Diving with Seals on the NSW South Coast
As you know I recently learnt to scuba dive. I also became a member of my local scuba club, which offers a few times a year, trips to Montague Island off the coast of Narooma NSW to dive with the Australian Fur Seals that inhabit the island .
The boat ride out to the island was choppy to say the least, we anchored in the lee of the sou'easter that was creating the chop, which as (bad) luck would have it was directly down wind from the seal colony.
The day was split into 2 dives with the dive boat captain supplying soup and rolls to fend off the chill (temps were low teens out of the water, even less with the wind, while the water was 17-14ºc degrees depending on depth).
I really can see the ease that having a regular dive buddy creates. I joined a small group of 3 experiences divers.
Any one was more experienced as me - I have not dived since my open water qualification.
I remembered all the safety checks, the buddy checks, the equipment checks - I was feeling pretty cocksure of myself. I entered the water using perfect 'giant stride'
Almost immediately upon reforming in out little group of four at the bow of the dive boat I realised I was breathing too fast. Looking back at the GoPro video I took of Dive 1, I could actually count I was breathing 1 breath every 2 seconds - basically hyperventilating.
On getting away from the boat under water the Australian Fur Seals come straight up to us and started screaming around like some jet powered underwater labrador. With big brown eyes looking at you.. calling you to come play.
As the dive progressed I could I tell that as a group when we did 'air checks' I was using far more air than the other 3. About 23 minutes into the dive when we did another 'air check', the look on the small group leader's face when I indicated I had 80 bar (started with 230 bar) showed me that something was really wrong. He gave me the hand signal to take his emergency hose and 'share air'. This is a scary sign to receive on my first dive, but I was not going to argue.
We started slowly heading back to the anchor line of the dive boat on the shared air, holding the arm of the dive leader. Once we got to the site were we were going to do a 'safety stop' before ascending, I went back onto my air.
I surfaced with 40 bar remaining.
After drying off and putting some warmer clothes on to have some soup, I got talking to the group leader, he agreed yes I was breathing too fast, mainly because I was nervous. I also removed a weight from my weight belt as I felt weighted down, which adds to the unsettled leading to further nervousness underwater
As soon as I got under water this time, I felt more relaxed, more natural
The video also backs this up to my breathing halving. One breath every 4 seconds.
During this dive we stayed around the 16m mark, seeing a Port Jackson Shark, large rays cruising the rock ledges and of course the seals.
I can see how much easier having your own gear is along with adding to a sense of security- knowing your gear.
I think my next purchase will be a dive computer - I am thinking of a simple Mares Puck for around $180 on Amazon
UPDATE: Now with videos