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#43233 - 08/22/01 12:59 AM BLUE HOLE - Wake Up Call
ScubaLdy Online   embarrased
I posted this over in the general chat area under a thread started by Rick & Cherri.
After rereading it, and seeing all my grammatical errors I decided to clean it up and post it here. I hope that is OK.
I've waited to wade in here. I had written a post about newbies diving the Blue Hole and it was one that was edited out. Now I feel compelled to speak up.

Cozumel, like Belize, attracts a lot of new divers. I had less than 50 dives when I went there the first time and it was my first warm water experience. I made some mistakes and paid for them. Fortunately the diving was not deep. I didn't blame the operators nor my dive buddies. However, even then there were dive sites where they would take only advanced divers. It had nothing to do with the card you were carrying. It had to do with them watching you for a few days and knowing your skill level.

There are a lot of things you will never learn in a course, only through continued education and experience.

I devoured Dive Training Magazine for about 3 years. It is directed towards new divers and covers those situations that an instructor just does not have time to do. I don't know if they still do but they used to have a crossword puzzle in the back and the answers all came directly out of articles in that issue. What a great way to learn.

Cozumel used to be as lax about diving guidelines as Belize is now -- and that is NOT slamming Belize -- it simply is a fact. Then something happened. I don't think any of us will ever know what, but the difference between one year and the next was amazing. There were lots of people complaining "We never had to do that before." It was clear that something BIG had come down and all the operators were following very stringent rules of safety.

Maybe Belize will learn for this unfortunate incident. As I've said before, I WILL NOT go to the Blue Hole for a number of reasons.
#1 EVERYONE takes new divers. I do not want to be on a boat when someone gets hurt.
#2 There is really nothing worth seeing except the Bull Sharks which are the most aggressive sharks in the world. If you want to see stalagmites go to the caves.
#3 I will not risk my life to save a fool, nor do I expect anyone else to risk their life to save mine.

Underwater photographers are notorious for not paying attention to their gauges. I left my best friend to die at 90' on a wreck in Palau. We had been deeper and there are not many minutes of air in a tank below 100' (remember it is compressed and becomes more compressed the deeper you go). When I looked at my computer I had 7 minutes and was in the yellow. (Remember you need at least 3 minutes - better 5 - for a safety stop.)
When I tapped her and she shrugged me off. At 6 minutes I took hold of her elbow and she got really mad. At 5 minutes I pulled hard on her fin and she kicked me. You see, she is a macro photographer and was waiting for some little thing to get in just the right position for her picture. She assumed I wanted to show her something.
So, I started a very slow ascent, which bought me more air time (air becoming uncompressed - is there such a word)? At 70' I hung for 3 minutes to get my computer back into the green. Most of the other divers were ascending way above me. Then I again started up slowly. All this time I was watching her. When she pulled back and looked at her gauge I could feel the terror go through her whole body. She headed up, not as slowly as she should have.
She caught up with me at about 50' and we very slowly progressed up to the 15' safety stop zone. Since this was a wreck we had a line tied off where we could hang relaxed without bouncing up and down.
Fortunately for her she is a skinny little thing and doesn't use as much air as I do. Another diver who had been too deep too long came up and they did a 15 minute decompression stop together.
Yes, she is alive and still one of my best friends. No, she didn't get bent or an air embolism. She had about 15 years experience. No, she did not get mad at me, she said she would have done the same thing.

Unfortunately the whole country of Belize promotes the Blue Hole as their #1 attraction. I wish there was a way that people would have to pass a deep diving test where there is a bottom at 135' so when they get narced there is no place deeper for them to go. Surviving getting narced is one of the requirements for an Advanced Open Water Certification.

Yes, safety needs to be talked about . . . and when things are not right something needs to be done to correct them. I hope this was a wake up call.

Harriette Fisher
BELIZE ME!
_________________________
Harriette
Take only pictures leave only bubbles

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#43234 - 08/22/01 02:28 AM Re: BLUE HOLE - Wake Up Call
Bobber Offline
Having made 4 dive trips to Coz, I agree somewhat. On our first trip, used a local commercial cattle boat. Actually lost a diver off the boat. Fortunately, she was picked up by another boat, but her companion went balistic when she didn't come up with the rest of us. On the later trips, we hooked up with a guy named Felipe Quinones, through a reference of a friend. This guy was fantastic (he's on the Coz website, and I would unconditionally recommend him). He certified 2 of my neices, a nephew, a brother-in-law and his wife, and gave my two kids their first 'resort' dive (which enthused them enough to get certified) After diving with him for three trips, he took me, my son and another brother-in-law out to Barracuda Reef for a freebie. This was an advanced dive, and altho we had 9 divers in our party, only the three of us were invited on this dive, it was made very clear that it would only be the three of us.
So, I don't know whether the other dive operators were shaping up, but Felipe is top of the line from the get go.
In the dives I have done in two trips to AC, I have never had a divemaster that I would consider under par. In my one trip to the blue hole (aqua dives), I was impressed by the two divemasters that accompanied us down, and kept the pack together. It was made very clear that no nonsense would be tolerated. I would not consider anyone in our party to be a novice, as the least experienced had about 20 open salt water dives between Coz and Bonaire. I realize this is barely above a newbie diver, but they had proved themselves (at least to me) The divemaster did require a peek at our logs when we first signed up for the trip. My impression is that it was not, at least for us, a haphazard booking.
_________________________
Been there, done that, the washing machine ate the T-shirt

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#43235 - 08/22/01 10:04 PM Re: BLUE HOLE - Wake Up Call
Riley Offline
I feel compelled to chime in here. I have just returned from AC and had my first diving experiences there. The dive shop that took me out let me take part in some pretty advanced dives that I wasnít ready for, and I think that they were pretty reckless in that regard. Iím lucky to have avoided injury, and Iíd caution novice divers to make sure the organization they dive with is of good reputation. My instructor wasn't very good.

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#43236 - 08/23/01 01:08 AM Re: BLUE HOLE - Wake Up Call
PhotoDiva Offline
SCUBA Diving has grown into a popular activity because of its self-regulatory basis. It is a sport based on the honor system. In other words, it is always up to the individual diver whether or not to make the dive and whether or not a dive is within the limits of his experience/training. Each and every diver always has the choice.

I am a divemaster and have had to rescue many a diver who has undertaken more than their experience has prepared them for, but, on the other hand, I have also dived with so called "newbies" who have done their homework and respect their physiological limitations and the laws of nature and physics. Often these "newbies" are better and safer divers than the "old salt" who has seen it all and done it all.

It isn't fair to stereotype and penalize all newbie divers because of some who bite off more than they can chew just as it is not fair to stereotype all photographers as "notorious for not paying attention to their gauges."

SCUBA diving attracts certain types of individuals. These individuals have certain personality traits that reappear. Unfortunately sometimes these personality traits cost lives.

The divemasters serve on these trips as guides and I do not expect them to risk their lives if I do something stupid. Furthermore, I think that it would be a mistake to require that every diver who wishes to go to the Blue Hole to hold an Advanced rating. For instance - on my trip to A/C (the week of the accident), we dove the Blue Hole with several novice divers.
They were novices but they respect the sport and they asked many questions about what they might expect and what might happen to them.

I was not working as a Divemaster on this trip, but had I been, I would have added nothing to the divemasters explanations. They patiently explained the inherent risks and the symptoms of nitrogen narcossis. They were aware of the levels of training of everyone on the boat and were ready and able to help and keep an eye on everyone.

In order to keep SCUBA self-regulated and not regulated by government agencies, divers have to grow up and take responsibility for themselves and their training. If they feel they did not recieve good or thorough enough training then they need to seek additional training from other sources. They also have to be honest with themselves and their Divemasters about their levels of experience.

Regulations and Rules won't save more divers - only smarter diving will save more divers.

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#43237 - 08/23/01 01:16 AM Re: BLUE HOLE - Wake Up Call
Bobber Offline
Now that you remind me, I have listened to a number of so called experienced divers who measured their manhood by how deep and how long and how many. Most of the time you run into them in the bars, or on the plane. The less experienced are more likely to be talking about eels and groupers.
_________________________
Been there, done that, the washing machine ate the T-shirt

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#43238 - 08/23/01 04:39 AM Re: BLUE HOLE - Wake Up Call
AHL26 Offline
Has anyone heard anything else regarding the Blue Hole death? We were down there last week and heard the family was going to hire a submarine. Any news?

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#43239 - 08/23/01 02:09 PM Re: BLUE HOLE - Wake Up Call
Riley Offline
PhotoDiva: Yes, diving is a dangerous sport and you take your own risks, but as a new diver you have to make sure you get the best instruction available. Otherwise, you might get hurt. And if youíre new to the sport it can be difficult to assess your own risk. You need a professional to help you with that. Ri

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#43240 - 08/23/01 02:28 PM Re: BLUE HOLE - Wake Up Call
little fish Offline
Thanks PhotoDiva for a thoughtful and insightful post.

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#43241 - 08/23/01 06:29 PM Re: BLUE HOLE - Wake Up Call
ScubaLdy Online   embarrased
This has been a very intelligent thread. I believe that Scuba diving need not be dangerous. With training, maturity, ability to asses situations, ability to stay calm, willingness to continue to learn, one can minimize their risks.
The problem with ALL new divers is that they don't know what they don't know.
I agree with everyone who points out that some people are just "Naturals." However, some of these naturals think they know more than they do because of being comfortable in the water. Overconfidence can be a divers worst enemy.
My former husband was from Detroit (I know, I know) and after I taught him to camp and fish (and a few other things) in the early '60's we took up diving for Abalone. This connected us with people who were real divers; mostly hunter gathers. He begged me to take up SCUBA and I refused because I knew how strong the ocean was and he believed he was stronger than anything. I grew up swimming in the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon coast and totally respect all aspects of nature.
He did get into it (no certifications then). One by one he lost all his dive buddies because he was so arrogant. He dove, using a big dive board, by himself. My job was to be his spotter. After the 3rd time I pulled him off the rocks all but dead I refused to go to the ocean with him anymore.
We split in 1971 and he found a new dive buddy and continued to dive. This guy gained a lot of weight and did not buy a new wet suit because, like most of us, he was going to loose the weight.
My ex's last dive was the one where this buddy got hypothermia and drowned. He hung up his stuff (antiques that I inherited) and refused to ever talk about it or any other aspect of diving.
I have more horror stories that I won't bore you with now. Do any of these keep me from diving? NO. But I am never afraid to "sit out" a dive. I've dropped a few weight belts; $20 to $30 is not worth my life.

I learned, in 56' of cold ocean water, what happens when your inflater hose sticks open: You go up -- rapidly! Fortunately I had been taught to spread eagle and hum. Once back on the boat we figured out the problem and I was asked why I hadn't just disconnected the inflater hose. HUH? I didn't know you could do that. When I asked why we weren't told that in class the answer was "We don't have time to cover everything. Some things you just learn by doing." Sure glad I wasn't below 90.'

I understand that training used to be much more extensive and coincidentally macho. As the equipment has become better and divers more inpatient, classes have been cut down to the minimum. Here there are only 6 classroom sessions and (I think) 4 pool sessions. Then to the ocean for two days.
The agencies say they encourage people to keep taking more classes. Many people see that as a ruse to get more money. What a dilemma!
I'm sure you have all heard what PADI stands for. NO; Put Another Dollar In.
Please don't get me wrong. I love diving. I'd love to see more and more people dive. The more good divers the more we learn about our oceans and the more we love, respect and protect them.
Harriette
_________________________
Harriette
Take only pictures leave only bubbles

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#43242 - 08/23/01 10:09 PM Re: BLUE HOLE - Wake Up Call
ScubaBear Offline
Hmmm......now you all have got me thinking - I was going to dive the Blue Hole this xmas, but only last weekend I logged dives number 8 and 9. Next weekend I'm taking the Advanced class, 3 weeks after that I'm diving with some friends and I hope to get into a wreck or deep class in October. Will I be ready for the Blue Hole? I don't know. Will it depend on how I feel that day? or on how my advanced/deep/wreck classes go? What is a reasonable measure of readiness?

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