Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we explore the
clear blue waters around the islands of the Bahamas to learn about the exciting
sport of scuba diving. The word "scuba" stands for self-contained
underwater breathing apparatus. Knowing how to dive opens up an entire
underwater world of coral, fish, and other creatures. Join us as we learn the
basics of diving, talk to an expert, and say hello to a shark.
swimming in clear blue waters as you look at small, brightly colored fish and
the striking shapes of coral organisms. The underwater world is quiet except
for the sound of your breathing. When you breathe out, you see many shining air
bubbles floating upwards towards the surface of the water.
humans are not designed to see and breathe underwater, scuba diving requires
several pieces of important equipment. Scuba divers must wear a mask in order
to be able to see underwater. The mask creates an air space that protects the
eyes and nose.
divers breathe with the help of a regulator, which brings air to the mouth when
they inhale. The regulator is attached to an air tank that is placed on the
diver's back. There is an extra
regulator called an octopus, which is used in case of emergency situations.
also wear a BCD, or buoyancy control device, to control how much they float or
sink. A pressure gauge device tells divers how much air is left in the air
tank. Or, a dive computer can calculate how much air is left as well as a
diver's depth and the length of time he or she can stay underwater.
wear scuba fins on their feet to help them move easily and quickly through the
water. Many divers also wear a wetsuit in order to stay warm underwater.
how to use all of this equipment, it helps to go to dive school. Becoming a certified diver requires taking
three series of lessons. New divers must learn about the physics and safety of
diving. And, they must practice diving skills first in a closed water area and
then on actual beginner dives. Several organizations offer official diving
diving for fun first became possible with the development of the Aqualung by
Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan in the early nineteen forties. In the United
States, articles in popular magazines about Cousteau and his underwater
exploration methods helped bring attention to scuba diving. Because of the cost
of the equipment, diving did not become a widely available sport until years
diving classes and becoming certified are important for knowing how to dive
safely. For example, you need to know how to put a regulator back in your mouth
if it falls out underwater. And, you need to know how to clear your mask if it
fills with water.
are many other safety issues to consider when diving. For example, when going
down deeper in the water, a diver must be careful to equalize the pressure in
his or her ears. This is done by holding the nose and blowing very gently. Otherwise,
the extreme pressure from the surrounding water can cause damage to the middle
ear and sinuses.
sickness is a major concern for divers. The deeper a diver goes, the more
pressure the surrounding water puts on the volume of the air inside his or her
lungs. And, the deeper a dive, the more
nitrogen gas goes into the diver's blood.
safety reasons, a diver must measure the length of his or her dive based on its
depth so as not to exceed a safe amount of nitrogen absorption.
divers rise to return to the water's surface, they must continue to breathe and
rise no faster than the air bubbles around them. For very deep dives, they must
stop and decompress at certain levels. This way, the highly pressurized air in
the diver's lungs has time to leave the body before it expands. If a diver
rises to the surface too quickly, he or she can become extremely ill with
decompression sickness, also known as "the bends."
important aspect to diving is having a "buddy" system. By having a diving
partner, you can watch over one another and help each other if there is an
important diving rule is to never touch any of the sea life. This rule is both
to protect the diver and to protect the underwater environment. For example, there is a reason fire coral
received its name. This kind of coral causes a painful burning feeling if
touched. A diver could also be cut by touching a sharp piece of coral.
may seem hard like stone, but it is actually a very fragile organism. It can be
damaged if divers touch or stand on it.
In order to protect the beautiful coral reef systems, divers must treat
them with care.
TITO BALDWIN: "I think everyone takes a different experience
away from diving. I think what they
love about diving could be the color of the ocean, could be the peacefulness,
it could be a gamut of things. Everyone is different."
Tito Baldwin, a rescue diver from the Bahamas who has been diving for almost
thirty years. He has done everything from diving to explore underwater
shipwrecks to dives eighty meters deep. It might not surprise you to know Tito
Baldwin's favorite place in the world to dive.
TITO BALDWIN: "Anywhere in the Bahamas, because the Bahamas
is probably the most beautiful water. The further south you get away from
civilization, past Georgetown down to the Plana Cays, Hogsty, Little Inagua
where it's untouched by humans. It's just vibrant, alive, colorful, fish
everywhere. You get some pretty good extreme diving. You've got good walls,
you've got good tunnels and caverns, there's wrecks. Everything you could
on a shark dive with Tito Baldwin in an area of the Bahamas called the Exumas.
site known as Danger Reef is just south of Indigo Island. The water there was
very rough. But, once you flip backwards off the boat and enter the water, you
enter a calm and colorful world.
purpose of this dive was to see the many Caribbean reef sharks that gather in
this area. These sharks have a rounded and short snout and big round eyes. They
eat mainly bony fish. A fully grown female Caribbean reef shark measures about
two to three meters, while a grown male measures one and a half meters or more
very exciting and a little bit strange diving among the sharks. You feel as
though you should be afraid, even though the sharks are not aggressive at all.
The sharks just swim around, watching what is going on around them.
Danger Reef, there were also many large Nassau grouper and yellow fin grouper
fish. If you float above the large coral formations you can examine the smaller
creatures swimming in the reef. The bright yellow and purple fish called the
fairy basslet look like small swimming jewels. Many kinds of fish swim in and
out of the brain coral, elkhorn coral and sea fans, which wave gently with the
the boat, we asked Tito Baldwin more about the safety of diving with sharks.
TITO BALDWIN: "When you get in the water with sharks, people
are automatically scared because they've seen 'Jaws,' they've seen all these
crazy movies. But sharks are just like every other animal in the water, they
are petrified of human beings. We were two feet away from five foot sharks and
they were just kind of circling around us like everything else in the water.
The groupers were close to us, the sharks were close to us, the yellow tail
were close to us. They're kind of curious, and they are more afraid of us than
we are of them."
are many other beautiful places around the world to dive. Scuba Diving Magazine
recently listed several of the "must see" diving sites. These include Bonaire,
one of the Netherlands Antilles Islands off the coast of Venezuela. Here,
divers can explore many reefs within a protected marine park. Divers can even
explore the sea creatures that live in and around the ship, Hilma Hooker. This
seventy meter long cargo ship sank over twenty years ago.
coast of Baja California in Mexico, divers can see large sea creatures like
sharks, giant manta rays and dolphins. Scuba Diving Magazine also recommends
the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Many divers go here to see grey
reef sharks or hammerhead sharks.
Australia, divers can explore many interesting areas, including the Great
Barrier Reef. It is the largest coral
reef system in the world. Measuring over two thousand kilometers in length,
this extraordinary natural formation offers many exciting dive possibilities.
Also in Australia, the Cod Hole diving area off the Ribbon Reefs is famous for
its large potato codfish. And at the Lighthouse Bommie site, divers can swim
with minke whales.
diving in any of these places is an extraordinary experience. This popular
activity allows people to see an expansive and exciting underwater world in a
This program was written and
produced by Dana Demange. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara Klein. To see
pictures of a dive in the Bahamas, visit our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for Explorations in VOA Special English.