|Trip Report and Photos: Catalina, Rebreathers, and Rolex Scholars|
Posted by Elaine on December 23, 2006 at 13:59:38:|
Trip Report and Photos
A Different Kind of Dive Trip
on the Second Stage
December 8 -10, 2006
I am an experienced recreational diver. I get out on boats, dive with various groups, and visit the Channel Islands and Southern California Coastal dive sites as much as I can. I dive with advanced divers, beginning divers, and twin tank toting technical divers. I dive with photogs, hunters, and pure recreationalists. I'm used to divers wearing bc's, backpacks, wetsuits, drysuits, jet fins, spilt fins, 30 inch hoses, 6 foot hoses, ankle weights, or no ankle weights. Our goals, equipment, and even the gas that we breathe may vary by our personal preferences, but, our common ground is that we all like to "get wet" and "blow bubbles". In the photo below, I look like a "typical local diver".
This three day trip on the Second Stage was a bit different. I was the only diver "blowing bubbles". Everyone else was diving on a rebreather or learning to use one. My shipmates were, Jeff Bozanic, author of Mastering Rebreathers, Michelle Fetzer, Delia Ni Chiobhain, Jan Nilsson, Steve Slavik, and, for two of the days, Teresa Long. It was a three day exposure to a different culture as well as a time to meet some very special people - the 2006 Rolex Scholars.
When we arrived at Catalina, I realized that I no longer looked like a "typical local diver". I was still me, but everyone else was different.
I do have a few old and dusty rebreather cert cards. I'm not sure how helpful my past education was, but after a short safety briefing and review of how to recognize and handle rebreather problems and emergencies, I felt comfortable "buddying" up with Steve - an already certified and very experienced rebreather diver.
At the Rock Quarry area, Jeff entered the water with his class, and, I took the plunge with Steve. The class went one way, Steve and I went the other. He cruised along silently while I blew my bubbles. We found lots of fish and an angel shark, but we were not treated to a sighting of the resident scythe butterflyfish. Steve excelled as a quick study photo model model and therefore turned into my dream dive buddy almost instantly.
Surface intervals and post dive activities were a little different than what I'm used to. I watched a lot of equipment checks, routine maintenance, check lists, and gas and nitrogen exposure calculations going on. Occasional laughter went out about things such as soda lime formulas which if I remember the equation correctly goes something like CO2 + H2O = H2CO3 and H2CO3 + 2NaOH = Na2CO3 + 2H2O + Heat. I appreciated the practical application of this formula in a different fashion. When someone tossed me their used soda lime to put in the trash, it was nice and warm and felt really good, for a while I kept it stuffed inside my drysuit.
Day turned into evening, and the evenings on the boat included topside classes for the students.
But there was also some time for goofing off.
The second day started with more dives at Catalina and more in water experiences for the rebreather initiates.
As they grew increasingly comfortable in the water and their buoyancy skills got better, it was easier to get closer to observe some of the class activities. I recognized air sharing and mask clearing exercises as well as other skills more specific to rebreathers being practiced.
It was on an afternoon drift dive near blue caverns that I began to see the real progress that my shipmates were making. These guys were getting off the ground and starting to look like divers.
Meanwhile, one of my favorite times to look like a diver is on a night dive. On day two, this oportunity opened up for those who were not taking the rebreather class.
As usual, I enjoyed searching for nocternal critters. An encounter with a cusk eel made this time extra special. After the night dive there were written tests for the students and a trip to downtown Avalon was offered for everyone else. I skipped the trip to Avalon.
On the third day, everyone was looking even more comfortable in their world without bubbles.
Some video cameras came out, and I noticed the previously technically preoccupied students freeing up some gray matter to observe our kelp forest habitat more closely.
Jeff took time on the last dive to make some underwater video clips of the new basic skill certified "rebreather graduated" Rolex Scholars.
Who are the "Rolex Scholars" and what is the "Our World Underwater Scholarship Society" about? For 2006 the the awarded scholars are Michelle Fetzer from New Jersey, and Delia Ni Chiobhain from Ireland (Click on the "Current Scholars" tab in the link to learn more about them). It isn't often that you meet two new people and one of the first things that they say is "I want to someday change.........", but, that is what it was like meeting these two. Michelle is interested in marine biology and videography, Delia is interested in marine archeology. As Rolex Scholars they spend a year traveling the world being exposed to all things and people related to the underwater world. On this trip, Jeff Bozanic donated his teaching and rebreather credentialing to their experiences in the Scholar program. Besides a year of tremendous opportunities donated from dive experts and programs worldwide, do they each get a Rolex watch? Yes, of course they do. Their year is over in April of 2007 (and they get to keep all of their experiences and their watches). New program Scholars will take their place at the end of their term. It will be interesting to watch how our future world is changed by this program and specifically by these two very talented and capable individuals.
The Rolex Scholar program sponsors two Scholars a year and will be expanding to three, a North American, a European, and the addition will be an Australian. It is more than a year of scholarship, it is a year of apprenticeship and exposure to the vastness of the Neptunian cosmos. Michelle and Delia are being given unique oportunities, experiences, connections, and mentoring that will position them to make their dreams of "I want to someday change....." come true. Rolex Scholars are chosen from scholastically proficient applicants between the ages of 21 and 25 years who are healthy and scuba certified. The North American candidates must not yet have earned a graduate degree. Appointment involves an extensive year of travel, living with hosts, and the fortitude to openly experience whatever the year might bring. If you think that you might make a terrific Rolex Scholar or you know of someone who would, the annual application deadline is December 31. To obtain an application, North Americans can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society, PO Box 4428, Chicago, IL 60680.
On my part, special thanks to Captain Jeff and Gerry for a terrific trip with great food.
Thanks also to Jeff for allowing a "bubble blower" a peak inside a different world.
Until next time.......
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