On your mark, get set, GO!! Only in this race there was no announcer to call out commands. Instead, the dive instructor completed a series of enthusiastic underwater handmotions which all participants interpreted to mean go and our race was off.
This dive was a challenge of buoyancy control, an essential skill for a scuba diver. To obtain neutral buoyancy in the water one must add air or release air from their scuba vest, known as a BCD (Buoyancy Compensator Device). Then, by regulating the amount of air you take in on a given breath, you can fine tune your buoyancy even further. To complete the relay race successfully CIEE Bonaire students needed highly advanced buoyancy skills. I was assigned to be the group photographer and videoed the chaos that ensued.
Step 1) Use your regulator (what you breath from) to fill your dive buddy’s upside down plastic cup with air.
Step 2) Swim with your buddy, carefully holding your cup of air along a transect line.
Not too bad so far, but step 3 was a killer:
Step 3) Take your regulator out of your mouth. Blow bubbles until you pick up a spoon with your mouth from the bottom of the ocean without spilling your cup of air.
If students successfully completed step 3 they could resume breathing from their regulators, replace the spoon upright on the bottom of the ocean, and swim to the end of the transect line.
Step 4) Add your cup of air to the bright orange lift bag.
Step 5) Race back to start and repeat.
The team with the most air in their orange lift bag at the end of the race wins. But if at any point you or your buddy touch the ground or break the surface of the ocean, the instructor will dump all of the air out of your lift bag and you must start over.
The most humorous race struggles were watching people blowing bubbles and approaching the spoon but instead bobbing a tongue’s length above it unable to fall down the last 2in. Or after finally reaching the spoon, they realize that all of the air had dumped out of their upside down cup during spoon-bobbing process. By far the best strategy was the grab and go: a fast swim just barely above the ocean floor, grabbing the spoon as you swim over it and replacing it back all in one go.
If you have ever gone scuba diving try to hold yourself to this buoyancy control standard in the future: swim as if the entire ocean bottom was lava so that you never disrupt a grain of sediment with your fins. The coral will thank you.