Diving Fundamentals: Natural Navigation

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Learn How to Accurately Navigate by Relying on Clues

Jessica Vyvyan-Robinson writes a critical article on fundamental navigation

She first learned to dive so that I could go cage diving with great whites off Guadalupe Island, Mexico, in 2008.

From that first shark encounter onwards, Sh has been utterly hooked on the underwater world, and particularly on the issue of shark conservation.

From the article…..

When I first learned to dive, underwater navigation seemed slightly pointless — after all, I planned to always dive with a professional dive guide. Like algebra in high school, it seemed like something to learn in order to pass a test, which could then be promptly forgotten. It was only much later, when I found myself on a dive boat in Florida that expected buddy pairs to explore the reef without a guide that I realized the error of my ways. After a frustrating dive spent getting progressively more and more lost (and an endless surface swim back to the boat at the end), I decided it was time to address my navigational negligence.

In doing so, I discovered that while a compass may be the most accurate method of finding one’s way around a reef, there is also much to be said for natural navigation. In some rare cases, natural navigation is of little use, for example when trying to find an isolated feature in an otherwise flat and barren expanse of sand. In those cases, compass skills are vital. However, often and with practice, it is possible to accurately navigate your way to and from a specific point by relying on clues provided by the underwater world. Here we’ll take a look at some of those clues, and how to interpret them.

Planning your dive

As with most things in diving, successful natural navigation begins before you even enter the water. The easiest way to interpret nature’s clues is to already be familiar with them, and to achieve that, you must know what to expect from your dive site before taking the plunge. In some instances, this may mean listening carefully to the dive briefing aboard your dive boat; in others, it may mean doing your own research and consulting dive site maps for guidance. If possible, try to sketch a basic map onto a dive slate before entering the water so that you have a reference even when other concerns (like maintaining buoyancy and checking depth and air pressure) cause you to become distracted underwater. You should make a note particularly of significant features — a reef wall, an archway, a sandy patch — and agree upon a plan with your buddy as to how you will navigate accordingly. Make sure to find out how deep these features are; otherwise, you could miss them despite swimming in the right direction. Find out about the current, too, and always plan to start your dive swimming against it so that you can return with it, assuming that your entry and exit point are the same.

Read the full article here