What’s the deal with plastic?

Caption: It wasn’t easy, but I went grocery shopping and managed to go almost completely plastic-free. 

This is a blog about scuba diving, so why am I blogging about plastic?

Caption: This is the first biodegradable plastic I have seen in the Philippines.

I think it’s impossible to be a scuba diver and not become an environmentalist to some degree. We marvel at the sealife, so it is a shame to see their habitats polluted. We admire the corals, so it is a shame to see them destroyed. We want to preserve these environments to that we and others can continue to enjoy them.

Caption: This is plastic, unfortunately, but at least the bag is reuseable. All of the other products were wrapped in single-use plastic.

Plus, our lives depend on it. No big deal.

Caption: If Ace Hardware can give me a paper bag, every store should be able to. No handles? No problem! That’s what my backpack is for.

The problem with plastic is that it doesn’t really go away. It breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. It finds its way into waterways, gets ingested by marine animals, which get eaten by bigger and bigger aquatic animals until we human eat them.

Caption: I was almost given rice in double-bagged single-use plastic bags. Luckily, I saw this reuseable bag for only 8 pesos, which is about US$0.16.

We are poisoning ourselves.

Caption: If LeylaM can give me my shawarma to go in a paper bag, every restaurant and eatery can do the same.

So I have become a bit of an ecowarrior. I clean up the ocean floor as I pass through. My family is trying really hard to find alternatives to plastic, even if it costs more. And, I have been offering suggestions to the local government. It feels good to try to make a difference, even if that contribution is small. At least I know that, at a minimum, my family is no longer making the problem worse at the rate that we had been doing.

SCUBA & Bodybuilding?

The other day my wife asked me if I am getting bigger.

At first, I brushed it off. I haven’t had time to go to the gym and I haven’t been working out much at home, so I really can’t be getting bigger.

On the hand, if anyone were to notice such a thing, it would be my wife. 

So that got me thinking. What is the relationship between scuba diving and bodybuilding? We learn in scuba diving that nitrogen retention is very bad, but we learn when bodybuilding that nitrogen retention is very good.

A quick search online suggested the two are unrelated. However, everything I found was about the safety of nitrogen-retaining bodybuilding supplements and scuba diving. There was nothing about scuba-related nitrogen retention and its effects on bodybuilding, nor was there any evidence that any of these forum commenters have any idea what they are posting about.

In other words, I found nothing at all about scuba-related nitrogen retention and bodybuilding. All I have is one unscientific comment from my wife, so my quest for answers continues….

Next 2 Specialties

I have already completed the Enriched Air Nitrox (EAN) and Perfect Buoyancy specialties. My next two specialties will be Science of Diving and React Right.

I’ll be honest: I don’t know much about the Science of Diving course. I am assuming I will learn more about what I know now, in greater depth, pardon the pun. This seems like something that is important to know before diving wrecks and caves and doing technical stuff.

The React Right course should not be difficult. I am admittedly a bit rusty, but I have taken many CPR, first aid, and AED courses over the past couple of decades. The only part of this course, that I know of, that I have not done yet is oxygen administration.

2nd Specialty

After becoming certified as an Open Water Diver, I first completed the Enriched Air Nitrox (EAN) specialty. For simplicity’s sake, nitrox gas is safer to breathe at shallower depths than the air we breathe up here on the surface. I have now completed my second specialty, which was the Perfect Buoyancy course.

Buoyancy is important for several reasons. First, you consume air more efficiently, which means you can stay underwater longer. Second, you control your depth so you do not damage delicate corals on the sea floor. And, third, you move more efficiently, minimizing resistance against the water.

In every way, it is a great course to take. It is also a fun course to take, because the exercises are challenging. It is very rewarding once you can master your depth and body position.

As a dislaimer, I’m not sure anyone has “perfect” buoyancy after taking this course. However, you should definitely have greatly improved buoyancy after this course, as well as greater and greater buoyancy control over time.

5th Project Aware Survey

During a 39-minute dive at Santa Rosa, off Olango Island, Cebu, Philippines, my dive buddy and I collected 9 pieces of debris weighing 1.05 kilograms.

I picked up the metal can very early in the dive, and as you can see in the photo that was easily the bulk of the weight. I was, therefore, about 1 kg too heavy for the entire dive. That may not seem like much to a non-diver, but a diver’s weighting system is adjusted only 1 kg at a time.

The mesh bag was so heavy, in fact, that it twice slipped out of the belt strap that I normally secure it with. I noticed when I spontaneously started ascending. 

The first time, I descended from our 20-meter depth along the wall to 30 meters to retrieve it. The second time, my dive buddy did. After that, my dive buddy secured it with a metal clip and it stayed attached to me until we returned to the dive center.

The best part of this dive was that another relatively new diver noticed the mesh bag back at the dive center and started asking questions. He passed about 10 pieces of debris during his dive. He liked the idea of picking up the debris, so hopefully he will start doing that on his future dives.

Santa Rosa

My 10th dive was at a new dive site: Santa Rosa off Olango Island, Cebu, Philippines. This dive spot is near the long pier where most visitors arrive at and depart from Olango.

I would prefer not to make the featured image a mesh bag of trash, but the most significant aspects of this dive all involved this bag.

First of all, I picked up a large metal can very early on in the dive. It is heavy enough to have affected my buoyancy quite a bit. I had to inflate my buoyancy compensator device (BCD) so I would not drag along the seafloor. I actually had to add air a few times, which helped limit the duration of this dive to only 39 minutes.

I normally hold the mesh bag with a BCD strap. However, it was so heavy that it dropped twice.

We swam to the wall and descended to about 20 meters or so. I suddenly started floating upwards. The heavy mesh bag dropped, so I was suddenly too light. I quickly descended to 30 meters to retrieve it.

A few minutes later, it happened again. This time my dive buddy retrieved it. He had a metal clip that he was able to secure the bag with, and we clipped it back onto my BCD before the end of the dive. It was good extra weight, and made our safety stop easier.

The most important thing was walking along the pier back to the dive center. Another diver with only a few dives more than me saw the mesh bag and started asking questions. He said he saw about 10 pieces of debris, and he seemed to really like the idea of bringing a mesh bag and doing clean up on his future dives.

So, if I motivated another diver to start cleaning up the ocean floor, then this was easily my best dive to-date.

Wreck Revisited

For my 9th dive, I spent 54 minutes at Shangri-La Marine Sanctuary, reaching a maximum depth of 20.5 meters. As a fun dive, our goals were simply to practice buoyancy while picking up trash and taking photographs.

I will be tweeting the photos from @scubadivingzero, but my dive buddy really liked the “ghost ship” effect of the photo I am sharing here. I have not edited this photo in any way; I have not even cropped it. This is how it transfered from the camera I was using.

The best part of the dive is actually what you see in this second photo. The marine sanctuary was clean! We returned with an empty mesh bag!

Well, I did find one plastic bottle, but it has become a home to one of the local residents. Under the circumstances, I had to leave it there. Hopefully it detaches at some point so that I, or another diver, can get that bottle out of there.

White Hands

I have observed something underwater that I have not read about or heard about anywhere. If I am not mistaken, I noticed it during my first logged dive. I don’t recall what depth we were at, but I noticed that the bottom of my instructor’s hands were white.

By “white,” I mean chalkboard chalk white. It looked as white as if he had a thick layer of baby powder on his hands. It completely covered his palms and the bottoms of his fingers. I looked down, and saw that my hands were equally white.

I am guessing that this is from the water pressure. If you squeeze a finger tip to test capillary reflex, it turns white. As soon as you release the pressure, the blood and normal coloration returns quickly. Well, it should, but that is a different subject.

I next noticed that my normal coloration returned before my instructor’s. I have noticed on subsequent dive that he loses color before me, and regains color after me.

What captured my attention is not that this happens, because I am aware of capillary reflex. What got my attention is that this does not seem to be written about or spoken about anywhere. It is not even in the video safety briefing before the Discover SCUBA or Open Water Diver courses.

Therefore, I am surprised to not know of any stories of any first-time divers panicking. Personally, I was fascinated by it. But, I have considered that new divers could potentially have other reactions.

Perfect Buoyancy

Caption: this is a bad photo of the “boxing ring.” It is a series of ropes for practicing buoyancy by swimming under, over, and around different ropes with proper trim and technique.

This past Saturday I took the SSI Perfect Buoyancy course. I still need to take the written test and practice, practice, practice.

We started off in the swimming pool and did some exercises. Then we did two open water dives at the house reef.

This is a really fun course, if anyone reading this has not taken it yet. My favorite part is the 10-second hovering challenge. 

In the swimming pool it was a little challenging, but not too much. In open water it was much more challenging. I was concerned about surfacing prematurely, but I was able to to successfully control my depth.

The way it works I was given 3 markers. I started at the bottom and hovered 10 seconds, ascended to the middle and hovered 10 seconds, ascended to the top and hovered 10 seconds, descended to the middle and hovered 10 seconds, and then descended to the bottom and hovered 10 seconds.

The depth change in open water was significant. But, I ascended slowly and stopped at the proscribed depth. Descending back down was comforting.

We then did some real exercises. By this I mean picking up trash from the seafloor and taking photos while practicing proper buoyancy.

I was able to do everything I wanted to do while maintaining air consumption at the same rate as my instructor.

I’m now looking forward to doing a few fun dives while trying to turn my new buoyancy techniques into habits.

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