WHAT IS SCUBA? by Emily Orbison, Science Educator


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Adventure Science Center Blog

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WHAT IS SCUBA? by Emily Orbison, Science Educator

You've probably seen scuba divers on television or even in person while vacationing on the coast, but just what is scuba anyway? SCUBA is an acronym that stands for “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.” Basically, it is equipment you can use to breath underwater! Let's dive a little deeper with a few fun facts about scuba diving!

The tank on your back is full of oxygen, right?

Actually no! It is full of air. Oxygen only makes up about 21% of air.  The other 78% is made up of another gas called nitrogen. The last 1% is a mix of other gases like argon, carbon dioxide, and methane. Basically, your scuba tank is full of a clean, healthy mixture of the same elements we breathe every day!

What does it take to learn how to scuba?

First, you have to be at least 10 years old, and be a strong swimmer. Then, you need to be certified to dive. You can take a class to earn your Junior Open Water certification where you will learn about each piece of equipment required to go diving and learn about some of the risks in diving and how to be safe. With your Junior certification, you can dive up to 40 feet.

When you turn 15 you can take the class to earn your Open Water Diver certification where you can get certified to dive up to 60 feet. This is the basic certification that most people who dive for fun will have. Then you can get your Advanced Certification where you learn how to dive up to 100 feet. This certification level is the one that I have, but there are even more beyond that! You can earn certifications to help people as a Rescue Diver, an Emergency Oxygen Provider, a Public Safety Diver, or a Search and Rescue Diver. You can also earn certifications to prepare you for adventurous dives as a Cave Diver, an Ice Diver (brrrrr), a Night Diver, or even a Shipwreck Diver!

What is it like underwater?

It’s very quiet. The loudest sound you usually hear is the sound your equipment makes while you breathe. If you are diving near a coral reef, sometimes you can hear a scraping sound of a parrotfish chewing on a coral head as the fish tries to get to its algae food source that live inside. If you’re in the open ocean at just the right place and time, you might even be able to hear a whale’s song!

The ocean can also get a little crowded! I love seeing all the fish swimming around as I visit their watery home. There are many species of fish, and what you see will vary a lot with where, and even when, you are diving. You may even see the beautiful structures of corals and sponges, spikey sea urchins, stealthy octopuses, fascnating eels, silly sea horses, and even sharks!

A shark? Why would you swim somewhere where you can see a shark?!

It’s not as scary as it sounds! It’s actually quite magnificent to see them in their natural habitat. Much like other animals in the wild, they won't bother you in any way as long as you try your best not to bother them as well. Contrary to what you might have seen in movies or on television, sharks don't actually like to eat people. When people get bitten by a shark, it’s often because they thought the person was a seal or something else they like to eat. From below, a surfer on his or her board looks surprisingly similar to a seal, which could catch the eye of a roaming shark. When they take a bite though, they immediately think, “Yuck, this is not food!,” and they will let go and swim away. Because of this, being deep underwater is actually even safer than being near the surface of the water since the prey sharks like to eat usually aren’t deeper than 40 feet.

- Emily Orbison, Science Educator

Posted by Anna Leigh Goolsby at 9:12 AM
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