Perhaps the single most gratifying element of my career in diving is the constant renewed focus and situational awareness refinement; and it doesn’t take much to be reminded of just how important focus and situational awareness are when working in the underwater world
Having just returned to the water after a six week medical leave, I was both relieved and re-awakened. Relieved to be back in action and finally feel back at home, but re-awakened in the sense that I have clearly fallen out of ‘dive shape’ to some extent and do not feel nearly as ‘strong in the water’ as I have in the past.
That phrase ‘strong in the water’ is a critical one. Just prior to my medical leave, a colleague referred to me as ‘stronger in the water’ than a co-worker. This, in my opinion, is one of the best compliments a diver can get. On top of being capable of doing a dive, being capable of conducting a task while diving does require a degree of strength in the water, which only comes with time and experience.
What exactly is this ‘strength’? Well it embodies both psychological and physical components, however in my experiences the psychological component is more important when ‘working’ underwater. This psychological strength is the ability to adapt to a radically different environment than most are exposed to on a daily basis – and adapt quickly at that. For example, I routinely have days where I spend in excess of six hours a day in very dark or zero visibility conditions while working. This type of adaptation did not come easily for me. I’ve had my share of bad days, days where I wanted to quit, and days where the ocean got the best of me, but then things changed…
After some 2000 hours underwater, my instincts changed. Even topside, while on a day off or during a break, my awareness and efficiency instincts were seemingly integrating into my non-diving routines and activities. I’m not sure that this 2000 hour mark is significant, other than that it was when I personally noticed that my underwater composure became second nature and I truly felt more at home underwater than not in many cases.
I do not want to confuse this newly found composure with confidence. Confidence comes with practice and learned skills. This composure is a newly found means to carry oneself – its adaptation. This has been an amazing thing to experience; as while humans are known to be quite adaptable, to consciously adapt to the underwater world as my career continues to move forward has been a unique and priceless experience.
But now, after six weeks away, I feel rusty – inside and out. I’m sure after a short period of time I will re-adapt quickly and find this composure again, however it leads me to consider a number of questions…
As humans shift towards a greater synergy with the sea, and life in the sea, will the course of evolution ingrain this required composure to function effectively? Will new physical characteristics make the process smoother and less time consuming? Or, will innovation cater to human needs to reduce the requirements to adapt, while instead, confidence in increased capabilities will allow equal or greater capacity as today?
In the grand scheme of things, given that there are few of us who have likely found this underwater composure, it is my assumption that innovations catering to current human needs and abilities will provide the catalyst for new capabilities; rather than we humans embrace what would be required to drive adaptation of a sub-culture or even sub-race of Aquaticans.
Only time will tell.
As this weekend ticks away, its back to the silent world Monday AM, ready to embark down that road to again adapt, find a renewed composure, and be ‘strong in the water’.