When you go diving have you always followed behind a divemaster, instructor or more experienced buddy? Have you ever stopped in a site, looked around and thought to yourself “Where the hell am I?”. It is a good idea for any diver to learn about site navigation so you can always know your way around and get yourself safely back to the entry point. When you do your Advanced Open Water Course you will complete 5 dives, each being a different module. Out of those 5 there are 2 modules or “Adventure Dives” that are compulsory, Deep Diver and Underwater Navigation. In this blog I will talk a little bit about the latter.
So why do we need to learn about navigation? It’s simple; to know our way around underwater and get to know the sites we love to dive! It is also nice to be able to take our friends for dives and confidently show them around. Navigation skills will give you confidence as you move forward with your scuba diving adventures and will ultimately make you a much safer and versatile diver.
So how does the Underwater Navigation Module run? First, we brief at the site the skill that need to be completed on the dive and we go over the Reciprocal Compass Navigation learnt in the Open Water Course as well as teaching you a few more complex navigation skills. You will learn how to not only navigate a straight line using your compass, but also a square pattern. The square pattern gives you the skills to navigate a more complex site that doesn’t just involve heading out in one direction then heading back in the opposite direction.
For example, lets say you want to navigate along a particular heading along a wall, but then you know that perpendicular to the wall is a second wall that you want to find, you can find that wall using the second heading in your “square”. Your third heading would be back along the second wall, and your final heading back across to the first wall and your exit point. There are many sites around the world that require navigating in a square.
After the square pattern we teach you about natural navigation. This teaches you to look for distinguishing features of a dive site that stick out and are easy to remember, and you use them and not your compass to navigate. Lets say you are at a site like Oak Park, Cronulla. There are several natural markers that you can use to navigate the site comfortably without a compass. On the way out there is wall on your left that you follow, then a sand channel, and further along a geological feature know as “Split Rock”. These are all good markers to remember for natural navigation.
In the water we drop down the line and then one of the instructors will use a reel and swim out 30m of line. The students then swim along the line counting their kick cycles (1 kick cycle=2kicks) on the way out and counting the time taken to swim the way back. This is important for being able to judge how far you are swimming out in a dive site as well as giving you an idea of how long it takes you to swim a certain distance underwater.
After that the students will be paired up and sent off to do 3 navigation skills, the reciprocal heading, the square pattern and natural navigation exercise. For each of the skills 1 of the buddies will be in charge of the compass and natural navigation, while the other will be counting kick cycles and distance. Each buddy will get a go at both counting kick cycles and using their compass.
If this adventure dive is something that interests you I would highly recommend doing your Underwater Navigation Specialty, which will give you even more navigation skills that you will use on all your future dives and by the end of the course you will be able to confidently lead some of your buddies around a dive site!