Divernet


Monday night, and a new group of beginners to introduce to the incredible beauty of the undersea world. Well, to the club overhead projector and the tiles on the bottom of the pool initially, but ultimately, for the survivors, there will be open-water diving. This may include sea diving.
Five of them this time. Two standard-issue blokes-who-fancy-going-diving, a warmwater instructor from the Other Lot who wants to try it murky and cold, and a middle-aged couple.
Im not one to comment, but when I started diving it was the women who wore the earrings and men who had the tattoos. But then, when I started diving there were fish in the North Sea.
We believe in making new people feel at home right from the start, so on the first night I like to give them a potted history of the club. Show them a few of my slides, recount some amusing anecdotes about past members, that sort of thing.
This might seem like nothing more than an attempt to make people feel welcome, but for me as Training Officer it serves a deeper and more important purpose. From their reaction to the show, I can tell immediately which of the new lot are really keen and which ones will just be making up the numbers. Anyone who is still awake by the time I get to 1978 will do well. I once had a new lad who made it through to 1993 before he nodded off, and he ended up as Diving Officer. Before the court case, obviously.

Here we go, then. The adventure started for all of us in 1958, when Arthur Biddle and Gerald Scrape first saw an illustrated article on the undersea exploits of Captain...
Ha! Only 1964 and the first one has already gone!
Hell amount to nothing, that lad, and never mind his marine biology degree and four years as a dive instructor in Thailand. We all know what they get up to in Thailand, and believe you me, we have far better uses for neoprene suits in northern waters.
Two more gone by 77 and the Queens Silver Jubilee Canal Dive à three hours 27 minutes dive time, max depth 1.2m, viz zero. Always one of my favourites, even if the treatment for Weils disease was relatively primitive by modern standards.
1985 and the couple are still going. And she laughed at the 1987 Dive Plan meeting lifeboat call-out incident! Committee material, that one.

Lights on.
Proper lectures start next week, but for now well all go next door to get each of you a set of training kit from the Equipment Officer, then down to the pool for your first scuba experience.
Have you all brought your own mask Why not What part of ÒYou should bring your own maskÓ did you find hard to understand Never mind, well lend you one for now, but make sure you have your own by next week.
Ah, what a surprise, Mister Warm Water Instructor has all his own kit.
Well, it might all have been fine in Thailand, laddie, but youre going to find the conditions a darn sight tougher over here. Cold water and limited visibility, for example, and thats just the pool.
For the rest of you, we have training kit which has been donated over the years by our members. This keeps the costs down for established divers, yet still means we can offer basic training. We got this cylinder, for example, because it failed a test.
Oh, dont worry, its really quite safe so long as we dont fill it beyond 80 bar.
Youll need a pair of fins, a cylinder and a regulator set, an ABLJ and a weightbelt.

What do you mean, none of you have ever heard of an ABLJ All you need to know for now is that they were what divers used in the old days, and they do the job as well as any fancy modern stabbing jacket.
Just remember not to inflate the ABLJ bag before making a giant stride entry from any sort of height. Either that, or make very sure the crotch-strap is carefully positioned.
One of you is lucky, you get the full set of kit donated by Daves missus. She came to the pub one night a few months ago after we got back from the Scapa trip just to tell us that Dave wouldnt be needing the kit any more so we could have it, and to ask us to let Louise know shed like a chat with her sometime.
I dont think Dave knows yet, but we havent seen him for a while so well worry about him finding out if it happens.
And yes, I know a twin-set is a bit much for the pool but, frankly, nobody here knows how to dismantle it.
Right, get yourselves and your kit down to the pool, and Ill see you at the shallow end after youve changed into your swimming gear.
Here we are then. My word, missus, that tattoo goes a long way, doesnt it And Mr Thailand has a pool shortie Ill need sunglasses to look at every week.
Hang on, only four of you, have we lost one already They dont normally start to drop out before we even get in the water.
No, there he is, at the deep end. Over here, sunshine. Yes, you can tell this is the shallow end because the water isnt as deep. Well done, now you can pop back down and bring your kit up here as well.
Try to keep an eye on him, the rest of you. When you get under water youll be relying on one another to keep you safe and you can start building those buddy habits straight away.

Now, before we start with the scuba equipment, we like to assess your comfort and ability in the water, so put on just your weightbelt, and swim 10 lengths. With a duck dive to the bottom of the deep end on every length. And finish the final length by treading water with your arms over your head while you sing Bohemian Rhapsody. All the choruses.
Off you go.
I said, off you go!
Well, he should have said he couldnt swim, shouldnt he Good communications are vital for effective training. Somebody get him out of the pool, please, well do the paperwork later.
Well done, the rest of you!

hspace=5 Next I want you to watch me and well start learning to assemble our Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. This is really important. Youll be relying on it to keep you alive on every dive, so you have to get it absolutely right.
Never skip any of the stages and never be tempted to ignore any little problems. Little problems can become big problems amazingly quickly. Arthur could have told you that, if hed survived.
Right, we start by placing the yoke of the A-clamp over the cylinder valve like so, and tightening the big screw-clamp here to hold it in place.
Look, sonny, us Brit divers use A-clamps. Always have, always will, so if you want to use something else you should go back to diving in Thailand.
That attitude of his is really starting to annoy me.
Where was I Oh, yes, then we slowly open the cylinder valve, holding the glass face of the contents gauge against the side of the tank just in case the sudden increase in pressure causes the gauge to fail and the glass to shatter.
Ive never seen one actually do that before! Try not to bleed in the water, please, the viz is low enough as it is.
Next stage is to check that there arent any high- or low-pressure leaks in your regulator sets, but to be honest there isnt a lot of point with the training kit because there are. Well show you how to check properly when you buy your own gear.
ABLJ always goes on first, then the cylinder. No, I know I didnt tell you which way up the cylinder goes. Just have another go; most people work it out in no more than two attempts.

Next you can prepare your masks. Spit in them. More than that. You dont need to turn away, we all do it. Spitting in public is one of the joys of diving. Now wipe it all over the inside of the glass, then rinse the masks out in the pool
Fins slip on more easily when theyre wet, so dip them in the pool first.
Yes, well done, the weight on your back can tip you forward when you bend over, cant it Just stay where you are and well climb in and join you.
Form a circle in front of me, masks on, regulators in and under we go.
Now well stand up. Heres a little tip. Remember to breathe. In and out.
Through your mouth, thats why you have a regulator.
Still no good, eh Did you open the cylinder valve You did Let me try. Yes, you keep on turning the knob until it wont go any further. Now try it. There, I knew this valve wouldnt let you down, it was fine when we recovered it.
Down we go again. I love to see the expression on the faces of people who have never dived before when they take their first breath under water and realise theyre not going to die, but it never ceases to amaze me how quickly this wonderful new experience becomes mundane.
Still, the collection of verucca plasters and hair grips on the bottom helps keep them interested a bit longer, and they can pick up any lost jewellery they find. Valuable training for wreck-diving.

Up we come again. The thing about being under water is that you cant speak to communicate, so we have to use hand signals. Itll take you no time at all to get used to the basic gestures. Even you à they arent that different from those youll have used in Thailand.
Except you wont need that one.
And if you use that one over here, youd better hope your buddy isnt carrying a lumphammer.
Did I say you could get out of the water I dont think so.
Oh, well, please yourself. Just dont bother coming back. These warmwater divers never last long. Not up to British conditions, you see.
Overall, then, a fairly typical first night.

I know what youre thinking. One casualty and one walk-out fairly typical for the first night But really, its a kindness. Not to the trainees but to the people who have to dive with them. We have to sort out the liabilities before they endanger lives.
I regard that as the most important job of the Training Officer. If we lose a few trainees on the way, too bad. When your Club has a reputation like ours, there are always more trainees!