Saturday, October 16, 2010

My scuba experience (by Vanessa)

about to go down

My first thoughts about our entrance into the scuba world was worry that Kyle would have ear problems again. He has had ear issues not only snorkeling but in at least one airplane ride when he felt he had busted his ear drum, the pain was so overpowering and intense. As for me, I wasn't too worried. I had always kinda thought that I might have the opposite fear of claustrophobia, but the fear of wide open spaces such as space or the ocean, where the space seemingly never ended. But I wasn't actually worried, just excited.

The initial foreboding doggy-paddled it's way into my subconscious as we watched the informational video required for the introduction dive. "Sudden lung expansion, ear drum bursting and drowning can occur during scuba diving." "Deep breaths" I told myself. "Plenty of people scuba dive and don't kill themselves. You can too. Nothing is going to happen."

My motivational speech going on within my head seemed to calm my nerves. Kyle was the star pupil in our sessions. I fumbled through some practices such as the removing water from our masks and replacing the oxygen hose if it were to fall out of my mouth. Kyle shined. I glared.

Nerves mounted as we rode on our boat out to our location. Butterflies, frogs, what-have-you hopped, fluttered and jousted in my stomach as we slowed over our dive point.

Mask defogged and fitted- check
weightbelt on- check
huge, bulky oxygen tank secured- check
insanity- check

They instructed us to fall backwards into the water. Insanity- yep. This method is easier than climbing down a ladder, but like Kyle said, "heavy=sink and sink=drowning." Falling backwards wasn't too bad, but once I landed, my flippered feet flailed helpless around in the air as I mimicked a flipped over junebug getting off it's back, or at least vertical in the water. It was probably a laughable affair. Good thing Kyle was on the other side of the boat so he couldn't laugh at my silliness.

Next step... going down.
"Put your face in the water" we were told, as our buoyancy vests were deflated so that we would sink slowly to the ocean floor.
"Here we go!" I thought anxiously.
We were led down on an old rope that looked like it had been pulled from a shipwreck, it had so much algae covering it. Surprisingly however, the moss gave it a soft, smooth feel that I actually enjoyed our descent. Our speed was slower than turtle speed, probably sloth speed so that we could properly equalize our eardrums every meter.
No problems there.
The problems began once we hit the ocean floor and I looked up. It was kind of like how people at tall heights say not to look down, but instead this time, I probably shouldn't have looked up. We weren't actually very far from the surface, 12 meters or 30 ft, but my immediate thought was, "If something were to happen, I couldn't just rush to the surface without expanding and thus destroying my lungs." And suddenly, I couldn't remember how to breath. Breathing through a tank is like having a cold and loosing complete access to your nostrils. It is uncomfortable and takes some getting used to. My breaths became shallow and unfulfilled. My heart pounded uncontrollably in my chest. I felt out of control, uncomfortable and completely out of my element. I wasn't a fish, what was I trying to do, breath underwater?

I didn't want to be a nuisance but we had learned the sign for pounding heart. When he was teaching us the scuba sign language, I laughed at the heart beating sign in class, thinking why would someone really use that? And of course that was the first sign I used once under water. My instructor was wonderful. Really wonderful. He rushed to me, pressed some type of valve, I don't really know what he was doing, but it allowed me to take my first deep breath since the panic attack began. Breathing deeply helped. It's amazing what a little oxygen can do for someones nerves. Immediately my heart took a chillax pill and drummed to a more even tempered tune. Oxygen rushed through my body and I sighed relief. Kyle took my hand as soon as Peter, our instructor made sure I was better, and didn't let go of it the entire rest of the time we were under water. And that hand, I am pretty positive is what got me through the remainder of our time underwater.

The panic attack, although quickly alleviated, threw my whole attitude off kilter and set the mood for the rest of our swim down under. Nerves, all though significantly more calm than at the beginning never really stopped squirming. My wetsuit which was cut at the sleeves and legs to be less oppressive didn't fit perfectly and although the water was truly the perfect temperature for swimming, my body temperature continued to drop, until my lips had had adopted a blue lipstick fashion and I began shivering. For someone with my size and frame, spending thirty minutes underwater of any temperature, unless it's in a Jacuzzi, needs a warmer wetsuit.

Our first plan of action, besides intercepting a panic attack was to feed fish. They like stale bread it turns out. Who would have thought that fish of all sizes and shapes would herd like begging pups. I swear if they had the ability to make facial expressions, they would have given the sad puppy dog eyes. We didn't need to reach out and touch them, they brushed every part of our body crowding the food. It was amazing being surrounded by so many fish. Surreal really.

feeding the fishies

We were then pushed by our instructor, as we hadn't been taught the proper procedures for swimming with tanks, through reefs and other underwater cathedrals to view other life forms. We didn't see anything too spectacular and what I mean by spectacular is relative. I am referring to creatures such as whales, dolphins, manta-rays, sharks, mermaids etc. What we saw was breathtakingly stunning and magical in it's own right and perfect for beginners such as ourselves, but wasn't anything too out of the ordinary in ocean terms. I had a hard time appreciating it however as all I kept thinking was, "Is this almost over? We're going close to the boat. Why are we passing the boat? We aren't finished yet? When can I breath like humans were intended?"

Before we re-surfaced we posed for a photo-shoot. We took some pictures looking at the camera and then they told us to kiss. "KISS!" I thought horrified, "I have to take out my mouth piece and put it back in!" This was one of the first skills we had learned, but I didn't like it. I was scared. I didn't want to kiss Kyle. I didn't care about a stupid photo. (probably the first time I have ever said that) but of course you can't speak under water, they counted, I did as they said and kissed my husband unwillingly.Another kiss

Once we finally surfaced, I was beyond thrilled to be above again, but Kyle was asking "When can we go down again?"

He did go down the next day, while I sat out. My stomach was upset from something I ate the night before. I took pictures from the boat.
The warmer wetsuit I wore on the second dive

The next time we went down together, I was much more comfortable, smiling even. My wetsuit fit, I wasn't shivering, and I was figuring out to take deep controlled breaths. I continued to struggle with controlling my body. If someone wasn't holding me up, I just fell to the floor like a toddler first learning to walk. It is a skill you learn with time, but probably small people are more prone to currents than the larger people. And I found holding the mouth piece in my mouth tiring, but at the end of it, I was thrilled that I got back on the wagon.

One last interesting note on scuba diving before I bore you to death is everything is magnified underwater. We came across some other divers, and my first reaction was fear. They literally were like gigantic monsters. Their distorted dimensions were completely thrown off by the water giving the illusion of a truly massive creature. No wonder we are frightening to other animals.

We didn't get certified, but plan on doing that some time in the near future. Marine life, here we come.

Another type of star fish

1 comment:

sharon said...

Nessa Dearest,

Your mama says no more dangerous scuba diving! I felt your panic and anxiety throughout both your and Kyle's story.

Your Mama