I thought I’d share a list of some basic do’s and don’ts for divers new to wreck diving.
Here are a few items you can include in your logbook to help you stay organized and honest, track progress, and work on self-improvement as a diver.
Prerequisites can be found in the Standards and Procedures for any course you are interested in taking.
With any sport or hobby, there are certain unwritten rules of etiquette we should all consider.
The following are sensible suggestions of things divers should never do, based entirely on common sense.
by Thomas Powell:
Around the world, divers and dive professionals will tell you that different areas have some of the best diving available. The desire to find new and exciting places to dive often leads to the development of “best dive location” lists that get printed in various publications. Many of these lists often include dive sites off the coast of North Carolina.
The North Carolina coast is one laden with a rich maritime history beneath the waves. If you have ever had the pleasure of diving the North Carolina coast and its famous “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” you know that there are hundreds of wrecks that range from wooden-hulled sailing vessels to modern artificial wreck structures. The wrecks sit at depths from 60 foot recreational limits to depths beyond the reach of standard technical diving methods. Each one of these fascinating structures lay in blue waters with a feel and visual display much different from traditional tropical settings.
When divers ask North Carolina natives what the best dive sites are off their coast, very rarely is the same answer provided. For that reason, I have chosen to list five favorites that are only a small portion of what North Carolina waters have available.
1. The U-Boats (U-352, U-701, U-85)
North Carolina is lucky to have three scuba-accessible World War II era U-boats beneath her waters. Those vessels represent a unique era in American history. The U-352 is one of the most famous wrecks off the North Carolina coast and she sits in 110 feet of water. Various charter groups offer trips to dive her on a regular basis and crowds from all over the planet come to partake in this experience. In truth, the U-352 is the wreck that first draws many divers to the North Carolina coast. Conversely, the U-701 and the U-85 are more difficult to visit. Temperature changes, currents, and visibility also make these dives a bit more difficult. Despite an increased level of difficulty to visit, these wrecks have the benefit of experiencing fewer divers, making the sites less disturbed by human intervention, each year. Many divers seek to dive all three of these U-boats and over time many have achieved this accomplishment. Diving the North Carolina U-boats is a historical experience as well as an exciting experience.
The Aeolus is a wreck that was sunk off the North Carolina coast for the sake of developing an artificial reef system. She is 400 feet long, sits in 110 feet of water, and is broken into three major pieces from the hurricanes that often hit the North Carolina coast. Once a cable repair ship, the Aeolus is now a wreck famous for it’s abundance of sand tiger sharks. Divers often experience them in large groups, and they are mostly found in and around the wreck. Any diver who ventures out to the Aeolus will always remember an incredible dive that can rival almost any “shark dive” out there today.
3. USS Indra
The USS Indra was once a landing craft repair ship that was sunk as an artificial reef. She is 338 feet long and is a common dive location visited by the various North Carolina charters. The site has little current, remains largely intact, and offers dive depths from 30 to 60 feet making the wreck a fantastic place for new divers or a place to complete training programs. Similarly, she is close to shore and easily accessible throughout the dive season. The USS Indra is one of the wrecks more commonly visited by divers off the North Carolina coast and is perfect for any type of diver to get a “first taste” of what North Carolina coastal diving is all about.
The Proteus was once a luxury passenger liner that sank in a collision in 1918. This makes the vessel a true wreck sitting in roughly 120 feet of water. Though she is old and maintains a large debris field, she still has the appearance of a ship, and items that would be found aboard a luxury liner are still being recovered from this site. The water surrounding this site is often warm and clear due to Gulf Stream currents and the structure still provides enough coverage to allow reprieve in the event that a current is present. The Proteus is also a hot spot to encounter sand tiger sharks and various other types of marine life such as large sting rays. On some occasions, divers have even reported sand tiger shark numbers in the hundreds on this site. Diving the Proteus is an incredible experience that will leave any diver wanting to experience more of the blue Carolina waters.
The Normannia is a pleasant wreck to dive and often described as “pretty.” She is 312 feet long and was once a passenger ship and freighter. She is easy to navigate with the bow, stern, and boilers somewhat intact; but time has caused the wreck to fall into itself to a large degree. The wreck sits in roughly 100 feet of water and the Gulf Stream currents often provide a warm and clear environment. Many of the normal North Carolina fish are found on the wreck of the Normannia, but again, Gulf Stream waters have had an effect and caused many fish species often found in southern tropical waters to take up residence on the wreck. The Normannia is a perfect blend of east coast experiences combing wildlife from southern waters with that of the central east coast.
Each of these wreck sites offers a wonderful and exciting experience to a diver visiting the North Carolina coast, but a diver who is interested in the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” dive sites should contact the coastal charters and go diving. Diving the various available wrecks is the only way to decide for yourself what site is really “the best.” Having been diving around the world, I believe the North Carolina coast and her “Graveyard of the Atlantic” is truly a wonderful diving experience that is different from most places people venture. The only way to understand why it is different is to test the waters and give it a try.
– Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC
TDI asked 3 accomplished divers what they thought was the world’s best wreck dive, and here is what we they said.
|by John Chatterton
“I am incredibly fortunate to have had all the opportunities in diving that I have had. I have been to big steel wrecks like the Andrea Doria, the Lusitania, the Britannic, and yes, even the Titanic. I have dived and excavated wreck sites far more subdued, like the Spanish ship Concepcion, and the pirate wreck Golden Fleece. I have been part of finding and identifying more than a few wrecks, like the German submarine U-869.” Some of these wrecks have been very kind to me, while others have challenged me almost to the breaking point.
|by Steve Lewis
“Not trying to cop-out of making a definitive choice, but this is an impossible question to answer. Well, not impossible perhaps but whatever choice i make today, it would be changed by next month or at least the next time I get the chance to dive on a wreck that I’ve never seen before.And therein lies the appeal of wreck diving… it’s the NEXT wreck that has the potential to top your all-time, best in the world list.“
|by Mark Powell
“How do you choose the world’s best wreck dive? Well for me there are a number of criteria involved. I find that the more history that is involved with the wreck the more interesting it is. Equally, the better preserved, the more you can appreciate the layout of the wreck. While there are some very interesting smaller wrecks it is true that the bigger the better definitely applies to wrecks.“
by John Chatterton:
“Some men will never make divers. Any man can go down, I believe, but not every man can dive and accomplish anything. “ Tom Eadie – 1929
Tom Eadie was one of the US Navy divers deeply involved in the rescue and salvage operations of the S Class submarine disasters of the 1920’s. His autobiography was simply titled, I Like Diving. In peacetime, he won the Navy Cross while diving the submarine S-51 in 1926, and the Congressional Medal of Honor for his dives on the US submarine S-4 in 1927. He is not just one of America’s heroes, but he is one of my heroes.
I have always wanted to be that guy, the guy to accomplish something underwater. This is especially true on shipwrecks. I love the idea of the big dive. Not every dive is a big dive, but I look at every dive as a training dive, to get ready for the big dive, even if I am not sure where or when the next big dive is.
I always want to have goals, address the challenges in making those goals a reality, and ultimately accomplish something. By its nature, wreck diving is complex and challenging. How complex and challenging we make it, is up to us. Every new shipwreck offers original and interesting ways for me to challenge myself intellectually, physically, and psychologically.
To dive any wreck that is important to me, I don’t just want to know about the wreck, I want to understand it. What is the history of the ship, and the circumstances of the sinking? What can I learn about the it’s design, and how it was constructed? How might the ship have aged, since landing on the seabed? If the location of the wreck is known, what can other divers who have been there tell me? If the location of the wreck is unknown, where have others looked for the wreck, and why have they been unsuccessful? Where can I look to know more, about what to expect on the bottom. How can I look at the wreck in ways that will take me to places no one else has been?
For any wreck dive, I will need the education, equipment, and experience to make the dive happen. This is even truer for the big dive. If I don’t know what I need to know to understand the dive and the hazards it presents, then where can I learn all that I need to know in order to plan the dive? Perhaps some of what I need to know, is not really about diving, but about things that may relate to my diving? Education often requires a broad base.
If am educated enough to plan the dive, then what equipment will it require? I have made dives on wrecks while freediving. I dive on Air, Nitrox, Trimix, Heliox, rebreathers, surface supplied hardhat, and even submersibles. If I know about a particular wreck, and I know enough to plan the dive, what equipment will best help me to get down there and accomplish what I need to accomplish. Often, there is not just one right answer, or one wrong answer to a problem, and this is usually true in diving. Good decisions can involve personal preference based on any number of things including experience, resources, or team capabilities. I need to fully understand where I am going, and how to get there, to accomplish something.
If I am not already experienced in making dives similar to the ones I am planning, then I need to obtain the experience to not just make the dive, but to dive with the kind of confidence that can allow me to accomplish my goals. On the big dive, the diving has to come naturally, if not comfortably, allowing me to focus on the tasks at hand. Even armed with the experience and equipment necessary, I believe it is always important to make tune-up dives, prior to the big dive, to get one’s mindset right.
Physically, it is obvious that I will need to have the appropriate level of fitness to execute any dive. However, I also need the resources to make everything happen, when it needs to happen. I will need to have the cash, the time, and the energy to invest in any diving agenda. If I do not possess all that I need, then I have to figure out a way to get what I need, or simply pass on the dives.
Finally, if I am going to accomplish something underwater; do I have the courage, the discipline, and determination to do just that? Often, accomplishments do not happen as easily as we expect. When things are easy, and go as planned, anyone can be successful. When times are trying, will I have the mindset to continue, or not? These are the kind of rare situations which allow us the opportunity to show who we are, and what we are really made of.
I am incredibly fortunate to have experienced all the opportunities in diving that I have. I have dived wrecks all around the world. I have been to big steel wrecks like the Andrea Doria, the Lusitania, the Britannic, and yes, even the Titanic. I have dived and excavated wreck sites far more subdued, like the Spanish ship Concepcion, and the pirate wreck Golden Fleece. I have been part of finding and identifying more than a few wrecks, like the German submarine U-869. Some of these wrecks have been very kind to me, while others have challenged me almost to the breaking point. Still, wreck diving has been very good to me.
What is the best wreck dive in the world? Every wreck is unique, and interesting, with its own particular challenges, but the answer to me is obvious. The best wreck dive in the world is always, and has always been…… the next one. It is what keeps me exploring, and working, and diving. It is also most likely the only answer Tom Eadie would have understood.
by Steve Lewis:
Not trying to cop-out of making a definitive choice, but this is an impossible question to answer. Well, not impossible perhaps but whatever choice I make today, it would change by next month or at least the next time I get the chance to dive on a wreck that I’ve never seen.
And therein lies the appeal of wreck diving… it’s the NEXT wreck that has the potential to top your all-time, best wreck in the world list.
The truth is, I regard myself as a cave diver: a cave diver who happens to live a considerable distance from divable caves but really close to some stellar wreck sites, but a cave diver nevertheless. However, that said, in the past 20-odd years, I’ve had the chance to see some incredible wrecks: some of them virgin sites that have been visited by fewer people than the moon: others, regular stops for sport divers from all sorts of backgrounds and with varied tastes.
So, let’s go back to the question. As stated, my list of potential candidates is long, and I am sure to forget a few but here are some that come to mind right now as I sit on a Delta flight taking me home from Florida’s cave country. To keep this simple — and within the space TDI has allotted each contributor — let’s restrict this list to cold-water sites.
Steam Yacht Gunilda. Around 80 metres deep (260 feet), in Lake Superior. Notable because of the level of preservation due to cold water.
Schooner Cornelia B. Windiate. Fifty seven metres deep (just shy of 200 feet), Lake Huron. Another site notable for the preservation of the wreck and the number of historical artifacts aboard, and the near freezing water temperature at depth.
Wooden freighter SS Florida, close by the Windiate and similar depth and water conditions. She was carrying general cargo when she sank in 1875 bound for Buffalo, New York, and diving her and exploring her interior is like taking a swim through a late 19th-century general store. Remarkable as well for the artifacts preserved in her engine room.
The Cedarville, which rests at sport-diving depths in the Straits of Mackinac. An advanced wreck-diver’s dream; on its starboard side with so much to see inside (including a massive triple-expansion steam engine) that even after several dives, most have only begun to get an idea of what secrets she holds.
The bow and stern sections (yep, two different sites miles apart) of the formally 184 metre long (600 foot), Daniel J. Morrell, in Lake Huron. This wreck is deep, historic, tragic and awe-inspiring. This enormous steel freighter broke in two and went down in 1966 with the loss of 28 of her 29 crew. This is a very sobering site to visit with excellent photo ops for cold-water enthusiasts.
Then we might consider the “Long Point” collection of wrecks in Lake Erie. Any one of these half-dozen or so wooden vessels could be serious contenders, but let’s settle for the St. James: another intact schooner.
Or if we head east into Lake Ontario, we have to include the Hamilton and Scourge, two War of 1812 American merchant vessels pressed into military service by the American Navy and sunk by a freak wind storm while at anchor just off Port Dalhousie, Ontario at the western end of the lake. To be fair, these small schooners can only be added to the list as an addendum since both are protected heritage sites, and the Canadian government refuses to grant permits to divers to document what remains. However, although prohibited, a handful of divers have visited the wrecks, especially as rebreather technology has rendered their depth (slightly less than 90 metres or 280 feet), within the experience of scores if not hundreds of Great Lakes wreck divers. Features include a carved figurehead on the Scourge, cannons, muskets, pumps, rigging and navigation lights.
The St. Lawrence River carries the outflow of all the Great Lakes as their contents spills east towards to Atlantic Ocean. There are several neat wrecks in the river but the most exciting for my money is the Empress of Ireland. Several hundred kilometres downstream of the great lakes, the Empress settled in about 40 metres (130 feet) of ice-cold water within sight of Sainte Luce sur Mer, Quebec. Nick named, Canada’s Titanic, the Royal Mail Ship Empress of Ireland was an ocean liner outbound from Quebec City heading for Liverpool, England. Following a collision with the Norwegian collier SS Storstad in the early hours of 29 May 1914, she sank in 14 minutes and of her 1,477 passengers and crew, 1,012 died… the majority passengers.
I guess if I had to choose one on this list and one only, it would have to be the Empress. Even after more than 100 years on the bottom, she remains alluringly intact. Protected now, but formally picked over by souvenir hunters, she still keeps many artifact inside her labyrinth of corridors, storage areas and cabins. Probably one of the toughest “shallow” dives in North America, visitors have to adapt to strong variable currents (the river here is tidal), challenging visibility, seriously bone-chilling water, and many, many places to get turned around and lost. The reward is to visit a truly remarkable historic site that is a pinnacle wreck dive, but that is within a short boat ride of comfortable hotels and fantastic little French restaurants!
Now, there’s a bunch of options listed above and all of them just in the Great Lakes Basin. Conspicuous by their absence are literally thousands of cold-water wrecks off North America’s east coast, from Newfoundland to Southern Florida. We have not touched European cold-water sites including the amazing wrecks found in the Baltic Sea.
And then of course, we could move to warmer water, such as Truk Lagoon for instance.
by Mark Powell:
How do you choose the world’s best wreck dive? Well for me there are a number of criteria involved. I find that the more history involved with the wreck the more interesting it is. Equally, the better preserved, the more you can appreciate the layout of the wreck. While there are some very interesting smaller wrecks it is true that the bigger the better definitely applies to wrecks. The environment where the wreck is to be found is also important as good visibility makes it much more enjoyable to dive as you can see the size and scale of a wreck. Finally if the wreck has not been dived hundreds of times by other divers and there is an aspect of exploration and discovery then this adds to the experience.
When you put all of these criteria together there is one wreck that stands out for me. HMS Hermes. There are not many diveable aircraft carriers in the world so diving any aircraft carrier is a special experience but diving HMS Hermes, the first purpose built aircraft carrier, is unique from a historical point of view. There had previously been a number of merchant ships that had been converted for use as an aircraft carrier but HMS Hermes was the first to be commissioned specifically as an aircraft carrier. The Royal Navy, despite a very traditional approach in many areas, was at the leading edge by ordering the first purpose built aircraft carrier in July 1917. She was laid down in January 1918 and launched in September 1919 and so was too late to be of any use in the First World War. She was finally commissioned in July 1923 and so didn’t see active service until the Second World War where she was based for much of her time in Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka.
In March 1942 the Japanese Navy was ordered to carry out an aggressive raid on Sri Lanka and any British shipping in the area. Vice Admiral Nagumo, who was also responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbour, had a large fleet of aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers. On 9th April the Japanese launched their attack with more than 80 Japanese Zero fighter bombers attacking HMS Hermes. Due to a lack of fighter cover Hermes had to defend herself but despite opening fire with every gun it was clear that she was almost helpless against such an onslaught. Numerous bombs struck the ship and she sunk in less than an hour with the loss of the Captain, 19 officers and 288 ratings on board.
Diving HMS Hermes is an unforgettable experience. She lies on her port side in 52m/170 feet. At the bow, the anchor chains as well as the anchor are clearly visible. The decking has come away from the bow and it’s possible to see right into the focsle of the ship. A row of toilets are clearly visible together with an intact lamp fitting in the ceiling. Beyond this it is possible to see down through several deck and light penetrating through the hull shows that there is a hole in the hull a couple of decks down. Looking in through these holes gives a clear indication of the layout of the forward part of the ship.
The flight control tower is lying on its side having collapsed down onto the sea bed. Unfortunately this has crushed some of the structure and the decks below but it is still very easy to make out the layout of this area of the ship.
Towards the stern of the wreck, where the flight deck should be exposed, the wreck has twisted and is almost completely inverted so it is difficult to see the layout of the flight deck. However, this does mean that the propellers are much easier to see. The starboard prop is standing clear and makes a very impressive sight. The portside prop is partly buried in the sand and is only partly visible.
Despite obvious damage and the collapse of the flight deck there are areas that are undamaged and look almost as they would have when the wreck sank. The control tower is almost intact showcasing gauges, complete with glass, are still present as well as a range of other fittings. Emergency lights are still in place with the light bulbs still preserved. Several of the guns stand proud of the hull with lockers full of ammunition next to them as if ready to be used in battle.
You cannot dive this wreck without thinking of the men who served, and in many cases died, on this wreck. The wreck serves as a museum to this unique piece of history as well as a monument to the men who perished on her. I hope that anyone who dives this wreck takes the opportunity to remember these men and treats the wreck with the respect it deserves.
The visibility in the area varies from good to fantastic; the worst it gets is 15m/45ft visibility but on some dives we could see the wreck from the surface. The wreck is also home to a large variety of marine life. Large tuna, grouper and jacks flock around the wreck as well as a huge number of other fish. Some of these are an impressive size with one grouper being considerably larger then me. Some of the tuna are also a very impressive sight. As well as the fish a huge variety of coral and other marine life means that there is significantly more life on this wreck than on the vast majority of reefs. Moray eels and even sea snakes also inhabit some of the more remote parts of the wreck.
Despite being an incredibly important historical wreck HMS Hermes has lain almost unknown until recently. This was because between 1983 and 2009 Sri Lanka was ravaged by a vicious civil war which had meant that the Hermes was inaccessible to divers due to the political situation. Since the end of the civil war it has finally come possible to dive her.
Despite the end of the civil war it was still a major effort to get to the wreck. Sri Lanka is a ten hour flight from the UK which is followed by a seven hour bus journey to get from the capital Colombo to Batticaloa which is the nearest town to the dive site. This all adds to the sense of uniqueness and adventure. Above the water Sri Lanka is an amazing country with a huge variety of history, culture, landscape and excitement. The setting adds to the historical interest and the state of the wreck to produce one of the best diving experiences in the world.
by Jon Kieren:
Dive enough and you’re bound to have a few “incidents.” Technical dive enough and you’re almost certain to have at least a couple of “hits the fan” moments. TEACH technical diving at ALL, and it’s a whole other level of “pucker factor.” Knowing that we are going to have some sort of equipment malfunctions, environmental/navigation emergencies, and will just simply make mistakes at some point in our technical diving careers, how do we avoid becoming a diving fatality statistic? Follow the rules, keep things simple and conservative, stick to your training, practice, and stay calm.
- Follow the rules – In technical diving there are a lot of them. They are there for a reason, usually because someone (or several people) died. Whether it’s gas volume requirements, gas analysis, cylinder labeling, depth/penetration limitations, equipment requirements, pre-dive checks, equipment maintenance, etc., there simply is not a dive that is worth breaking these rules and risking your life. Technical diving carries enough inherent risks as it is, and these rules are there to help mitigate those risks. Don’t push it, and don’t get complacent.
- Keep things simple and conservative – We’ve all read the stories. Divers who tried to go beyond what a reasonable plan would allow and came up short. Keep dive plans and objectives as simple as possible, and plan conservatively.
- Stick to your training – You paid an instructor (probably several by this point) a lot of money to train you how to dive, don’t let that money go to waste. What’s the point of training if you’re going to ignore what you were taught anyway? Going beyond the limits of your training can place you in situations you are not prepared to handle, and can (and often does) lead to fatalities. Don’t put yourself in that position, stick to your training.
- Practice – Dr. Anders Ericsson’s research on expertise found that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at almost anything. Since then, it has been more refined and determined that this practice must include proper evaluation, feedback, correction, and reward to truly be effective. Try and put that into the context of diving. 10,000 hours of practicing valve drills before you become an expert. You better get in the water.
While 10,000 hours is obviously not a realistic value, it certainly puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? How many of your buddies consider themselves “expert divers?” How many hours do they have under water? The point here is not to shoot anyone down or deflate anyone’s ego, but instead to point out that everyone needs more practice. It is often said that in a true emergency situation, the BEST you can possibly expect to respond is the WORST that you perform in practice. Think about your last skills dive, the worst you performed any of those skills is how you will react in an emergency. Would you survive? Just because you went through a great Deco Procedures course, doesn’t mean you’re now an expert at decompression diving. You have a long way to go, and have only just begun to develop those skills.
- Stay calm – In technical diving, panic kills. Plain and simple. If you allow yourself to go into “flight” mode in an emergency, you will become a statistic. That’s pretty heavy stuff considering we’re doing this for fun, right? Well, panic is the brain’s natural response when someone is beyond their comfort zone. A scenario we use to demonstrate the comfort zone with students is to ask them at their most vulnerable moment (maximum depth/penetration, near turn pressure, separated from the team, etc.) to mentally put themselves in the worst possible case scenario, like a catastrophic gas loss or silt out, and pay attention to their heart rate. If your heart starts to race just thinking about it, you’re probably outside of your comfort zone and should turn the dive. Knowing the limits of your comfort zone is extremely important and should be taken seriously on every technical dive. If there are any complications just before or during a dive, you need to re-evaluate your limits knowing that the error chain has already started. Each mistake or problem on a dive adds a link to this chain and reduces your comfort zone, and the likelihood of you staying in control in an emergency begins to vanish. Staying calm and within your comfort zone will drastically increase your chances of survival in an emergency by allowing you to rationally solve the problem instead of bolting for the surface.
We’re all in this to have fun, but chances are we’re going to run into a few problems along the way. As a technical diver you’ve been trained and given the basic tools to resolve those problems. As long as you stay within your comfort zone, keep your skills sharp, follow the rules, and try to keep things as simple as possible, you should be able to keep your name out of the accident reports.
by Lauren Kieren:
Being prepared for your next TDI diver course is critical to your learning during your progression in dive training. Whether you signed up for the TDI Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures course or CCR Advanced Mixed Gas; learning at this level requires that you connect with the training and fully comprehend the theory development presented in the academic sessions, as well as actively participate in the in-water sessions.
A great deal of learning will happen after you successfully complete the TDI Diver course; however, you should expect to spend an equal amount of time learning outside of class as you spend working in class with your instructor. With that said, class preparation is a vital part to your overall learning experience throughout this process.
In the event you do not prepare for your next series in technical dive training, you can place yourself and others in your class at a major disadvantage. You will put yourself in the position of playing “catch up,” versus being actively involved and thinking ahead during training.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get the most out of your course by showing up prepared and ready to learn.
- ORGANIZE YOUR EQUIPMENT – If your instructor sends you an equipment list and you are expected to show up to class with the items, do yourself and your instructor a favor by getting it organized prior to commencement of training. Lay everything out and double check your list to ensure you have the required items. This is a good time to verify the equipment actually works before you pack it in your gear bag for class. This is also the perfect time to make sure all your equipment, new or old, is labeled with your name.
- GET IN THE WATER – Before you start your next course, take some time to work on skills from previous courses. If all you can do is get in the pool and work on your buoyancy and trim, do it! Showing up with your basic skills fine tuned will help your technical training tremendously, especially if it’s been more than a couple of weeks since your last dive. It is common for TDI Instructors to require an assessment dive where students demonstrate they can perform skills from previous courses. If this dive does not go well, the instructor may require some remedial training that could delay or prevent the start of your course. If you are trained to dive in the equipment you will be using during your next progression in training, get in the water to make sure your equipment is dialed in; verify your harness is adjusted correctly and your hose lengths and routing are where you want them to be.
- COMPLETE YOUR HOMEWORK – Your instructor will most likely require you to complete some pre-course studies, such as reading the required TDI manual and completing the Knowledge Reviews. It’s possible your instructor might suggest additional text or materials outside of the TDI resources… read in advance and try to absorb as much information as possible before you start your course. A thorough pre-course review can help refresh your memory on previous course information, give you more confidence in class, and help you prepare to ask relevant questions, or make a significant contribution to the overall class by offering timely/appropriate comments. After reviewing the TDI manual and materials required by your instructor, make notes if you have any questions on the content, and hone in on the important points.
- HAVE AN OPEN MIND – Your next progression in technical dive training (regardless of the level) is critical to the overall safety and success of your future dives. If you already knew the information and had experience at this level, it’s very unlikely you would be participating in the course. With that said, pay attention and have an open mind. It’s important to be open and willing to receive the information your instructor is providing. If you are unsure of the information provided, ask your instructor for clarification or wait until after class to talk one-on-one.
- GET A GOOD NIGHT’S REST AND COME TO CLASS PREPARED – Finally, get a good night’s rest before you start training, come to class prepared, and show up on time. Arriving for your first day of class disorganized, late, and unprepared sets the tone for the rest of the day, if not the class, and could diminish the overall objective you are trying to accomplish. Being prepared means you’re on time or early, you have all of the required pre-course studies complete, and you have all the necessary equipment (in working order) to start training.
Good class preparation will help you better understand the academic and in-water sessions, keep you confident in class and allow you to make the most of your time during your next series of technical dive training.
For more information on courses offered by Technical Diving International, TDI – Click Here! OR to find a TDI Instructor near you, go to the Find a TDI Instructor Search on the website. We are always open for questions so feel free to send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Jon Kieren:
Technical diving is inherently dangerous. Diving in environments that restrict your access to the surface requires your foundational scuba diving skills to be second nature so when an emergency arises you can focus on solving the problem and aborting the dive. Whether you are just starting your TDI Intro to Tech Course, or have over 200 Advanced Trimix dives, these six essential skills should be practiced on every dive.
- Predive Check, Descent/Bubble Check, and S-Drill – While there are three skill sets listed here, we group them together because the overall objective is the same for all three: start the dive properly equipped and with fully functioning equipment.
- Predive Check – Once fully dressed for the dive, as a team, each diver runs through their own equipment to verify primary cylinders are full and valves open with turn pressures verified, stage/deco cylinders are full with regulators pressurized but valves turned off, BCD inflates AND holds gas, dive computers/gauges are turned on and functioning properly, mask/fins/weights/etc. are donned and in good condition to dive.
- Descent/Bubble Check – Depending on conditions and site, either on the surface or on the initial descent, the team inspects each other’s equipment looking for leaks and trapped or entangled equipment.
- S-Drill – Each team member takes turns conducting the proper gas sharing procedure with another teammate.
- The dive does not start until all of these checks have been conducted, any complication must be resolved before continuing the descent.
- Trim/Buoyancy/Finning – It’s not just for looks. The importance of being able to hold your position in the water column and prevent silting-out an environment cannot be overstated; and everyone can use a little practice. Every dive, try to spend some time focusing on different finning techniques and trim/buoyancy control. Grab the GoPro and let your buddies film you so you can get some valuable feedback on what you actually look like in the water as well.
- Valve Drills – On every single dive, you should practice shutting down and re-opening each valve. Make sure do to this with a teammate so they can verify each valve gets re-opened. Depending on your exposure protection and recent diving activity, you may find it more difficult to reach your valves than you remember. It is important to work on this flexibility and muscle memory on a regular basis, because when you really need it is not the time to realize that you cannot reach a valve.
- Remove and Replace Stage/Deco Cylinders and Bottle Swapping – It is important to occasionally practice removing and replacing stage/deco cylinders in order to maintain this muscle memory. Even if the dive does not require you to stage a cylinder, practicing this skill often will speed up and smooth out the process on the dives where it is required. Going over your bottom time because you were fumbling with a stage cylinder is both embarrassing and dangerous. You should also practice swapping bottles with teammates. This can be done while decompressing by swapping stages or lean deco gasses that you are finished with between your teammates. This increases team awareness, communication, and equipment familiarity. It is extremely important to check that no hoses or equipment have been trapped by the stage/deco bottle any time you replace one.
- Lift Bag/SMB Deployment and Reel Skills – Both deploying a lift bag/SMB and running a reel are skills that deteriorate quickly when not practiced regularly, and sloppy work in these skills can be extremely dangerous. Practice these skills as often as you can, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
- Post Dive Briefing – It is extremely important to debrief every single technical dive. Discuss the highs and lows of the dive, where communication was good, where it was bad, and what areas can be improved upon for the next dive. You cannot see yourself in the water, so it is important everyone in the team provides some constructive criticism. This is often done with friendly banter, but it is important to remember that this feedback will help you improve your diving and safety.
While this is not intended to be an all-inclusive list of skills to be practiced for technical diving, these six skills are applicable to most technical diving scenarios, and can be easily practiced on just about every dive. What other skills do you like to practice regularly?