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Open Water - Survivor's guide



Compiled by: Jack Foley

AS OPEN Water is about to hit UK cinema screens, PADI diving instructor, Mark Blunsten, provides the low-down on all it takes to be 'sea savvy' - should you find yourself adrift in the ocean!

On any beach, always make sure you know there is a lifeguard patrolling the area you are in and that he/she is in view.

Wear rubber shoes to protect your feet from coral or sea urchins.

If you find yourself being pulled out to sea by a strong current (riptide) don’t try and swim directly back to shore against the current, as it will be too strong for you. Always swim sideways to get out of the current, and then swim back to shore.

Relax, keep calm and don’t panic. If you panic, you will not think rationally, you will get out of breath quickly whilst treading water and you’ll therefore be more likely to wear yourself out. Don’t try and swim too hard and if you get tired float on your back to conserve energy.

Jellyfish dangers

There are many different species of Jellyfish, which can be found all over the world. Some can be harmless, some can give you a nasty sting and some, like the notorious “box” jellyfish found on the northern coast of Australia, can kill you in a matter of minutes.

Wherever you are considering swimming, ask locally whether it is jellyfish season, and if so how dangerous they are before getting into the water.

If you are swimming in jellyfish season, make sure that you wear a full-length wetsuit.

If you get do get stung by a jellyfish, always apply vinegar immediately. If you go to a beach without a lifeguard and you know there are jellyfish in the area, always have about two litres of vinegar with you as you will need to keep applying it to the sting. Seek medical attention as quickly as possible.

Scuba-diving

If you’ve always had a passion to learn scuba diving, but are scared of the unknown mysteries that lurk in the ocean, Mark suggests that the only way to “overcome your fears is to face them”.

He recommends the following:

Go scuba diving with a patient instructor used to dealing with scared pupils

Relax and rationalise your fears, make sure that your instructor teaches you about the water, learn about the effects of currents and riptides.

Learn about the fish and other wildlife in the area you are swimming in so that you know the realities.

Strengthen your swimming in “safe” environments i.e. swimming pools

Never touch anything in the water, even with gloves. Not only are you in danger of hurting yourself, for example, the “Stone fish” has a deadly poison which paralyses you and they look just like stones so can be camouflaged amongst the rocks.

Also, human bacteria can damage or kill sea life and broken coral can take up to 20 years to repair itself. Never hold onto the back of a turtle as they panic and can drown.

Sharks...

As Open Water demonstrates, sharks are probably seen by us to be the scariest of all marine life.

But, according to Mark, sharks have been given a bad reputation in the past and we should be aware that there have only been a few specific species of shark which have been known to attack humans and that a shark is very unlikely to attack a human without provocation.

With this in mind, he also suggests that there are a few things we can do to lessen the risks of becoming dinner out there in the deep blue.

There are only a few species of shark that will attack e.g. Great White, Tiger, Mako, White tip reef and rarely Hammerhead and Bull sharks. Most sharks are more likely to avoid you than attack, unless they are cornered, injured or protecting their young.

Avoid wearing shiny or sparkling swimwear as this makes you look like fish-like and may provoke a shark attack or big fish (e.g. barracuda) attack.

Learn the “layout” of the water. If you’re swimming in a shallow that suddenly turns into a drop-off ledge, this is the point where sharks generally attack. They will swim up from a depth to attack as they see your shadow above.

Generally sharks only take a bite, they find us too bony and not meaty enough! Their sensitive parts are their eyes, if you are able go for the eyes. This is the only way to hurt a shark without a weapon.

Sharks smell blood from over two miles away. If you are bleeding, get out of the water ASAP.

Dolphin dangers

Don’t be mislead by the dolphins’ friendly image. They can be dangerous if they’re not in the mood to play. Don’t go to them, let them come to you.

Before you think of swimming in an unfamiliar sea, consult a local lifeguard or scuba diver about the sea bed and the wildlife.

With all this in mind, Mark concluded by reminding both divers and swimmers alike that shark attacks are extremely rare, pointing out that the chances of suffering death from a shark attack are 1 in 265 million.

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