Getting down and dirty in the Derwent

Way back in March 2009 while at OzTek I met Simon Talbot, the University of Tasmania diving officer, and he suggested that during my scholarship year I do my ADAS Scientific Diving Course with him down in Tasmania, so last November I left sunny Mexico for drizzly Hobart to take Simon up on his offer.

The great thing about the ADAS Scientific Diving Course is that it is essentially the ADAS Commercial 1 course except that its components are specifically tailored to the needs of a scientific diver. For me the best thing about this course was the fact that once I had completed it I would have Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) certification to be able to be employed to work underwater as a maritime archaeologist.

The course itself is run through the University of Tasmania as a three week intensive and it certainly lived up to this reputation. The first week saw us spend our days immersed in diving theory from physics and physiology to legislation and it must be said that by the end of the week we were all more than ready to get into the water.

Week 2 saw us introduced to the joys of diving in the Derwent River where 13 degree water temperature was the norm and anything greater than 1.5 metres of visibility was a luxury. In these conditions we were instructed in various scientific diving techniques such as laying out transects, searches in zero vis and the use of hand tools underwater while diving on both single and twin tanks.

One such assessment saw us putting together a puzzle underwater which involved juggling numerous nuts, bolts and washers and four pieces of wood which constantly tried to make a break for the surface – all making for a challenging but fun experience. After the days diving we usually got back to the motel around 7pm and after a quick dinner we hit the books to revise the various theory modules in anticipation of the final exam. However, it must be said that studying in a motel room with 3 other guys is not particularly easy especially when one of them is Steve Lindfield (the 2008 Rolex scholar) and the options for procrastination are readily available.

After one week of theory and two weeks of practical exercises it was time for us to sit the final exam which involved three modules covering all of the material we had learnt over the previous three weeks and taking in total around 5 hours to complete!! After this marathon effort everyone was ready for some liquid refreshment so we met up for dinner and celebrated the end of the course happy for the experience, but even happier to have it behind us.