Advanced Wreck Diving

Advanced Wreck and Why I Continue to Train – Pete Humphris

Hovering in the Helicopter Hanger - Canterbury

It’s about a week since I have completed my latest course as a student, Advanced Wreck, with Jamie from TechDiveNZ. The course was conducted over a few days on the wrecks of the Waikato and the Canterbury. We actually only had one dive on the Waikato as the swells were on the up and getting out on day one had a bit of rock n roll. All in a day’s diving for a Welly diver though.
Over the next several days we worked exercises like line laying on land and in the wreck and tested our laying skills by following them back both with eyes open and closed. With eyes closed you soon find out the flaws in line laying. In addition to this we worked laying lines between decks and undertook some reasonably tough air sharing situations, again, both with eyes opened and closed. Other skills included reworking gas calculations – how much gas do you need to safely exit the wreck and then safely ascend to the surface – and finding lost lines inside the wreck. We finished the trip with a couple of days diving on the Canterbury and Rainbow Warrior before heading home.

Inside the Rainbow Warrior

Under the Hull - CanterburyHovering in the Helicopter Hanger - Canterbury

So after about 1,800 dives and a large number of courses why do I keep training? Well it starts with being an adventurous recreational diver. I like exciting diving and I like to capture photos of what I’m doing and I choose to do it safely with the minimum disruption and damage to the marine environment. How do you safely conduct a dive with minimum disruption? Having the right training, practice and experience is a great start. Don’t get confused or emotive about recreational versus technical diving, discard those labels and ask yourself only one thing, “What skills do you need to repeatedly conduct the dives you want to do safely?” Get the instructor that will fulfil that requirement and then go diving.
Since I have been diving I have twice had an O-ring burst while underwater. Both times I had enough gas to safely ascend to the surface before the air in my single tank was spent. When diving in overhead environments or deep there may not have been enough gas to get me back to the surface. On the advanced wreck course I thought about the O-rings a few times when I saw divers without wreck training penetrating well into the wreck trusting that nothing would happen or that the person next to them would be able to help. What I can say is on my dives, if you are my buddy, I can put my hand up and say, “Yes, if you have problems I can help”.

No matter what diving you do, from open water shore dives through to wreck and cave penetrations, there are skills that need to be mastered if you are to repeatedly conduct dives safely. Could you share air with a buddy who is out of air and ascend to the surface safely and conduct a safety stop on the way up mid-water? Do you clear a mask flood as if it’s a trivial thing or is it still something that feels a little ominous? Do you buddy dive with the knowledge that your buddy has the skills they need to help you if you have a problem? Do they dive with you expecting the same? Do you practice your skills and can you put your hand up and say, “Yes, for the diving we are doing I can help if you have a problem” This is where practice and training are important – you will relax and enjoy more as your skills improve.
Consider this, if your ideal ascent speed is no more than 10m per minute (PADI) then it would make sense to do this even in an out of air situation. If you allow about a minute to start sharing air and for a bit of calming down then on a 10m dive it would take about two minutes to get to the surface with no safety stop. However, if you conduct the same exercise from 30m then it’s going to be 7 minutes to get to the surface – 1 to share air and calm down, 3 for the ascent and 3 for the safety stop. Could you slowly ascend and hover for that time with a buddy while sharing air and at any time during that dive do you know you have the gas in your tank to get both of you up safely? Why not have a practice next time you are out and see how it goes on a shore dive and pretend you are over coral or a drop off and cannot kneel on the bottom. Then ask yourself, do you have the skills that can help your buddy if there are issues?

In the Bridge of the Canterbury

Jewell Anenomes - Canterbury

Sponges & Jewell Anenomes - Canterbury

Lets be clear, diving is safe and issues are very unlikely – 2 O-ring issues in 1,800 dives is a very low rate – and my training, practice and experience made them insignificant issues to deal with. I train every year and practice every dive to safely undertake the dives I want to do with minimum impact on the environment and I also fulfil the unspoken agreement with my buddies – I can help if they need it during any of our dives.

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