Science for Everyone


Underwater, Where it's Dry

Post by Scallop Research Intern, Bailey Moritz

When you’re in a tropical place like the Caribbean, there’s nothing more refreshing than taking a dip in the sun-warmed, 80 degree water. But for those of us doing underwater research in Maine, where even summer water temperatures don’t typically exceed 60 degrees, submerging yourself in the water can be somewhat less enjoyable. That’s where dry suits come in. Available in a variety of materials, they are essentially like a loose, thick bag worn over a layer of cozy fleece. Throughout the dive, you add air to the suit both to adjust your buoyancy and to keep you warm. Your body heats up the air that gets trapped in the undergarment and acts as insulation. The air moves around in the suit, eventually venting from a valve on the shoulder when needed. Properly adjusted neck and wrist seals are critical so that the suit doesn’t leak.

Dry suits allow a diver to keep diving into the winter and early spring when water temperatures and surface conditions would be really treacherous to experience in a wet suit. Dives can also be longer in cold water because you aren’t experiencing the direct cold of the frigid water. This makes dry suit diving a good alternative for commercial fishermen diving for scallops or urchins here in Maine. And if you ever have the desire to dive in the Arctic, a dry suit is a must!

In order to add to our diving repertoire, Cait and I just completed a dry suit certification with Aqua Academy in Portland. Our instructor Jim Dock took us to Kettle Cove State Park for our first dry suit experience. Beautiful and varied kelp swayed in the shallow current, revealing lobster, hermit crabs, and several small rock fish. Tiny periwinkles clutched to eelgrass as we made our way out with the tide. Other than being a bit more difficult to remain neutrally buoyant at first, the suits worked great. And its hard to describe the unnatural feeling of the fuzzy fleece reminding you that even 20 ft below the surface, you aren’t at all wet! Of course, as we maneuvered out of the suits and packed up gear on shore, it started to rain. So much for staying totally dry!

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Dive Master Training 101

On December 12, 13, and 14th, 2014, I began my dive master training with Blue Horizons Dive Center in Glen Mills, PA. By gaining this certification, I will be able to lead other certified divers on local diving excursions and build my confidence in supervising interns who dive with the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership as part of research projects. Successfully earning this certification will also bring me one step closer to getting an instructor certification which means we could provide dive training opportunities as part of our programming on Hurricane Island. 

To earn the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) dive master certification, an individual must complete timed waterskill exercises and challenges; master underwater demonstration-quality skills including how to conduct a diver rescue, how to complete the 24 skills in the basic open water skills circuit (e.g. partial and full mask clearing, swimming without a mask), and how to accomplish practical skills (e.g. dive site setup and management, mapping a dive site, giving a dive briefing, and executing a search and recovery scenario); demonstrate they can teach workshops including SCUBA Review in confined water, skin diver course and snorkeling supervision, discover scuba program in confined water, and discover local diving in open water; complete practical assessments in working with open water diver students in confined and open water, continuing education students divers in open water, and certified divers in open water; and demonstrate their knowledge with a final exam. Finally, dive master candidates are also evaluated on their professionalism. 

In the video, I was in the midst of working through my first skill circuit as part of my dive master training. I definitely have a lot to learn and improve upon. For example, I'm not always using the correct hand signals and I don't quite have a great handle on my buoyancy which is an extremely important component of diving to limit damage to the marine environment. Going forward, I am excited to continue to improve upon the skill circuit and increase my comfort level with teaching scuba skills rather than just practicing them while conducting dives for the scallop project. Stay tuned next month for more updates about my progress! 

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