One of my friends will be getting OW and AOW certified this summer with PADI. One of the first independent trips he wants to make is in his own backyard, literally. Because he does a lot of fishing in this lake and uses a depth finder, he tells me that the maximum depth is about 90 feet. In ALL of my diving I have always been were hundreds of other divers have gone before me. So I am a little anxious about this new situation. In addition to a rescue plan, does anyone have advice for me? Is there something that I would need to know so that I can make this outing safe?
April 22nd, 2012, 07:43 PM
Not knowing much about the site or location a few things come to mind. Plan the dive, and dive the plan (like dive objective, depths, time, air pressure bench marks for descent, turn, ascent, and rock bottom, navigation etc). Also have adequate surface support and if possible a stand-by dive team if possible while diving and a means of alerting surface support (DSMBs) of your dive status and/or problems if they occur. Don't ignore small issues or problems if they occur and discuss with your dive buddy plans for the "what ifs" that can occur. Also have all equipment for low viz / low light diving and plans for a silt out and buddy separation. Stuff like that are a few thing that I would start planning based on your question.
Have fun and dive safe.
April 22nd, 2012, 07:56 PM
Well, if it's a medium to small lake, you probably won't have to deal with any waves or serious current. Lakes, though, can have very peculiar bottoms. I know a friend went to dive a submerged power station in a lake, and they had to abort because the mud was so deep they couldn't walk in it! That, of course, is only an issue if you are diving from shore. But if you are diving off a boat, you have to deal with securing the boat or having a boat tender, and also with how to FIND the boat when you come back up.
If there is a lot of fishing in the lake, you may have a significant risk of running into monofilament, so both of you should have a couple of cutting devices that you can reach with either hand.
Visibility in lakes can be rather bad, so I'd highly recommend having lights to help keep you together and help you communicate.
I sure wouldn't recommend a dive to the bottom of an unknown 90 foot lake as someone's first dive out of OW.
April 22nd, 2012, 08:33 PM
As others have said, have surface support and back up team ready. The unknown is exactly that, and it can cost you your life.
Poor planning at even known dive sites, have had serious outcomes.
I agree that diving a site like this, for an out-of-the-box OW diver is Not recommended.
April 22nd, 2012, 10:12 PM
Do you have a topographic map of the lake? A nice drop off to a hard bottom at about 30 ft or so would probably be a nice dive for you guys. Your buddie's fishing spots are probably also the best dive spots. If this lake is similar to the ones here in Michigan there's probably not much to see between 40 ft and 90 ft and you don't want to be there yet anyway.
Oh yeah : dive flag and a knife. Waverunners and fishing line are probably going to be your two biggest concerns.
April 23rd, 2012, 12:35 AM
I have made it something of a habit to dive undocumented lakes in our region, usually solo, and am currently diving one lake extensively to record it's overall topography (amongst other things). Not knowing your situation, what I do may or may not apply.
I usually dive from shore to a predetermined depth and follow that contour in one direction until I hit my predetermined turn pressure (note the term predetermined), and then backtrack on a (shallower) contour to my starting point. If I am diving the same location I may do this several times at different depths and directions until I get a "feel" for the topography. Like old school wreck divers, I see this as a form of progressive penetration and it works for me. From this starting reference I can then branch out to deeper, longer dives if I want.
Many lakes I dive have very low vis and perhaps the two greatest dangers I see are disorientation and entanglement:
Lake beds may not always slope towards shore the way we think and it is very easy to get completely turned around underwater. One personal example of this was at Pavillion lake where I followed a depth contour that I thought would take me around a small islet. Instead it branched off on a submerged peninsula and I finally surfaced somewhere in the middle of the lake. Long surface swim from somewhere I did not expect to be! Generally though, I dive with a compass and take a bearing before descending so I know which way "in" is. Low vis silt conditions can also sometimes induce vertigo if one fixates on the particles floating by. Don't panic if it happens even though it may be disconcerting - close your eyes and it will pass.
Entanglements are not always rope or fishing line either. In my neck of the woods a major hazard are tree branches that one can swim into in low vis conditions. These can work into hoses or BCD's if you don't catch them quick enough or panic and thrash about. I generally move slowly and at times even sweep my arm in front of me to detect objects before I swim into them though I suggest, if the vis is that bad, you might want to rethink the whole proposition for the time being.
Did I mention predetermined? That should be your guide for the first few dives. Set specific, conservative goals and execute them. As you gain competency, you can set larger, less constraining goals.
Good luck and take it slow...
This video is taken in unusually good vis for this lake, imagine swimming into some of that stuff in low vis conditions... And the question is not what, but who, is in the barrels.
Some other stuff I have found:
April 23rd, 2012, 10:44 AM
Let me add without repeating. IF you opt to do this dive, and I think that if you are reasonable it can be an appropriate dive, I would have you be mindful of the following: First, have at least one shore guy with first aid and a telephone. Next, tell others where you are diving and when you will be back. Then when you finish the diving, call and tell them you are back so they don't worry about you, but also so that, if you don't call, they can alert appropriate authorities. Even in a lake, use a dive flag so your shore guy can track your location and others will know there are divers in the water. Take a good light. It can be helpful in limited viz. In fact, you and your buddy should each wear a tank light as well. If the visibility is under 12 feet, consider a "buddy cord," about a 4 foot cord knotted on the end that you each hold to maintain buddy proximity. Don't tie it on- hold it. Move very slowly, learning the area. Stay VERY close to your buddy at all times. Be sure your equipment is in good condition, and check your air fills before entry. Do a thorough buddy check. Finally, do a short initial dive. Limit both depth and duration to get oriented to a new environment. 30 feet for 30 minutes would be my plan. After a reasonable surface interval, and assuming that conditions were ok, and you and your buddy were ok, a second dive can be a LITTLE more adventurous. Since it is truly a "back yard site, take your time, learn what is beneath the surface, and it may turn into a good local site. Or the vis may suck, there may be nothing to see, and after 10 minutes you may give it up as a bad idea. Be safe, plan well, and have fun.
April 23rd, 2012, 11:09 AM
I would follow the advice of DivemasterDennis and keep things simple.
If your friend has a boat and a fishfinder do you have a place where you could do a simple shore dive perhaps going no more than 15m down (whats that in feet 45ft?) perhaps even less, but have been over in the boat with the fishfinder on? this will give you a good idea of the bottom contours. Find out what the visibility is like there, and get yourself accustomed to diving there.
Start slowly, shallow and short.
Perhaps take a buddy-Line.
Take a cutter if there is lots of fishing there and a risk of monofilament line.
How about an SMB (permanent not a dSMB).
Have a good plan, and dive that plan.
Have somebody at the surface with an emergency plan. Do you have the number of DAN etc if there is a problem?
Ask other local divers about the site - if they don't dive it, there is probably a reason.
ENJOY your DIVE!
There will probably be poor vis and not much too see, and afterwards you will wonder why the hell you were so determined to do the dive, but that is part of the adventure.
April 23rd, 2012, 04:43 PM
I am very curious about the last two posts calling for surface support. Really? I suppose it cannot hurt but isn't this a bit like buddy buddy diving. Two trained divers should be able to plan and execute a simple lake dive without it. Not a criticism but also not needed IMO. Shore based surface support without SCUBA can do very little in terms of meaningful rescue. For the first few dives I would rather place my safety "eggs" in the nest of conservative goals and practicing good buddy skills.
I also don't like either buddy lines or towed dive floats. To me they just add task loading and entanglement hazards. A dive float in the general area will achieve the same result though in recreational lakes they may just as easily be used as pylons for jet skiers. If you are in such low vis that a buddy line is required you should really rethink the dive itself and approach it as an independent diver. Otherwise, buddy contact can be better maintained by swimming "side by side" instead of "follow me" single file (which is the worst form of buddy diving I know of). Aim both lights at the substrate ahead and you can keep track of each other by observing each others beam - if it is there, so is your buddy - if it's not, they're not. Move closer or farther apart as required but don't push the envelope; this will allow a good buffer for individual observation while still maintaining mutual contact.
If I were an instructor I would teach only this form of buddy diving and completely abolish/punish/chastise etc... anyone who lapsed into the "follow the leader" style. I have experienced so many buddy seperations this way it's retarded.
April 23rd, 2012, 05:22 PM
Check your local laws. I'm guessing you have to tow a flag in an inland lake that's open to power boats. If you have to tow one keep the line fairly snug. Yes they are a PITA.
April 23rd, 2012, 05:28 PM
if you drop into some of our lakes over here,the bottom temp stays at 39* all year
(i don't know what that is canadian,,,but it's still freakin' cold!)
because of the density of the cold water,it makes one feel like they are getting pulled down
and if youre diving wet,the suit compression adds to it
a down line,if from a boat,is a big aide!!!!!
be safe and plan your dive and stick to the plan
...no one ever gets smarter underwater!!!
April 23rd, 2012, 07:18 PM
39* is still 39* Canadian. It's also the temperature of our hot tubs... any hotter and the polar bears start drinking out of them.
April 23rd, 2012, 09:22 PM
Well since you say "backyard" start with a shore entry or boat drop into shallow (less than 20') of water.. Follow the bottom to a reasonable depth and manage the dive for some sort or rectangular or triangle route. Since he'll be a newly minted OW diver the 90 foot hole is way off limits. As you get past 15-20 feet you'll find the 1st thermocline and perhaps several after that though you should not reach the coldest water. Lake bottoms can be weird between the silty bottom and behavior of light. Given your newness to these conditions limit your dive to regions where you have a nice focus on bottom texture. If it starts to look "cloud like" you could soon find yourself in a a blinding fog with a total lack of orientation and buddy contact. In other words stay where the diving is clean and easy and adjust the route accordingly to keep it that way. Bring a catch bag since lakes are about "what you can find" golf balls, medicine bottles, crockery, old outboards, fishing gear and the Budweiser fish. Limit yourself to a catch bag, the lift bags can come latter. Bring flashlights for signalling if separated but si your best not to need them. Dive near 1:00 DST to get the most light on the bottom.
Be sure to have the commensurate 2 cutting tools each to deal with any entanglements.
If it starts to look like an expedition needing shore support you are going in over your heads. The boat of course should be tended.
April 24th, 2012, 07:08 PM
You guys sure know you stuff. All this advice, I don’t remember when I learned so much practical information in such few words. All I wanted is to make sure I’m not doing something stupid by diving in this lake. Now I know that I’m not readyf or this type of dive. My friend will have to wait a few years and as for me I will look for someone with experience to come with me on similar dives before I can take on the responsibility myself.
However, you also opened up a new world for me. My mind is running all over the place with so many questions. It’s like exploration diving. I don’t know if this exists, but it should. One of you or may be some of you should get together and write a document on this subject, maybe there’s enough information for a book. I copied and pasted all your comments so that I can take notes and then do some more research on some of the things you said. I also think this would make a good forum category.
I looked around on the internet for something that would resemble the subject of diving unexplored sites but found nothing devoted to the subject, no sites, and no books. Just forum comments like yours that come from responsible and experienced divers.
The very fact that you all took the time to write detailed answers moved me to let you know that it’s truly appreciated. Not just by newbies like me, but I’m sure more experienced divers as well.
Now I’m on a mission to compile as much information I can find on the subject and try to apply this in diving unexplored water worlds, lakes and rivers at least.
April 24th, 2012, 07:13 PM
Where have you been diving that is more benign than fresh water shallows?
April 24th, 2012, 07:59 PM
Shipwreckscanada... Dont be scared off by the advice. i agree with DaleC, some of it seems a little overly precautionary... If we followed this I would need to alert the coast guard before i dived. remember, you are trained to scuba dive within certain parameters. things to be aware of are currents, visibility, navigation, depth control, and hazards. your training should have taught you how to manage the risks associated with each. trust it. discuss your dive plan with your instructor. they are sure to give you tips and hints. plan the dive and dive the plan. it is good to be cautious and know your limits. but generally a dive in a lake is not outside the scope of your training.
Go diving man!!! Have fun and stay safe... The two are not mutually exclusive.
Sent from my SGH-I727R using Tapatalk 2
April 24th, 2012, 08:40 PM
Shipwrecks . . . If you're concerned, check it out with a snorkel first.
April 24th, 2012, 09:20 PM
You can also check out the link in my signature line regarding the Cultus Lake Project. It's currently in blog format which I find isn't working so well and I haven't added to it for a while (though I have been doing dives almost weekly). Soon it will be updated to a more functional website design. It's one example of what divers can do locally to explore and document sites and add to the knowledge base of species/issues that may occur there. More divers/clubs should become involved in local grassroots activities such as this IMO. It keeps me diving on a weekly basis and I never have to wonder where I'm going or what I'm doing and I feel my diving has a purpose. Within that lake I have located some interesting items such as WWII era folding boats, a mid 50's era Austin car, multiple bailey bridge panels and a submerged dock. I've also stumbled upon spawning salmon and large scale suckers in the hundreds.
April 24th, 2012, 09:39 PM
Shipwreck...I am not sure why you are so concerned. All the stuff that has been covered is in fact very basic.
Couple of principles: Crawl, walk, run, KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) and plan the dive and dive the plan
First thing first...hit the internet and attempt to gather as much info about the site as possible. You might even be able to find a depth chart. If your friend knows the lake from a fishing use his experience from a depth and GPS perspective.
Crawl, walk, run and KISS. First dive...do it from shore. I assume you have a compass...if not get one and learn how to use it. You could do a straight line out and back, a square pattern or a triangle. Set max parameters such as depth, time per legs or turn time based on PSI and plan to get out with a reserve that you can then deplete in the very shallow upon your return to your entry point. In addition to compass, lights, cutting devices and SMBs are a most. Unless diving a rocky bottom...use proper finning technique and stay away from the bottom. Expect sediments and obscuring phenomena if stirred. That's it. When diving a lake, expect thermoclines. If diving relatively shallow (less than 60 ft), you could expect one or two. Lakes also tend to get darker as you go deeper. How dark...I have seen night diving dark in the middle of the day starting at 40-50 ft on the way down.
As you gain knowledge about the lake, explore other areas. If you go by boat, it is always preferable to have an extra person tending the boat. Depth finder will provide you with depth and contours.
Here you could do a couple of things...anchor the boat and use the mooring line to come up and down. The problem resides in the fact that unless you are diving a specific feature of the lake, as you get down it will get darker (remember what I said earlier) and you may have problem getting back to the line unless you use ...a reel and/or install a white strobe light on the line at depth. You could use a finger spool of 100 ft and do various out and back or if using a strobe light, take a bearing and swim in a specific direction and before the light disappear, turn back, return to the line then repeat the process using a different heading, etc. That way, you will still explore the area but in a clover leaf fashion.
The second method is to go down, preferably on a line, and start swimming in a certain direction or following a depth contour and towing a dive flag or SMB with the boat following you (however to do that you need somebody who is well versed in operating said boat). When you surface, the boat is nearby and you can either swim to it or it will move closer and then you can get back in it. Safety equipment remains the same shore dive...compass, lights and cutting devices.
April 24th, 2012, 10:16 PM
Spectrum, I think it’s more that I want to be well prepared.Your comments made it clear that I have to take this dive seriously. Being a bit cautious, I would feel more comfortable doing such a dive with a more experienced diver. Then I can be responsible for someone else.
P Stickmen, although there is much advice, I think that it all deserves taking into account. That’s why I would like to read up more on the subject. I agree with you about applying my training. I did many PADI specialties in rivers and lakes, and many of the reminders where discussed in these courses. So I will “Go diving, have fun and stay safe.” J I really liked your coast guard reference. LOL
DaleC, that’s what I’m talking about. Like an archeologist needs special training, I would imagine that doing what you are doing needs at the very least some kind of special considerations. The only courses available that I can think of in my neighborhood are PADI specialty courses. And I took my fair share of them. I listed them below. Included is a NAS UW archeological course. I figured that this will give me all the basics.
Project AWARE Specialist
Search and Recovery Diver
Enriched Air Diver (Nitrox)
Digital Underwater Photography
Dry Suit Diver
Peak Performance Buoyancy
NAS introduction and Level 1
RTee, I like the idea of doing the dives in many stages. This can become a long term personal project. I will also do my homework, looking for more information about the lake in question. Buy the way, for those interested,it is Lac Achigan (http://maps.google.ca/maps?ll=46.177869,-75.834332&spn=0.016552,0.038581&t=m&z=15&lci=com.panoramio.all), nothing special in itself, I chose it because my friend lives on the lake. So his house will be a base for the dives.
April 24th, 2012, 11:31 PM
What ? You have an opportunity to develop your skills bit by bit in a fairly controlled environment. Just because the lake is 90 feet deep, you never have to go that far.Scout the best entries, bring your snorkle only,next time bring your gear, go 20ft max one day, then 30, etc. Do it over a period of time.Plan it and stick to it .Do drills in shallow water. The most important thing is to gauge yourself, your partner, and how you interact. Can you trust this guy? Will he listen and communicate well underwater ? Don't find out at 90 feet on your first dive. Finding a buddy that you can depend on is a great thing.
Training has it's importance,but how did early divers ( that did not have a list of courses) get better ? They pushed their comfort level a little at a time, and they did as much research as possible. There is a lot of good advice on this thread as well as all over SB, go out there and have fun.
I think we miss communicated... lake and pond diving can be some of the easiest and most challenging open water diving in some ways. If you stay where it's nice it is the perfect novice dive site. If the bottom gets murky, the light fades just change course.
April 25th, 2012, 05:28 PM
wow - looking at google earth you live in lake divers' Heaven
I got thinking about it and all those lakes in your area look pretty pristine. You probably won't be finding much of the usual junk, anchors, beer cans, etc. but do you know any of the local history? Are there potentially any old logging, trading or railroad camps on or near the water?
April 26th, 2012, 10:10 PM
Ops, same name wrong lake. Here is the Google map of the right lake.
Itís not me that lives on the lake, itís my fiend. I live on the island on Montrťal. I will however search for more information about the activities around this lake to be better prepared.