Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Great Barrier Reef: Day 3

6am wake up call, no less painful than the day previously! This 6am dive was my first deep dive, which would qualify me to dive to 30 meters rather than 18. At 30 meters, the nitrogen in the tanks dissolves into the blood at such a high rate, that it is possible to suffer from nitrogen narcosis. It is also possible to get "the bends" if one surfaces too quickly, which can cause paralysis, brain damage, and even death, depending on the severity of it.

As we began our descent, I again had difficulty equalising my ears, I swam along on top of Rhi at a level I was able to equalise however, and little by little was able to descend - I had learned from my difficulties the day before :) We touched down at 29.5 meters. Rhi had brought along a couple eggs, she cracked one to demonstrate the pressure of the water as the egg remained intact as though it were still in it's shell. I played with it for a little while as some fish were circling around us until one darted directly at me and ate the egg. I jumped backwards and Rhi laughed. She then cracked another egg to give it to the other diver, who had accompanied us, to play with. He had apparently learned nothing from watching me as he also played with the fish, and we had to warn him to move his hand while another fish went in for the kill. We also looked at a red colour which appeared much browner at that depth since colours begin to fade underwater with the rays unable to penetrate that deeply. She then had me touch the numbers 1 through 12 in order while touching my nose between each number. This measured my reaction time and also indicated that I did not suffer from nitrogen narcosis so that I can safely descend to that depth in the future :)

We ascended slowly and at our 5 meter safety stop (5 meters underwater for 3 minutes to enable the nitrogen to slowly emerge from the blood at a lower pressure to decrease risk of getting the bends), I was running low on air and used Rhi's occy (second regulator called the octopus as it is yet another rope to carry around) so I wouldn't run out before emerging onto the surface.

Second dive of the day was the Navigational Dive. During this dive I had to navigate underwater first using a compass, to find my way away from and back to Rhi. Then she got us lost, and I had to lead us back to the boat. Didn't see to much that dive as I was very much focused on the compass and then on remembering the route we were taking. We did see a shark that dive, my first white tip shark. The goal for every diver is to sneak up on the shark and grab him around his body before he swims away. I remained behind Rhi and calmed my breathing to not disturb the shark, while we both inched along the ground. We got to about 15 feet away before he swam off. We then returned to the boat. Again, I ran low on air while returning to the boat and shared Rhi's occy for the last couple minutes of the swim back. It actually was good for me, swimming next to Rhi I attempted to match her breathing and became aware of why I was using so much more air than she was.

Third dive of the day was my photography dive. I took a camera underwater with me, which subsequently died about 30 seconds into the dive. Instead I swam around and practiced breathing slowly and maintaining neutral buoyancy. That was my first dive without an instructor. My buddy was a guy named Daren, and he followed me around underwater. We saw a white tip shark! I immediately slowed my breathing and attempted to sneak up on the shark. He first swam away then returned to a spot in front of me and lay in the sand, I got to about 10 feet away before he swam off!

Fourth dive of the day was my second night dive. I went with a guy named Scott who is working to become a dive master. I followed him around and we didn't see much, we did blackout our flashlights at one point and wave our hands in front of our face to see the bioluminescent algae. As you wave your hands around, it kills them and they fluoresce as they die, it's a beautiful sight and actually lights up the water quite a bit. We had a quick dive as Scott was freezing. When you want someone to see something, you shake your flashlight's beam close to theirs and then direct your flashlight to where you want them to look. For a few minutes I was peering closely at different corals trying to figure out what I was missing until I realised he just couldn't hold his flashlight still he was so cold. So we surfaced and were too cold to even stargaze that night.

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