I feel like I was run over by truck. My entire body is screaming. My abs are screaming. My rib cage, my back, my shoulders, my neck, my jaw, my butt, my thighs - all screaming. On top of that, I have bruises on my knees, ankles and ARMPITS. It all hurts. I'm still trying to decide if it was worth it. I got to do something that I've wanted to do for a long time and I'm not sure if I'll ever do it again. I was part of the penguin tank cleaning dive yesterday in the freezing waters comparable to the "South Atlantic".
The whole thing was a huge ordeal for me, especially because it was my first dive in cold water. Because of this, I had to try on wetsuits to find one that fit properly. It took two tries, which isn't bad. What made it so difficult is that the first one I tried was too small. I felt like I was wrestling a new skin for myself. And it was a stubborn skin. I finally gave up and requested the next size up. Thankfully, I was able to get that one on without too much additional pain. Since it was just an ordeal to get the dang thing on, I wasn't about to take it off to wait for my dive buddy (who is also the dive safety officer - lucky me) to get suited up. Instead, I sat in that neoprene sweating my butt off. The reason I have bruises in my armpits is because the suit is so thick that any bending, pushes hard on the joints. Strange place to be sore, let me tell you.
Once it was time to get in the water, I was hot and ready to cool off! It was definitely cold, but not as bad as I expected it to be. I wore a hood, gloves and boots, so the only skin exposed directly to the water were my lips. I'm pretty sure I looked like an idiot trying to get into that water. I sure felt clumsy. We did this during open hours, so the guests got to watch me getting in. Awesome. I was lucky and had on just the right amount of weights so I didn't have to adjust that at all.
This was a cleaning dive, so the whole point was to get in and scrub crud. I took a few minutes when I first got down to check out the swimming penguins. They mostly avoided us. I was told that they might peck at our suits occasionally, but none of them bothered me. The scrubbing part was a little difficult. If you think about when you are swimming in a pool, what happens when you push on the wall? Answer: You push yourself backwards. Duh. So in order to scrub the walls, I had to swim towards the wall as I pushed the brush against it. The whole thing was a struggle.
About 25 minutes into the dive, I suddenly rocketed to the surface. I had all the air out of my Buoyancy Control Device (BCD, its a vest you where that can have air added and removed to control buoyancy), so I didn't know what to do. Luckily, my dive buddy was scrubbing above me, so I was able to tap him on the shoulder and let him know I was on my way up. Turns out, the BCD I was using can get air stuck on the inside and you have to tilt your body back and forth to work it out. I've never used this kind before, so it was a new experience. After I knew what to do, we went back down. I was only able to stay for another 10 minutes before I felt like my feet were going to freeze off.
Getting out was the hardest part. Well, maybe a close second to the wetsuit struggle. I was so cold, and I was so drained from all the scrubbing, that I could barely pull myself out. There is a little wade pool to go into first, so it wasn't like pulling yourself out of the water onto a dock, but it was still HARD. The first thing I realized is that I had just been scrubbing algae and bird poop off the walls, which was subsequently floating in the water. When I pulled the regulator out of my mouth and tasted rotten salty water I was immediately disgusted. Then I decided I was too tired to think about it. I was on my knees and unable to stand up all the way. The tender at the top had to help pull me out. I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it down the stairs to where I had to take off my gear, but somehow I did.
As soon as I got down there, I filled my boots with cool water (warm water felt like scalding hot water) to help warm up my feet. I felt like I was walking on pins and needles. I had flash backs to playing in the snow when I was a kid. And when I pulled off my hood, I didn't have enough energy to get it off in one tug. I almost suffocated when the mask got stuck over my mouth and nose. Scary.
Notice how you can barely see the little penguin swimming by the glass? That's because the water is murky with poo and algae. The water filtration system then filters out the water.
Here's what I learned:
- Remember what wetsuit size I wear.
- Wear dive skin under thick wetsuits (its like a full body swimsuit that makes pulling on the wetsuit easier).
- Invest in dive skin socks (for cold feet).
- Maybe invest in dive skin hood (for easier removal of full hood).
This of course, is if I decide to ever go back and do this again!PS - Happy Birthday Chris R.!