Intercoms: The Joy of Speaking Underwater in a Full Face Mask
While learning to use the Ocean Reef Full Face Mask (see my other report on this here) we were given the opportunity to use the underwater communication system. There are two methods of communicating underwater; wireless like a CB radio and a wired version.
The wired version gives broadcast quality speech and is ideal if you are planning on filming the next episode of Blue Planet. The major drawback is that the wire that connects to the surface unit is only 50m long. This means you can’t stray too far.
For years I’ve always said that one of the greatest joys of diving is the sound of silence, or at least the sound of bubbles escaping my regulator.
The wireless version of the underwater communication system is still great quality but isn’t as cleared as the hard wired version. There are two strengths available, one that travels around 400m and the other that does up to 1km underwater. We tested the 400m version but we were assured that it will actually travel much further than this.
So why on earth would you want to talk underwater I hear you ask. My sentiments exactly, well it was I until I tried at least!
As an Instructor and dive centre owner it offers some real tangible safety benefits. Instructors can talk to their Divemaster and ask them to watch or help a particular student, you can talk to surface support and give them updates on the dive such as your location, if some divers are returning to the surface, and if there was ever an emergency it could give extra potential life-saving minutes as they can call for support , ring the emergency services or even have the Oxygen kit set up.
Instructors can speak to their students, so if they aren’t completing a skill as well as they would like you can offer advise without having to get the whole group to the surface.
As a recreational diver it offers some substantial benefits too. Hand signals aren’t available for everything you sometimes want to tell your buddy, you can decide which way you want to go, you can inform your buddy if you see something really cool and if there is an emergency you can give them a quick shout and tell them what’s wrong.
My issue of enjoying peace and quiet underwater isn’t really at risk though. The underwater communications system is really designed for important things only. However just being given the ability to talk to your friends and loved ones underwater is actually a real laugh.
If you are old enough to remember the Carling Black Label advert which was a spoof of the Dam Busters film where 2 pilots were chatting to each other through their comms in a daring world war II mission, then you will know what I mean. You have to get your ear in a little which is part of the training and you learn to s-p-e-a-k r-e-e-e-a-a-l-l-y c-l-e-e-a-r-l-y.
The number of times I miss something really cool underwater like an Octopus, shark etc is actually quite depressing. I remember one dive where everyone got to see a Manta Ray cruise by but unfortunately I was too busy playing with a clown fish to notice. Well never again!