Scuba Diving in Zero Visibility


We have all been on airplanes flying in the night, through cloudy skies, with not even the stars visibile outside. The way pilots put their faith in their instruments and experience, is in a way the same, when we put our faith in them.

Scuba Diving is somewhere not very far off. We all love diving in perfect conditions, with crystal clear waters and pristine coral reefs, a whale shark and a manta ray as our buddies 🙂 But sometimes when we do a dive, where we get into the water with perfect surface visibility, suddenly after you are down 20m under the waves, we face a wall of silt!! In this situation, it is perfectly logical if you would want to abort the dive (Always remember that anybody can abort a dive at any time for any reason!).

But, if you do decide to move into the wall of silt, completely within the limits of your training, you would be confused at first, wary second, amazed after and definitely a much better diver after your dive.

To prove the points in the above line, I would share an experience from last week. We’ve been blessed with great viz for months, and then, some day, the ocean plays a trick: zero viz. Now, after all these great viz days, that almost came as a refreshing change! Until it turned into a perspective changing experience. Julien was leading his Tec 40 students and a couple of other fun divers on a dive off Temple Reef last week. Julien and myself, decided to do a pre dive to fix the descent line on Temple. We had some difficulties in putting up the anchor, and as there was a bit of surface current, we decided to do a negative entry at the 0 point over the reef.

3..2…1. Splash!!! After the initial flurry of bubbles disappeared, I was greeted with a silty ocean. I was not able to see my buddy, and knowing that the only way he would be is down, I finned down as well. After 10 seconds at 6 metres depth, I could see the last rays of sunshine glinting from one of the Sidemount tanks of my buddy. We went down into the silty waters with nothing but our dive computers to tell us if we are going down at all. (It being a negative entry, we were equalizing all the way down and the ears, so no ear pains to indicate descent here!). Julien had with him the descent line as well, and he was moving around the ocean like a fish aided by the amazing Scubapro Jet Fins!! Well, my Seawing Novas did help me stay with him 😛

We swam around trying to find Temple Reef, without any luck. At one point we might have just swam in opposite directions and 5 seconds later, I had lost my buddy. I started looking around for him, and suddenly I could feel that everything was turning dark and black, and then light again. I though it was me getting narked, or maybe a hit of DCS (we did a deco dive the previous dive), and I tugged my necklace (holding my primary regulator) tight on my mouth. I calmed myself down, and tried to breathe slowly, checking my gauges and computer to see if I was behaving normally. The ony sense which was working was my ears, as I was able to hear my own breath. When I started to breathe nice and slowly, I was able to hear another breath close by, and following that reference found my buddy again. All this in a matter of 2 minutes.

We decided there was no point in continuing the dive and started to ascend with only our computers as reference. The entire dive, the only reference my eyes had were of my buddy, my gauges, and the ocean bed for 5 seconds. I have dived in conditions similar to this, and this helped me to stay calm. This dive would definitely add to my experience list and make me a better diver. In the end, it was about my experiences as a diver and the equipment I had. One part was taken care of because all of my equipment were properly serviced and I had faith in my equipment, but the other part is because I had experience with such conditions and the training I had over the years 🙂

Back at the comfort of the dive center, we discussed about my experience, and we realized it was the clouds above block the sun rays, accompanied by the 15m of silt above us created the visual conditions of the morning. It was definitely an amazing and interesting experience, especially after Pondicherry was giving us 10m + visibility the past few days 🙂