the dive log…a vanishing art?
by Janice Nigro
I love to be writing in my logbook. The obvious significance to this statement is that I am actively scuba diving if I am writing in my logbook. I started my first log book in 1993 under inauspicious conditions, diving in a stone quarry in Tennessee in November, but continue to this day to write something about each dive. Ok, diving is not something that I do every day, and I am not even at the 500 dives mark. But it seems as if I am unusual amongst divers, especially experienced divers, in that it is still important to me to keep a dive log.
There used to be a practical purpose for keeping a dive log. In 1993, planning your dive by the log tables before going underwater was standard, but now we dive with a computer. Since the dive computer logs all of the specifics about your dive, recording it in your logbook is no longer of any use or really any interest. The only interesting situation is if something goes wrong, and then your dive computer reveals all. However, some technical dive details are worth writing down. In the beginning of your dive career, it serves as a concrete record of the number and type of your dives. Was it a night or drift dive? You can carry it anywhere, even on a boat or on a shore dive. This record keeping of the number of dives is necessary particularly early on if you want to upgrade your skills. I also write in my logbook details such as how much weight I used with what equipment. It helps to do this so that my diving is consistent from one trip to the next, especially if I am only able to dive once a year and if the conditions for diving are different. Dry suit versus 3mm wetsuit diving is logged as 12kgs versus 4kgs. And to merely keep track of the names of the dive sites is at least entertaining. Who doesn’t want to brag about having dived Wangi Wangi Bay (Indonesia), Layag Layag (Philippines), or Tapu and Toopua (Bora Bora)?
But the purpose of my dive log probably diverged from the practical at the outset. My open water dive instructor recommended to just purchase a regular notebook to use as a dive log. I suppose with that suggestion, the intent of the book took on a different meaning because I was not relegated to the limitations of a formatted PADI log book. I could write as much (or as little) as I wanted about any dive site. At my first check out dive, the instructor quickly scribbled in the format of the handmade logbook (dive number, date, location, weather, visibility, temperature of the water, bottom time, total bottom time, and remarks), and I stick with this.
What makes the dive log fun and uniquely yours, is to write about what you see and feel and sometimes the people that you meet. I suppose my dive log has evolved into a sort of an underwater travel journal. The first entry offered little to remark about other than my shock about the complete lack of visibility and the temperature of the water. At the time I thought it would be coldest water that I would ever voluntarily enter for diving. Mostly I comment on the creatures that I see, including where I can Latin as well as common names. Some dive days are spectacular and you almost think, if it all ends today, I am lucky to have that as one of the last images in my head. On Dive no 248, at Cape Kri in Raja Ampat, fish were raining down on us throughout the dive and then suddenly, all the fish disappeared. It was a terrifying few seconds wondering what was coming our way. We remained still, and finally, a school of eagle rays swam past us, like a collection of all the rays I missed on previous dives. It was unexpected in that area, and I was breathless for the few moments as they passed. On Dive no 355 at Rhino City on Ambon, I had a rare opportunity to view the psychedelic frogfish, an unusual frogfish that has no lure. When the photographers were finished, I stayed behind with the dive guide, and we watched it act like a statue, until a small fish ventured too close and was snapped up in a nanosecond.
Incidents underwater are worth remarking about as well. Dive no 14 was hardly about the marine life. I had a poorly fitted rental mask that was flooding non-stop, so much so, that a handsome dive master leg locked himself onto me to help adjust the mask as we were careening through the Great Barrier Reef on a drift dive. I couldn’t remember much else about that dive. Humpback whale sounds accompanied me on Dive no 30, a night dive in Maui in February, and on Dive no 413, I finally correctly interpreted the impromptu signal for a cuttlefish laying eggs on a dive in Komodo, Indonesia.
One of the critical aspects of a dive log entry is the stamp. Each stamp makes the dive “official” along with signatures from your dive guides and buddies. The stamp means you have been somewhere, just like your passport, only you do not have to leave your country to get it. Some of the same stamps reappear in my dive log, and some are from companies that sadly no longer exist (Archipelago). To obtain signatures from your dive companions perhaps seems particularly obnoxious when you are older, but one memorable dive guide on a recent trip even gave me a signature along with an amazing hand drawn caricature of an anemone fish (see image).
My dive logs represent travel through 14 different countries including the USA, two European countries, and more typical dive destinations such as Bonaire or Fiji or French Polynesia. Some locations were never on my dive wish list, such as the west coast of Norway, which is extraordinarily far from the equator. The dives there were amazing even though the temperature was a shocking 8 degrees Celsius, a temperature that I did not realize my dive computer could register.
It seems old fashioned to use a pen and paper to keep track of my dives, but I can flip through the pages wherever I am. It always starts a conversation. No dive has been boring, and the lesson with each dive is to just get into the water, and something will happen. It is a good reminder of how to live life.
How many of scuba divers keep a log book? Where is your favorite stamp from?
©2013 Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com