photographs document ASF Expedition 1.
Credits: Linn LeBlanc, Les Peaker, and myself
crew of ASF Expedition 1
gives a pre-dive briefing in Mission Control.
arrives at Jules'' Undersea Lodge.
arrives at Jules' Undersea Lodge.
As a child, people would
often ask me what I wanted to be
when I grew up.I grew on a farm as the
son of farmers whose parents were also farmers.The
expected answer was probably that I would follow
the family trade and become a farmer.
That response however was never one that the
received from me.My first career of
choice was that of scuba diver.If you
consider popular television shows of that era including “Flipper” and
the Bottom of the Sea”, it should not come as a surprise that I wanted
to be a
The Navy's Sealab Program where men lived under the sea in a
habitat for extended periods of time in the 1960s also caught my
interest.I dreamed of constructing my own
underwater habitat and living in it.
Growing up on the farm in Nebraska,
there were not many opportunities to learn to swim yet alone scuba
dive. As I
grew older, I became more and more interested in the space program and
interested in scuba.I could not get
enough coverage of NASA's manned space flights.
In college I decided to study electrical engineering. After I
received my bachelors degree, it was time to make a career choice. I
took a job in private industry. I never found the time or
motivation to become a scuba diver and didn't believe enough in myself
to apply to be an astronaut.
In the summer of 2005 and opportunity came up to do a scuba dive with
Mercury Astronaut and Sealab II commander Scott Carpenter. It
wasn't space flight, but it would certainly indulge two of my early
The opportunity was an auction lot
made available through the astronaut scholarship foundation. Dinner
underwater with Astronaut Carpenter was included up to two days of
accommodations. I dearly wanted to participate in this, but not
only by myself.I wanted my wife Mary and
year old granddaughter Lexie to join me.
There was one slight problem in the
grand plan.I still did not know how to
swim. At least not well enough to give me the
confidence to attempt scuba diving. Another factor which
complicated the matter was that over the years of
sitting behind a desk, I kept getting more and more out of
shape and putting weight..
I mentioned the auction lot to Mary,
thinking that she would
just dismiss it with a "that's nice" or "that's interesting" comment.I was shocked when she encouraged me to go for
it.She backed me 100 percent even with
the knowledge of my poor swimming skills.
Without Mary's support, I never would have had another
this auction lot.I had resigned myself
to the fact several years ago that I would never be a scuba diver.On the night of the auction I gained some
courage through a few glasses of wine. Mary was behind me all the
way. I bid for and won the auction lot.
Like the dog who chases a car and finally catches it, I was not sure
what to do next. Up until that point, I never had the
motivation to change my diet. Now I had some serious motivation
and a target date. We intended to do this scuba dive with Scott
in March of 2006.
I began a rigorous workout program of
walking and climbing stairs. For the stair climbing, I would walk
up to my fourth floor office at work, four times a day. Also, every
morning, seven days a week,
I would do a brisk walk for one hour.My walking
regime began at .It was a peaceful time and often dark enough
you get a beautiful
view of the moon and the stars.
After a month and a half of this
exercise, the problem was
that I didn't lose any weight.Incredibly
not lost a single pound.Drastic action
be required.I could no longer continue
eating breads, pasta, and potatoes.Those
carbohydrates had to go.I
told Mary that I thought we should do the SouthBeach diet and
she was ready.She also wanted to lose
So we were in this together.She started working out at the gym while I
walked. That summer we also decided to take
lessons. These lessons were through a lady named Margaret who had
taught our grand daughter to swim so well. In fact 22 years
before when I first took swimming lessons it was in her pool, but the
teacher was her daughter Julie.
Back then I had learned how to float
on my back and do the elementary back
stroke, but never got comfortable in the water.My
wife was comfortable in the water, but her
techniques weren't the
best due to the fact that she had taught herself.
The lessons were good, but my wife
progressed much faster than I did.I still
couldn't master the breathing part of the front crawl.I tried and tried but just couldn't seem to
get my body to turn just right. I did however get much more
comfortable with treading water. I also worked on getting to the
side of the pool from a treading water position. The swimming
lessons lasted for about 2 weeks that summer. After that, we
practiced in a lap pool at the gym where we have a membership.
Throughout the fall I continued my
walking regime and I got
in much better shape.I was not only
walking by December but now I was able to jog uphill.
The South Beach diet was doing wonders and I lost a total of 26 pounds
between October and the end of the December. With the
weight loss and the better aerobic
shape I was feeling much better as a person. Exercise really does
improve ones outlook on life.
January rolled around and March seemed
ominously close.I started getting very
my swimming was still not where I wanted it to be.I told Mary that I was worrying about
not being able to swim well enough so that we could start our scuba
training. I wanted to get some private lessons.
My assumption was that she would find
me a private swimming
instructor at some public pool facility. Perhaps with one on one
instruction, I could find the confidence and learn the skills that I
However, Mary skipped right on by the double dog dare you
and proceeded immediately to the triple dog dare you.She signed herself, Lexie, and me up for scuba
classes!If that wasn't bad enough the
scuba classes would begin within four days. I was
nervous before but that sent my anxiety level soaring to new heights.
Our instructor was to be PADI diving instructor Dennis Burt. The
class that Mary arranged would consist of only Mary, Lexie, and I as
students. Our first meeting with Dennis consisted of
filling out a lot of paperwork and watching some videotape.He also fitted us with and sold us masks,
and boots. The first lesson I learned was that scuba was an
We also received our PADI training
books.This was on a Friday and Dennis
wanted us to read the first three chapters by the time we met again in
three days. I thought this was an unrealistic expectation.
The PADI classes are something for which you can receive college
credit. As such, there was a lot of material to grasp. I
was wasn't so concerned about grasping it myself, but I knew that we
had to get 11 year old Lexie through all of this.
On Saturday, our brutal schedule
became even more
troublesome.My mother-in-law called
Mary to tell her that she was having heart surgery on Monday.Mary of course left the next morning to be
with her mother during the surgery.That
left only Lexie and I to study together.
I would pick Lexie up after school on
Monday and Tuesday and
we would watch the course's video tapes and read over sections in the
book.Thankfully the videos were excellent
Lexie picked up on the scuba quiz questions pretty well.
Mary was supposed to be studying her
scuba work in the
hospital during her mother's surgery.Of
course you can imagine how distracting it is trying to study in a
hospital.She encountered someone working
hospital who had himself been training to become a scuba diver for
several years.The one phase of the
program which he kept failing the swimming test. His troubles
were an ominous portent for me.
Mary called our scuba instructor and
tried to reschedule our
pool time until later because of the family emergency. However, that
was frozen in place as the instructor already committed to the pool
the dive shop.
Fortunately, the surgery for Mary's
mother went well.It was nothing too
invasive. It only an
exploratory catheter.The diagnosis was
good.In a couple of days Mary was able to
return home. I was glad that Mary's mother was
Okay. I was also relieved that Mary would be returning home for
our scuba classes.
The few days flew by and our Friday
appointment with destiny
arrived.It was time for our first pool
session.I was really stressed.Mary and Lexie were also anxious, but Mary
at least seemed to put on a brave front.
We drove over to the dive shop where
the instructor had
rented pool time. Dennis had his own issues as he
was rear ended in traffic on the way to the pool facility. There
were no windows to the outside in the pool area, so to me it seemed
rather dark and dingy. It was not a terribly uplifting
The pool itself was covered with a sky
blue insulating cover. At first
glance it was difficult to get a feel for what the pool was really like.Dennis and the dive shop proprietor
slowly pulled the cover of the pull back.
Like a scene from a horror movie a
demon emerged as the cover was pulled away. It revealed what to me
an immense abyss. This pool was deeper than any other swimming pool
that I had
ever seen in my entire life!It was 13
feet deep.The bottom seemed a long way
Extreme fear began to well up inside
of me.It did not help that Lexie, who can
a fish, was freaked out by the depth of the water.My mind was going a hundred miles an hour.I was trying to figure out how in the world I
could pass this swimming test.
We got ready to go into the pool.Okay Mary and Lexie were ready; I was still
wrestling with my fear of this swimming test.I
knew that if I could just get past that, then the
rest of the training would be a piece of cake.
Dennis came back into the pool area
and told us to
hop in begin swimming laps across the pool for our test.I think the required length on this pool was
20 laps. Dennis was still dressed in his street
clothes and he told us he would be back as soon as he had his swimming
Mary and Lexie hopped in and slowly
pursuit of the 20 laps. I remained
firmly planted on the side of the pool.There
was no way that I was starting my laps without
instructor being present.
Dennis came back out and I think was
somewhat perplexed that I
had not started doing my laps yet.He
said, “You're going to have to show me that you can swim.”I asked if it was Okay to do the back stroke.Floating on my
back is the most comfortable position that I have found in the
water. Dennis said that would be fine.
So I began my slow transit across the pool.About
half way across, Dennis, stopped
me.He asked me if I ever snorkeled?I told him that no I never had.
He asked me if I would like to try.I
said "Sure!"; realizing that snorkeling is another way to meet the
distance swimming requirements for scuba.I
would do anything to delay swimming across the
abyss. Dennis said, “Okay, well hop on out."
Dennis then turned his back on me and walked away.As much as I was relieved for the chance to
snorkel, I was now all alone and gripped in mortal fear.
Normally it is not a big deal to get out of a pool. I realized
though that by this point I had floated out over the abyss.
I did not freak out.It was an
uncomfortable place for me, but I
maintained my composure.I transition from
floating on my
back to treading water and scampered out of the pool.It was a relief to get out of the pool, but I had
little time to
I walked over to the other side of the
pool and Dennis
showed me how to put on my fins, mask, and snorkel.I practiced breathing through the snorkel and
finned my way across the shallow end of the pool.I
went back and forth a couple of
I still hesitated to face that monster the abyss.Dennis
sensed that and told me, “You are just
going to have to superman out there.”I
knew in my mind that was true. I knew that if I
could not demonstrate the ability to deal with deep water, I never
would become a scuba diver.
From an intellectual perspective, I knew that I could float on
water. I had done the prone glide countless times in swimming
lessons. The human mind doesn't always rely on intellectual
thought. Survival instinct is embedded deep within the mind and
that instinct takes precedence over all other thought processes.
Still I had to face my fear and some
way find the means to overcome it. Slowly I headed out for my
fate. With my teeth, I held a death grip on the mouthpiece of the
snorkel. I was not going to let go of that life line. My body
pumped out as much adrenaline as it possibly could. I
was sucked down
air like a race horse finishing the Kentucky Derby.
I began to pass over the abyss.
Face down in the water, I watched as the wall sloped nearly straight
down into the distance. It occurred to me at that point, that
trading the back stroke for snorkeling was not entirely a winning
situation. I now had to stare into the face of the monster.
I passed into the zone of no
return. I was no longer in the shallow and of the pool and
could not stand up as an out if I had to.I
was also far away from the safe haven of the walls. It was just
me and the demon. Time stopped and it seemed like eternity before
I reached the other side of the pool.
I was so relieved when I made it that
I grabbed onto
the wall in celebration.There was
to be no celebration at this time however.Dennis
informed me that if I grabbed the wall, my
lap count would have
to start over. The laps must be completed without any break.
Grudgingly I acknowledged that rule
and began snorkeling
back towards the shallow end.Once I
left the abyss and was over shallow water, I felt a sense of relief.I did not stop to celebrate though; I had to
turn around for another joust with the demon.
Again and again I ran at that monster.I found that my internal lap counter would
only count up as high as one.My horizon
of focus was
just completing a single lap.After
getting to the end with the deep water I turned around and headed for
shallow water. That was one lap. In my
mind, the count proceeded, "one, one, one, one, one..."
Nobody knows how many laps I completed
before Dennis tried to get my attention to tell me something. Not
trusting that he wouldn't make me start over, I
to stop.I presumed that if I stopped, he
would make me start over.I was focused
on getting this job done, one lap at a time.Never
mind the fact that I had no idea how many laps
Dennis banged some weights on a scuba
tank trying to get my
attention. I thought this was ploy
setting me up for failure so I plodded on with my repetitive one lap
routine.Finally, Dennis free flowed a
regulator.Okay, I knew he was serious now.I paused in the shallow end of the pool and
raised my head up.
Dennis wasn't going to make me start
over, what he wanted to
do was tell me that I needed to keep my legs straight.With my knees bent it was like I was climbing
stairs and I was expending a lot more energy than I needed to.
I acknowledged the instruction and
resumed my repetitious
traverse across the pool. I seriously doubt that my form got any better.I was just too focused on the task at hand to
worry about form. I did find my self breathing less though.I became accustomed to the snorkel and
acquired a good degree of confidence in it.My
breathing rate reduced.It
was still fast by human standards, but I was no longer competing with
Mary and Lexie
their swimming test and were asking Dennis if I had done enough yet. Nobody was counting my laps. I was in an open
ended test. Dennis would make the call after he figured I had
gotten comfortable enough with the demon.
Some time later, Dennis tried to get my attention
again.I was reluctant to stop but I
wanted to hear what he had to say. He told me that I had done
enough snorkeling laps.Actually I know
that I exceeded by many times the
required number of laps.When
I got out of the
water Dennis asked me if I was tired?I
told him "No, I had enough adrenaline in me to carry on for hours."
So I passed the swimming test!This was a huge relief to me.My biggest fear with these scuba lessons was
that the instructor would fail me based on my swimming abilities. I didn't think I would measure up. With that
behind me, I could now focus on the
task at hand, learning the skills necessary to scuba dive.
Dennis instructed us on how to
assemble our equipment.Attaching the
buoyancy compensator and
regulator to the scuba tank was fairly simple for me.Mary and Lexie had more difficulty with that
The 3 of us with Dennis now got into
the water in the
shallow end of the pool with our equipment.We
lowered our heads in the water and learned to
breathe to the
regulator. That led to a new found feeling of freedom.Being able to breathe and see underwater was a neat
Dennis demonstrated and walked us
through the different methods
of regulator recovery. When I first attempted the sweep back method
arm, I did not come up with the regulator.Being
in the water without a regulator to breathe
from did not lead to a
sense of panic though.I knew that I had
a backup regulator. I knew where it was so I simply grabbed it instead.After a few more attempts I was able to
recover my normal regulator with the sweep back motion.
The next task to learn was mask
clearing.In order to clear the mask the
you need to do is flood it.Dennis
demonstrated and then we were instructed to fill our mask half way.When I filled mine, I got water up my
nose.My instinct was to stand up and
clear my nose in the comfort of the atmosphere.
I knew that was not the right thing to
do, but it was
instinctive.In my mind I ran through
the instructions from the PADI text book.If
you get water in your air passages, just cough
regulator.That does two things, it
clears your air passages and it clears the regulator.
Once again I flooded my mask.Once again, I got water up my nose.This time I did not stand up.I remained kneeling in the shallow end of the
pool and coughed through my regulator.It
worked!The book was
right.After that I mastered the art of
not getting water in my nose when I flooded my mask.
We did partial mask clears and full
mask clears in the
shallow end of the pool.I was feeling
pretty good about that.I did not
realize though, that Mary still was having trouble with clearing her
Dennis then told us that we would go
to the deep end of the
pool and repeat these exercises.We
skimmed along the bottom heading over the edge of the abyss.I had no fear of the monster at this
point.I was comfortable with my scuba
equipment so the depth no longer concerned me.
As we descended, I was surprised by
how much pressure you
encountered, in just such a small change of depth.I followed the instructions from the book on
how to equalize, but I was having problems.Finally
as I wiggled my jaw and swallowed, I
equalized and was able to
continue my decent to the bottom.
Once on the bottom, Dennis selected me
as his first test
subject for mask clearing.I knew why he
did this.He figured if anyone in our
group was going to panic, it would be me.
Calmly I flooded my mask half way and
cleared it.I had no issues with water
intruding into my
nose.I then had to flood my mask
entirely and clear it.Once again I had
no issues with that.
Dennis then signaled that he wanted me
to totally remove my
mask and hand it to him.I did so,
without hesitation.I was now on the
bottom of the 13 foot deep pool with no mask and no snorkel.I did however have my regulator to breathe
Without my mask, I could not see very
well.I could make out Denise's form, but
couldn't make out any detail.My mask
acted like my eyeglasses do on the surface.With
it I could see well, without it the world went
Dennis handed my mask back to me.I put it on my head and cleared it.I was pleased that I was able to do that
without any difficulty.Dennis then
that there was a problem with my snorkel.When
I felt the snorkel and mask strap I could tell
that what had
happened was that Dennis intentionally twisted my snorkel around my
strap.This was another part of my
test.He was trying to determine if I
would panic when he through the unexpected at me.
Calmly I took my mask off once again
and untwisted the
snorkel from the strap.I put the mask
back on my face and cleared it.It was
no big deal for me.I was feeling very
good and very confident in the mask exercises.
Next it was Lexie turn to demonstrate clearing her
mask.She did fine and did not have to
go through the twisted strap exercise. The last person to be
tested was Mary.While Dennis was putting
Mary through the
paces, Lexie and me relaxed on the bottom and watched.
Suddenly, Mary bolted for the surface.Apparently something had not gone well with
her mask clearing.I saw Dennis reach up
and grab Mary's weight belt.Situations
that occur under water should be solved underwater.Mary was having no part of that.The more that Dennis pulled down, the faster
she finned and paddled her hands.
As I sat on the bottom looking up, I
must admit that the
situation looked rather comical to me.I
guess I should have felt concerned about Mary, but I felt confident
would take care of her with whatever situation arose.
So Mary and Dennis were at the
surface, while Lexie and I
remained sitting on the bottom of the pool at a depth of 13 feet.Lexie looked at me and signaled, what do we
do now?I shrugged and indicated that we
should just relax here on the bottom until instructed otherwise.
In about 5 minutes Dennis convinced
Mary to descend back to
the bottom.I don't think she was too
happy about it, but like a good trooper she complied.
We went through several other
exercises at the bottom of the
pool, practicing sharing air and indicating out of air.Those exercises seemed to go smooth enough.
After a while we ascended to the
shallow end of the pool for
a few more breathing exercises.By this
time we had been in the water for nearly 4 hours.Mary
and Lexie were chilled to the bone.Apparently
females are much more sensitive to
losing body heat in the water.
Dennis finally called an end to the
pool session and
instructed us on how to hop out of the pool and how to break down our
I was on top of the world.I had faced my demon of fear and I had
overcome it.I was becoming proficient at
scuba skills.Underwater it felt as if I
were walking in
space.I was so charged by what we had
just been through, I just wanted to celebrate.
I turned toward Mary who was working
on removing her
regulator from her scuba tank and asked her what she was thinking about?She looked up at me and without displaying
any emotion on her face, calmly stated, “I hate you.”
I knew that Mary wasn't kidding at the
time.At that particular instant in time,
indeed hated me, and I accepted that.More
than that, I understood why.This
experience had taken Mary over the limit.She
was well beyond her comfort zone.
Later Mary would feel bad for telling
me that as she had
never felt that way about me before.To
me it was just a natural reaction.Even
though, Mary was fully behind the idea of becoming scuba certified, the
situation would never have arose, had it not been for me and my
interest in the space program.
As we drove home, Mary and Lexie were
both very cold.I was cold too, but not
nearly as affected as
they were.When we got home, Mary was
exhausted all she wanted to was sleep.I
began to get concerned that perhaps her panic ascent had brought on a
the bends.It was unlikely, but being
new to the scuba experience, my mind was racing.
Reading the PADI text, some of her
behavior could be
interpreted as symptoms of the affliction.I
wasn't sure what to do and was somewhat panicked.Mary
assured me that she would be fine and
said that she would feel better if she had something to eat.
I went to a drive through sandwich
shop and got us all
sandwiches.I was relieved when Mary
perked up after that.
The next day, Saturday, Mary and Lexie
both stated that they
weren't going back.That was it for
them.We had one more classroom session
to be followed by another pool session.My
response to both Mary and Lexie was, “That's fine.You need to decide what you want to do.Nobody can make up your mind for you.It's a decision that you have to make.”
Deep down inside I was conflicted with
a feeling of
sadness.I was hoping that they could
share in this experience with Scott Carpenter, but it did not look like
was going to happen.I felt
having faced and overcome my demon.Mary
was on the other end of the spectrum.She
faced her own personal demon and at that meeting
the demon reined
Sunday rolled around and there wasn't
much change in
attitude.Mary still didn't feel like
she could go back.Monday came, and
somehow she mustered up the courage to try it one more time.
We did more studying in the PADI
divers manual and watched
the PADI instructional tapes.
Tuesday came, and it was time for our
second and final pool
session.Once again I was pretty freaked
out.Not only did I have my demons to
overcome, I was now worried about what issues might be gripping Mary
Lexie.It would not have taken much for
any one of us three to just turn around and go back home.
After we removed the cover from the
pool, our first task at
hand was to assemble our equipment.Having
grown up on a farm, working with equipment is
nature to me.I had assembled my
equipment and watched as Mary and Lexie still struggled with theirs.
I knew that finishing first was not a
good thing.Dennis looked at my kit and
said great, turn
off your air, bring your mask, snorkel, and fins and come over to the
of the pool.
“Not, the deep end of the pool!” I
up the size of a watermelon.I knew it
was inevitable, so like a condemned man at the gallows I walked in
to meet my fate.
Dennis said that what we were going to
do was determine how
much weight I needed to be neutrally buoyant.He
instructed me to put on my mask, snorkel, and
fins.He then told me to hop into the
water at the
Once again instinct was stronger than
thought.I knew that I would float in
this deep water.After all I had been
back and forth across it countless times, just a few days before for
snorkel test.I sat on the edge and
plunged into the water.
I was pleased when I didn't sink.Dennis then told me what he wanted me to do
was exhale all of the air out of my lungs to see if I would sink to the
bottom.“All of my air?” I thought wait,
I need that to breathe and you want me to get rid of it?Like a soldier grimly off to battle, I
I was again relieved when I didn't
sink to the bottom.I simply floated with
my snorkel safely out
of the water.I could get air if I
really needed it.
Now Dennis raised the stakes again.He handed me a four pound weight and told me
he wanted me to exhale all of my air and sink to the bottom.He repeated, “I want you to sink all the way
to the bottom.”
So here I was, all alone, about to be
cast into the
abyss.Dennis was still dressed in
street clothes.I knew he wouldn't be
saving me.Mary and Lexie were still
preoccupied with assembling their equipment.I
didn't even know if they knew where I was.It
was me against that demon, the abyss.
Once again my only instructions from
Dennis were: “I want
you to hold on to this weight, let out all of your air, and sink to the
bottom.”There were no instructions on
how to get out of this predicament once I was on the bottom.My mind was racing a billion miles an hour,
but I didn't have time to ask for further instructions.I was given a mission, and it was my job to
I exhaled the air out of my lungs and
sure enough, I began
my descent below the surface.My mind
continued to seek a solution for the situation.I
was not panicked, but I was far away from any
Slowly I sank deeper and deeper.With all of my education and intellect, I had
no answers at this particular moment.It
did not occur to me that I could drop the weight if I had to in order
back to the surface.I could only
observe what it was like to descend below the surface.The surface got farther and farther away.
About 2 feet from the bottom, I
thought this is probably
enough.Instinctively, I flipped my fins
back and forth.Much to my utter
amazement my descent halted and I rose a little bit.“Hmmm, I thought to myself, this is
good!’I flipped my fins back and forth
some more, I kept rising!Hallelujah,
the surface is not receding it is now getting closer.My next thought was “Fins donut fail me now!’
I got back to the surface, cleared my
snorkel and took a
breath of life sustaining air.I must
have looked like a breaching whale as I sucked in that sweet atmosphere
lungs.I still had that four pound
weight firmly grasped in my hand.
Dennis was happy and told me I could hop out
pool.I was ecstatic.At that point in time, I probably could have
walked on water.Now, I had not only
floated over the abyss, I had been to the abyss and more importantly
returned.The demon was dead!
I must have been grinning ear to ear at
that point. A huge
wave of relief washed over me. Dennis was obviously testing me again.He intentionally put me in a position where
it was just me against the water.He
intentionally remained in street clothes to test my limits.I passed the test!
Mary and Lexie then went through the routine to find the
proper weight for their neutral buoyancy.Dennis
let them off pretty easy and they didn't have
to descend all the
way to the bottom.We were now going to attempt the
giant stride into the deep
end of the pool.Of course when trying
new, “Bring out the chicken.”I was
selected to attempt the first giant stride.
I attempted the stride, but had really poor form.Rather
that being vertical, I leaned into it. There
was a reason I did
this.I was concerned that the bottom of
my tank would catch the edge of the pool and the tank would whack me in
back of the head.The face first plunge wasn't a
lot better though.I survived the plunge,
but in the process my
weight belt fell off and sank into the abyss.Without
weights I was like a fish out of water,
listing badly to one
Mary and Lexie then did the giant stride and did a much
better job than I did.Dennis then
joined us in the water.Dennis locked
arms with me and together we descended to the bottom.I was able to reach down and grab my weight
I would get first hand experience to
practice my skill of
reattaching a weight belt underwater.Double
checking to make sure I had set it up for a
right hand release I
put it on.Dennis then wanted us to
kneel on the bottom.
I was having difficulty staying on the
bottom.I tried releasing air from my BC,
didn't seem to help.Then I spotted an
extra 4 pound weight lying on the bottom.Maybe
that would be a decent solution.I pointed
to it and Dennis signaled to me that it
would be Okay to add
that weight to my belt.
I struggled to reach down to the
weight lying on the bottom,
but finally reached it.Now I had to
take off my weight belt, attach the extra weight and put my weight belt
on.It was quite the work out of weight
belt skills.I succeeded though, without
too much difficulty.
In the deep end we practiced the fin
removing and putting back on your BC, sharing air and skills like that.
In the shallow end of the pool we
practiced the controlled
emergency ascent by exhaling the width of the pool.We also practiced breathing from a free
The evening was going pretty well.Dennis then came up with the idea of throwing
our masks and snorkels into the deep end of the pool.Swimming over to the deep end on the surface
and descending down to retrieve them.
That's all good fun, but it is pretty
difficult to see
underwater without your mask.I had an
idea of where I threw my mask so I descended to that area.I could make out a chartreuse color on the
bottom which turned out to be my mask.I
grabbed it, put it on, and cleared it, just as we had practiced.
Lexie also found her mask fairly
quickly.Unfortunately for Mary, Dennis
blue mask instead of his clear mask.His
mask was nearly impossible to see on the bottom.This
too, I think was a special test by
Dennis, this time targeted at Mary with her problems with mask clearing.After some time, the clear mask was located
and Mary and Dennis swapped masks so that they would each have the mask
belonged to them.
We practiced hovering around the deep
end of the pool.The abyss now seemed
fairly small though and
with four people down there it was pretty crowded.As time went on Dennis would continually
point to someone to signal that they were out of air and their buddy
to share air with them.
At one point Dennis signaled to me
that he was out of
air.Once again I had trouble getting to
the bottom with the weight that I had on.A
few seconds elapsed and Dennis feigned passing out
that it was taking
me so long to reach him.I finally did
get to him, but not as quickly as I would have liked.
We were on the bottom and Lexie calmly
indicated to me that
she was running low on air.As we were
trained I reached for my alternate air source to hand it to her.Just as I did that my weight belt unclasped
and started to fall off.
Fantastic, I could see myself shooting
towards the surface
without any weights.I dropped my
alternate air source to grab my weight belt before it fell to the
bottom.As I did that, I saw Dennis shoot
Lexie and hand her his alternate air source.
He then took her to the surface.It then dawned on me, that this was not a
drill. Dennis had not signaled Lexie to do the low air indication.She really was low on air.From practicing the free flowing regulator
breathing our tanks had been depleted faster than we realized.
I felt horrible, I had failed my
granddaughter.She needed my help and I
felt that I had
failed her.Of course there never was
any real danger in this situation and I could have gotten her the air
fixing my belt, but that didn't make me feel any better.It was a good wake up call to keep on your
toes when diving, even under the simplest conditions.
That was the end of our final pool
session.The only things we had left in
certification were the testing over the knowledge we learned in the
manual and then of course the open water certification.
We took some practice quizzes over the
course work that
night after the pool session.Everyone
did fairly well.Lexie missed a few more
questions than Mary and I did, but for an eleven year old assimilating
level material she did great.
Our final exam happened a few days later and
administered over the course of a couple of hours.Lexie wasn't quite on her game that night and
missed more questions than she did on the practice quizzes.
I missed two questions and that really
tweaked me as I've always been a perfectionist when it comes to exams.Those questions, I felt were trick questions
though.Mary missed a few more questions
than I did.But we all passed.
Dennis told us that he wasn't as concerned
with Lexie’s test
score as she exhibited outstanding skills in the water.So there we were.We
were nearly all certified.The only thing
left was the open water
Since this was the middle of winter in Texas
it was too cold to do our open water certification there.We intended instead to do that testing in Florida,
just before our scuba experience at Jules' Undersea Lodge with Scott
The story of diving and dining underwater with Astronaut Scott
Carpenter continues. Follow the ASF
EXP 1 B link for the next
part of the story.