Its May 31st, time for an update.
I guess I’ll tell you a little bit about the final ocean dives in my SCUBA certification. Saturday I went out to Taejongdae, a bay on the south tip of an island called Yong-do just to the south of Busan. There was a cool wind from the north – which we were grateful for as it insured there were almost no waves to disrupt our shore entry – even though it definitly cooled things down a bit. The beach was pebble and the bottom at our dive location was sand, though there were plenty of rocks of various sizes ranging from dishwasher to dumptruck size below the surface.
We suited up on shore and walked down to the ocean (maybe 100 meters, but across a loose pebble beach while wearing 60 lbs of weights and SCUBA equipment it became a bit more challenging).
Once we hit the beach we would do a final check (BWRAF – BCD, Weights, Releases, Air, Final OK) and jump into the water. We’d surface swim out maybe 20 yards to some buoys and use them as a reference point for descending and ascending during the dive (mainly because the multitudes of not so safety conscious Korean motor boaters in the area steer clear of them, so we didn’t have to worry about losing valuable appendages while surfacing). The water was pretty darn frigid (our instructor’s thermometer put it at 15 degrees), so we wore full length wet suits, hoods, boots and gloves. Pretty interesting sensation as it made you feel really desensitized, except for the cold creeping in slowly throughout the dive.
During the dives we practiced some skills and swam around a bit looking for sea life. We saw lots of starfish (they are overpopulated in the area for two reasons; 1. they are one of the only animals in the ocean that Koreans do not eat, and 2. any natural predators in the area have all been eaten by Koreans). We also saw lots of fish (mostly small ones singly or in small schools) and two octopus (octopi? octopussies? you decide). Our dive instructor said we were really lucky to see some octopus because the area is really heavily fished – in fact he bet that the ones we saw would probably end up dinner on someone’s plate that very night for being so foolish as to hang out in broad daylight. Maybe you think I’m exagerating about Koreans eating any animal they can get their hands on – I’m not. Let me give you an example: After our first dive (and first octopus sighting) one of the guys I was diving with texted his wife (a Korean) to tell her about the awesome octopus we saw. Her response: ‘Did you catch it?!’ Finally we saw some sea squirts and sea urchins as well as some other little critters I can’t identify.
Other than swimming around 11 meters underwater a few interesting things happened during the dive. On one of the dives we were just about to descend when a Korean motor boat came roaring past us pretty quickly and the two Korean divers inside began yelling frantically at people on shore. At first we thought they had run out of kimchi, but after a minute or two we realized something was amiss. We watched for a few minutes as boats came rushing back and forth from shore a few times, and then we started the dive as we were getting cold/couldn’t understand what the situation was/were almost getting run over by the boats scooting back and forth. After the dive we found out a Korean diver had gotten tangled in some fishing lines underwater. Unfortunately most Koreans don’t carry secondary air sources, so no other diver could lend him any air as his got low while they worked at getting him free. They tried to untangle him for a few minutes but his air was getting low so eventually they had to cut him out of his SCUBA gear and he had to do an 18 meter swim to the surface without air. He made it just fine but had to be taken back to Busan in an ambulance to spend a few hours in a recompression chamber.
The other interesting thing that happened was on our last dive. At the end we were supposed to practice our alternate air source ascent (in other words, when the dive finished we were supposed to simulate being out of air and swim to the surface breathing from our buddy’s alternate air). As the dive was coming to an end, however, our dive instructor suddenly turned to my buddy and grabbed his alternate air source. I was starting to wonder if he wanted us to start the final skill and had used my buddy accidentally. We swam on for another minute or so until the buoy line came into view, then he motioned for me to do the alternate air ascent with another diver. After surfacing we asked the instructor what happened. Turns out there was a problem with the gauge on this equipment; he thought he had plenty of air remaining but actually he ran out early. Props to him for keeping his cool and finishing the lesson in such style.
So now I’m certified as a recreational SCUBA diver. Right on!
I’m thinking hard about where I want to dive next, but the place I’m most excited about trying is actually not very exotic. I’ve always wanted to explore the deep drop off near the third island on the lake my cottage in Canada is on. Its a small cliff we normally dive off after a few beers, and its in the same area that I had one of the biggest small mouth bass I’ve ever seen on my fishing line (I won’t tell you whether I landed it or not). So I think renting some equipment and doing a little SCUBA in that area is definitely on the list of adventures for when I get home.
Well thats it for this post – have a good week everyone I’ll Be Back with more adventures in South Korea faster than you can say ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’ (and much faster than I can type it….).