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Masks, our window to the other world
The diving mask is a very important element our dive gear and often is not given the importance it deserves. Some water inside the mask does not present a hazard to the diver, but can make a good dive becomes a nuisance.
Finding the perfect mask is a very personal quest that each diver will have to make, with different shapes of faces, large and small noses, prominent cheekbones and some not so, the number of different faces is infinite. We shall not forget the aesthetic factor, being the mask on your face, the look of the mask is sometimes an important factor when it comes to choose one.
But there are some practical issues worth mentioning.
The most important factor when choosing a mask, is that it should seal well in our face, if this does not happen no matter how good the mask is, it is not for us.
We should note that diving masks limit our peripheral vision, so choosing masks that do not limit too much our vision both horizontally and vertically is a good idea. In the next picture we see that the mask has a pointed shape in the upper and lower zone, this extends how far we can look up and down.
Some masks have silicone seal of more elasticity than the rest, sometimes it helps when our face does not seem to fit any model.
One feature to consider is having the ability to collapse the mask, on some models this is not possible because of the way the strap is attached to the mask.
Being able to collapse the mask we can store it in pockets or inside the boot of a fin while we transport the equipment.
The space intended for the nose will depend on whether we have a prominent nose or rather a small one.
If we use a mask where our nose is too big for the dimensions of the mask, our nose will be squashed which is not very comfortable when wearing the mask for long periods of time. Also the mask could press the area of the nasal septum, this is another sign that the mask does not have a good space for our nose.
If on the contrary our nose is too small for the mask, grabbing our nose to equalize may become uncomfortable.
The interior space of the mask must be as small as possible, this causes the volume changes in the mask when changing depth not be as noticeable.
Having a reduced air space may imply that the glass is closer to our eyes, this is an important factor for underwater photographers because the mask doesn’t put too much distance between the photographer and the viewfinder of the camera.
The transparent masks look like a good alternative for not affect our peripheral vision, the reality is that being the silicon transparent, reflections of light enter the mask by the sides which makes our eyes adjust to the excess of luminosity, the result is that we see darker underwater than with black silicone masks.
Another point to consider is that clear silicone masks tend to turn yellow as the mask you see in the next picture, if the mask was chosen for aesthetic factors may be this yellow color is not the most desired.
A plus for clear masks is when we want to photograph the face of a diver underwater, it is much easier to illuminate the eyes of a diver when it is with a transparent mask, this is the reason why it is so common to see clear masks in diving magazines.
Our terrestrial instinct and the need for training
Why do we need to train to go on diving? Why are there so many specialties in diving?
Why should we go back to training whenever we face underwater environments different from what we use to enjoy?
Why it’s dangerous to train in an informal manner without following the protocols of the international diver certification agencies?
Despite what some people wants to believe, we are terrestrial animals, we have evolved in a terrestrial environment and according to scientists like Daniel Lieberman. We are not only terrestrial animals but our capacity to move in an upright position allowed us to become one of the most dominant species to cover big distances both walking and running. Our feet and legs evolved to run upright, our hands got free to develop complex movements that allow us to use all type of tools and finally with the capacity to hunt big animals even before having weapons, our brains evolved to what we know now as the modern human brain.
We are vertical creatures, we have evolved to be vertical, our verticality gave us the advantage over the other species. Erase from your minds that the human being has a weak body and that our survival was thanks to our brains, the human brain was evolving slowly, the human body evolved first and before the brain reached the size that has now the “human being” was already a dominant animal in its environment.
But what happens if we take the human being, with all the big terrestrial attributes, and we put them in an underwater environment?
Our vertical position that so much we love underwater is useless. Look at all the mammal species that have evolve to live in an underwater environment, underwater their position is horizontal and not vertical, their bodies have evolve to be hydrodynamic, their bodies have adapted to an environment where the oxygen is scarce and their bodies don’t loose heat in an excessive way when they are in contact with the water.
We instead have bodies that are not hydrodynamic, our underwater propulsion is slow and awkward no matter how good we are, our bodies have evolved to survive in an environment where we always have oxygen available and we can vent our excess of CO2, in fact the flexibility of our hips and the shape of our diaphragm allow us to run for hours without losing the ability to breathe as hard as we want.
In our evolution we have developed a response to danger called fight or flight response, before a situation that our brain catalogs as dangerous we can react fleeing the place, fighting with who threatens us or in the case of collapse we can stay in an state of immobility. None of the three possibilities are good underwater, when one of these responses designed to survive on land gets activated, the only thing we do is worsen the situation underwater.
Is important to understand that our survival instincts that we have inherited through human evolution do not help us underwater. We must learn to handle the different situations that we can find underwater in order that our survival instincts don’t get activated. Our brain catalogs as dangerous situations that are unknown and underwater many times the answer can be within reach, but if we don’t know the answer our terrestrial survival instincts might get activated and that is dangerous.
According to the Dunning-Kruger Effectwe can get to think that we have enough capacities to confront a given underwater environment, when in reality we have not, we can over estimate our capacities and think that we don’t need training. Is usual to see technical divers that believe that for the fact of having the necessary training to do decompression, they can go inside confined environments without requiring specific training for those environments. It doesn’t matter how much experience we have diving and what certifications we have, we cannot omit the specific certifications for the environments where we want to dive and we are not certified.
The same way, according the Dunning-Kruger Effect divers with the sufficient training for a specific environment might get to under estimate their capacities and might encourage divers without the necessary experience to execute dives that are beyond their capacities.
The fundamental priority when entering an underwater environment is return home safely.
You might need to replace or repair your dive equipment at some period of time, but training will be with you forever.
How many certified divers took their first scuba diving steps through a PADI Discover Scuba Diver? Anybody wonders why this first experience changed their lives?
Most divers I talked to explained their DSD was a great experience. Thanks to the dive centre and dive instructor, passing their passion for diving, a new diver was born. The correct environment, information sharing, atmosphere and good preparation turned the Discover Scuba Diver in a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of them.
Both my wife and I started in the same way years ago. Thanks to the great time we became so passionate about diving that we completely changed our lifestyle. From the discovery, we went through recreational diving to become so passionate about diving, to decide to swap our traditional jobs for a life in the diving industry. Even after we took this big step, we still remember our DSD years ago.
How to turn each Discover Scuba Diver (DSD) into an “I-love-scuba-diving” experience:
Organise each DSD as if it was a first date: Understand the DSD candidate does not know what to expect!
Be prepared: Follow a fixed DSD circuit and routine, but leave room for a personal touch.
Adapt to your customer: Accept people are unique, give them room to absorb scuba diving at their own pace.
Be passionate: share your passion for scuba diving with your guests before, during and after the dive.
Take your time: Remember the experience does not stop getting out of a wetsuit.
Help them remember: a picture says more than a thousand words, help them organise some pictures or a video as a permanent souvenir.
I fully agree there are a thousand more points to be added, but these six definitely help making a DSD something unique!