make it hard for me to remember what I was writing. Eventually I completed the task (actually faster and more accurately than on land). We looked around the rocks for some animals, we found an octopus and a spiny starfish. It was time to head back. I was to do a simulated 8 minute decompression stop, with one of those minutes breathing from a redundant air supply (re: pony bottle). That went well,and wasn’t difficult to do as the swell had died down. We made it to land, changed, packed up the kit, and returned to the mainland.

Having mentioned to Alan (one of the Course Directors) that I was interested in the side mount. I am now meant to be doing a trial side mount dive. I am looking forward to that, but not the inevitable expense that will follow if I like it:

  1. the side mount speciality (I might be able to write if off against the Night and Drysuit dives)
  2. a side mount harness and BCD
  3. two regs, one for each tank
  4. plus I still have to buy a wetsuit
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