Thursday, December 09, 2010

Scuba trip to Mindoro, Nov 12 - 20 2010 part 5

Getting back to the little revelation mentioned in my last post that perhaps I wasn’t doomed after all to not be able to get to significant depths due to my tiny Eustachian tube syndrome. But instead of calling it tiny let’s call them narrow, because that’s probably what’s actually causing the equalization problem. I don’t think I was born with this physical glitch because when I was a kid I remember being able to easily dive down to the bottom of deep pools, well below 9 or 10 feet and never experienced the pain of “ear squeeze” in doing it.

I initially discovered that I NOW have an issue with “going deep” a few years ago when I first tried to free dive down to the famous Gant Clams located near Puerto Galera at the south end of the Batangas Channel. These crustaceans, I mean mollusks, are indeed huge, maybe a yard across, and depending on the tide are only a little over ten feet down. I jackknifed toward them, kicking hard with my fins, only to be stopped dead in the water by the pain in my ears still more than five feet from them. I tried everything to clear them, but with snorkeling gear there was no way. It was frustrating as hell.

Discussing the “why’s and how’s” of ear squeeze with my retired navy diver friend, he assured me that I should be able to work through it and still get in some decent dives. He assured me that it was something that I had to work with; just keep at it and figure it out. I hoped he was right. I really wanted to be able to get down to depths below 100, even to 125 and deeper, after learning that there are some good things to see at those levels, such as the shark caves around the bend from Sabang not all that far from the resort at which we stay on the back side of that town.

After discovering our “buoy blunder” and putting it out of our minds Don and I continued our dive. He pointed at my ear followed by a questioning thumbs up which means “ears ok, let’s go?” They were equalized and so far, pain free, so I gave him a thumbs up in return, meaning “I’m good; let’s go.”

Even though Don never has to worry about ear pressure pain he is always concerned if I am in the midst of it. The sea bottom at the buoy is just over 30 feet, or almost 1 full atmosphere of sea water pressure; in other words, the pressure there is twice what it is on the surface. That’s a lot of pressure. I got a little reminder that you do not mess with it in the pool a few days after acquiring my new dive gear. We were in a local swimming pool and I was trying to see what kind of ballast weight I would need. I was in just 5 feet of fresh water but according to my navy diver buddy, what I did next could easily have killed me.

I was flat on the bottom and was trying to practice using my lungs to control my depth. I took a breath almost filling my lungs when I began to rise from the extra buoyancy. I rose to the surface without exhaling and was immediately struck by the pressure in my lungs. I knew immediately that I had screwed up. For the next week or two the damage I sustained from that bit of idiocy felt exactly like a deep chest cold right in the middle of my chest. It was only after I had discussed this incident with my expert diver friend that I learned that I could have died. As he lectured me on the physiology of what I had done to myself I felt dizzy.

“You see, this is why I am so leery about diving with people who haven’t gone through the training I did in the navy. Most folks who scuba recreationally only learn just enough to kill themselves. You were very lucky Phil. You could easily have killed yourself in five feet of water.”

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