Being underwater, there are times when finding your way back can be difficult. For this reason, it must be clear that underwater navigation is an essential skill for divers, as it gives orientation to the underwater area and avoids situations such as getting lost, dangers from underwater obstacles, strong currents, and other situations you face during your diving experience.
Therefore, to achieve a successful dive, the key is to manage your underwater navigation skills.
Here you can learn the basics.
How do you navigate underwater?
Navigation is one of the biggest challenges divers face and is one of the elements of diving courses for both beginners and advanced.
There are multiple reasons for this. Mainly, it is due to the fact that visibility underwater is not the same as what we have on dry land and sometimes visual references do not provide enough.
Therefore, learning to navigate correctly becomes a fundamental skill to be a successful and safe diver.
Navigation underwater is learned from the first diving courses. If you are interested in a basic PADI diving course you can see it at this link: Discover Scuba Diving
Can you get lost underwater?
You must understand that sailing underwater is more challenging than on land, that’s important.
If you think that “your sense of direction” can help you, chances are it will eventually get you into trouble.
Studies done on this indicate that there is no such thing as a “sense of direction” when it comes to navigation underwater. In reality, people who find their way subconsciously take note of landmarks such as the position of the sun, buildings, trees, etc.
Underwater landmarks are few and far between, this difficulty is compounded by limited visibility, making even pretending to swim in a straight line a difficult challenge.
Few, if any, people can successfully maintain a straight course while blindfolded, they will veer off course quite severely.
That’s why it’s important to accept that if you don’t actively navigate, you will get lost.
Underwater navigation techniques: the fundamentals
Among the most important techniques of underwater navigation are natural navigation and compass navigation and navigation with navigation computers.
Neither of these techniques is necessarily isolated from the other.
Each one has its pros and cons and they can also complement each other. Especially natural navigation.
You can study each of these techniques and choose the one that best suits your needs, taking into account your level and the type of immersion you practice.
Natural navigation in scuba diving
What is natural navigation? The first option that you can use in diving is natural navigation. Natural navigation is the one that makes use of the natural elements of the environment that serve to indicate direction and is a useful skill because it takes advantage of what is in the diving environment.
When diving in these circumstances, this could mean using the direction of the waves to return to shore, as waves normally move in the direction of the shoreline, or using the bottom contours as a reference, so as to ensure that you are diving. move in, the right direction. It can also include using the sun or moon to determine the direction of the surface
Natural navigation can be as simple as swimming with a reef on one side on the way out and on the opposite side on the way back. If you do not use navigation instruments, you are doing natural navigation.
Underwater navigation compass
When natural navigation is not possible, due to the lack of reference points or other natural elements that are usually helpful, or certain points in the area are unknown to you, the appropriate tool to use is the compass.
Compasses are simple and their manufacture is the same through time.
How do you use the compass to navigate underwater?
The compass is a device with a magnetized piece of metal suspended in a liquid and, due to the effect of the Earth’s magnetic poles, that metal piece will always be directed in the right direction. north/south position. The diving compass is designed to work underwater to resist the effects of pressure and magnetism.
This ensures safe course guidance.You should make simple underwater compass navigation.The easiest navigation is the direct approach, both out and back.
If you swim in one direction, you must go back the way you came. For this it is important that you take note of the direction in which you are going to swim and use the compass to maintain your orientation.When it’s time to head back, simply do a 180-degree turn and you’re back the way you came.
Advanced Compass Navigation for Divers
Maybe your dive plan does not contemplate something so simple, then the navigation becomes a little more complicated.
In this situation, something pretty simple is a square pattern, you just have to turn 90º each time to go more or less to the starting area. The secret to this is to make sure each length is roughly the same.
Triangles are a bit more complicated and require more math, so you need to add 120 degrees for each turn. Some dives, such as wreck dives, may require you to follow quite specific instructions.
Remembering details like in those situations can be difficult, but with a writing board or wet notes you can do it.
Tips and Tricks for Using a Compass Underwater
You must always keep compass level. If you careless about this and tilt the compass it is possible that the wind rose (the thing that rotates inside it) will stick and stop rotating. This could cause you to veer off course without your knowledge.
Keep it as far away from metal as possible, as metal interferes with the compass’s magnetism and your reading may be false.
If there is bubble inside the compass, please don’t use it, because bubbles also make the wind rose stick.
Check constantly; As we have said, the “sense of orientation” is not reliable in navigation and the fact that once you have read your compass does not mean that you no longer have to look at it again and believe that “you just have to go straight”.
You should check frequently to make sure you are on the right path and correct it if you are not.
Combination navigation is a technique used by advanced boaters in order to find their way. These include:
- A compass to maintain directional awareness
- Natural elements for waypoints or markers
- Currents and sunlight
- The depth is also very useful
For example, when searching for a wreck that is known to be 60 feet (20 meters) away, you should keep an eye on the depth indicator as it will indicate when you are in the area. To return to the coast, it is important to go to shallower water.
If the depth indicator tells you that you are going deeper, then obviously the path is wrong.
Navigation diving is a very important skill to be a good diver. Advanced course divers need to develop this skill well, because you cannot be good without knowing how to navigate in the water and on the surface. The important thing is to dedicate the necessary time and this will result in the experience to continue diving successfully.
Summary: Underwater Navigation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How can I find my way when I’m diving?
You must know and be familiar with the most important techniques of underwater navigation. Among them are natural navigation and compass navigation.
In natural navigation you learn to pay attention to certain elements such as the depth in which you are in relation to the initial point of immersion, the location of sunlight, or the location of the coral reefs around you, etc.
Does gps work for navigating underwater?
Does gps work underwater?The Global Positioning System (GPS) is commonly navigation system used on the ground and in the air to obtain position and time information. However, the radio frequencies used by GPS cannot penetrate seawater, requiring a different system for underwater positioning. It may interest you: underwater gps
How is the compass used for navigating underwater?
If you swim in one direction, you must go back the way you came. For this it is important that you take note of the direction in which you are going to swim and use the compass to maintain your orientation. When it’s time to head back, simply do a 180-degree turn and you’re back the way you came.
How many training dives do you need to become a certified PADI Underwater Navigator?
There are 3 Underwater Navigator training dives to complete to become a certified PADI Underwater Navigator.
What elements can I use to navigate naturally during diving?
You can use the elements of natural navigation, such as the location of the corals, paying attention to the direction of the current of the waters, the waves. Also other elements such as sunlight, moonlight or look at how deep you are in the place you are.