Blog Post By: Skyler Klingshirn (Summer Sea Turtle Intern)
Growing up, I have always been fascinated with the ocean. I was always jealous of the scuba divers I would see on tv who were able to get close to large marine animals. However, growing up in Ohio, becoming one of those scuba divers seemed like an unreachable task. There were classes available, but they were completed in a pool setting or in freshwater lakes and quarries. While these settings can still be beautiful, I wanted to dive in the ocean. When I was living in North Carolina last spring, I debated trying to complete my certification then, but I was extremely busy with my classes and other obligations. Last summer, when I was living in Florida, I also tried to look into classes, but again, I was super busy with work and my research project. It seemed there was never a convenient time to complete this certification and become a scuba diver.
When I accepted the position as a sea turtle intern for the summer here in Edisto, I immediately looked up where the closest dive shop was. I was able to find one up in Charleston only an hour away. I looked into the schedule for when they do their classes and found classes that only take up the span of one weekend. Finally, becoming certified to scuba dive was seeming like a more achievable task. When I arrived here in Edisto and received my schedule for the internship, I talked to Leah about the possibility of working around taking these classes. Luckily, we were able to create a schedule that allowed me to sign up for classes while still helping out at the park!
There are a couple different steps required to complete a scuba diving certification. There is a classroom portion where you read a book that tells you all the do’s and don’ts of scuba diving and teaches you everything you need to know. This is followed by a couple confined dives in a pool to practice necessary skills to safely scuba dive. The final step is to complete four open water dives where you improve your skills and get comfortable being an independent scuba diver.
I began my classes at the end of June where the first night was spent in a classroom learning about scuba diving gear, different rules that must be followed, and skills we will practice. My class was very small will only two other students which was nice. The next class was spent entirely in a pool getting us familiar with setting up our gear, breathing underwater, and swimming with our gear. It was super exciting being in full gear and being able to breath underwater for the first time. The third class was a combination of learning in the classroom to review important information and more time in the pool practicing skills like what to do if you run out of air, how to clear a foggy mask, and how to control our buoyancy. The last day of classes included practicing a few more skills and a final multiple-choice exam. While some of the skills we learned were a little tough, like learning how to remove, replace, and clear your mask all underwater, I was surprised at how comfortable I felt after a few, short days in the water.
I was then able to complete my first two checkout dives at the beginning of July. These were done at Trophy Lake up in Charleston. This area is a man-made lake that goes down about 20 feet, which is the deepest I have ever been. While this is a freshwater lake with very few fish to see, I was still excited to get out and practice my scuba diving skills. On our first dive, we practiced clearing our masks underwater, getting in and out of our gear, and some other basic skills. We ended the dive with a little swim around the lake to get a feel for how an actual dive is done. Unfortunately, the visibility was not great, so I did not see anything. On the second dive, we practiced navigating underwater and again, went for a “mini-dive” throughout the lake.
In a few days, I will be completing my last two checkout dives. These two dives will be completed an hour and a half offshore and we will be diving down 60 feet which is the deepest you can go with an open water diving certification. I am super excited to complete this certification and am hoping for good visibility and hopefully, lots of fish to see. I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity to complete this certification. This is something I have been wanting to accomplish for years and is something I am hoping to be able to use in a future career with marine science.
Sea Turtle Biologist