Saturday, March 1, 2003

Wet & cold

The seawater in some of the channels is frozen. March or not, it's still very much winter here. Luckily, the desolate harbour site for our first drysuit intro-dive is close enough to the open sea and there's not a single ice-cube to be seen.

Another plus, is that the air and water temperature are about the same, a good 2°C above zero, thus sparing us an unpleasant temperature shock when entering the water.

In order to avoid a frozen free-flowing regulator, we're not allowed to breathe from it until we've submerged. Which takes quite some time, thanks to a nervous and rather clumsy middle-aged student, unable to put his fins on by himself, then loosing his weight-belt, then incapable of getting down... All the while two other students and me wait coolly around, standing in waist-deep water. By the time we finally get going, wind chill and cold water have numbed my lips so much, that I'm no longer sure where exactly my mouth is, when head under water I'm trying to insert the mouthpiece, without the full cooperation of my lips*.

* With numb lips, my Danish is remarkably better, as I'm totally unable to articulate.

Once submerged, I must say that it all goes pretty well, considering the circumstances. There's nothing to be seen in the greenish water, allowing me to concentrate fully on the operation of my 7mm neoprene drysuit. Pushing in air as we slowly find our way to deeper water, where we try to perform some exercises, basically consisting of buoyancy control in case air gets trapped in the feet-ends of the suit or should a suit's inflator-valve decide to free-flow. About 20' later we ascend. The instructor not really impressed by our performances.

But, it's definitely possible to dive in cold water. And not as bad as I thought it would be. That is, with the appropriate exposure protection. Unfortunately, my drysuit wasn't really dry. Water kept seeping in through my wrist seals, every time I moved my arms. Resulting in my forearms cooling down fast and unable to provide any warmth for my already cold fingers, freezing in their almost useless wet gloves. Actually I think the cold must have killed quite a few cells in my right thumb. I wonder if that's what is called cold burn?

Without any feeling or strength left in my fingers, hands & forearms, I've got a hard time unbuckling my fins and BCD, but finally manage to pull them off. As I remove my drysuit, it appears that my whole upper body is actually pretty damp too, not to say wet. But I wasn't really aware of this during the dive. Except for once or twice when I could feel some cold around the zipper area, but I thought it was just the suit pressing in on me. So I guess the suit's back-zipper wasn't too watertight either, unless it's the neck-seal that let in water.

Having spent 50' in cold water (30' waiting in shallow standing water + 20' bottom time), I decide that's enough for me. At least for today. I'm just too wet and cold to consider a second dive. Badly needing some dry clothes and a hot drink. But I hope to give it a second try asap, preferably with a drysuit that lives up to its name!

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