Scuba diving impressions of a newbie diver

August 4, 2018

My first scuba diving experience after being certified was not in some distant tropical locale, but instead I opted to dive in the murky waters of the Aurora Reservoir (elevation 5,950 feet). Since I am a new diver with no experience and after consulting some more experienced divers, I decided I would use the murky and cold water conditions to become a better diver. I met up with another local diver at a dive shop and we decided to dive in 3mm suits although I added a 1.5mm shirt on for extra warmth. The shop had a map, along with the compass headings to a submerged airplane. Off we went to explore the Aurora Reservoir.

Once there and suited up off into the water we went. It was a very warm day, in the 90’s, but the water was cold but not too cold, actually, the 3mm wetsuit was perfect. We noticed my “O” ring (an O ring helps seal the regulator to the air tank) was causing a leak but I had plenty of air and we knew we would be fine to dive, although I made a mental note to check my SPG (submersible pressure guage, usually shows depth and how much air is left in the tank) frequently as you should anyway. The water surface was mostly flat as we swam out to the large white buoy. Once there we decided to follow the buoy chain to the bottom. Of course, the water was murky and the algae bloom was in full effect. As we slowly descended into the deep I was amazed at how little visibility was and how soon my dive partner disappeared. But I was able to quickly find him by following his bubbles as they rose to the surface. I noticed when he was further away from me the bubbles were smaller and when I got closer to him the bubbles got much larger.  We had been advised of the thermocline at about 27 feet and once there the water was noticeably colder.

My previous depth record was 22 feet during my Open Water certification so I was looking forward to setting a new personal depth record. Check the computer; 20 feet, 25 feet, 27 feet (colder water) 30 feet, 32 feet, 34 feet, Yay a new record!  With my dive buddy in front of me, we swam around on the bottom trying not to stir up the silt too much and then surfaced. On the surface, my dive buddy said he thinks he knows where the plane is and would like to go back down again. A quick check of our SPG’s and down we go.

We followed the chain again to the bottom then a rope from the cinder block to the airplane. It was rusted and I was afraid to touch it too much because I wasn’t wearing gloves. We swam around it then surfaced again and decided to return to shore. We each set our bearing and off we went towards the shore. I must admit swimming with a compass is a great skill to know.

We had second tanks and we tried to swim back out to the buoy but storms were moving in, causing choppy water. I got a leg cramp and had to stop. Fortunately, my dive buddy was very calm and helped stretch it out. I will admit I was scared. The waves, the rain, and the cramp made me realize how quickly things can change in the water. I also realized how “in-shape” and calm in situations I should really be to be a competent scuba diver. We aborted the dive and swam back to shore.

Although these were not crystal clear, tropical waters, I do think it was a great first dive. It forced me to pay attention to what was going on with my gear and to be comfortable in uncertain environments. I also learned more about the importance of communicating underwater and dive planning. My dive computer was a great help as the alarm went off when I ascended too quickly. It also told me to stop at the 10-foot mark and wait for a couple of minutes, then ascend. I really learned a lot on this first dive out and that is what I was hoping to accomplish. I look forward to a few more “murky” dives before heading out into the ocean where diving will hopefully be second nature to me.

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