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Relaxing during deep dives

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New Member
Jan 16, 2002
Any tips for relaxing during deep descents? The quarry I dive in gets very dark and very cold after 120' and sinking past that point is visually like entering a nightmare. I am going to experiment with closing my eyes because there really is nothing to see anyway except the rope. Any other suggestions?
If there is nothing to see except the rope, whats the point of closing your eyes? All there is is a rope right?

The blackness should help you blank out everything and let you relax (In theory)
try to discover *why* you are feeling tense/ not relaxed (same thing?), then try to find a solution...

are you worried you'll dive too deep?
A: use a rope with a bottom plate that you can set at your target depth, whatever it may be on that day.

are you worried you'll lose the line in the darkness?
A: use a lanyard/leash and a head torch

are you worried that you'll struggle to equalise?
A: improve your equalisation technique and efficiency. perhaps adjust your ballast such that you dont sink too fast. when your equalisation improves, then you can add more weight, if you need it.

there will be a reason or reasons. once you identify it/them, then you can do something about it.

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yes, i do. i have the same problem. at depth i can't even see the rope 6" in front of my face!! (... a few times my torch has failed before diving, and i just dived anyway - not a good idea really! but at least i knew i wouldnt lose the line because i use a leash.)

i used to use a Q40, but i found it too bulky. it takes 4 x AA.

then i tried a princton tec blast... but it wasn't really bright enough when used with goggles. maybe it's ok with a mask. it takes 2 x AAA

now i'm using a princeton tec rage (the blast's bigger brother), which takes 4 x AAA, and it gives me enough light down there, without being too bulky.

i attach my torches to a knife strap and put it around my forehead, and point the torch to a spot 6" in front of my eyes (where the rope is)

at the bottom, we have a 1.5kg iron disk, painted gloss white. sometimes i'll put a lightstick down there or have a Q40 pointing down to it from 9" above. both work well.

i also mark the rope with black tape strips increasing in frequency from 4m to 2m above the bottom plate, so i can see when i'm nearing the bottom. there is also a special mark where i hold the rope and stretch down 2m to touch the plate.

i have also experimented with phospoescent adhesive tape - but i had dissappointing results. it wasn't worth bothering...
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yes, that was a problem with the Q40
obviously it's worse if you ascend quite fast - which i do

i use electrical tape to bind the rage tightly onto the knifestrap, and wear the strap fairly tight around my head - no more wobble problems...

it often a problem if you attach a torch to your mask strap, so best to use a separate strap, in my opinion.
Have you tried only glow sticks on the line? I hate the idea of having something wobbling on ascent. The ambient light is pretty good down to 100', after that you descend into some really dark water. Glow sticks the last 40 feet at ten foot increments might work well too.
wobbling doesnt have to be a problem. if you use the torch set-up i have, then you won't have that problem.

the problem with lightsticks is
a) it can get quite expensive
b) they interfere with your lanyard. i would recommend using one in those conditions, if at all possible.

to feel really relaxed and confident in those conditions, i think you need
a) variable depth line. i.e. be able to drop a target plate to any depth. i have 110m of 12mm spooled onto a $30 garden hose reel!! that is suspended under a big buoy. it all fits in the 'trunk' of my car. i can send it down to any depth i like, and i always get the depth accurate to within 0.5m. for my critical deep dives, i can get it accurate to within 10cm! :)
b) a leash/lanyard. i have a heavy duty velcro wrist strap and the leash is a solid steel 2" diameter ring around the rope, 1m of monofilament, and a bolt snap which clips onto the wrist strap.

with this set-up, and the torch and rope markings near the bottom, it allows me to head down into blackness feeling totally relaxed and confident. without those things, i would feel very nervous!
It sounds like a great set up. What depth does your water get really dark and how did you deal with it psychologically in the beginning? For me because its light up to 100', I am calm and really enjoying the ride. Dropping into the hole is visually a large change. If it was dark the whole way down, then I would only have to deal with the eq. factor. Visibility is a big deal to me, that's why I am thinking about closing my eyes for most of the descent.
it's quite light at 30m. i don't really need a torch at 40m. the variation in light is pretty gradual where i dive. by 50 it's pretty dark - i.e. i can barely see the rope in front of my face without a torch. below 60, there is no light at all.

the way i've dealt with it is just through a gradual process of psychological adaptation. i dive regularly - twice a week, and by very slowly increasing my depth i increase my exposure to the increasing darkness. if i made big jumps, i would probably get freaked out by it, but diving the way i do, i just don't give it a second thought.
i rembered something that Seb Murat said once - and it stuck in my head: "inch my inch is a cinch, yard by yard is bloody hard"
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That is an excellent statement from Seb. I am getting freaked out because I am trying to jump from my PB of 125' to the bottom at 150'.
Excellent advice Alun,
By the way, How did you simulate the weight for tape measuring?.
Did you use a Dynamometer?
I have problems measuring the rope in land, I can't get a measure as accurate as yours.
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first thing i did was wet the rope and measure it under the approximate tension of 1-2kg, just by hand and guesswork. i have a marking system which is similar to roman numerals
one blue stripe is 10m
one black stripe is 50m
...so 70 is one black and two blue
and 100 is two black
5m increments are marked with a yellow stripe.
this way you can tell the depth with a quick glance - no counting stripes, or mis-counting stripes!!!

these are not meant for when you're diving, but at the surface when you let the rope down. these markings are accurate to within about 1m. to get it really accurate what i do is send my D3 down with the weigths to a certain marker, near my PB. bring it up, analyze the depth, work out the difference, then back home i can mark the rope at exactly X metres - my next target. when i reach that target, i move the special mark 1m further down.... this way (especially in still fresh water) you can get super accurate depths.
so i only rely on the markings for an approximate depth. if i want to get it exactly right, for dives around my PB then i'll use the system i explained above. but you only have to do it once every 5m really. once you start to move away from that known depth mark, then you should set another known depth mark.

i hope i've explained that well enough.
We use similar stuff at saltFree. This weekend we had a white bottom plate set at target depth for the first time which was great. We have a fixed line so we bought a thing from a climbing shop called an Ascender (or you can get a smaller thing called a Blocker) which attaches to the line and then can only go up. The plate sits on it and it works well. We can position it ourselves down to about 20m and below that we get our scuba team to sort it.
we tried light sticks on the bottom plate but it was too dark to see them until you almost hit them. Then we put a strobe and a torch on it and that was loads better. The strobe kind of draws you down somehow too!
Next time we are going to have Deepest Bear sitting on the plate which will no doubt help too!
it also helps to have something a bit above the plate to wake you up a bit as you reach it and stop your lanyard from getting tangled in the plate. The French use a sliced up tennis ball.
Learning so much about diving in dark places and loving it more each time we go. This weekend I was soooooo comfortable at a depth that freaked me out earlier in the season... inch by inch is a great saying.

Thanks Alun and Sam,
I'll try that next time. We dive also in a very dark lake. 3 m vis at surface and 0 vis below 15 m.
Nice idea the sliced tennis ball because once my lanyard get tangled with the ballast. It wasn't funny!.
yes, it's important to make sure that your lanyard stays away from the bottom plate. i once got caught for 10secs at the bottom of a deepish dive - it can be a real risk! it's very important to have a lanyard that you can remove.
we do not remove the lanyard from the rope, but remove the lanyard from our wrist, in one of two ways - remove the bolt snap, or pull of the velcro strap.
if you mark the rope an arm-span above the plate and hold the rope there when you turn, and your lanyard is 1m long (adequate length), then there should be little risk of this happening.
Update- We put a nice, powerful strobe light on the rope right near the bottom plate. Even in the darkness now the strobe can easily be seen from 25 feet away and I had no trouble getting to the bottom. I highly recommend a strobe on your rope. We are thinking of putting a second one on for the really dark times.

i thought i'd post a couple of photos of the set up we use....
i think everything is kinda self-explanatory. if you have any questions, just ask...
there should be 2 photos coming.
one of the reel, buoy and line and another of the lanyard we use.


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note: i am actually wearing socks in the last photo. i cut them down right to the edge of the footpocket, which means i dont have to stuff them under my 3mil trousers and risk splitting them.


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