Meet new scuba divers, maintain a virtual dive log, participate in our forum, share underwater photos, research dive sites and more. Members login here.

Clear water or murky?
Airworks - 7/04/2021 10:46 AM
View Member Articles
Category: Educational
Comments: 0
Clear water or murky?I have met several technical divers who prefer diving and training in turbid waters such as are found in many lakes, rivers, and freshwater quarries. They dive to become better trained, and the murkier the water the better. The “bad viz” environments found in those challenging sites force them to manage their “panic modes” and responses when underwater visibility is a major issue.

There is much to commend that very valid point-of-view. There’s no doubt that frequent diving in murky conditions does improve one’s overall diving skill set. In fact, I have personally become much more confident in my ability to stay calm in poor viz situations by regularly diving in a local Virginia quarry known for having less-than-perfect visibility.

Most recreational divers, however, see things quite differently. Two frequent complaints I hear from them about diving in quarries, for example, is that they are too cold and too murky. Because of those conditions, they say they’re not able to really enjoy themselves. They would rather take the time and spend the money to board a nice charter boat and participate in ocean diving where the water is warmer and the visibility is generally better than freshwater environments.

Recently I drove to the Fredericksburg/Rappahannock quarry to practice self-reliant diving, and met Joe Pittman, the Dive team Lead for Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Search and Recovery Unit. He was there with his team getting ready to dive and train. I walked over to introduce myself and we began talking about the quarry. He said, “Man, I wish there was a way to improve the viz in this place. Sometimes it’s good, but most times it’s pretty bad, making it difficult for me to see the faces and observe the body language of the guys I train while underwater.”

“But I thought you guys preferred tough viz encounters”, I replied.

“No way,” Joe said. “We can always ‘go dark’ by putting tape over our masks or something. We’ve done that at pools before. There’s no need for the water itself to be crappy. There are other ways to do it. I would love to see this place sparkling clean with great visibility.”

After a few more minutes of getting to know the other team members, we went our separate ways.

Joe’s comment stuck in my head. Some experienced technical divers may prefer murky instead of clear water to practice their skills, but dive instructors need to be able to carefully observe and watch their students while they train. Most recreational divers long for clear water so they can enjoy the visual aspects of the underwater world.

Is there a happy medium? Thankfully there is.

One technical diver I met came up with a brilliant solution: he dives with TWO masks. He had carefully sprayed one mask with light and dark green paint. There were a few large and several small dots of paint all over the face plate, mimicking the silt and particulates often found in quarries and lakes.

When he visited a quarry known for its amazing visibility to perform skills required for liftbag work “in the dark”, for example, he would simply remove his regular mask while submerged and put on the painted one. When he wanted to enjoy looking at underwater fauna and flora, or observe beautiful rock formations, he would don his regular mask.

Great idea! Solo or Self-Reliant divers normally carry an extra mask when they dive, so why not prepare one for more “challenging” practice opportunities?

In my opinion, the quarry/lake underwater environment should have great visibility so divers of all types and skill levels can more fully enjoy and experience their time underwater.

Clear water, however, need not impede a diver’s desire to hone his/her skill level and training. Individual or groups of technical divers simply need to find creative ways to train even in clear water by making adjustments to their masks. Using tape or lightly spraying the faceplate of one and carrying an extra “clean” one are great ways to do that.

Hail to inland diving!