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The importance of a compass whilst diving

How many times have you popped up from your dive then had to endure a surface swim back to the boat or have it come pick you up?  How many swims have you made on the surface in current, swell or chop because you surfaced a long way from where you thought you were? 

Now I have you thinking……… if I was using a compass would I have been able to avoid all those exhausting (and embarrassing) surface swims?  The answer is most probably YES!  With a little practice and a pinch of luck you should be able to navigate straight back to the entry point every time.  That’s because a compass works exactly the same underwater as it does on land, the needle will always point north.

So how does this help me?  Prior to descending and after the dive site briefing, have a look around and decide what direction you want to head (usually swimming into the current to start with).  Now with your compass pointing North face the lubber line (direction line) in the direction you want to travel and take a bearing from you point of entry.  This now gives you a direction to head in underwater as by following this bearing you are theoretically swimming in a straight(ish) line from the boat to your destination (with allowance for current, drift etc.).  You will need to be keeping note as you swim along of the time and/or distance covered (using the fin kick cycle method) so that when you turn around you will know how far it is back to the entry point.

Now how do I get back?  There are a couple of ways to do this the first being simply turn 180deg and follow the lubber line back.  Or you can subtract 180deg off your current bearing and reset your compass with the new heading e.g.. 20deg out and  200deg back in.   Because you kept note of the time and/or distance traveled you can now in theory reverse your steps and swim straight back to the start point. If due to the effects of current and drift my return course does not take me straight back to the boat (and it does happen) my compass can then be the difference between an energy sapping slog on the surface or a more comfortable underwater swim (if my air supply allows).  Before going under take a bearing to the boat and an estimate of the distance then descend, following this heading back to the boat.

So why a compass? All it takes is a little bit of patience and practice to become comfortable and proficient at using one to navigate underwater.  Like all dive gear, your compass if looked after will last a considerable amount of time and prove its worth time and again by assisting you back to the boat therefore avoiding the long and sometimes dangerous surface swim.

Want to learn more?  This has been just a basic introduction into why to dive with a compass but if you want to learn more about compass navigation and other ways of finding your way around underwater then enroll in the PADI Underwater Navigator course.  This Specialty course fine-tunes your observation skills and teaches you how to more accurately use your compass underwater.  You will learn the tools of the trade, including navigation using natural clues and by following compass headings.  During the three scuba dives, you will practice:

  • How to estimate distance underwater.
  • Compass navigation techniques while making at least five turns.
  • How to mark or relocate a submerged object or position from the surface.
  • Underwater map making.

Visit the Diver Training Centre to sign up and pick up the PADI Underwater Navigator Crew-Pak so you can start learning straight away,

Matt 

Summer has ended

What a long summer it has been, with the winter months approaching now is a good time to get your gear into the shop for a service and get setup for the up and coming summer. 

YOU CAN NOW TAKE YOUR PADI SCUBA CERTIFICATION ONLINE

Purchase a PADI eLearning course for yourself and complete the classroom portion at your own pace  - anytime, anywhere.




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Oceans Alive New Zealand Ltd - Dive Training and Dive ShopOceans Alive New Zealand Ltd - Dive Training and Dive ShopOceans Alive New Zealand Ltd - Dive Training and Dive ShopOceans Alive New Zealand Ltd - Dive Training and Dive Shop