Archive for the 'Diving' Category

by Squage
on Jun 20th, 2007

Learn To Fly Dive

# A long, long time ago,
# I can still remember,
# How that Scullion used to learn to Dive…

Yep, it was ages ago now, but when he was last in Cairns, Pat learned to dive. He even got a certification, allowing him to dive pretty much anywhere in the world without supervision.

Because he’s been banging on since that time about how bloody great diving is, I figured it’d be a nice idea to give you an idea how Pat’s 5 Day PADI Open Water Diver course went, in case you’re intruiged by what goes on.

So here goes:

Days 1 and 2
These were based at Pro Dive Cairns’ training centre and involved half theory and half practical (in the training centre’s 3 metre deep swimming pool) – along with a medical examination.

  • Theory
    As with many other skills you’ve got to understand the principles, “do”s, “don’t”s and important safety information prior to getting out there and diving. After all, you don’t want to jump in at the deep end! (Oh dear, this is going to be a tough read isn’t it? – Pat)

    This section was made up of three core parts:

    1. A large part of section involved watching “educational” PADI training videos. These came wiht not-at-all irritating cheesy American voiceovers – and some cut scenes starring a goofy bloke showing us, by example, what not to do – with HILARIOUS results. Pat remembers even vaguely smiling once, although that might’ve been due to the background music sounding like something some Carlin’s CHILDREN / COMEDY / SHORTS CD (Levin, check out that link as it’s the “Liono is a clown” tune!!!11one – Pat).
    2. Reviews of the video and a “question and answer” session (this was by far the most useful part)
    3. End-of-module “multiple choice” tests – and one final, wholey more complex… “multiple choice” test. It reminded Pat somewhat of the GCSE General Studies exam, except that he actually gave a damn about the PADI exam. That said, he probably did as much revision for each – and I’m sure you can guess how much that was *.

    Excitingly, Pat managed to ace all the end-of-module tests and only screw up on one of the 50 questions in the final exam. Apparently he was in shell shock for a while, as the idea of doing well in an exam was something that had been long since forgotten…

    * That’s right: 3 solid years of revision.

  • Practical
    This was by far the more interesting part of the first two days, whereupon Pat and the other 10 or so people in his group eased (or forced, in Pat’s case) themselves into their wetsuits, attached their air tanks to their BCDs (Boyancy Control Devices (a jacket, which you can inflate/deflate as required in order to… you guessed it… control your boyancy!)), plonked their masks and fins on and walked into the training centre swimming pool.

    This was the section Pat was feeling a little nervous about, as it would show him and everyone else whether a) he was actually learning anything he’d been told or b) he would panic as soon as he went underwater. Luckily for him, it turned out that a) yes and b) no. In fact, he took to being underwater with his breathing equipment, BCD et al on like a fish to water (or whatever the phrase is).

    The instructors show by example various techniques that you need to learn, and then each of the team follow suit. What do you learn to do? Well, in your buddy pairs (key point: when diving, you ALWAYS dive with someone else (your “buddy”)), you do the following:

    • Signal for help / to go up / that you’re ok / that you’re low on air / out of air / that there’s a fupping big shark next to you etc
    • Clear your mask
    • Remove your mask and replace it
    • Remove your regulator (breathing bit wot you put in your mouth) and put your buddy’s reserve regulator in
    • Head towards the surface with/without a regulator in
    • Gain “neutral boyancy” – whereupon you can control whether you move up or down in the water purely with your lungs… it’s quite cool!
    • Various other things!

    Above the water you learn to do things like carrying your buddy towards your boat (if they’re too knackered to move themselves) and also not to wave to say “hi!” (waving means “ARGH I’M IN TROUBLE!”).

    The weirdest thing for Pat in this section was going so deep (4 metres) that you HAD to “equalise” (pop your ears by holding your nose and blowing hard) to prevent the water pressure “knackering up” your ears. He also had trouble grasping the fact that a “thumbs up” meant “I/we need to go up” – not “wicked cool”, “skill” or “rad” (I think that’s what the cool kids say nowadays, right?) Two weeks after this course, on a separate diving trip Pat was STILL occasionally responding to someone showing him a cool sea creature by giving a two-thumbs up – followed by a shake of head, and a few “ok” signs instead. He’s a fast learner, our Scullion.

Days 3, 4 and 5
My Diving Buddy And Roommate!These were spent out on the gorgeous barrier reef on board Scubapro, one of three Pro Dive boats fully kitted out for diving entertainment. There were about 30 on board (including people who were training for their Dive Master certification, Advanced certification and the Open Water certification peeps) and each buddy pair had their own, rather roomy cabin. Pat’s diving buddy Sebastian is seen to the right enjoying their spacious cabin. The photo’s taken from the corridor in order to be able to see that much of him.

Boat In The WaterEssentially, all that was done in the ocean was the same as in the swimming pool – just at between 12 and 18 metres below the surface surrounded by an amazing, colourful alien world teeming with life. Visibility was probably as good as you’d get a swimming pool, too – up to 35 metres at some points! The water, as you can see to the right, was quite pleasant…

On each dive various tasks were performed, a different selection on each dive, and at the end of each dive the tasks were ticked off on each person’s PADI Open Water Diver checklist.

Trying To Smile...
Still doing the thumbs up even on day 5…

One of the strange things Pat noticed was that being on the surface tended to be a lot more unnatural and unnerving than underwater. Mainly, it’s due to the contrast of above and below the surface:


  • Waves bobbing you up and down
  • Boat noise, wave/splash noise, people shouting stuff at eachother
  • Water splashing in your face
  • Water droplets on your mask impeding vision
  • Very limited idea of what’s under you
  • A lack of movement due to a fully inflated BCD (you kinda have to lean back and just float there like a wetsuit covered log)


  • You can see around clearly (visibility allowing that is – which on Pat’s training was at a minimum 15 metres and a maximum over 30 metres!)
  • There’s a real sense of calm and tranquility all around
  • You can move about freely… it feels a little like flying.

Not hard to see why Pat preferred things underwater. He also found that there was an odd sensation of unease whenever he went to descend underwater. Despite breathing through the regulator above the surface, whilst deflating his BCD and beginning to sink he had a strange feeling that he might drown. I guess it’s because, more often than not, you don’t have an oxygen regulator stuck in your gob and as such if you’re slowly sinking in some water you probably are about to cop it. Once underwater though, as soon as he took his first breath he was perfectly at ease.

I guess that might be the part where a lot of people panic. That and when they’re diving in shark infested water.

Group Shot!Pat had a good group of people to dive with. Sebastian (Pat’s German buddy) had an excellent dry sense of humour. Paul (from Colchester, no less!) was a top bloke, doing his Dive Master training and really easy to get along with (and discuss the delights of such things as Dukes Genesis nightclub in Chelmsford). Gemma (from Ooop Nooorth) was a top lass, really funny and shared Pat’s sense of humour (poor girl). Gav (from Scotland) was a very funny fella. There were lots of other cool peeps and everyone got on really well.

Instructor-wise there was Oscar, a Kiwi ex-rugby player who was very knowledgable but rather on the strict side. Then Kay, a Chinese… well, a Chinese mad bloke, with a limited grasp of English but an excellent sense of humour (for example, after any “attention please people” announcement in the galley from one of the crew, he’d follow it up by adding his own formal-sounding announcement which was often along the lines of “Oscar likes to wear lady underwear”… well, I think you had to be there to appreciate it). Finally there was Katie, who’s English and in Pat’s words “fit as” (I, er, meant she didn’t get tired quickly – Pat) Oh aye? (No, no not like… oh forget it – Pat) and really helpful to everyone.

Evenings were a quiet affair on the boat, mainly because everyone was FULLY KNACKERED from their days of diving, so most people were in bed by 9pm (including Pat)… ready to be woken up at 6am for more diving action.

Because Pat, Sebastian and Ian wanted to get their “Adventure Diver” certification, which would allow them to be able to perform night dives and deep dives (up to 40m), they had to partake in both of these during the trip.

The night dive was very strange as aside from the torches of the diving group it was totally, utterly dark. Possibly more peaceful than daytime diving, although signalling was a lot harder (as you had to shine your torch at another person / into their beam to attract attention, then point it towards yourself in order to then make the signal you wanted – which, to add more fun to the equation, was often a different signal to that made on daytime dives).

The 30 metre deep dive was a very strange experience. There’s a phenomena known as Nitrogen Narcosis, which (according to Wikipedia) is “a reversible alteration in consciousness producing a state similar to alcohol intoxication in scuba divers at depth”. This occurs any time after about 25 metres and can cause people to do such clever things as take their regulators out and think that having 20bar left in their oxygen tank is fine to last them the next 10 minutes.

Oscar took us down to the sea floor at 30m (well, 29.7m according to Pat’s dive computer) and gave us some puzzles and memory tasks to do (I won’t spoil these just in case you end up doing them at some point). Pat actually found them easy to do… so was convinced he actually wasn’t “Narc’d”. That was until a fish started swimming towards Pat, which Pat for some reason found really funny looking. To the extent he started giggling like an idiot. To this day he can’t quite explain why it was so funny, so I guess he was feeling the effects :-)

Pat’s last dive (in order to get his Adventure Diver status) could’ve been from many skill categories and he chose underwater photography. Here’re some of the things he managed to snap:
Coral And Fish Which Way Up?
Romford Stadium Angry Nemo!
Can Anyone Think Of A Good Clam Pun? Silouhetted Scuba Scullion!
My Buddy!

Apparently it’s very hard to stay totally still, even at neutral boyancy because currents move you horizontally. That’s his excuse anyway.

Post Diving Party
As is customary for any trip / training course, a post-trip drinking session had to be partaken. Pat’s been fairly useless as a source of information for what exactly happened that evening, but apparently it involved Jager bombs, snake bites, shots and some other horrible sounding concoctions… and lots of laughing. And rather “sober” looking photos:
Apparently, Gemma Didn't Expect The Shot At This Exact Point Good God, Will Someone PLEASE Drink Some Alcohol?
Stop Pretending, We Know That's Just Ribena! Hey Look!  A Sober Photo!

So there ya go – it’s about 2 months late, but it’s (hopefully) better late than never! Next up? Pat’s Whitsundays sailing trip. Don’t worry, there’ll be more photos and less text (a bit like More Music And Less Chat, but in Blog form. Without adverts. Or Dave Kelly telling you there’s More Music And Less Chat every 3 seconds)!

Til then… toodles!


by Pat
on May 7th, 2007

Hi! I’m In Airlie Beach!

And I’ve just finished a 2 day, 2 night adventure on the 42 foot Powerplay catamaran around the Whitsunday Islands.

Blogs will be on their way in more detail (just when Squage actually gets time to catch up on things… so probably in Brisbane!) but until then here’s a brief summary of my trip:

  • There were a great group of people – both the 4 crew and the 18 passengers
  • I did five scuba dives, which included:
    • Awesome coral, a reef shark, lots of clown fish (“Nemos”)
    • Video of a few of us running in “mid air” without fins on
    • Very “sexy” wetsuits
    • Videos of the same few doing underwater dancing (Macarena, Birdie Song, Stayin’ Alive, Hokey Cokey, YMCA and some Big-Fish-Little-Fish-Cardboard-Box action)
    • Inappropriate photos with Sea Cucumbers
  • We went to Whitehaven Beach. It was gorgeous – and empty when we got there (rather early in the morning). We spent a few hours enjoying the sights, taking group photos and making sculptures in the sand…
  • We sat in a hot tub on the outer deck as the boat sped through the Whitsunday waters
  • We watched Road Trip (“UNLEASH THE FURY!”) and White Squall (“Should we be watching a film about a massive sea storm whilst on a boat?”) on the 50″ projector display in the galley
  • We sat on the deck getting suntanned/burned(delete as appropriate)
  • We did various press ups through failing the Game Of Life (I’ll explain later)
  • We discussed life, the Universe and everything
  • We had plenty of laughs
  • We’re going out tonight for a meal and a few drinks. I’m hoping it won’t be quite as “few” as after my Pro Dive course last week…

Right now I’m in an Airlie Beach Internet cafe, having just spent a few very difficult hours lounging around by the Airlie Beach lagoon (as with good ol’ Cairns, you can swim in the sea but only if you enjoy dieing from jellyfish stings). The room is, uh, swaying a bit at the moment. I swear it takes longer to get used to being on solid land than being on a boat out at sea.

I’m also very tired. That’s what getting up at 6am to be in the water doing a dive around gorgeous coral reefs (just next to the beach where the “Where The Bloody Hell Are Ya?” advert was filmed) will do to you, I guess.

Tomorrow’s going to be a long day. After waking up to check out at 10am, I will then be in Airlie all day and getting the night bus to Agnes Water/Town Of 1770 at 11:50pm – arriving in AW/TO1170 at 9:55am. I really hope I can sleep on the bus.

Right, til the next time, take care and I hope you’re well!



Giddy and tired

by Pat
on Apr 30th, 2007

I’m A Certified Diver!


Well THAT was an awesome few days. I’ll go on about it in more depth tomorrow by for now let’s just say this: the weather was lovely, the surface was calm, the underwater visibility was over 30 metres * in some sites.

I saw sea turtles, reef sharks, lots of sea cucumbers, barracudas, nudibranch, clown fish (or “Nemos” as they appear to be called around these parts)… and more.

I also dove to 30 metres and did a night dive… alongside a dive where I took various photos (no idea if they’re any good yet – not checked the CD) and as such I’m now not just a PADI Certified Open Water Diver, but a PADI Certified Adventure Diver too.

This means I can dive independently ** anywhere I want in up to 30 metre depths – which opens a LOT up to me (Open Water gets you 18 metres…).


More tomorrow :-)



Feeling a bit dizzy due to Land Sickness…

Notes for Diver Folk:
* I KNOW!!!
** Well, with a buddy, natch ;-)

by Pat
on Apr 26th, 2007

Diving Is Great!

Just a quick one to say that, after my first day of my 5 day PADI Open Water Diving Course with Pro Dive, I am FULLY looking forward to tomorrow and even more to the three “on a boat on the reef, doing dives amoungst amazing fish, mammals and plants” days starting on Saturday.

Today was half classroom based (the morning) and half practical based (the afternoon), with a medical sandwiched in between. Excitingly, I passed the medical, but alas 2 of the 12 of us didn’t and had to go back to their hostels.

The classroom work involved watching information DVDs, going through the points made in a less cheesy American fashion and doing a couple of multiple choice quizzes. We even got some homework to do (although I’m not sure I’ll be any good at it as, well, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to motivate myself to study in my own time and, as you might know, I wasn’t all that amazing at that whilst at Uni. At least there’s no student radio station here, eh? ;-) ).

The practical part of things involved getting used to the diving gear in the swimming pool and doing such things as “seeing what it’s like when your air runs out”, sharing your buddy’s air / sharing yours with your buddy, descending, ascending and all that.

I wasn’t sure if I’d like it at first but I can safely say that I really enjoy being underwater with all the diving gear on. I guess I’m a bit of a water baby. It would explain my love of swimming underwater… and at least with diving I’ve got a mask on so my eyes don’t feel like they’re about to bleed for five hours after a long swimming pool sesh…

Bring on the reef!!

Right, time to go and get a nice $10 meal and pint at The Woolshed pub. I’m a classy guy.



P.S. More stuff about my time in Darwin, Cairns, Cape Tribulation, plus the full low down on the diving course will hopefully emerge next week.
P.P.S. I’ve got lots of stuff booked for the east coast – I’m now doing “Xtreme” river rafting on the Tully river, sailing (with more diving) around the Whitsundays group of islands, 4×4 driving on Fraser Island, surf lessons in Byron Bay and, of course, some theme parks on the Gold Coast. I might even do the Syndey harbour bridge climb when I get there this time. Wooh!