Adventure channels and tourism channels show glorious breathtaking visuals of blue skies and crystal clear water and people scuba diving among the fishes. The question that arises is whether we are safe, amongst a vast variety of underwater life, some of which can be extremely dangerous and in territory that is alien to humans, we are not born to swim and we cannot breathe underwater, can we?
The simple answer is yes and no. It is similar to mountaineering. When Edmund Hillary was asked whether mountaineering was dangerous he said, not if you respect the mountain. Scuba diving is also not dangerous if you respect it. It is not dangerous as long as you follow security guidelines, have the right equipment, know your limitations and stay within those constraints.
A little risk is involved, the operative word being ‘little.’ According to the DAN Diving Fatalities Workshop Report, fatalities are extremely rare and in their 2010 survey they found that fatalities happened once in every 211,864 dives. How risky is that? More drivers die in road accidents and chances of you dying in a long distance race are higher than in scuba dying – so the likelihood of your dying in scuba diving is rather remote.
As with any extreme sport, an element of risk is always there. Divers are totally dependent on their equipment to breathe. Their journey back to the surface depends on their skills, using gear rightly and emergency training. Approach the sport with the right spirit and character. Grow into it with practice and training. Don’t take undue risks. The larger fish down there may seem docile, but they are not dogs that you can pat and hug so maintain a reverential distance.
Surveys have revealed that most of the fatalities that have occurred in the sport were caused by human errors and were completely avoidable. The three prime causes were a pre-existent disease in the diver, straying beyond one’s capability and descending rapidly.
People who died owing to a pre-existent disease did not declare their medical conditions in the scuba diving medical questionnaire. Had they done so they would not have been allowed in the waters. Descending rapidly makes for poor buoyancy control and makes the diver panic and make mistakes. Finally you are so pumped up and in over-confidence you stray beyond your limits and cannot alert your partners when an emergency occurs – false bravado often ends in disaster, not only in scuba diving, but in all walks of life.
To ensure that your scuba diving is a great fun-filled experience, just make certain that you plan your dive before you step into the water. Never dive deeper than your first dive. Check your dive gauges continuously and stay within the prescribed ascent and descent rates.
Carry a 3-minute safety stop halfway in the dive, to see if everything is under control and don’t continuously ascend and descend when you are under the water. And never exceed the limits of your training and skills.
What if you were to suddenly encounter a shark? Don’t panic, be calm and remain close to your dive buddy. Sighting one is rare and an awe inspiring sight, so enjoy it. However, maintain a respectful distance and don’t swim away rapidly. You cannot out-swim it but after its curiosity is satisfied it will swim away. This is what happens almost every time – think of the great time you will have regaling your friends and family about your great shark encounter.