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Shallow Diving vs Deep Diving – What are the differences?

Which do you prefer? Deep dive or shallow dive? The answer for most divers would be to instantly go for the deep dive assuming that they are certified to do so. But, what are the differences?

Shallow vs Deep Diving

Most divers would prefer to do a deep dive vs a shallow dive. Yet, there is a ton of marine life you can see on a shallow dive, at times even more than on a deep one. So, why would most divers rather go deep and stay for a shorter time compared to stay shallow and dive longer?

A shallow dive will significantly increase bottom time compared to a deep dive. It also requires less surface time between dives if you stay shallow. Is it bragging rights to dive as deep as possible or is it something else?

Shallow Diving

How deep is deep and when does deep start?

There’s no clearly outlined definition of what a deep dive is. There are some definitions that usually go to the 100 feet (30 meter) mark as a deep dive. PADI defines the deep dive to be between 60 feet and 100 feet.

That’s somewhat the definition for recreational divers. In technical diving that limit is pushed further and you’d typically consider a dive below 200 feet as a ‘deep dive’.

The open water certification goes to depths of 60 feet while the advanced open water goes to 100 feet. That’s where the PADI definition of 60 to 100 feet for a deep dive comes from.

Why go deep?

There are a number of reasons why you would want to dive deep vs staying shallow. First, you will experience different creatures when you dive deeper. Depending on where you dive you might also experience completely different surroundings.

An example would be that you typically find healthier and more vibrant coral reefs at greater depths. The sun exposure and destruction from waste is less when you dive deep. The result is more marine life that you can experience.

Other good reasons for deep dives are for example diving a wreck. You can find them in both shallow and deep waters but if you want to dive a particular wreck you might have to dive deep in order to see the wreck and the life surrounding it.

Deep Diving

Having said that, shallow dives can be equally as spectacular depending on location and sights. You will usually find different sea creatures in shallower dives. You also can stay underwater for much longer periods of time giving you a chance to experience more as you have better visibility. Wrecks in shallow water can be as fascinating as their counterparts in deep water. The same is true for coral reefs!

Shallow dives often result in more marine life to be seen. That simply comes from the fact that you have better visibility at lower depths as you have more light around you. Colors will also be more vibrant on a shallow scuba dive.

Considerations when diving deep

When you do a deep dive then you have to mindful of your bottom time. A shallow dive at 30 to 40 feet limits your dive time pretty much by how much air you have in the tank.

A deep dive requires more planning as there are potential issues with nitrogen absorption into the body as well as increased air consumption overall at depth. Depending on depth, time under water and previous dives you have to consider safety stops and make sure you keep enough air in the tank to stay safe! On top of that you do also have to have an advanced open water certification to dive down to 100 feet.

Which one to pick?

There’s no ‘correct’ answer. It depends on your capabilities, your comfort level and what you want to see and experience. If you want to wreck dive and the wreck is at a depth of 30 feet then you’re doing a shallow dive no matter how much you might want to do a deep one instead.

Never go any deeper than what you’re comfortable with and certified for. If you dive deeper than what you feel you can confidently master then you can easily end up with a panic attack which will result in serious risks to your health! Never go beyond your capabilities.

You can and will see extraordinary sights whether you dive shallow or deep. They will be different but there’s really no ‘one is better than the other’ in this case. Try the different depths and find out what you’re most comfortable with.

The most important thing is to stay safe to and to enjoy your dive no matter the depth you go down to!

An In-Depth Guide To Night Diving

Night diving is a great way to get out and explore the world in an entirely new light. That being said, it does come with its own risks, demands, and methods. You certainly want to be fully prepared for your night diving adventure before dipping your toes in the water.

It helps if you already have experience scuba diving during daylight hours, but that's not exactly mandatory. Following is an in-depth guide to night diving, including some equipment requirements, preparation techniques, and important considerations.

 If the sense of wonder and adventure is what attracted you to diving, then you'll likely love night diving even more. It's a familiar activity and a brand new adventure at the same time. You'll leave the water with some amazing photos and some stories you'll be telling for years to come.
Scuba Diving at Night

A Brief Introduction To Night Diving

Surprisingly, there is a large number of people who have never heard of night diving. Or perhaps they don't realize it's a widely popular activity and not just the same thing during a different time of day. As the name implies, night diving is all about scuba diving at night. By diving at night the entire environment and atmosphere are different. There's often a different variety of animals present as well.

Most people who begin night diving already have plenty of experience diving during the day. Having that previous experience and confidence does help during the nighttime hours when the light is scarce and tension is high. In many cases, those divers have spent countless hours at a certain reef and know how to navigate it backward and forwards.

Even though a diver may be extremely familiar with a particular reef, they soon learn that it is completely different during the nighttime hours. The colors are different, the animals are different, and emotions are different. By diving at night they convert that familiar old reef into a new and exciting adventure.

It's not just the absence of sunlight that makes the experience different. Rather, many forms of marine life behave completely different at night time. For example, even the coral itself will behave differently. Coral polyps open wide at night time to feed on nutrients passing through the water. The polyps are rarely open during the day unless the current is unusually strong. Opened polyps introduce a variety of new colors and shapes into a scene that you may have seen a dozen times before.

The lack of sunlight also has a significant impact on the noticeable colors as you dive. During the day, sunlight begins to be filtered away at around thirty feet. The further you dive the more light you lose and the more certain colors begin to fade. Red is the first of the colors to fade away entirely.

At night; however, the only source of light is coming from you. You are often much closer to objects meaning that the light isn't filtered away before hitting the marine life. Therefore, you can see everything in their true colors. You may see splashes of color that you never knew were there. Colors that were simply impossible to see under the filtered sunlight.

Diving during the day is already an incredible experience. But if you're looking to expand your diving activities with something new, exciting, and a little bit scary, then night diving might be for you.

Recommended Equipment for Night Diving

For the most part, you will use a lot of the same equipment you use for diving during the day. There are a few exceptions and recommendations that are specific to diving at night. You have to consider the obvious change in lighting as well as potential changes in water temperature.

Three Separate Lights

The most important piece of equipment you'll need to purchase for your dives is the torch. This is your only source of light in the dark waters. You will actually want to purchase two torches that you carry on each dive. One serves as a backup torch if the first should fail. Both, the primary and backup torch, need to be fairly powerful. They should emit enough light to help you safely navigate the waters.

It's a good idea to invest in torches that use rechargeable batteries. You can easily burn through a lot of battery power if you find yourself diving every night during a holiday. If your torches ran on standard batteries, then you could wind up paying quite a lot just for batteries alone. Rechargeable batteries are more cost effective and better for the environment.

There are some organizations that recommend using standard batteries for your backup torch. They claim that standard batteries are more predictable than rechargeable options. This is true to some degree but shouldn't be considered mandatory. Regardless, you should still invest in rechargeable batteries for the main torch.

The third light you'll purchase is used to mark your exit point. Many divers use a strobe light when they are diving from a boat. The light is attached to the boat and helps you find your exit point in dark conditions. This should be a powerful light as well. The last thing you want is to wind up lost while diving in the middle of the night.

It can be a bit more complicated if you're diving from the shore. You may actually need two light sources instead of just one. You can then line up the lights visually to help point you back towards the shore.

Choosing The Right Camera

One of the best parts of night diving is taking a bunch of amazing pictures. The photography available at night is unlike anything you can experience during the day. You'll see marine life that is normally dormant or hidden during the day. The colors are more vibrant and everything looks more impressive. Naturally, you'll want to find a great camera specifically for taking pictures at night.

Cameras designed for nighttime diving generally come with additional lights. The internal flash from the camera isn't strong enough to illuminate the subject matter. Your torch will provide a great deal of ambient light, but an additional strobe light is usually needed to get the best shots.

It's up to you whether or not you want to take the best possible camera gear when night diving. It may be a bit too much to handle if you're still warming up to the idea of night diving in general. You can always try night diving with a simple camera at first to see if you really like it. Once you've decided you're ready, then you can invest in a better camera rig to capture some of those amazing moments.

Preparing for Your First Night Dive

There are several routes of preparation you can take for your first night dive. Your first step should be to get some experience diving during the daytime. Sure, it may not sound quite as fun, but it's important that you understand the fundamentals of diving during the day before jumping into the water at night. Night diving is like a more complicated version of daytime diving.

Perhaps the best method of preparation is to enroll in a training course. Many of the same organizations that offer daytime diving courses also offer training courses for nighttime diving. You may be familiar with some of the agencies, including the SDI, SSI, and PADI. Each of these offers training courses for night diving that will teach you what to bring, how to breathe properly, how to communicate, and how to navigate the waters at night time. Those courses also have the advantage of letting you experience your first few night dives with a trained professional.

For many divers, mental preparation is important as well. They may love the idea of diving at night, but actually bringing themselves to dive into the dark water can be a bit intimidating and stressful. There are many divers who decide at the last moment they can't handle it. You can avoid this by preparing yourself mentally for what's to come.

Training and experience help with mental preparation to some degree as well. If you already have experience night diving with a trained professional, then you will feel more relaxed and confident when it's time to do it by yourself. Likewise, if you've dived in that area during the day, then you'll feel more prepared during the night.

It's also a good idea to fully prepare with a pre-dive briefing with your fellow divers. Make sure that everyone understands what forms of communication will be used and what certain signals mean. You want everyone to be on the same page when it comes to communication.

Night Diving Considerations

Most agree that the best time to start a night dive is just as the sun is setting. You can fully prepare on the boat while the sun is still in the sky and dive into the water just as it is fading over the horizon. You'll get to witness firsthand many of the changes that take place underwater as the sun goes down. And there are quite a few of those changes, both with plant life and with the animals.

Use your torch as a tool to attract marine life to certain areas. It's a great way to see what all is around you. It's also great for setting up photo opportunities. For example, if you point your torch up toward the surface of the water it will attract several small fish. Those small fish then attract the larger fish to the area. If you were to point the light down toward the bottom, then it would more likely attract a squid or octopus.

Night waters are filled with amazing creatures that are usually hidden during the day. Or there are some like the plankton that are there during the day, but you just can't see them. At night, you will be able to notice the bio-luminescent effect of the plankton. As the plankton come into contact with your body they will emit a bright glow for a moment. And if you wave your arms you can see hundreds of them illuminate all around you. It's a visually impressive spectacle that you'll want to experience your first time in the water at night.

Some of the marine life you are likely to encounter at night would be intimidating during the day, but are more so during the night. Large sharks and manta rays that weigh more than a ton are known to become more active during the night. It can create some amazing memories as well as photo opportunities if you are willing to get close enough to take the picture.

Is Night Diving For You?

If the sense of wonder and adventure is what attracted you to diving, then you'll likely love night diving even more. It's a familiar activity and a brand new adventure at the same time. You'll leave the water with some amazing photos and some stories you'll be telling for years to come.

Difference between Freediving, Skindiving and Snorkeling

At first glance, free diving and snorkeling may seem more alike than scuba diving. After all, they can be done without the use of a breathing apparatus and don’t require any special certification. So what really is the difference between the two?

While both sports have their own awesome advantages, it’s important to know the differences between the two before you go out and stock up on gear. Here’s an in-depth look at both snorkeling and freediving.

Snorkeling

One of the greatest things about snorkeling is that it takes very little background and only a few pieces of equipment to get started. At the very least, if you’ve got a mask, a clear day, and some time on your hands, you’re ready to start exploring. Of course, there are a few ways to make your experience even better, so here are the basics of snorkeling.

The Equipment. Because snorkeling is such a low-maintenance activity, there’s not a lot of training that you can do to improve your experience. The equipment you choose, on the other hand, can make your time in the water more enjoyable.

Your first upgrade: your mask. You may think that it’s good enough to just borrow a mask from a friend, but in the case that it doesn’t fit, you’ll probably find yourself adjusting and readjusting when you should be focusing on that gorgeous reef. It’s no use to save the money on buying a mask when your snorkeling experience gets ruined by a leaky mask.

Seaview 180 Degree Full Face Snorkel Mask

Instead, take the time to find a mask that actually fits you. Whether you want a mask with two lenses or just one doesn’t really matter, but how the skirt (or the soft silicone that covers your nose and cheeks) forms to your face does. The first thing to look out for is whether the mask stays on your face without you having to hold it. If it stays, that’s a good sign.

Next is to test the skirt. Although it may seem silly, the best way to do this is to test how the mask will fit when you have the snorkel in your mouth (or, in other words, when your facial muscles are activated). Since you don’t want to be putting your mouth on the snorkels in the store, it might be a good idea to borrow a friend’s. When you’re trying on different masks, you want something that forms tightly to your nose and doesn’t allow any air to escape when you try blowing out through your nose.

Since a few years you can also get full-face snorkel masks. These do not just cover your eyes and nose but your whole face. This has tremendous advantages for snorkeling as you can breathe both through your nose and your mouth. These masks have the snorkel integrated and usually they have dry snorkels. That way you won’t swallow any water by accident!

So now that you have your perfect mask, it’s time to consider fins. The best model for snorkeling on the market these days are the standard scuba fins or the travel snorkeling fins. The latter are short enough to allow for small, versatile movements around shallow underwater landscapes, and allow for easy maneuverability getting in and out the boat or walking up onto the shore.

Pro-tips. After you’ve purchased the right gear, here are a few extra bits of knowledge that will make snorkeling really enjoyable.

Sunscreen. Since this sport requires you to be relatively close to the surface, you really need to protect your skin.

Don’t lose yourself, completely. It can be easy to allow yourself to drift off and forget about where you’re headed. Every once in a while, you need to reorient yourself and make sure you haven’t strayed too far from your boat or snorkeling buddies.

Skindiving

Skin diving is a term that’s not used much anymore. It is basically snorkeling where you dive down while you hold your breath to have a closer look at aquatic life.

The purpose is not to dive as deep as possible but to go as deep as necessary to get a better view of life underwater. It somewhat is a mix of snorkeling and freediving with the difference that you dive down at times while typically moving around snorkeling on the top of the water.

As it is part of snorkeling, it does not require a scuba tank or a wetsuit. The fins used are typically snorkeling fins. The snorkel is used when snorkeling and you want to use a dry snorkel to prevent yourself from sucking in water through the snorkel when diving down. Skin divers do certainly also wear masks.

The masks is where it becomes interesting though. Traditional snorkeling masks are basically the same as scuba dive masks. They have a low volume which makes it pretty easy to dive down. The newer full face snorkel masks unfortunately have usually pretty high volume and as such make it hard to nearly impossible to dive down. At least it’s not easy to dive anymore with such a snorkel mask that covers the whole face.

The lines between snorkeling, skin diving and freediving are somewhat blurry. Most people that go snorkeling will automatically skin dive when they see something of interest inn the water underneath them. Yet most will not dive down into the depths that require or define freediving.

Freediving

Although the differences in gear for freediving and snorkeling are only slight, they are completely separate sports. Whereas snorkeling is all about exploring the water calmly, freediving is not a passive activity.

So what exactly is it? Freediving is diving without the use of a breathing apparatus. As a freediver, you rely only on your equipment, your strong swimming ability, and your capacity to hold your breath underwater. Generally, your dive is only going to last three to four minutes, but that can be enough time to explore depths that you never would have imagine possible without scuba gear.

But while some see this sport as dangerous, freediving truly allows you to cultivate a different relationship with life underwater, one built on endurance and excitement. It also fosters a respect for this challenging environment and an appreciation for its beauty.

Equipment. If we encouraged you to find a good fitting mask for snorkeling, we’re going to take it a step further and insist that your mask is perfect for freediving. With only a few minutes under water, you do not want to be dealing with a leak or fogging issue.

Another key distinction between snorkeling and freediving is the length of the fin. Freediving fins are very long and stiff so that your kick is powerful and energy efficient.

Cressi Sub Gara 2000 HF Free Diving Fins

One last thing that you may want to invest in would be diving weights. You’re going to want to calculate the amount of weight that is appropriate for your skill level and the depth that you’re able to reach.

Training. There are many aspects to freediving training that will make you a successful diver. On the one hand, you must be in optimal physical shape. This means endurance training, nutrition, flexibility, and strength.

You’ll also need to train your body to become accustomed to the depths that you’ll be diving. One of the most important things that you must gauge is how adept your body is at equalizing your ears, because you cannot push yourself beyond this limit.

Another important part of training will be to exercise without access to air. This is not only difficult but inherently panic-inducing. Relaxation exercises are key to successful freediving.

What will you choose?

Despite the fact that neither snorkeling nor freediving use a breathing apparatus, the two activities could not be more different. Whereas snorkeling is for a tranquil day of taking in the sights, freediving is much more about endurance and adrenaline.

While both are highly enjoyable, you’ll have to choose for yourself which activity is right for you. With either one, you’re sure to have a great underwater experience!

Informational Guide on Ice Diving

Diving into a body of water during the peak of summer is one thing but what about doing it during the heart of winter?

Ice diving has become an intriguing option for divers and thrill-seekers aiming to understand the nuances of ice-cold water. Once the temperature drops, it becomes ripe for ice diving and this information guide is going to touch on the intricacies of it.

Ice Diving

Let's take a look at what lies ahead for those thinking of diving beneath a thick layer of ice for the first time.

What Is Ice Diving?

1) Definition of Ice Diving

Ice diving refers to the act of diving under a thick layer of ice. In general, a "dive site" is an area that allows divers to head underwater to take a look at what lies beneath. Of course, in the summer months, the dive site is left fully exposed and doesn't have a barrier to entry. However, once the cold wintry months start to approach, a layer of ice starts to develop on the surface as water begins to freeze. It's at this point when ice diving becomes a possibility based on where the broken layers are available.

Please note, ice diving is not the same as cold water diving and shouldn't be confused for it. Cold water diving refers to diving done when the temperature is low and the water is jittery cold but doesn't have a top layer of ice. Ice diving requires the top layer of ice to be present.

In general, ice starts to develop once the temperature drops well below zero and the water temperatures cool down to around 40 degrees F or so. In most cases, this is the bare minimum and the water temperature starts to fall well below this number in places such as Antarctica.

2) Who Does It?

Let's move onto the next part of this question and that's who would take the time to go ice diving?

Ice diving is an intriguing activity because it's ideal for divers who want to experience something new and get a look at a dive site from a different perspective. The water tends to reveal different nuances when it has a frozen layer of ice making it a unique experience. Many researchers tend to head into these areas in order to get a deeper look into what transpires beneath the thick layer of ice. Most divers will go as a team (2-4 members) to make sure everyone is safe. With the four-member team, only one diver is supposed to "dive" and the others act as support actors in making sure the initial diver is safe from start to finish.

Ice diving is often seen as a moment to try something new and get a look at animals in their natural environment during a period most never do see them. It's one thing to see a penguin on TV and another to see them live in action as they spend time in their natural frozen habitat.

What Gear Do You Need?

Ice diving is heavily reliant on the gear being used more than any other form of diving. This has a lot to do with the weather, water conditions, and how cold it can get as you dive deeper into the water. For those who are prepping for a dive, it is time to look at the gear necessary for the adventure. 

1) Drysuit

A drysuit involves thick material used to maintain body temperature and ensure the skin is protected.

The type of drysuit being invested into doesn't matter as long as the basics are maintained. It should be durable, thick, and easy to wear otherwise it might get in the way of your diving experience. To maximize the dry suit, it's best to focus on using wool as a layer under the dry suit along with wool socks. This will give it the added value needed to stay safe and warm under the ice.

In some cases, it is possible to buy thick undergarments customized for ice diving but these are unnecessary in most cases.

2) Dry/Neoprene Gloves

To go along with the drysuit, it's highly recommended to buy neoprene gloves.

These gloves are designed to handle low temperatures and are going to ensure the fingers don't go numb as soon as you hit the water. It's better to seek specialized dry gloves for the task but neoprene gloves are often used as a solution because they're budget-friendly.

In general, both will work well under the ice.

3) Full-Face Mask

How is the face going to be protected when you go ice diving?

To protect the face, it is best to look at a full-face mask. The full-face mask is designed to eliminate skin exposure but this is a personal preference. It is ideal to stay as protected as possible and learn how to dive with the full-face mask in place.

It keeps the skin protected and ensures the ice-cold water doesn't touch it at any point of your diving session.

4) Neoprene Hood

Along with the gloves and mask, it is important to look at a dry hood or a neoprene hood.

The hood is going to protect the top of your head and the back of your neck. It shouldn't get in the way of your dry seals and that is the most important requirement. If it doesn't get in the way, it will be easier to dive and move your head around from side to side.

Some divers prefer to go with the dry hood since it isn't tucked-in like the neoprene hood. This is a personal choice.

Divers are always told to practice with their equipment in a simulated session to get a gist of what they are going to face. This can make it easier to manage movement and not feel congested when it comes to the diving session. Being able to move is essential especially when the temperature drops.

How Do You Penetrate The Ice?

Let's move onto learning how to penetrate the ice for a successful ice diving session.

1) Snow Shovel

The first step to penetrate through is to shovel the snow.

In most areas, the snow is going to act as a top layer for the ice and has to be cleared off so you can gain access. To do this, get a couple of snow shovels and start clearing out the top layer as soon as possible. This is going to make it easier to saw through the ice.

2) Chainsaw

The hole is going to be made with the help of a chainsaw.

The goal is to find a spot that is ideal for diving and isn't going to close up quickly. This is done with the help of a chainsaw or an ice saw.

3) Teammates

Yes, this is just as important as anything else for an ice diver.

Having teammates is the only way to make sure the entry and exit are smooth. It is easy to get trapped beneath the ice for those who don't go in with 2-4 team members. The teammates are supposed to keep an eye out for new developments and act as a support system for the original diver and his or her dive buddy.

These are key requirements for those who are going to be entering the water. Penetrating the ice is all about finding a good dive site, clearing out the snow, and making a noteworthy entry hole to get into the water.

Other Considerations

There are additional considerations to make before moving forward with an ice diving session.

These considerations involve your safety and how you approach the task to make sure it doesn't lead to issues in the water.

1) Safety

Let's start with safety because it's important to prepare well in advance.

Set up a plan and make sure it is targeting the right dive site. You want to go to an area that is well within the required temperature limit (40 degrees F (1-2 C)). It is also recommended to reduce the amount of time being spent in the water because of how cold it can get.

In general, the average dive session ends up being 30 minutes but it is best to reduce this to 15 minutes when the water is cold.

2) No Solo Sessions

Never consider ice diving on your own even if you have experience.

Ice diving has to be done with at least another ​dive buddy to make sure you're safe from start to finish. There are several indicators of a potential hazard when you have a partner that can't be seen when you're on your own. Go with those who do have experience and it'll be easier to dive in.

3) Cameras

Thinking about taking pictures when you are underwater?

There are divers who may be intrigued by the notion and want to take a few snaps while they are diving in. This is possible as long as the equipment is protected and there is light coming in from the hole. Otherwise, it will be dark underneath and that has to be accounted for.

4) Certificates

It is recommended to go ahead and receive an ice diving certificate from a certified association.

They will have instructors who are going to put you through simulated runs as a way to help understand what a diving session is going to entail. It can be a great experience on its own and can help you learn in the long-term.

Why Should You Try Ice Diving?

Ice diving is a unique look into the world of animals most people don't get to see on a day-to-day basis.

Being able to spot a leopard seal in its natural habitat is one of those experiences that is impossible to match. It's also an experience most people don't get to have. In fact, many professional divers don't get to have this experience.

It is also great for those who want to go somewhere nearby as there are cold regions on the planet ideal for ice diving. Look for one of these dive sites and plan a trip out for a quick diving session. It can be a great way to have fun and build memories that last a lifetime.

Another benefit most people don't realize is the value of seeing animals clearly in colder water. The particles start moving slowly and that can make it easier to use external light to spot animals. These same animals would be difficult to spot in warmer conditions if you were to come in the summer.

New Camera Housing Options from Ikelite

Ikelite has announced a host of new housing options for entry-level DSLR cameras at the end of January 2018. If you are looking for a reliable casing for your Canon EOS 77D which is also known as the 9000D or the EOS Rebel T7i which is also sometimes referred to as the 800D then Ikelite just introduced two new housing options for you.

Ikelite DL200 Camera Housing

These new housing options offer a reliable way to pack your DSLR and bring it down onto a dive with you. They are rated waterproof down to 200’ (60 meters). Instead of having to deal with multiple cameras (waterproof vs. not) so you can shoot some pictures during a dive, you can get a reliable case and use your best camera to make photos underwater that allow you to remember your dive adventures for the years to come!

Both new housing options for your DSLR’s contain a lot of features that will make it both safe to use your camera underwater as well as make it easy to do so. Ikelite produced high quality underwater housings for a variety of DSLR cameras. Do not make the mistake to compare these top-of-the-line devices with the cheap cases you can find for a GoPro camera though!

Ikelite underwater housings are capable (through optional accessories) to fit different lenses you can attach to your camera body. These lens ports are designed to keep your camera dry and to keep droplets away. Highest quality glass is used to ensure best pictures when you photograph underwater.

Additionally, you have a clever system with the housings where you can produce vacuum inside the housing to verify that it is tight. This feature is extremely useful considering that you place a rather expensive camera inside that will definitely break if exposed to the surrounding water during a dive!

Consider using a quality housing system for your DSLR when diving. Ikelite has a large selection of different housings for different cameras. Check out the different versions for yourself!

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What is Nitrogen Narcosis?

In your training you undoubtedly have heard of all the things that can go wrong underwater - think decompression illness, oxygen toxicity, and the like. And these are important concepts to be aware of because you’re not always going to be diving in the comfort of a training pool.

Of course, with proper planning and a good dive buddy, the risk of something going awry during your dive is low.  But in order to have total peace of mind, it’s a good idea to be well-informed. In this guide, you’ll learn everything there is to know about one such underwater risk: nitrogen narcosis.

What is Nitrogen Narcosis

What is nitrogen narcosis, in a nutshell?

Put simply, our bodies cannot withstand large doses of nitrogen. When too much of this gas enters our bloodstream, we experience symptoms of narcosis: confusion, incoherent speech, inability to make rational decisions, and mood changes.

Many divers compare it to alcohol intoxication, in which a person may either be a happy drunk or a mean one. In fact, this process is often referred to unofficially as Martini’s Law, because descending to 30 feet causes similar effects as would drinking a martini. And while drinking one alcoholic beverage generally wouldn’t impair you, it’s important to identify more severe cases. Just like you wouldn’t let your friend get behind the wheel after three drinks, you need to make sure that your buddies are not in danger during the dive.

Let’s get more technical

How does nitrogen narcosis happen on a molecular level? Well, it all goes back to Dalton’s Law of partial pressure. Surely, you have heard it all before, but this is the law stating that the total pressure of the gases in your tank is equal to the sum of the pressures of each individual gas. What this means in the diving world is that as pressure increases upon descent, partial pressures also increase.

And when you’re exposed to this increase in nitrogen, more of the gas enters your bloodstream, which will start to affect your central nervous system. In the best case scenario, you can recognize the symptoms and take precautions. In the worst case scenario, divers can lose function completely, and drown.

When exactly does it happen?

Because of Dalton’s Law, exposure to dangerous levels of nitrogen is going to depend on the mixture that’s in your tank. If you’re breathing air, most commonly used in recreational dives, the percentage of nitrogen will be 79%. With this mixture, you might start to feel the effects of nitrogen narcosis around 100 feet, although it will be very mild. Things start to get more severe, though, around 140 feet, which is the depth limit for recreational dives. Anything beyond that is highly discouraged if you’re breathing air.

Of course, divers do exceed this limit all the time, using different mixtures. Nitrox, for instance, has a lower percentage of nitrogen and allows divers to descend deeper while avoiding nitrogen narcosis. Heliox is another mixture that circumnavigates this problem by using gases that have no narcotic effect. That said, the use of these mixtures requires special training. They are generally reserved for more experienced or professional divers.

Other factors

You’ll notice that we’ve used phrases like “around” when it comes to naming a specific depth for narcosis to set in. That’s because every person and every dive is a little bit different. Unfortunately, the field of diving is lacking a lot of scientific answers about what contributes to narcosis, but there are a few factors that have been shown to make divers more susceptible to narcosis. Here are a few of the circumstances that will increase your likelihood of getting “narced,”

Cold temperatures - although it’s not entirely clear why this is, cold body temperature tends to increase the risk of narcosis.

Alcohol - if there’s one thing that every experienced diver can stress, it’s that you should never risk ruining your dive by consuming alcohol before going underwater.

Other drugs, even motion sickness pills - unfortunately, narcosis increases when nitrogen mixes with other substances. If you have to take something before your dive, just make sure that your dive buddy is aware and able to pay closer attention to signs of narcosis.

High levels of carbon dioxide - if you find yourself breathing more heavily, either from exertion or a problem with your equipment, you are once again more at risk for narcosis

How can you avoid it?

When you sit down to plan out your dive with your buddy, you should be calculating your maximum depth based on everything that we’ve covered so far: the gas mixture in your tank, the temperature, your previous experience with nitrogen tolerance, etc.

Because you’ve taken into consideration everything that could make you susceptible to narcosis, the best way to avoid it is to stick to the dive plan. A mistake that some divers make is to change the plan slightly when they’re underwater because they feel fine. What’s important to remember, though, is that just like your decision-making skills can become impaired with alcohol, you may not be making the best choices when you’re ingesting nitrogen. On the other hand, the dive plans were written out when you were clear-headed, so you know that you can depend on them to keep you safe. 

Another way to avoid nitrogen narcosis, which we’ve touched on earlier in this article, is to use a different gas mixture. There are plenty of certification classes that you can take to become familiar with mixtures like Nitrox and Heliox, which will allow you dive deeper without the threat of narcosis.

What should you do if you recognize it in your buddy

Clearly, it’s important to be able to identify the signs of narcosis in your buddy. That said, since everyone reacts a little differently, your buddy might not have all the symptoms. A good rule of thumb is that if you start to notice your buddy acting different than normal, you should always play it safe.

Ascending even ten feet can alleviate nitrogen narcosis, and you’ll start to see your buddy return to a normal state. If the symptoms are severe, however, it’s your responsibility to get your buddy to safety. It’s much better to abort the dive early and try again than to deal with a more serious case of narcosis.

And there you have it

Everything you need to know about nitrogen narcosis. While it is a serious issue, we hope that this guide has taken away some of the unknown so that you can be fully informed when you dive.

What is a Save a Dive Kit?

When it comes to diving, there’s an old saying that seems particularly fitting:

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Because, inevitably, something is bound to go a little wrong: the lens will pop off your underwater camera, your fin strap will snap, or your brand new mask will mysteriously spring a leak (and sometimes all of the above!) And while you can’t plan for each and every mishap, there is one way that you can alleviate some of the pressure when you’re on a dive trip.

It’s called a save-a-dive kit.

This package of backup supplies can really help you out when you’re on the dive boat and you realize that something is missing, broken or otherwise off. It’s a little bit like making sure that you have a tool kit in the trunk of your car. You may never have to use it, but if you’re ever unlucky enough to break down miles from civilization, you’ll be really glad you took the time to pack it.

Save a Dive Kit

Do you really need one?

If you are new to diving and plan on going on a dive trip with a company, you probably shouldn’t worry too much about putting together a save-a-dive kit. Diving companies who specialize in excursions will have plenty of their own supplies to make sure that you only have to focus on enjoying your time underwater.

On the other hand, if you’re a more experienced diver using your own supplies, you should definitely have a save-a-dive kit. You really don’t want to be that person on the boat that is asking if anyone has an extra fin strap. At least not more than once.

Building your own

So what exactly goes into a save-a-dive kit and how can you tailor it to your specific needs? Well, here are a few suggestions from some seasoned divers.

The basics. There are a few key items that you’ll find in every diver’s save-a-dive kit. Here are just a few:

  • Mask and fin strap replacements
  • Mouthpiece
  • O-rings (plenty of them, and in different sizes) and o-ring tools - since there are so many pieces of equipment that use o-rings, like your regulator, underwater lights, tank valves and underwater camera housings, it’s a great idea to have a good amount of extras
  • Zip ties, bungee cords, and duct tape - for repairs and creative solutions to tricky problems
  • Carabiner or other clips
  • First aid supplies - waterproof bandages, disinfectant, motion sickness pills and ibuprofen
  • Batteries - for devices like your dive computer or underwater camera
  • Some elementary tools, like a wrench or screwdriver
  • Wetsuit or drysuit sealant or glue
  • Wax for sticky zippers - you can buy diving specific wax or use beeswax or candle stubs

Obviously, what you choose to put in your save-a-dive kit is going to require some consideration. Because although there are a few recommendations that you can get from other divers about what makes a good dive kit, your specific list should reflect your set of equipment and needs. Maybe your save-a-dive kit includes extra contact lenses, for example, or a de-fogging agent. That said, having some of these universal items can also come in handy for your fellow divers (after all, diving is never an individual experience). Being able to share a much-needed zip tie with a buddy can really go a long way towards making everyone’s trip more enjoyable and relaxed.

Checking with your dive buddy. Speaking of your diving companions, you may want to collaborate on the save-a-dive kit before you start packing. You and your buddy will inevitably be sitting down to go over the dive plan, so why not also ask what extra supplies he or she will bring so that you can both lighten the load? Of course there are some things that you should both bring, like mask straps and mouthpieces, but others, like duct tape, can be the responsibility of only one person. This is especially helpful when you plan on diving with the same person for multiple trips.

Choosing the right container. Once you’ve got the list of supplies that will go in your save-a-dive kit, it’s time to find the right container. One mistake that many divers make is buying the container beforehand and changing the supply list to fit in the box. That method leads to compromises that you just don’t want to make, so it’s best to buy the container afterwards.

What you’re looking for is something waterproof, clear, and sturdy. You don’t want something that is going to pop open if it gets jostled around in the boat, and a clear case will allow you to easily see what you’re missing.

Another tip: get something with dividers. When you find yourself in a frustrating situation out at sea, you don’t want to add to the fire by having to dig through a disorganized box of supplies. Instead, invest in something like a tackle box for fishing that has separate compartments.

Consider buying a prepackaged save-a-dive kit. These have gotten more popular recently because they just make diving a little easier. The only drawback to buying one online is that you can’t really customize it for your dive. If you buy one, you’ll still have to create your own list and crosscheck it with what comes in the prepackaged kit.

Replenishing the supply. There is nothing more disappointing than thinking that you have a backup item and then realizing you forgot to replace it. Every time you’re getting ready for a dive, you should check your save-a-dive kit and make sure that used items have been replaced. And, if you’ve collaborated with a dive partner, it might be a good idea to remind them of any used supplies, as well.

And there you have it

With just a little bit of planning and prepping, you can arrive on dive day a little more relaxed and confident. Not only will you be able to help out a buddy in need, but you’ll also have the peace of mind that comes with having a backup plan.

Waterproof Cell Phones and Scuba Diving

As technology improves, perhaps it’s only fitting that we would want to take our most personal device with us on our dives. After all, we use our cell phones for everything these days. We can take photos and videos with them. We use them as a calculator and a place to write notes. We, of course, rely on them in emergency situations.

There are even diving apps that you can use to help with everything from reviewing course material, to organizing a dive trip, to calculating the dive plan, to logging your dives.

Clearly, cell phones can be a helpful tool in the diving world. But, can you really use them during a dive? With manufacturers now marketing waterproof and water resistant devices, it’s tempting to think about taking your cell phone with you on your dive.

Here’s a review of all your underwater options.

Waterproof Cell Phones and Scuba Diving

Waterproof and Water Resistant: What’s the difference?

Okay, so it’s probably pretty obvious that most cell phones are not designed for diving environments. In fact, most of the designs you’ll find on the market are not actually waterproof, but rather water resistant, meaning that they can withstand water only to a certain degree. Usually, a cell phone that boasts of being water resistant can be dropped in a puddle or survive if you forget it outside in the rain. Anything more than temporary exposure to water, in other words, is going to ruin the phone.

You can determine the level of water resistance through the IP (or Ingress Protection) code, which consists of two numbers: a dust resistance rating and a water resistance rating. That second number is going to tell you how waterproof your phone actually is. Unfortunately for your diving needs, none of the ratings are very good for prolonged exposure to water. At best, most phones can offer a rating of 7 or 8 in terms of water resistance, which will allow you to immerse the phone in fresh water to a depth of 1 meter for about a half hour. Obviously, if you’re planning on diving in the ocean at normal recreational depths, these parameters don’t do much for you.

As far as truly waterproof phones go, well, the technology just hasn’t quite caught up yet. Since diving tends to be an occasional activity for most people, perhaps there just isn’t a market for diving-specific cell phones.

Is it still worthwhile to get a water resistant phone?

Sure! If you dive often (or just tend to expose your phone to water every now and then), investing in a water resistant phone is practical. After all, when you bring your cell phone onto the dive boat, there’s always a chance of splashing. Plus, many manufacturers are moving in the direction of water resistant designs already, so you probably won’t find yourself shelling out too much extra on this feature.

One other option

If you imagined yourself shooting videos or snapping pics from your phone underwater, don’t give up on the idea so fast. Because, while the availability of waterproof and water resistant phones may be limited, there are plenty of cases that will get the job done.

Some things to look out for when purchasing a case:

Make sure it is 100% waterproof up to the depth that you’re planning on diving. Some cases are not built for increases in pressure, so make sure that you find something that is specific to your dive.

No mixing and matching. If you got a new phone and your old case seems to fit alright, don’t take the risk. Instead, look for a case that is specific to your model to avoid leakages.

Consider what you want to do with your cell phone. If you are going to be taking pictures, there are plenty of waterproof cases that are designed to enhance the camera on your phone, making the experience all the more enjoyable.

Do as much research as possible. That means reading through all the reviews of people who have tried that specific case. Surely, it doesn’t make sense to spend a ton of money on a case that tends to have bad reviews.

Making the final decision

Ultimately, the choice is yours. You can invest in a new phone that is water resistant. You can explore the world of waterproof phone cases. Or, you can wait until the technology catches up to the needs of the diving world.

Whatever your choice, try not to let the limitations of diving with a cell phone take away from your experience. Cell phones can be a great tool for diving, but the main thing is that you are mentally present for your dive and having a good time. The cell phone will be waiting for you when you get back to the boat!

Diving Masks with Purge Valve – Are they any good?

Diving masks with purge valves aren’t the most popular addition to the scuba mask market, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of reasons to think about trying them out yourself. If you’re considering purchasing a new mask, but aren’t sure whether to go for the purge valve, here’s everything you need to know about this device.

First of all, what is it, and how does it work?

The purge valve on a mask serves to clear out trapped water without having to lift the mask off of your face to drain it. It does this through a one-way valve at the bottom of the nose pocket that will expel air when you exhale. Of course, in theory, masks that are fit appropriately shouldn’t have this problem at all, but as many divers will tell you, masks often do leak, usually because of normal wear and tear.

What are the advantages of a mask with a purge valve?

As with most of the fancy gadgets on the market, the purge valve mask was designed to make diving experience less complicated. Not only does this design prevent you from the hassle of clearing out your mask, but it also frees up your hands for more important things, like photography or videography.

The purge valve mask also offers solutions for problems that come up for particular divers. People with moustaches, for instance, sometimes have trouble with their masks fitting properly, making leakages constant and irritating. Divers with contact lenses also may enjoy avoiding the need to clear the mask, a task which often leads to irritation or displacement of the contact lens.

Overall, the divers who use masks with a purge valve feel that it’s just one less thing they have to do underwater, freeing them up for a more focused and enjoyable dive.

What are some drawbacks?

Of course, you may be asking yourself why this style of mask isn’t more popular. Well, there are a few explanations.

First of all, cleanliness. Every extra piece that is attached to your diving equipment means another thing to keep clean and free of debris. And one of the issues that can come up with purge valve masks is sand getting lodged in the vent. When this happens, you’re at risk of the very leakage problem that the purge valve was designed to prevent.

Another problem that comes up with this design has to do with equalization. Because, while many divers will pinch their nose to aid in equalizing, this isn’t easily done with the purge valve mask. This isn’t a very commonly cited reason for opting for the non-purge valve model, but it is something to keep in mind when you’re making your purchase.

Finally, malfunctions. Because the purge valve is added to the silicon nose pocket, there is a slight risk for it to break or pop out. Of course, you can carry a backup mask with you, but most divers would just rather not worry about a mask that can break. Also, if your mask happens to break when you’re in a more remote region, it might be difficult to get a replacement vent.

So how can you decide?

Both designs seem to have something of a cult following. Those who have used purge valves tend to love them and miss the hassle-free design when they switch to non-purge valve masks. Those who have never used purge valve masks think of the technology as frivolous and potentially dangerous because of the risks of breaking.

And because the prices are so comparable, it’s difficult to know which one to buy. Like with any piece of diving equipment, it’s inevitably going to come down to your preference. If you are confident in the durability of your purge valve, you’ll probably enjoy the ease of not having to clear mask. On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who would rather minimize all risk, the traditional style might be more for you.

No-Decompression Limit – What Exactly is it?

In very simple terms, a no-decompression limit (NDL) is the amount of time you can spend underwater without having to pause during your ascent. If you stay past that limit, you’ll have to take the extra measures to avoid decompression illness.

Of course, nothing in scuba diving is really that simple. As you probably guessed, there are a few other factors at play here. Depth, gas mixture, number of dives in a day all have an impact on this time limit, which means that you have plan your dive carefully.

If all of this is new to you, don’t worry. The science may seem a bit complicated, but with the help of dive tables and dive computers, you’ll be confident that your dive will be safe and stress-free.

No-Decompression Limit

How do we determine the No-Decompression Limit?

To understand the NDL, we have to refer, once again, to Boyle’s Law. This is the law of Physics that explains the process of decompression illness. As you surely learned in your basic course, decompression illness is due to nitrogen dispersal in the body tissues, in which the nitrogen bubbles expand during ascension. The only way to avoid this is to ascend with enough time for the body to dispel the bubbles before they start to expand.

But, this process doesn’t happen during every dive. During shorter and shallower dives, for example, you may be able to pop up to the surface without risk of decompression illness. That said, because decompression illness poses such a serious threat to a diver’s safety, it’s important to be precise in your calculations. You can’t ascend simply because you feel that you haven’t been under the water for very long.

And because accurate calculations are so important, the field of diving has developed reliable tools, like diving tables and dive computers to help out.

Dive Tables and Computers

For many novice divers, a diving table is quite an intimidating tool. The PADI recreational diving table, for instance, has over 27 rows and columns with enough numbers and letters to make your head spin (or swim?). Of course, the more you learn about diving tables in your training courses and become familiar with them when planning for dives, the more they begin to make sense.

One thing that is for sure, is that this tool is extremely useful in figuring out your NDL. The data used to create such tables are based on extensive research and precise mathematical algorithms, developed by reputable sources like the US Navy, so you can be pretty certain that it’s going to give you a reliable NDL.

Another key tool in calculating NDL is a dive computer. These devices are able to track your nitrogen loading as you descend, allowing you to readjust your NDL in real time. Dive computers often have alarms so that you can be made aware of when your time is running low. If you do go over your time, many dive computers will also go into “deco” mode so that you can plan to make a decompression stop.

Of course, as useful as dive computers are, it’s important to make sure that you’re not only relying on your device to make decisions about your bottom time. After all, sometimes devices fail or don’t account for every factor that impacts a dive. The safest plan is to calculate your NDL with a dive table and then supplement your dive with the computer.

What about those other factors?

Like we said before, there are other elements at play in the NDL calculation. The most important considerations are,

Gas Mixture

If you’re diving recreationally, chances are you’re probably using air in your tank, in which case you can refer to a standard dive table for your calculations. However, gas mixtures like Nitrox are going to have an impact on your NDL. These mixtures actually increase your bottom time, so that you can stay down longer without having to worry about decompression illness. It’s important to find a dive table that is specific to your gas mixture.

Number of Dives

This one may not be as obvious as the type of gas you’re breathing, but it’s equally as important. That’s because multiple dives in one day increases your risk for decompression illness, meaning that you have to recalibrate your NDL after each dive. Luckily, many dive tables include a section for multiple dives, so that you can make sure to plan ahead if you plan on going underwater more than once.

Physiological Differences​

Of course, every diver is different and it can be difficult to predict an individual’s susceptibility to decompression illness. To account for the variation, most dive tables and computers will err on the side of caution. As you become more experienced in diving, you will start to gain more of an understanding about your own limitations, though it’s always important to give yourself a margin of error just to be safe. This is also a reason why it’s crucial for you to calculate your own NDL instead of just following your diving buddy’s limit.

What if you go past the limit?

If, for some reason, you don’t start ascending before your NDL, you’ll have to make the necessary stops to dispel the nitrogen. Even if you didn’t go too far over your limit, it’s a good idea to make a stop because of that margin of error on the dive table.

To sum it all up

What you’ve probably taken away thus far is how important it is to calculate a reliable NDL and then stick to it. Because NDLs tend to be calculated according to the average diver, pushing yourself right up to the limit is dangerous. Instead, make sure that you’re giving yourself a safe cushion.

Clearly it’s a better idea to be a bit conservative with your NDL than to extend your dive and putting yourself at risk for decompression illness.

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