A Different Kind of Blue Water

On first glance can you tell what is happening in that picture?

It is a bit strange I admit, but I had a lot of fun doing it. This is me in full scuba gear. We are practicing our scuba skills in a pool. I am doing a handstand on the bottom of the pool.

(cool grouping of words, eh? SCUBA SKILLS – say that ten times real fast – nah I knew you wouldn’t)

It may seem strange for a person who loves diving to do things like this. ?Why would you dive in a pool instead of a lake or the ocean?

Well, if you are even slightly worried about being competent in the open water, it is better to have a little refresher before hitting the big blue. Also if you aren’t worried, but just want to know that you can react quickly and competently in case of an emergency, then a little pool time doesn’t hurt anyone. Scuba is actually considered an “extreme sport”, probably because it is pushing the limits of what the human body is designed for.

So before going on big trips or even just at the start of the season it is smart to touch up on your knowledge. Watch the instructional videos again, check out your equipment, maybe even get it checked out or inspected.

Besides you don’t have to spend the whole time doing basic skills. You can also to some fun things. We like to juggle golf balls (yup, easier in water) or play Frisbee with a special water Frisbee. We jump through hoops… well… float through hoops which is a bit harder than you might think with a huge tank on your back and lots of hoses sticking out. In general pool time is fun time.

Now that we’re all checked out, maybe we should head off to a nice blue water location. Maldives anyone?
Check out more Maldives pictures on Flicker.

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Opening of the Diving Season – Glienicker See

We’re a little slow on getting started, in fact I haven’t even put on the neoprene yet, but Saturday was the beginning of the SCUBA season for us.

The day started a little late, really around noon. Usually we are up and at ’em earlier… you know, to get the better parking spot, get there before the general population does, yadda yadda. But it was nice to get to the Glienicker Lake and see the kids already having a great time in the water.

It’s always a little strange to me. Almost everyone else around us is spreading out a towel or a beach blanket along with a few drinks and something to eat in a basket. Maybe they have some lotion or a pillow-like thing to put their head on as they plan to lie in the sun and maybe walk down to the lake once in a while to cool off. But here we come. First with a large plastic drop cloth, then a beach blanket alongside.
On top of the drop cloth goes the equipment for diving. Boxes filled with the normal stuff: mask, fins, air tank… but also the buoyancy jacket, lots of weights, and of course the neoprene… yes, the gloves, hood, and the body suit. Uh Huh… a load of crap!

Usually by now we are getting looks from the other sunbathers. We sit down for a few minutes to rest from carrying all of the heavy equipment and take in the scenery. The Germans love their lakes, and this lake is a nice one. The kids are playing in the water so we know that must be relatively warm, but once you don a suit and get down a few meters, the water gets cold quickly. On this day the surface temperature was 18 and at six meters it was 11. (surface temp 64f. 20 feet down it was 52f.) Just a bit cold for someone that wants to stay down a while and observe things.

N.’s dive buddy is an Open Water Scuba Instructor as well… in fact they went through the training together. So they of course have ALL the cool gear and love to chat about it. I on the other hand just want to see fish and really don’t get excited about their really cool new dive watch computers or the new ice-resistant air regulators. They talk for a bit but it is easy to see they are itching to get into the water, which they do in short time.

They have a nice dive and come back out of the water with huge smiles on their faces. When I ask the all-important question for me… “What kind of fish did you see?” They both shake their heads and one of them tells me that they saw only one fish. This may have more to do with the flurry of swimming activity all around than anything. But as I mentioned, they don’t do it for the fish. For them it is a sort of a zen thing I think, but I really can’t get into their heads for that kind of understanding.

The girls in the picture below are wearing dry suits which usually means that the water doesn’t get inside the suit. In cold temperatures this keeps you much warmer.

As they come out of the water there is always interest from the sunbathers and especially from the children. Usually they are gawking but good. Of course our little group of divers is not alone. There are two other dive groups going into and out of the water, and the German sunbathers are well accustomed to seeing the strange creatures in black emerge from the water dripping and staggering clumsily under the weight of the heavy (sometimes as much as 30kg – 66lbs). It is still rather impressive to see all of the strange and alien-like equipment we carry and people can’t help looking.

After the dive there is always the discussion of what was seen… because without special equipment there is no way to really talk underwater… so this must wait for after the dive. Then they talk about the missed signals from the other diver… “What did you mean when you were pointing at that tree branch?” Long time buddies have a whole language underwater but new buddies have to learn how to communicate.

Then there is the inevitable discussion about the equipment. On that day N.’s buddy was starting with a new dry suit… which didn’t manage to keep her 100% dry I’m sorry to say. Then they compare temperatures and depth numbers between stories on the things seen underwater. These items are entered in log books and buddies sign each other’s books creating a lasting memory (and a searchable reference) for years to come.

Hmm… I must admit that riding in the car filled with the smell of fresh neoprene was strangely nice. I really enjoy diving myself… I bet that I put on the suit myself in the next weeks. I dive in a wetsuit though, and my extremities get rather cold at these temperatures. Perhaps I’ll wait a few weeks. 🙂

See the whole set of pics on Flickr.

Belize Ballet

A spectacular video of underwater Belize which is a small Central American country in the Caribbean. Here you will see a fifteen minute video of everything from a VERY pissy morey eel to baracudas and even a hungry dolfin. All of this is set to Ravel’s Bolero… get your headset out, or turn on your speakers, sit back and relax!

http://www.brightcove.tv/playerswf

Or view video and learn more about the makers of the video by going here:

On Getting Ready for Free Time

I would like to lodge a complaint, although I don’t know who would be the appropriate person to send it to. N. and I are all excited because on Saturday we are getting on a plane headed for Greece for a short, one-week holiday. Can you say “scuba diving anyone”?

The complaint part is that you work like a fiend to get EVERYTHING done at the job and EVERYTHING done at home before your big relaxing time… THEN when you come home you work like a fiend trying to catch up with EVERYTHING you missed.

At work it seems there is never a good time to take off because there are always proposals going out or something. This time I am leaving right in the middle of the ramp up to a proposal deadline. I just know that I will come back and spend the first three days crunching to get that proposal out on time.

The house is a slightly different although similar story. You must pack and clean before going, then when you come home you must clean everything that went as well as the house again.

It just sucks.

Don’t get me wrong though… I’m REALLY looking forward to getting away!

Video of the Minnesota Bridge Collapsing

Wow!
This bridge thing fascinates me.
We rely so heavily on the things that engineers give us, and yet sometimes it just falls down around our ankles. Now this bridge was 40 years old in an area that is in a constant state of freeze/thaw… I’m sure that isn’t good on any structure, let alone a bridge over water. There was another thing I read, and I hope I don’t misquote… but it had a span of well over 400 feet with just arch, no support going down into the water so as to not impede water traffic. It sounds like such stretching was just a little too much for such a structure.

Then there is the construction work being done on the bridge. Evidently it was just aesthetic stuff… the light fixtures, etc. But my question is: did the closed lanes from the construction slow down the traffic enough so that the weight was much more than any other day? I mean, when we are driving on a normal road there is at least room for another car between each car… BUT, when it is bumper to bumper traffic there is no space in between… in fact more cars will fit in the same area if traffic is stopped or quite slow. Did the construction on the bridge make an already bad situation worse?
http://www.liveleak.com/player.swf?autostart=false&token=1ab_1186054443
I pity the rescue divers who would like to get into the water and try to help people, or at least recover the bodies to give the families some closure. They are finding the Mississippi current too strong and the debris too treacherous to work around. The frustration levels must be horribly high.

I really like reading about the heroes… those average everyday people that dived back into that muddy river to try to save a stranger’s life. It is just this kind of selflessness that makes me proud to be human.

At this point… do you find yourself looking warily at every bridge you are about to cross?