Just back from Roatan, what a great time. We stayed at Turquoise Bay Resort on the northeast side of the island. Beautiful sand beach, staff that would come out and get your drink order, what more can a person ask for on vacation. What a great place, great staff and rooms were all very nice, and the food was terrific. We had local entertainment almost every night from fire dancers, local music and then a band on the last night so everyone cut loose and was dancing up a storm. We gave away lots of gifts and even had some very clever entries made by some. Those will remain in my heart for a long time.
Diving was great, beautiful walls, nice swim through and abundant fish. I always try and find something that I haven’t seen before and I was not disappointed. A Glassy Sweeper, rainbow runner, cave bass, bluelip parrotfish and the ultimate on a dive trip that not everyone gets to see and that is of course the Whaleshark. We felt that we were in a roundup herding cattle. All the boats were surrounding this yet unseen creature. We saw all the tuna, it looked like a bubbling pot at Yellowstone Park. There were hundreds of them in a bait ball, then we all got close enough to see him come to the surface – a great side view of him. No one was really thinking cameras, just getting mask, snorkel and fins on so that we could jump in water and get a real close look. So as we all got geared up and jumped in and swimming mid ocean, no where close to the reef, here is about 20 people all leaving the comforts of the boat and off we go on that swim of a lifetime. Some of us realized that we were no longer on a reef and now very far from the boat in all directions, but the whale shark was worth it. As we all got close to seeing him up close and personal, he took a dive and left us. So even though we didn’t get to see him like pictures portray them, we still all had the excitement of seeing just his side and tail above the water. Many people have dove more that 40 years without seeing one, so we were very lucky to just see what we did. Everyone on the boats were so excited all week that it is a day that will not be forgotten anytime soon.
The Healthy Diver: Tips for Clearing Your Ears
Ear woes are the No. 1 reason divers pull the plug on a dive, and in extreme cases, the sport itself. But with a few tricks and advanced techniques, almost anyone can make equalizing easier. In diving, the Valsalva maneuver is often used on descent to equalise the pressure in the middle ear to the ambient pressure. Performed properly — pinching your nose shut while exhaling — most divers can descend without any problems. But for some divers, the technique doesn’t help.
You should never continue with a descent if you are experiencing ear pain. But before you give up on a dive — or diving itself — try these tips.
Listen for the “pop.” Before you even board the boat, make sure that when you swallow you hear a “pop” in both ears. This tells you both eustachian tubes are opening.
Start early. Several hours before the dive, begin gently equalizing your ears every few minutes. Chewing gum seems to help because it makes you swallow often.
Equalize at the surface. “Prepressurizing” at the surface helps most divers get past the critical first few feet of descent. It may also inflate your eustachian tubes so they are slightly bigger. Not all medical authorities recommend this, however. The lesson here is to pre-pressurize only if it seems to help you, and to pressurize gently.
Descend feet first. Studies have shown a Valsalva maneuver requires 50 percent more force when you’re in a head-down position than head-up.
Look up. Extending your neck tends to open your eustachian tubes.
Use a descent line. Pulling yourself down an anchor or mooring line helps control your descent rate more accurately. A line also helps you stop your descent quickly if you feel pressure.
Stay ahead. Equalize often, trying to maintain a slight positive pressure in your middle ears. Don’t wait until you feel pressure or pain.
Stop if it hurts. Your eustachian tubes are probably locked shut by pressure differential. Ascend a few feet and try equalizing again.
Avoid milk. Some foods, including milk, can increase your mucus production.
Avoid tobacco and alcohol. Both tobacco smoke and alcohol irritate your mucus membranes, promoting more mucus that can block your eustachian tubes.
Keep your mask clear. Water up your nose can irritate your mucus membranes, which then produce more of the stuff that clogs.
Alternative Clearing Techniques
There are problems with the traditional Valsalva maneuver: It may not work if the tubes are already locked by a pressure differential, and it’s all too easy to blow hard enough to damage something. Divers who experience difficulty equalizing may find it helpful to master some alternative techniques.
Toynbee Maneuver. With your nostrils pinched or blocked against your mask skirt, swallow. Swallowing pulls open your eustachian tubes while the movement of your tongue, with your nose closed, compresses air against them.
Lowry Technique. A combination of Valsalva and Toynbee: while closing your nostrils, blow and swallow at the same time.
Edmonds Technique. While tensing the soft palate and throat muscles and pushing the jaw forward and down, do a Valsalva Maneuver.
Frenzel Maneuver. Close your nostrils, and close the back of your throat as if straining to lift a weight. Then make the sound of the letter “K.” This forces the back of your tongue upwards, compressing air against the openings of your eustachian tubes.
Voluntary Tubal Opening. Tense the muscles of the soft palate and the throat while pushing the jaw forward and down as if starting to yawn. These muscles pull the eustachian tubes open. This requires a lot of practice, but some divers can learn to control those muscles and hold their tubes open for continuous equalization.
Pottery, horsemanship, roller skating, scuba diving, wood carving.
These were just a few of the 30 classes offered at the first-ever Boy Scout Merit Badge University in Montana, hosted by Carroll College, Saturday.
Some scouts will earn merit badges. Others might pick up a lifelong passion.
For others, it could open the door to college and a career.
For five scouts in wood carving, it was a chance to not only play with sharp knives, but create something fun and useful.
Hatchet-shaped neckerchief slides were the order of the day.
The scouts took pieces of basswood in one thickly gloved hand and a scalpel-sharp carving knife in the other and sent woodchips flying.
“It just sounded like fun, said 12-year old Montana City scout James Romney.
“Wood carving is a thing of beauty,” added 11-year-old Dylan Marks of Helena. “Wood can be made into beautiful things, so when I saw this class I thought I should try it.”
“It’s really fun and it’s going to be my new hobby,” said Patterson Pitman, 12, of East Helena. “I like knives, but I never really carved anything.”
“I thought it would be fun to create something besides chips,” said Adam Mays, 11, of Helena. “I’ve always liked whittling, but I never made anything.”
“That’s the difference between whittling and wood carving,” said teacher Steve McCann, who has been a scout for 35 years.
“Wood carving is a lifelong thing,” said McCann. “You can do it when you’re hiking and camping. When I worked at Asarco and traveled a lot, that’s when I took it up. I could carry it with me.”
Some scouts have found their careers while earning merit badges, he told the boys. “The classic story is Steven Spielberg, who took a photo class as a scout and went on to become a movie producer. I know of kids who’ve done a plumbing or electricity merit badge and became plumbers or electricians. That’s what it’s all about.”
Scouting classes are also about teaching basic skills like cooking, which several of the woodcarvers were signed up for. While others opted for music or horsemanship.
For some, Saturday’s class offered a chance to dive into an activity they can’t do in their hometown.
John Klein, a 12-year-old from Havre, was scuba diving in the Carroll pool with seven other scouts.
Two master divers, one of them Glenn McKinnon, owner of Helena Scuba, were joined by three scuba-diving Carroll College students helping out.
Among the things they taught was safety, said Carroll student and diver Sabrina Harding. They also showed them equipment — the BCD (buoyancy control device), tanks, inflator and deflator and Octopus, some basic hand signals for communicating underwater, how to find their regulator if it comes loose and how to clear their masks from fogging.
It’s an introduction to basic diving skills, she said. None of the scouts had ever done scuba diving; a few had snorkeled.
“It’s great. It’s very addictive,” said Harding. Diving has taken her to such places as Australia’s Barrier Reef to tag sharks, the Caribbean, New Zealand, California and a number of aquariums.
Klein loved it. “I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I like it a lot. It feels like snorkeling but it’s a lot more complicated.”
The idea for the merit badge university was cooked up over a Boy Scout campfire this past summer, when Carroll College President and Eagle Scout Tom Evans shared the idea with Chris Laity, a fellow Boy Scout assistant leader for Helena Troop 214.
Evans, who moved here from Texas, was familiar with the University of Texas at Austin’s Merit Badge University.
Laity, local scout leaders and Carroll faculty and students ran with the idea. This first Merit Badge University drew 140 scouts from across Montana, and they expect the number to double next year.
“A merit badge is a first glimpse into what these skills or careers are about,” said Laity, lead organizer of Saturday’s event.
One outcome organizers are working for is to get more boys into college.
Currently in colleges across the country, the student gender balance is 60 percent female and 40 percent male, which is also the case at Carroll.
The Merit Badge University gets Boy Scouts on a college campus, Laity said. With college students as teachers, it makes the whole experience less scary.
“I’m really excited about it,” Laity said. “It’s the first time we’ve done it, and we got great support from Carroll College and from the scouting organization.”
“We’re really happy,” said Evans, who was also teaching scouting classes on Saturday.
They were hoping for 70 scouts the first year, he said, and double that number showed up.
When Evans sent out an email about Merit Badge University, faculty, staff and students signed up in droves, he said. At least 40 Carroll students were signed up as scout leaders, said Laity.
PADI is currently running a Why My Instructor is the BEST contest: http://www.padi.com/blog/2013/04/01/padi-pro-contest-2013 Both the instructor and nominating diver can win a prize. We’re choosing three winners, and submissions are due by the end of the month.
· We’re also looking for divers to tell us how diving transformed their lives. The best video testimonials will be featured in a global PADI ad campaign: http://www.padi.com/askanydiver This campaign runs through the end of the summer.
Yesterday was a great day for sharks and rays. 3 of the hammerheads, some of the mantas, the saw shark, and a few others were put on the endangered list. CITES – an organization in the protection of sea life, put on their list these animals. You can go to www.projectaware.org and see the list and the article. It can take many years to get animals listed, so this is great news. Shark finning and the taking of gill rakers on the rays is huge in certain parts of the world. These animals are taken alive, fins cut off and the animal thrown back into the ocean – yes alive – only to drown. Please go in and sign the petition so that more of the sharks and rays can get protected. 73,000,000 million sharks are killed each year for just the fins, So lets make a difference, and as Project Aware says “Extinction is not an option”. We, here at Helena Scuba, with every certification we do, donate $10 and have committed to being 100%Aware. Please help in the fight to protect them so that our kids, and grandkids and us too get a chance to see these incredible animals.