Scuba Diving Essay, Research Paper
The underwater world has always fascinated me. This is why I decided to become
a certified scuba diver for my Senior Project. Because scuba diving is something I had
never experienced before, this gave me the opportunity to challenge myself and broaden
my horizons. I was placed in an unusual and scary environment and I attempted skills that
I had just learned moments before. Not only did I obtain skills in an activity I may pursue
in the future, but I also learned a lot about myself and how I react in different and stressful
WHAT I KNEW
When I began my project, I knew very little about scuba diving. I knew
that it involved air tanks so humans can stay underwater for long periods of
time. I knew that scuba diving is an expensive sport. I knew that a person
could develop a self-supporting career in this field. I knew that you must be in
good health to be a scuba diver. I also understood that scuba divers are great
tools in underwater searches and in exploring wreckage. I also thought I knew
many things that turned out to be false.
WHAT I NEEDED TO RESEARCH
When I began my project, a long and windy road of research stretched
before me. I was basically clueless. I needed to know what equipment is
required for both snorkeling and open water diving. I had to learn how to
choose this equipment, and once I had purchased it, I had to research how to
use it properly and take care of it. I needed to learn about pressure and how to
minimize its effects. I also had to be taught about underwater life and its
proper treatment. It was necessary for me to understand which instruments
are used to track our dive parameters, and how to use them for which purpose.
I also needed to learn what kind of environmental conditions I must be aware of
when diving, and how to deal with these. Finally, I had to be taught which
entry techniques are proper for each type of terrain, and how to execute these
The first print source I used was Scuba Schools International s Open
Water Diver Manual. My mentor gave this manual to me when I originally
enrolled in the Open Water Diver class at RVSC. This manual is filled with an
abundance of practical and factual information about equipment, procedures,
and more. This source was my favorite because it was given to me by my
mentor and I didn t need to look for it elsewhere. The information was
conveyed very clearly, and it was easy for me to understand.
To begin my search for additional print sources, I decided to go to the
Siskiyou County Public Library. I began a search on their catalog computer. I
searched for Scuba Diving , and the search produced several possible sources.
None of these sources were available in the library, and I needed something
immediately. I then began a search on the magazine computer. I searched for
Scuba and I was amazed by the number articles the search generated. I
decided to use an article in Shape magazine called 2-Hour Mermaid . This
article, I found, would be very helpful to a person with little or no knowledge
about diving, but to me the information seemed basic and repetitive. I was
able, however, to find ten pieces of information that helped me in my research.
I used one source from the Internet. My mother located this source, and
once I looked at it I knew it would be very valuable in my search. Lawrence
Martin s Scuba Diving Explained site on the Internet is a very informative
resource that deals with the scientific and medical aspects of diving. This
information can be difficult to understand at times, but the quality of the
resource is excellent.
My first interview was with Eric Keys, my mentor. Keys has been diving
since he was 17, and is certified by Scuba Schools International as a Master
Instructor and an Instructor Certifier. The original interview went well,
however, when I turned in my notecards I found that the information I had
obtained was irrelevant. I returned to RVSC and obtained appropriate
information. Keys was a very knowledgeable source. When I asked him
questions, he knew the answers immediately and was very sure of himself.
For my second interview source, I phoned Don Harrington, the instructor
that gave me my certification. We scheduled a phone interview for a later
date. When I called him at the designated time his secretary informed me that
he was not available. This was very frustrating for me because my deadline for
this interview was approaching rapidly. That Friday, I stopped by RVSC and
interviewed Jarred Anderson. Anderson is certified by Scuba Schools
International as an Instructor and he has over 100 logged dives. Anderson was
not as familiar with the facts as Keys was. Anderson was able to answer most
of the questions unassisted, but for a few of them he referred to a book to
confirm his answer.
I had several problems while searching for information. Before the visit,
described above, I had made another trip to the library that was unsuccessful.
I was unable to find any information; neither books nor magazines. Luckily, I
found a source on my next trip to the library. My problem with Harrington was
very frustrating, but I managed to schedule an interview with another instructor
to substitute for Harrington.
WHAT I LEARNED
Scuba diving has captivated many types of people over the years. Why?
There is truly nothing like it in the world (McCarthy 119). Divers are
attracted to scuba because it allows a person to explore a world that many
people will never see. Scuba also brings out good qualities in people. After
diving for a while, one will find that she has more confidence and self-esteem,
and is more at ease in uncomfortable situations (Keys).
There are several baseline requirements for being a scuba diver. A
diver needs to be in good health (Clark 87). If a person wants to dive, he
should not have cardiovascular or lung conditions, be overweight, or smoke
(Clark 87). It is still possible for all of these types of people to dive, but it is
much more difficult. It is possible for people with the listed conditions to dive,
but they need to be especially aware of how they are feeling at all times in
the water (Clark 87).
Scuba is an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing
apparatus (Martin par B-1). This means that the diver must be using a tank
which is completely self-contained and not attached to the surface. The most
popular form of scuba is recreational. To be considered a recreational diver,
one must use only compressed air, always dive with a buddy or a group, never
dive deeper than 130 feet, and be able to safely float to the surface without
stopping (Martin par B-5).
Equipment is a key component in scuba diving. Scuba is known as an
equipment-intensive sport because it requires a lot of equipment. In fact, a
complete scuba system can cost well over a thousand dollars (Keys). A scuba
system consists of a buoyancy compensator (BC), weight system, first stage,
regulator, tank, fins, mask, snorkel, dive computer, and a wetsuit or drysuit.
The buoyancy compensator is a jacket that can be filled with air. This
component to the scuba system serves several purposes. The BC is used for
floating at the surface, controlling descents, establishing neutral buoyancy at
depth, and aiding in ascents (Clark 67).
While the BC controls a person s ability to float, the weight system
regulates one s ability to sink. If a person is unable to sink, then she won t be
able to go underwater. There are two types of weight systems available today.
The weight belt is a nylon band that holds multiple weights. A weight belt
allows various weights to be slid on and off (Keys). Integrated weight systems
are sometimes built into BCs. With an integrated system, one can simply slide
a weight pack into pockets on their BC (Keys). Integrated systems are
advantageous because they are less cumbersome than weight belts (Keys).
The tank is connected to the BC through the first stage and the
regulator. The first stage converts the compressed air in a tank into usable air
that can be easily breathed. The air in a tank is very densely compressed
(Keys). If one were to breathe the air directly out of a tank, his lungs would
surely explode because they could not expand enough to handle the pressure
(Keys). This is why the first stage of a scuba system is extremely crucial (Keys).
The regulator is a mouthpiece connected to the first stage by a hose.
The regulator not only decompresses the highly pressurized air in the tank, but
it also allows one to breathe easily underwater. Regulators are designed to
deliver air on demand. As the diver inhales, air is allowed to flow to the diver
(Clark 46). When choosing a regulator, a primary consideration is how easily
the regulator breathes at depth (Clark 45). The less effort necessary to
breathe, the more pleasant your diving experience will be.
The tank is another very important component of a scuba system.
Without a tank, the diver wouldn t be able to breathe. Tanks come in various
sizes. A larger tank will naturally hold more air. Some smaller tanks are made
of steel, which allows the air in them to be compressed more than it is in a
normal aluminum tank. This way, a diver can have more air but still have the
freedom of a smaller tank (McCarthy 104). Divers should keep in mind that
breathing underwater is the same as breathing on land. The tanks don t
contain pure oxygen just plain old dehydrated air (McCarthy 104).
Time spent underwater and depth reached are two factors that are
important to the diver s health. The only accurate way of tracking these
details is with a dive computer. There are two types of dive computers: analog
and digital. Digital computers record these factors into a memory that can be
accessed later. Analog computers are simply meters of depth and time. When
using an analog computer, a diver must use a dive table in order to stay within
the limits of safety (Keys). Digital instruments are better because they are
more accurate and require less maintenance than mechanical instruments
(Clark 51). Digital dive computers keep track of where you ve been and for
how long (Martin par J-15). They are much more specific and accurate. With
proper use, a diver can get more out of her dive because she can push the
limits but still be safe (Martin par J-15). Perhaps a [digital] dive computer s
greatest drawback is that it may impart a false sense of security to the diver
(Martin par J-18). If common sense is used, however, divers will not only enjoy
their dives, but also be safe and assured as they ascend.
The body loses heat 20 times faster in water than it does on land (Keys).
This is why a wetsuit or drysuit is needed to maintain the body heat and keep
the diver comfortable at all times. Wetsuits are made of neoprene. A person s
body will still get wet, but heat passes through the wetsuit very slowly (Keys).
Wetsuits range in thickness between two and seven millimeters (Clark 12).
Drysuits are made of neoprene or rubber. The diver remains almost completely
dry. Drysuits are beneficial when the water is extremely cold (Keys). When the
water is warmer than 90., divers often find a dive skin more comfortable and
less restricting. Dive skins are made from a variety of materials, some of
which include lycra, nylon and polypropylene (Clark 11).
How could one possibly require a weighted belt to sink with all this gear
strapped to her back (McCarthy 104)? It all pertains to the concepts of
buoyancy and water pressure (McCarthy 104). Pressure is a force or weight per
unit area. Since pressure is related to weight, water pressure must be far
greater than air pressure (Martin par D-1). Even though a diver wears a lot of
gear that seems heavy on land, the gear is less dense than water is, so it tends
to float (McCarthy 104). Therefore, a weight system is necessary to descend.
Entering the water is the first step in a dive. It may sound easy, but
entrances can become complicated and dangerous if they are not done and
planned correctly. The best method to enter is always the safest, easiest, and
least disorienting way (Keys). Heavy waves can cause difficulties when
entering and exiting at the shoreline. When entering, shuffle backwards until
you are deep enough to swim (Clark 161). When exiting in heavy surf or on
an uneven shore, crawl to a point where you can safely stand up and remove
your fins (Clark 162). For safety reasons, it is best to walk backwards while
wearing fins. Walking forward is awkward and almost impossible (Clark 27).
Once the diver is underwater, she is at risk for many possible injuries.
With proper training and conduct, however, divers can remain free of injury.
Never hold your breath (Clark 65). Let the air flow in and out naturally. It is
bad to hold your breath while diving because gas subjected to an increase of
pressure will compress. If the diver goes too deep, the spaces shrink so much
that blood starts leaving the capillaries to fill in the spaces (Martin par E-3). If
a diver does hold her breath, she is at risk for several overexpansion injuries
such as a hemothorax or subcutaneous emphysema (Anderson). Treatment for
these overexpansion injuries can be a combination of time, surgery, and/or
100% oxygen (Anderson).
Another important fact for divers to remember is the proper rate of
ascent. Divers should always ascend at 30 feet per minute, or 6 inches per
second (Anderson). Divers can ascend slower, but if they ascend any faster
they are at risk for decompression sickness (Anderson). If a diver has itchy or
red skin, rashes, or crackles on the skin, she is experiencing the symptoms of
decompression sickness (Anderson). The only way to treat decompression
sickness is to spend time in a recompression chamber (Anderson).
Divers should also be aware of barotrauma. Barotrauma is physical
damage to any part of the body as a result of unequal air pressures (Martin par
F-3). If a diver forgets to equalize (or pop) his ears, he risks barotrauma.
Pulmonary barotrauma is a common type of barotrauma. This means that the
diver has experienced damage to the lungs due to unequal air pressures (Martin
par F-3). If a diver remembers to breathe constantly and equalize his ears, he
will almost eliminate the risks for barotrauma. The greatest risk for
barotrauma is near the surface (Martin par F-9). Divers should remember that
equalization is a process that never ends, and should continue to equalize their
ears and sinuses throughout the course of a dive (Keys).
Open water diving barely scratches the surface of the many fields a
recreational diver can pursue. Deep diving, boat diving, night diving, diving in
shipwrecks, navigation and photography are all different ways one can
personalize her diving experience (Keys). Divers will find many options that one
can experiment with.
Without all of the information I have learned, I would not be able to
complete my hands-on project. I must know and understand the many safety
precautions involved in diving. I want to be safe and enjoy my adventures
underwater. Without fully understanding the knowledge I have obtained, I
could not enjoy my experience and I would not be safe. I need to know about
the different types of scuba equipment and how they are used. I must know
how to react in an emergency, and how to avoid injury. I should remember to
breathe steadily and ascend slowly and carefully. All of these things are crucial
to my enjoyment of scuba diving.
To complete my project, I don t feel I need to learn or research anything
more at this time. With the knowledge I have gained, I have been able to dive
in various situations safely and confidently.
My search for knowledge was not just frustrating, but a joy. I learned a
lot about a subject that truly interests me. I now know that I must stick with
something if I want valuable results. I have learned a lot about perseverance
and procrastination. If I manage my time properly, I will be able to transform
what seems like a large and tedious job into several smaller and more
At first glance, scuba diving seems like a simple sport. It appears that
anyone can strap on a tank and some flippers and swim around. But what
appears to be true is not always what is true. Diving involves quick thinking,
knowledge and skills. The sport can be extremely frustrating to an
inexperienced novice, but can be remarkably satisfying to an informed diver.
Diving is a rewarding experience to the senses and the soul. Diving offers
immediate gratification to divers looking at underwater fish and plants. Divers
will instantly feel calm and at peace with themselves. But after the dive is
over, its effects continue to influence the diver. Even after one dive, a diver is
permanently changed into a more positive, confident, and happy person.