Today, we went scuba diving for the first time. We did a beginner scuba excursion off of the Carnival Miracle cruise ship in Grand Cayman. We were taxied over to the port on a boat and after waiting for everyone to arrive, we walked 3 minutes to a local dive shop. We sat and had a class about the basics of scuba diving. We were taught with diagrams, one of balloons sinking into the water filled with water and the other filled with air. In the water diagram, nothing happens about the balloon. Because they were filled with water, like our bodies, they did not change. However, the balloons that were filled with air shrank as they went deeper into the water. This is what happens to the parts of our bodies that are filled with air, like the lungs, ear canals, and sinus cavity. In order to prevent these parts from shrinking and causing damage to you, we were told to keep breathing steadily as we descend and to wait if we feel pressure in our ears and try to "pop" them. We were told to "pop" our ears by holding our nose and then trying to blow air out. This causes the air to exit the ear canal and push the part of the ear that shrinks and causes the pressure to "pop" back into place. We went over the gauges that read how much air is left in your tank and how to work the buoyancy vest, but were told not to worry too much about them as the instructors would be working those for us. The next thing to learn how to use, was the regulator. There are 2 regulators on your scuba vest, one for you and one for a buddy if something goes wrong. The buddy regulator was bright yellow and was not used during our training. Then we got to learn how to use our regulators! We were told to make sure you are putting them in with the mouthpiece on the top or you would suck in water and to make a tight seal around the outside of the mouthpiece with your lips and bite down. This was easy enough, until you smiled and realized you broke your seal and let water in your mouth. We were not even in the water yet and I was starting to get apprehensive. We were shown how to find the regulator if it came out and then how to clear the water from it to put it back in your mouth under the water. There are two ways to clear a regulator of water, breathe out with your mouth as hard as you can or push the button on the front of the regulator. Pushing a button sounds way easier, until you realize you have to block the hole with your tongue so you don't get water shot down your throat. This is a last resort if you don't have enough air in your lungs to clear the regulator the other way. We did not use the button and in fact I only had the regulator out of my mouth during training and did not need to fully clear it on the dive. Lastly, we learned about how to clear our masks. Apparently, this was the hardest thing of all for me to do and was also the most terrifying for me for some reason. To clear your mask of water, you hold 2 fingers on either side of the top of the mask and breathe out of your nose as hard as possible while tilting you head up. This did get a little easier for me as we went on, but I guess I have a small distance between my upper lip and my nose. So any time I changed my facial expression, my mask leaked. I had to change the tightness of the mask three times before we got it to a tolerable level for me, which still had a tiny bit of water around my nose most of the trip. This concluded our instructions and it was time for us to jump in the water and practice what we learned. We walked out a very rocky beach into water that was approximately 3 feet deep. We took turns practicing each of the lessons, clearing our masks, finding our regulators, and clearing our regulators until the instructors were satisfied that everyone felt comfortable. The other problem I ran into was with buoyancy, I had to have extra weights added to my weight belt to keep me down and still had issues orienting myself in the water. I would randomly be swimming upwards and not be able to level out or sink all the way to the bottom and have to have help leveling off. This also got a little easier and more comfortable as the dive went on.
After all of the training was complete, we put our flippers on and walked off the sand bar. We got everyone comfortable just under the surface of the water and then started to descend deeper. During our dive, we went a maximum of 30 feet, which is quite shallow for a certified diver, but felt just deep enough for us newbie divers. Our dive was around a cargo ship that sank when it tried to switch from a sail boat to a motorized boat. The boat was not equipped to hold the weight of the newly added motor and slowly started to take on water. Word is, there was a lot of rice in the storerooms and when the water got into the rice, it started expanding until the bottom half of the ship blew up. Somehow, the top half of the ship remained above water on top of the wreckage. The locals thought this was not a good site for fishermen and seaman coming into port, so they decided to use dynamite to blow the other half of the ship up and sink it. There was a mix up in getting the dynamite and instead of 5 tons of dynamite, they used 50 tons of dynamite... Needless to say, the ship was blown all over the bay. There are pieces of the ship all over the bay right off the port at Grand Cayman. It has been sitting for hundreds of years and lots of coral and marine life have made it home. The local restaurants will feed the fish and they have no need to hunt anymore and use the reef to sleep and relax. We saw a large variety of fish and coral on the reef; angel fish, pirate fish, blue fish, tarpon fish, and the coolest fish I saw were puffer fish. I have snorkeled many times and had never seen a puffer fish before, so that was the highlight of the trip for me. We made our way back and finished our trip. Overall, we had a blast. Cayman Diving, Javier and Jeff, did an awesome job in the crash course teaching us to dive and keeping us safe while we were out. It's will definitely take me a few times to get used to scuba diving and feel completely comfortable in the water. I think for now, I will continue to enjoy the reefs by snorkeling.