If you’ve had the chance to dive local lakes throughout the dive season here, you know that the visibility is best at the beginning of the season because the long winter and snow cover on the lakes causes the algae to die off. As the season progresses, with days lengthening and the temperature rising, the algae in the lakes blooms until sometime at the end of July or the beginning of August, there is a distinct green cast to the water and the visibility decreases to 5-10ft. Heading into the fall, the algae starts to die down again and the visibility improves, so generally divers can expect improved visibility in September and October. Divers cannot, of course, do much about the inherent properties of the bodies of water that they dive in. However, they do have the ability to preserve visibility while they are diving by staying off the bottom and being careful not to disturb the thin layer of silt and algae that covers the sunken items. Unfortunately, some divers never learn to control their buoyancy.
This last weekend is a case in point. We parked on the west side of Pearl Lake by the digger. There was only one other group of diving students parked near us and we shared the training platform. The visibility was great, 20+ ft. or so. On the last of the training dives, I wanted to do a little tour that would include exploration of the airplane, just a short swim to the south. I thought it would be great since neither our group nor the other group of students had gone down there. After completing their final skills to earn their certification, my students followed Mike in the direction of the plane. Since my divers had just shown their good neutral buoyancy, I was sure that they would not be disturbing the visibility.
I swam along behind my divers, observing their technique, when suddenly, there was a huge, dense cloud of sediment billowing in front of us. Then I spotted one wing of the plane. What the heck? To my dismay, I realized that two other divers had not only beaten us to the plane, but they were apparently unfamiliar with the concept of neutral buoyancy. They were literally dragging themselves along the surface of the plane, eventually all but obscuring it from view! Mike and I quickly beat a retreat from this mess, as there was nothing to be seen there anyway!
Buoyancy is one of the most important skills a diver must have and yet there are so many divers who never bother to practice and perfect it. It is something that requires work to achieve and to make part of how you dive, but once you can float through the water without waving your arms around or bouncing off the bottom of the lake, you will have a completely different diving experience. It is when you are floating, moving effortlessly, that you truly feel the peace and freedom that makes diving such a wonderful sport. It is when you can hover inches from the top of a wreck or silty lake bottom that you feel the power of your control over the elements and your own body. It is when you are neutrally buoyant you finally feel most like a resident of the underwater realm rather than a visitor.
So again I am on my soapbox. Work on your buoyancy on every dive! Take the Peak Performance Buoyancy course or participate in the buoyancy workshop we offer each winter. Become one with the water, not an underwater “Pig Pen.”