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Explore: References for underwater world

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Coming to Thailand from a landlocked country, there are few points of reference that we can use to mentally prepare for a PADI open water diving course. For those who have never been diving before, most of our context for the underwater world is derived from urban references: movies, books, advertisements and aquariums – we all know what a ‘Nemo fish’ is.

It is natural for humans to want to compare things, it helps us understand the world and categorize everything more quickly. If we didn’t have this instinct, we would be overwhelmed by everything around us each and every day, constantly processing every ocean view, every scooter and every tree as if it were completely unique from the last one we had seen.

Vince of begins the class by focusing on theory, and how to ensure diver safety from the beginning to the end of a dive. Even though the material is completely new, there is still a frame of reference for most of us: we understand how to take a test and read study materials. It’s the next part that makes me nervous and excited – putting all of this into practice.

As the course progresses, Vince calmly shows me every skill I need: retrieving my regulator, clearing it, and controlling my breath so I can hover in the middle of a pool. Using one’s lungs as a way to move through the water is completely foreign to someone who has never been diving. It’s hard to find a comparable experience.

The next day, below the ocean’s surface, my mind begins compensating for the vast unknown and drawing references from my terrestrial life to help me understand it. At Racha Bay 1, it is hard not to think that we have submerged ourselves into a movie where the sea creatures can speak and relate to human emotions. Or that we are in a video game where the unique cubes placed in the bay to support a coral reef are strange obstacles that stand between us and the next level.

However, it only takes a couple of dives before it is possible to view the underwater world for what it truly is, and not some surreal facsimile of fictional, urban references.

As a new diver, one marvels at the iridescence of every parrotfish, the neon color on a blue-spotted stingray and the curiosity of a wrasse who just wants to find something to eat. Such vivid, direct experiences swim in the face of our sense of infinite knowledge that comes from our hyper-connected world.

It is wonderful to experience something for which there are no comparisons, and no YouTube video, tweet or story can realistically substitute diving into a whole new world.

— Catherine M Hooker


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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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