For "Scuba" read "Drown"

Day One

"There's always that possiblity", our instructor could have begun, but thankfully didn't. Instead, he told us that scuba-diving is one of the safest equipment-intensive sports around, and that given the proper training and precautions, the possiblity of injury is small. I'm writing this partly to allay parental fears, and also partly to soothe my own at taking a 5-day scuba course. Even being in the pool at the massive depth of 4m, having looked up at the (seemingly almost) endless blue expanse above you, the worry that air flow might at any moment cease looms large. Luckily though, we were taught ow to deal with such an occurance, and many others, including emergency ascents. Just as well considering Kelvin the instructor - a Brit - had already told us about the dangers of getting nitrogen narcosis, decompression sickness and various other embullisms and emphesemas. Of the international make-up, I could have done the course at home and I think I would hve encountered more non-Brits. But, the first day was superb, and apart from over-popping my ears a bit, and having to get up to meet everyone at 7.20 (I made it a bit late), it was also a good laugh.

Day Two

Today, after getting up again at 7am, we covered taking off the weight belt and BCD (inflator device with tank attached), and watched some more videos, one about "macho" frog men - this is a Yankee-designed course. We also learnt how to do some rescue techniques and how to help tired divers, such as the "porno push". We took the exam, and I got 100%. It was a complete piece of cake, but covered everything we needed to know. I don't think anyone ever fails. We met outside the shop at 7pm, ready to go out of the boat until Sunday, as the rest of the course was taking place on the Great Barrier Reef. Four more training dives, and four pleasure dives when we were certified, including one night dive. Before this I had a (free) beer with my meal, a top sirloin steak, which was my first alcohol in a month. We boarded the S.V. ("Sexy Vessel") Romance about 7.30, and set sail into the choppy waters of the South Pacific. Met the skipper (Mark), the Dive Master (Pete), and the Fitter and Turner (Mel, the cook). I had a couple of beers and went to bed.

Day Three

I had a rude awakening by the anchor being weighed, feeling a tad queasy. We went out for two training dives as a group, with Pete as our instructor. I buddied up with Charlotte, a 19 year-old from Ascot, who was a top laugh, as was everyone else on the ship. Incidentally, she may be going to Kent Uni in September, so I may see her there. I told her to get some attractive mates. The visibility on the dives was all about 5-8 metres, with the first couple of dives being no more than 2-3 metres, weather up above was bad, and we inexperienced divers kept on finning up lots of sand from the bottom. In bed early again, after a couple of tins of Tooheys New. It only took a couple to get me tipsy, owing to the rocking of the ship, or that's what I told myself anyway.

Day Four

We were up early again today, quickly as Kelvin told us that there were dolphins off the starboard bow. Of course it was a ruse, dolphins being about as evident as Klingons. Kelving finds his own jokes very funny. After we did two more dives we became certified SSI divers. Kelv's group celebrated by holding hands underwater, then coming to the surface and cheering. We celebrated by coming back to the ship and having the toilet flushed on us. Lovely! Later on, after our first dive by ourselves, I accidentally spat on Charlotte as I was surfacing - oops! Had some more beers in celebration that night. I felt very skanky as the salt water made my skin sticky and I haven't had a shower since coming aboard. Incidentally, the toilets doubled as showers, which was a bit of a tricky process for those who tried, or very rewarding if they decided to combine two functions at once.

Day Five

My last two dives - Charlotte and I saw a (harmless) carpet shark, the size of 10 men! That is, if those men were only 10cm high. Yep, it was about a metre, but very impressive, although not quite a great white. My ears hurt a bit after doing 10 dives in 3 days. We didn't make it to the Great Barrier reef as the conditions were too choppy, so we had to content ourselves with sticking to fringing reef around the Whitsunday Islands, but it was excellent (except for losing my weight belt on the last dive which cost me $35!). Hopefully I'll be able to get onto the reef at some point further north, where the weather should be better. This makes all the difference to visibility underwater. Off now for a grand old piss-up at Magnums will all the divers.

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