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Scuba Diving Basic Questions

Updated on July 24, 2011

Basic Scuba Diving Questions Answered

What are the requirements to become certified in scuba diving?

Becoming certified is a bit different than simply taking a scuba diving course at a resort on vacation. There are not a lot of requirements but you do need to be comfortable in the water and in good physical shape. You will be required to swim 200 yards however there is no time limit and you can use any type of stroke that you choose. You also have to be able to tread water for 10 minutes. If you think that you have any health concerns that would affect your diving ability, you may want to get clearance from your doctor first.

What do scuba diving lessons consist of?

Training is made of book work, exams, pool training and open water dives.

Does open water certification ever expire?

Once you earn your card, you remain certified for life. Having a c-card means that you have received all of the basic skills that you need to dive. This card satisfied requirements at dive shops to rent equipment and dive, letting them know that you are competent in the water.

Who are the main certification agencies?

The two main agencies are NAUI and PADI. Other agencies such as SSI and the YMCA offer certification as well but they are not nearly as recognized worldwide as PADI and NAUI are.

How can you make a tank last longer?

There are steps that you can take to ensure that your tank lasts as long as possible so that you don't have to cut your dive short.

  • Practice – You will lose substantially less air as you become more comfortable in the water.

  • Deep Breaths – You need to breathe slowly and deeply, exhaling very slowly. Never hold your breath and don't take shallow breaths either.

  • Minimize Movement – The more movement that you make, the more air that gets used. You will find that you need to use your arms far less than you think you do.

  • Streamline – Make sure that nothing is dangling from your gear. This drag not only consumes air, it can damage coral that you get close to.

  • Stay Neutral – Ideally, aim to have 500 psi in your tank and no air in your buoyancy control device.

  • Leakage – Check your O-rings, connection points and inflator hose for any loss air.

  • Horizontal – You use far less air when you keep your body horizontal than when you are vertical.

How do you clear your ears to ensure a safe dive?

The most common way is by using the Valsalva maneuver. Pinch your nostrils, close your mouth and blow through your nose gently. This pre-pressurizes your ears making equalization easier. This should be done when your head is first submerged and then every few feet.

If you are having difficulty clearing your ears, reduce the pressure by ascending a few feet. If you have tried this a couple of times and you are still having difficulty, you need to abort the dive. You can cause permanent injury if you force it. Also, you should never dive with a cold as congestion can make equalization very difficult.

What is the purpose of having different buckets on a boat dive?

Many dive boats will have a few different rinse buckets, one is to only rinse masks while the other is for cameras. Never place wetsuits or fins in these buckets. Divemasters or crew masters will usually advise you which buckets to use or you can always ask.

Why is it important to listen to your divemaster every time?

Even if you have dove a sight before, it is crucial to listen carefully to your divemaster because things change such as current, cautions, etc. Also, just because you have heard the drill before, someone next to you may not have so distracting them could compromise their dive.

How do you obtain your scuba diving certification?

You can only become certified by taking a class through an agency that is certified.

How long does it take to complete an open water course?

Depending on the course, it could take you as little as three days or as long as a full year to complete.

How much air is held in a tank?

Depending on the tank, between 2,250 and 4,350 pounds per square inch can be held.

What is the minimum age requirement to become certified?

The minimum age is 10 years old.

How is a dive compass used?

First you have to make sure that your body and the lubber line are facing the same direction. You can reference a heading from the side or top. Select the heading by adjusting the bezel and the lubber line at your desired heading. Your return heading will be 180 degrees.

What is dive time?

Dive time is the total amount of time that is spent underwater beginning at the breaking of the surface on the descent and ending when the dive is complete.

How do you properly clear your mask?

Gently pull the mask slightly away from your face and allow in a little water. Then you will purge it be applying pressure at your forehead and then exhaling through your nose. When you do this, the water is forced out through the bottom of your mask.

How fast can you safely descend?

Your descending speed can be as quickly as you want (within reason) as long as you remain comfortable and in control.

What is a decompression stop?

A decompression stops is a specific amount of time that a diver needs to spend at a determined depth near the end of the dive in shallow water. This safely eliminates the diver's body of absorbed inert gases to avoid decompression sickness.

The diver uses dive computers or decompression tabels to determine the depths and durations that are needed for that particular dive.

How are controlled emergency swimming ascents completed?

Before beginning the ascent, a signal buoy should be released and inflated which notifies any nearby vessels in the area of the ascent. A thumbs up signal is given to the accompanying diver. Next, a neutral setting is made to the buoyancy compensator device (BCD), the inflator hose gets pointed in an upward direction and the divers begin to swim up together.

The inflator hose slowly fills the BCD up with air making sure that this doesn't happen too fast or there will be increased buoyancy. The inflator hose is used to release air so that the ascension speed never is faster than 10 meters per minute.

When the divers are between three and six meters away from the surface of the water, a safety stop is completed lasting between one to three minutes. The last few meters is then completed very slowly.

How is a controlled descent performed?

The divers swim toward the descent point to meet up with their buddy. The thumbs down signal is given to descend and then the deflation button is pressed while the inflator hose is out of the water. The buoyancy control device deflates and begins the sinking process. The divers need to clear their ears every few meters to equalize pressure at a point that has been predetermined, the divers stop and check equipment for each other to look for any air leaks.

How do you perform an emergency ascent if you don't have a buddy to donate air?

Traditionally, a pony bottle will be used to perform a controlled ascent. If this is not available, you swim up steadily, exhaling throughout the entire ascent. You should always keep your mouthpiece in because as there is a decrease in the ambient pressure, some air may become available. Exhaling the entire time will help keep your lungs from over-expanding which could cause them to burst.

What is the most important thing to remember when scuba diving?

Don't hold your breath.

What is buddy breathing?

Buddy breathing is a type of rescue technique when two divers need to share one demand valve in an emergency situation. It has been criticized saying that the technique endangers two divers rather than one if they aren't experienced.

To buddy breath, signal to the other diver that you need air. Let your buddy hand the regulator to you when he or she is ready. They should keep their hands on their regulator at all times. First exhale to clear the regulator and if necessary, use the purge button. This should be done with every exchange.

Take a couple of normal breaths, push the regulator from your mouth and allow your body to take it away to use. Establish a rhythm prior to beginning your ascent and always allow the donor to remain in control of the air at all times.

What does BWRAF represent in a buddy check?

  • B – Buoyancy Control Device – Check the BCD function. Operate the inflator and deflator to make sure that it is accepting and releasing air Check the oral inflator and operate the dumps to ensure that they can be dumped quickly. Make sure the shoulder straps are flat.

  • W – Weights – Check that the weight belt is secure and arranged so that it can easily be released with the diver's right hand. Make sure that the weights will not shift.

  • R – Releases – Check that all releases are secure and make sure that you understand how to undo them if there is an emergency.

  • A – Air – Open up the air valve on the tank. Breath through the regulator and make sure that the air is dry and fresh. Test both the primary and secondary regulators and check the hoses for any damage.

  • F – Final Check – Conduct a thorough final check of your buddy. Make sure that hoses are clipped neatly and check that your buddy has a mask, fins and any accessories that are needed depending on the dive such as a torch, compass, reel or knife.

What does SEABAG stand for in pre-dive preparations?

  • S – Site – Is the site that is chosen safe to dive at according to tidal and weather conditions? Are there any riptides, currents or hazards present?

  • E – Emergency – Are you familiar with established emergency procedures? Do you know if there is emergency oxygen available and where the nearest decompression chamber is?

  • A – Activities – Do you have a purpose for the dive? Should any risks or concerns be addressed?

  • B – Buoyancy – Check buoyancy control devices including equipment and suits.

  • A – Air – Buddies check each other and confirm location of octopuses. Make sure that you are aware of surface air consumption rates.

  • G – Gear – Double check your gear!

What is the diving limit for individuals with an open water certification but without a substantial experience?

A newly certified diver without any additional training should not dive below 60 feet.

What is the purpose of a dive log book?

A dive log book is used to record details of a dive for personal and safety reasons. Information such as time, location, date, profile of the diver, air usage, equipment used, currents, temperature, waves, wind and general comments are kept track of.

Where does initial diver training take place?

Initial training generally occurs in three different environments.

  1. Classroom – Material is presented and reviewed.

  2. Swimming Pool – Skills are taught and then practiced safely in a confined space.

  3. Open Water – The student has the opportunity to demonstrate what has been learned.

How can you prevent your mask from fogging up without any additional supplies?

Condensation will often cause fogging to occur. To prevent this, most divers spit in their mask and wipe it around the plate inside. Wash the mask out with a bit of water.

How should you enter the water to keep your mask from taking in water?

It is helpful to place your hand over your mask to stop water from flowing in upon water entry. This ensures that the mask does not move. Alternatively, you can complete a forward roll into the water head first.

What is the purpose of a decompression buoy?

A decompression buoy is launched near the end of the dive, while the diver is still submerged. This marks the position of the diver so the boat can safely locate them while decompression stops are being done.

What is the purpose of wearing fins?

Fins act as an extension of your feet to help propel you through the water with more efficiency. In doing so, you use less energy and air.

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below a safe level that is required for normal metabolism. It is due to being exposed to low temperatures for an extended period of time and is considered a medical emergency.

How long will one tank last?

There are a lot of variables involved that determine the life of your tank including tank pressure, depth of your dive, volume, workload, personal breathing rate and water temperature. On average, a 60 ft deep dive could last 30 minutes with a standard tank that is filled to 3,000 psi.

What are signaling devices used for?

Signaling devices such as mirrors, horns, whistles and safety sausages can be used to signal for help to someone on the surface.

What is the maximum allowed depth for open water dives?

The maximum depth allowed for safe sport diving is 130 ft.

Where should tanks be stored when they are not in use?

For long-term storage, tanks can be stored in a closet or basement where temperatures won't risk reaching 100 degrees. Tanks should never be stored by a water heater or gas fumes.

What is the purpose of having a certification card?

A certification card proves that you are educated and have completed requirements determined by the issuing agency.

What is the biggest advantage of completing a dive in warm water?

Warm water requires less neoprene which means less weight for you to wear.

How are wetsuits cleaned?

Wetsuits should be rinsed with fresh water and then hung to dry after every dive.

What is the basic equipment needed to start diving?

Proper exposure protection is needed which will depend on the water temperature where you plan on diving as well as a buoyancy control device, dive computer, mask, regulator, cylinder and fins.

What are dive tables used for?

Dive tables are printed cards that help divers plan their entire dive safely.

What does your regulator do?

Your regulator supplies you with air at ambient pressure. It first attaches to your tank to reduce air pressure. Then, the air travels down the hose and the pressure is reduced, leaving the air at the proper pressure.

Scuba Diving Basics


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