Is Scuba Diving Dangerous?
Scuba diving, though filed under the category of extreme or adventure sports, is generally a very safe activity, as long as you follow a certain set of rules.
If you dive within your limits and in a safe environment, there is very little that can go wrong. However, if you start breaking those rules, you are beginning to play a game that can go very wrong, very soon. As it, unfortunately, sometimes does.
I, for one, have done many of these mistakes, and I am sure some of you have too.
So what are some of the things that can turn your ideal weekend into a fast lane to meeting the reaper?
1. Partying the night before
We’ve all been there. Ideal weekend ahead, meeting with friends and fellow divers, a beer here, a rakija there, “s*t, I may as well get some smokes while we’re here”, the eternal “I’ll only have one or two” promise and the next thing you know you’re going to bed at 4am, and the briefing is at 8am. You are probably diving an unknown location, and, oh the irony, it is a deep dive.
Booze, drugs, and lack of sleep lead to dehydration and towards the dreaded DCS – decompression sickness.
When hangover, you’re slow, careless, reckless and can easily start making mistakes.
Then you’re fucked.
2. Attention to details
You all know what you should do pre-dive, but you don’t always check every little detail, do you?
Well, you should, as it may cost you.
Carefully completing your equipment, checking everything, taking good care of and maintaining your equipment, not trying out that new light or computer you just bought, forgetting a piece of equipment, not doing a detailed buddy check, not paying attention at the briefing, not repeating the signals prior to submerging and so on.
It is a bad habit of skipping these pre-dive checks that can cause you big problems later on.
When you first start diving, you are, hopefully, well trained by an experienced instructor, and you do everything by the book. Sooner or later you start feeling very comfortable underwater, and your confidence rises. The more you dive, the better you become. Soon you start diving deeper than you are qualified: “40 meters, 45 meters, same s*t, right?” Wrong.
Honor the limitations – they are there for a reason. Who gives a fu?k everybody else is doing a deep wreck dive on a 12-liter tank. If you are not certified to go on a certain depth, don’t go. If you feel that the dive is too dangerous or way out of your comfort zone, don’t go.
If your buddy wonders off 10 meters from you, it is partially your fault for letting him. Partially his, for being an idiot. Keep close. Be smart. Be safe.
4. Ignoring the 50bar reserve rule
I know, I know, you have 30 bars left, the dive is almost over, your buddies have more air left, so you don’t want to be the one who “ruins” the experience for everyone.
Well, what if one of them suddenly runs dry? It can happen. Maybe the manometer is not calibrated properly. Now you don’t have 30bars anymore, you have 15, and since your buddy is a bit nervous for being dependant on your air supply, those bars will be gone soon. Hopefully you are not still too deep, otherwise you’re both fucked.
5. Cave diving – if not properly trained and experienced
Need I say more?
Btw, did you hear about Donald Ceronne’s last cave diving experience?
When things go south, we tend to act on our instinct. And since we are not aquatic animals, our primal instinct, when something goes wrong under water, is to reach for the surface. Which is a big no-no, and something we are all trained to suppress.
However, if something unexpected happens and you start panicking, you are not reasonable, and you may act on instinct. Whoever experienced this feeling underwater knows it is not easy to remain cool under pressure, but it is a must.
Avoid this by means of prevention, following some advice from the points above: rest before a dive, check your equipment, know the dive plan, dive within your limits, keep close to your diving buddy, and if something does go wrong, attend to the problem and calmly go towards the surface, paying attention to safety stops.
If you surface too soon, your problems will only just begin.
7. Blindly following the dive master
This is opposite of No 3. – “Overconfidence”, but it is equally bad. I have been diving with some great dive masters and learned a lot from them, but I have also been diving with some pretty incompetent ones, who didn’t pay any attention to the group, which in one particular case resulted in a trip to the chamber for a diver in a group I was in, while diving in Thailand.
That said, the dive master is NOT responsible for all your actions underwater. You are a certified diver, you should know what to do, and what not to do, and if you need a babysitter, you shouldn’t be diving on your own anyway. Not a problem – take a refresher course.
If the dive master is pushing something that by your estimate is unacceptable, you know the signals, so give him the finger.
8. Failure to research the site. Underestimating the conditions.
Are there strong currents on the dive? Any dangerous marine life? Is there a strong wind, like the “Bura”? Where is the safety stop?
Plan your dive and execute the plan. Know all the details and ask additional questions on the briefing in case something is not clear enough. Have a contingency plan. Calculate the no-deco limits. Even though you have a computer.
9. Dangerous marine life
Ok, I have put this on the list, but really there is little chance something can go wrong here, unless you are diving around Guadalupe Islands or the Antarctic, where you should take extra precautions if meeting the great whites or leopard seals (in which case I congratulate you for being able to fit those extra big balls in the suit).
Even in much more timid places, don’t feed the eels, dummy. Don’t feed the sharks.
The most dangerous animal in the ocean is definitely a human. Those you should be aware of.
10. Ignoring your health
Last but definitely not least, ignoring your health is the cause for many accidents. While we are at it, did you do your annual medical examination? If you have pre-existing conditions, or aren’t feeling well the day of the dive, you may consider passing this one out. Yes, you drove for hours, or maybe even flew for this dive only, but hell, as we say in climbing, the mountain will be here next year. So will the ocean. Be smart, stay safe and wait for others at the bar.
You are not diving today, so now IS a good time to get wasted.
Do you agree with this list? Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments!