My first time scuba diving could almost be likened to having sex for the first time. I had to be directed in what to do but I was clumsy it was also a painful experience. Ironically enough, it was my ears that were giving me the trouble! I must have missed the all important memo that stated: “Ensure that you equalise the pressure in your ears as soon as you submerge under the water”. I waited until I was a metre or two below the surface before attempting my first equalisation.
|Learning in the swimming pool|
It was too late and I couldn’t relieve the pressure. It was painful and the usual tricks of swallowing and jaw movement weren’t helping. The doctor’s words came back to my mind: “I can’t let you go diving with only one good ear. Imagine if something happened to that?” Maybe the good doctor was right after all. What was I doing risking my hearing? As the rest of my group made their way down the rope I languished near the surface wondering if I’d be able to join them.
“Are you okay?” my dive instructor asked me with a questioning thumbs up. “Take a wild guess whether I’m okay” I wanted to reply but communication under water didn’t allow for such words. I pointed to my ears and indicated I wasn’t sure. He understood and waited with me while I desperately tried to resolve the problem. After a long few minutes I had relieved enough of the pressure to get down and join my group. As they say, there’s one in every crowd and today it was me.
|Off the back of the dive boat|
After an uncomfortable 35 minutes I was glad to be back aboard the dive boat. After removing all my gear I needed the bathroom. It was there in the mirror that I noticed a faint line of blood across my cheeks where my mask had been sitting. “Oh great” I thought, “the pressure did rupture something in my head and it’s been bleeding out my nose”. I quickly tested my hearing by talking to myself. It all sounded okay and when I told my dive instructor he told me it’s not too unusual and not to worry.
Fortunately things improved and I began to enjoy my diving. I was able to do the various tests to get my open water certification and took some confidence into being able to complete the advanced course. This included additional challenges such as doing a navigation dive, descending to greater depths and also several night dives. It took some courage to submerge into the pitch black ocean at night but once the initial apprehension was overcome it was a unique and thrilling experience.
The Great Barrier Reef is a marine wonderland and home to some of the greatest biodiversity of any ecosystem on earth. Aside from over 30 species of marine mammals, it is also home to countless types of fish, coral, molluscs and sponges. As much as I had the privilege of seeing, I was merely scratching the surface of this wonderful world that is so vastly different to our own. As I admired the amazing array of brightly coloured fish and coral, I often thought that we must do all we can to protect and nurture such an extraordinary environment.