Humans aren’t meant to be underwater, we’re clumsy, slow, and (perhaps most importantly) can’t breathe; if fish could talk they’d be laughing at us.
Having neutral buoyancy is one of the most important skills to crack in diving. Neutral buoyancy essentially means you’re not sinking or floating, you only move in the water column with your breath; in you rise slightly, out you sink; it allows you to have much control in the water. You cause much less damage to the environment as you easily manoeuvre around coral and marine life. Buoyancy skills aren’t something you develop overnight as you are constantly improving your buoyancy. Even the most experienced divers strive to perfect their position in the water. Whilst your open water qualification gives you the skills you need, research diving is a fantastic tool to quickly improve your buoyancy in the water.
So why is research diving different?
Corals cannot be identified from 10m, and small invertebrates hiding under rocks can’t be recorded just swimming over a reef. Therefore, when undertaking marine research dives, you need to be closer to the reef than you would be on a fun-dive. Being closer to the reef heightens the risk of damage and forces you to become hyper aware of your position in the water. You automatically lower your head and raise your feet, you make sure your gear is safely tucked in, not bouncing off the coral, and you breathe more steadily. You learn these things because you have to, you’re trying to conserve the reef not destroy it!
Trying to read a transect tape in rough seas can be tricky. One moment you’re on top of the transect, the next your 5m to the left, the next 5m to the right. On our side is the water conditions of Perhentian; once the monsoon has passed, the seas quickly settle, and currents become much gentler. The work of the Perhentian Marine Research Station (PMRS) relies heavily on having good buoyancy. The PMRS volunteers are sometimes fresh off an open, or advanced open water and must quickly improve their buoyancy. The calm conditions around Perhentian make it a perfect environment for buoyancy development.