Underwater currents and unstable water conditions deep under the ocean can cause untold discomfort and disturbance capable of disorienting even the most experienced snorkeler and diver. If you’ve ever been tossed and turned on a dive site and found yourself unable to reach an anchor line, lost visibility or even lost valuable equipment while snorkeling or diving, then you may need to work on your underwater navigation skills.
This is a skill all divers and snorkelers can benefit from and although not much of it is taught at dive school, mastering the skills can be the difference between life and death underwater. So here are some seven tips for better underwater navigation.
Good snorkeling begins before you even dive into the water. It pays to get a thorough description of the dive site by people in the know, especially other divers who have dived there before and know the site. If possible sketch the site and study it carefully with your buddy or colleagues. Pay close attention to the features, currents, and depths.
If you’re using a boat, get into the water, and either swim to the anchor or mooring line and descend from there. Ensure to start your dive always at the point where your boat connects to the bottom.
One mistake divers make when navigating underwater is to note down the direction but fail to measure the distance. It pays to know how far you’ve swum so that you can know when to return. You can do this by time or air consumption or the stopwatch on your dive watch.
If you’re diving in a group, then make sure to choose a team leader. Follow the leader at all times when underwater and avoid deviating from the group. The team leader should concentrate on the selected path. One of the divers should monitor time distance and depth of the site.
Ensure you mark the location you left your boat while at sea so you can easily find your way back. Also, mark where your dive starts so that you can return to the right spot. Study the wreck carefully as you descend, and also study everything that stands out and make a mental note of its depth. This information may come in handy on your way back.
Study the sunlight angle before you dive and confirm this when you start descending. A simple rule of the thumb is: If you swim toward the sun as you head out, ensure to have the sun at your back as you swim back. And if you’re diving from a large vessel, search for the vessels’ shadow on the ocean floor if you think you’re getting close.
How the currents move down under can tell you a lot about the direction you should follow. If you’re near the shore, the back and forth motion of the waves, or surge coming to the shore is always stronger than the one heading out. Constant wave movements also create ripples on the bottom of the ocean that runs parallel to the shoreline.