underwater hand

Mastering Underwater Navigation

Proper scuba diving requires you to master a number of techniques including the ability to navigate underwater. When people talk about going underwater to witness the majestic views of marine life, they mainly discuss the preparation of diving equipment, how to maneuver in the water, and how long the breathing technique can help them to postpone resurfacing. Navigation is also an essential factor to determine whether you will love or hate the experience.

Basic Tips To Navigate While Scuba Diving

Chances of getting lost on land are much slimmer compared to the odds of losing track of direction when scuba diving. Underwater there are no street signs to tell you which direction to go. Combined with other factors such as currents and low visibility, it is easier than you think to drift off from the desired destination. Thankfully there are techniques and tips to help you safely navigate yourself underwater.

Diving Compass

Having a navigational instrument like an underwater compass is definitely a good idea. A magnetic compass is a dependable instrument. It  is  small enough to conveniently wrap around your wrist or or hang on your diving console and it is with no doubt the best equipment to help you navigate underwater. It has a pointing-arrow designed to always point to magnetic north (this is different from true north, but it does not matter for short-distance navigation). Make sure you use the compass in an area where you see no metals (ship wreck or other potentially magnetic materials) around. Your compass can point to the wrong direction if affected by those. Another option is electronic compass on your diving computer. Some advanced models have tri-axial for tilt compensation, which can point to the right direction even when you are not moving or holding it unevenly.

Permanent landmarks and sunlight

Assuming you have dived in a particular dive site before, you probably remember some permanent landmarks in the area. This can be anything from a ship wreck (would be generally really hard to overlook), peculiar corals, boulders. etc. It would be a bad idea to count on a school of fish or a habitat of certain marine animals because they move around and there is no guarantee that they will stay in the same place as before. Positions of well-known objects are most likely permanent unless the site has been massively damaged since your last dive. If the reef or landmass slopes underwater you can simply use your shoulders to get around. Sunlight can help you navigate as well. As long as you remember the position of the sun relative to Earth before you descend, you can predict the direction of sunrays and see them from underwater. This method works well if visibility is good and you are not at a great depth. Please remember that clouds can block the sun, so you obviously cannot rely on sunlight all the time.

Distance underwater 

An essential part of navigation is the ability to measure or predict distance. It is important to know how far you have swum underwater without losing direction. If you are a consistent swimmer, you can tell the distance by timing your dive or from the remaining air in your tank. This technique might not be so accurate because of changing currents or quickened breathing. For the less experienced, counting the fin strokes might be a better idea. This however takes a great deal of concentration and ability to memorize the number. Conventional GPS will not work underwater due to frequency limitation. There is new technology allows for GPS-based navigation underwater, but the device is quite big.
Using a compass and measuring distance manually are not easy tasks. It takes a lot of practice and dives before you can really master underwater navigation. You can practice using compass on land, but you will still need to dive lot too. Test your abilities by diving and trying to ascend at the point you agreed on before descended. With better navigation abilities you will know exactly where you are, where you are going and where you have already been at any given moment underwater and this definitely makes scuba diving a lot more enjoyable.

Do you like to be more safe on your dives read as well how to perform a safety check check before scuba diving or scuba diving under the trigger fish attack.

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