How Deep Can You Go When Snorkeling?
Snorkeling is a great way of getting a glimpse of what happens under the water surface and what life in the ocean is like. Getting to swim with the fish and exploring their world is what snorkelers live for. However, unlike scuba diving, snorkeling does not involve going deep into the water. There may be some snorkelers who opt to dive underwater but this is not the norm.
You may wish to go deeper if you spot something fascinating, whether it’s a fish or some other brightly colored object that you want to take a closer look at. How deep you can go into the water varies from person to person based on your swimming and diving skills. Without the proper scuba equipment, you may run the risk of applying too much water pressure on your lungs and sustaining serious injuries.
Let’s take a closer look at how deep you can go with basic snorkeling equipment.
The Dangers Involved
The major risk is that of compressing your lungs. You may not even be aware of how much pressure your lungs are under till it is too late and you lose consciousness underwater.
After a depth of 1 meter has been crossed, your snorkel mask will start getting compressed against your face due to water pressure. This will not only be uncomfortable, it can also cause facial injuries.
The snorkel mask allows you to breathe through the tube connected to it. The opening of the tube is above the water to allow you to dispel carbon dioxide and take in fresh air. The tubes may be of different lengths but they’re obviously not going to allow you to go to deep in the water.
The main way for you to survive deeper under the water is by holding your breath. However, this can be a bit tricky. The key is to listen to your body. If you experience any discomfort such as dizziness, suffocation, cramps, nausea or light-headedness, then immediately make your back to the surface. Without proper scuba diving gear, this threshold will be very small, around 1 meter or maybe a bit more depending on your physical strength and the amount of time you can hold your breath for.
Going Underwater with a Snorkel Tube
We’ll start off with some basic scientific facts:
- On average, your lungs can operate against a pressure of 0.05 atm or less.
- For every 10 meters deep that you go in the water, the water pressure goes up by 1 atm.
This means that the deeper you go, the more trouble your lungs will have expanding under water. Your snorkel tube will not be of much use at this point. This is because most snorkel tubes are very short– their sole purpose is to allow you to dip your face in the water and observe the fish and the coral reefs. You can still dive in, but you’ll have to hold your breath. Just don’t try breathing through your snorkel tube when you’re deep in the water.
So ultimately, the question arises as to why you can’t just use a longer snorkel tube. Essentially, even with a longer tube, if you’re deep in the water, say around 10 meters, you’d still have to deal with a pressure difference of 1 atm. You will be able to breathe out, but not in which is kind of like not eating but constantly having to go to the bathroom.
Your best bet is to get 12-15 inch tube and hold your breath as you sink in, but ideally, if you want to explore the waters underneath, try getting a scuba certification. An average depth of around less than 1 meter is considered to be the norm for snorkelers.
The bends is just another name for decompression sickness. Decompression sickness causes joint pains and can also affect your lungs, heart and brain. It is the result of gas bubbles building up in your body due to rising water pressure and is generally a phenomenon which occurs when you’re very deep under the surface where the water pressure is at its peak.
However, it is possible to get the bends in shallow water as well. Research indicates that even going to a depth of 3 meters is sufficient to cause the bends if you stay underwater for long time periods (half an hour or more).
The buildup of gas bubbles is relatively smaller but can still be painful. As you are not able to stay underwater for such a long time when snorkeling you are practically not at any risk of contracting the bends.
A Guide to Snorkel Diving
Now just because you can’t go as deep in the water as when you scuba dive, it doesn’t mean you can’t dive in at all.
Know Your Strengths
Every person has a different level to which they can hold their breath underwater, but you can train your body to stay active for longer time periods.
- Time yourself to see how long you can stay underwater while holding your breath. Try to stay for a few more second the next time, but remember not to overburden your lungs. Your first dive probably won’t last very long and you’ll return to the surface almost immediately. With time and practice, your body will start getting somewhat accustomed to the water pressure and you’ll be able to stay in for a longer amount of time.
- Learn how to store a little extra oxygen in your body. Before holding your breath, take 5 short breaths which will get some oxygen pumping through your bloodstream. Repeat this, and you will notice that you can hold your breath for a longer period of time now. Remember not to overdo it. If you take up too much carbon dioxide, you’ll start feeling dizzy and you may pass out.
It is absolutely crucial that when you try out these experiments, you have a snorkel buddy with you. Any mishaps when you’re alone could be detrimental to your life.
There may come a point where your body suddenly feels drained and exhausted. This is when your oxygen supply has run out. Avoid reaching this stage because resurfacing will be difficult and you will be at risk of passing out.
Also, keep your heart rate in check. Anyone with a heart rate of 110 or more is not fit to hold their breath underwater.
If you truly want to be a snorkel diver, you have to push yourself. There may be times when holding your breath might feel uncomfortable, but as long as this discomfort isn’t immense, keep on moving if you want to truly explore the beauty of the ocean.
The more fit your body is, the better it will work at pumping oxygen throughout your system. This will also allow for anaerobic combustion which will allow your body to perform well, even when you’re holding your breath.
Keeping Your Gear Clean
Having your snorkeling gear in top shape can also assist you during your snorkel dive. Every time you go underwater, your snorkel fills up with water. You can eliminate this by blowing on it to remove the excess droplets, or, when you’re rising to the surface, blow out and the water will squeeze right out. You can also get a dry snorkel which will keep the water out of the tube.
Water that has collected in your snorkel mask can cause irritation to your eyes and nose. One way is to look up, gently pull at the mask so it’s no longer sealed on your face, and all the water to flush out.
Alternatively, look up, all the water to accumulate around your cheeks and blow to dispel the water. You might feel the urge to look down. Don’t do it! This trick will take some time getting used to, but it’s very useful if you’re a frequent snorkeler.
While you can’t dive too deep in with snorkeling gear, you can shallow dive. There are just some key factors to keep in mind such as having clean, proper gear, the ability to control your breath underwater, being fit enough to navigate under the surface and to resurface before you run out of oxygen.
It is also advisable to always have a buddy with you who can assist you in case of emergencies and also help you practice holding your breath underwater for a longer amount of time.
With the right technique and practice, you can dive down a few meters with your snorkel gear! Just don’t get overconfident and listen to your body when it starts showing signs of dizziness, nausea or any other pain.
Quick Tip: Always pop your ears before and after your dive to avoid clogging them, or worse, running the risk of getting swimmer’s ear!
The most important thing is to dive confidently and carefully. Once you’re in the water, explore this other world, the life of the sea creatures and other fascinating things you may find under the surface.