Jacques Cousteau, a pioneer of marine exploration, once said: “From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man only has to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”
For some, Cousteau’s phrase may sound like escapism. For the Dalhousie SCUBA Diving Club, however, it is a truism.
With a core executive of four members and more than 50 regular participants, Dal SCUBA has been satisfying the diving bug of the Dalhousie community for three years. Started as a way for interested divers to access nearby dive sites more efficiently, the society has developed into a facilitator of research-based exploration and educational and recreational dives. SCUBA diving (SCUBA is an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) can be a costly activity but the society tries to balance some of the rental costs by paying for transportation to the dive sites.
According to Aimee Lee Houde, president of Dal SCUBA, one of the strengths of the society, is its ability to attract a variety of people. While the majority of the active members of the club are marine biologists, she says, there are members who study anything from pharmacy to business administration. While significant experience is not required, the myriad liability issues surrounding underwater diving and DSU ratification stipulations require society members to submit a number of waiver forms and proofs of certification. Still, to get out in the water is very easy, says Ms. Houde. “If you’re looking for dive buddies,” she says, the society offers plenty of opportunity.
During the May to September diving season, the society tries to organize a shore dive every weekend. These are open to any certification. They’re “geared towards people who are newly certified and who want to explore the shores of Nova Scotia,” says Ms. Houde. In September and October the society organizes “specialty” dives. Last month, they participated in an underwater scavenger hunt for carved-out pumpkins and prizes near Peggy’s Cove.
Dal SCUBA is particularly useful for divers looking to gain experience either before they attempt more challenging dives or enrolling in a scientific diving field course offered through the biology department.
“There are lot’s of people who come out diving who have some understanding of the ocean,” says Ms. Houde. “I know I get a lot of question from non-marine biologists who are divers who say, ‘I’ve always wondered what this meant,’ so I know it’s educational if you’re with people who have knowledge of the area.”
Although the society has no defined ecological mandate, it reaps the benefits of Dalhousie’s close proximity to the ocean and popular dive sites. Most of the sites are within a two-hour drive of Halifax, or are located in the HRM. Wreck dives are popular and the Halifax harbor has a variety of attractive sites. Unlike other university diving clubs around Canada, Dalhousie divers are spoiled thanks to the bounty of natural marine attractions in Nova Scotia.
Now that cool weather has officially brought an end to the diving season, Dal SCUBA looks forward to next spring with hopes of introducing new specialty dives. Diving with sharks, anyone?
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