Getting here was the easy part—now for the true test of whether or not I am worthy of being a National Park Service diver! In addition to extensive medical testing (I have been poked, scanned, monitored, and beeped at in five different doctor’s offices) and a written exam, I needed to demonstrate my physical fitness and dive skills in order to obtain my Blue Card, which is required to dive through the NPS. This afternoon I joined the SRC divers (excluding some divers who are away on assignment) and headed to the local recreation center to do our swim tests and demonstrate safety skills. I quickly learned that being a mile up in elevation and getting over a cold make long-distance swimming much more challenging! I have been living at sea level for the past few years and swam regularly in the ocean—but this was a completely different workout. Nevertheless, I made it within the required time for all the swim tests including underwater, assisted and unassisted swims.
Next it was time for us to complete the required skills under the direction of Steve Sellers, the National Dive Safety Officer. We ditched and donned our equipment at the bottom of the pool, practiced out of air and unconscious diver rescue scenarios, and many other skills. It was a great to practice all these skills and have them fresh in my mind before embarking on this journey, just in case I am ever present in an emergency. Diving is an inherently risky activity, and one can never be too prepared for unexpected situations.
After completing all the Blue Card skills, Susanna had me practice setting up the camera in its underwater housing and with strobes. We leak tested it in the pool and I took my first shots! Granted, they were not masterpieces, but the mere act of pressing the shutter lever filled me with excitement and confidence. We had some trouble synching the camera with the strobes, but back at the office we got the whole setup working perfectly. I can’t wait to take it out in the ocean! I hope that the shots I take on this trip will be able to inspire all who see them to explore the submerged parks and care for all the spectacular submerged resources we have in the US, and the world.