GCD: Wilderness Engagement
For G10 expedition, I chose to go to Okinawa to earn a PADI open water dive certification. It was my first experience diving and I was excited, but also really nervous about it.
Before the expedition, it was our responsibility to study the diving workbook we received months prior to the trip. I studied about different equipments, warnings (what to be cautious of when interacting with marine life, as well as how to take care of ourself if we feel unwell), hand signs, planning for a dive and so on. There was a lot to learn about — I started to worry about what I should do if I forgot these information during my dive (which I didn’t have to worry about at all, in the end).
On March 12th, it was finally the day to depart Narita Airport to Okinawa! We had four dives in total: two on March 13th, and two on March 14th. We were separated into different diving groups of around five people, each with a mentor. In a dive, we all needed buddies and the significance of taking responsibility of each other were written in our workbook.
Before going to the actual dive, we checked some of our equipments — wetsuits, masks and wetsuit boots. On the boat where we went to our diving spot, there were prepared cylinders, regulators and other things that we might need. When we got close to our diving spot, we all wore wetsuits on top of our swimming suits. It was a bit nerve-wrecking to think that I was going to dive in minutes from now. When it was our time to enter the water, we connected the cylinder, regulator and BCD correctly, inflated the BCD, wore our masks and fins. We entered the ocean one by one. Even though I was nervous before entering, it felt calming to see people already in the water and the uneasiness had gone away. I took a big leap forward, holding my mask and snorkel with both hands. When everyone joined the water, we checked that everyone was alright, and swam close to the rope that was connected to a rock underwater. We took the methods that we needed to take to start descending. I carefully let the air out of the BCD and tilted my right shoulder down. I made sure to hold and breath out from my nose so that I didn’t get a squeeze. Descending and staying still on the sea floor was difficult at first — I kept on floating and flipping, that my buddies had to catch me sometimes.
During the first dive, we did some tasks that we had to do to get our license, like clearing out our masks. It was a bit frightening to have to take my mask off and to put it on again. I got some seawater in my eyes, which made my eyes really sore. Fortunately, my eyes became alright after a minute. We got out of the water to get ready for our second dive. When I got out of the water, I realized that my body felt more tired than what I thought my body felt like underwater. Doing things underwater must have taken my energy a lot more than I expected. On our second dive, we went further away from the boat and looked at the marine life. I have never been close to living fishes that weren’t in a water tank, so I was mesmerized by them. I learned in the workbook and by from my mentor that we shouldn’t touch or interfere with the wild life as much as possible, because doing so may hurt their ecosystem — and that’s not what we want. Therefore, I observed the marine animals in a way that wouldn’t touch them. There were various aquatic lives — many more than I imagined — which made my experience really enjoyable.
On the next day, the water felt a bit colder and I got some shivers underwater. We completed the things we needed to do to get our license and dived further away from the boat — more far from the previous day. For our last dive, we (my buddies and I) decided and planned which way to go together. We decided to go to a direction and to come back when the air gauge showed 100 bar. At this point, I got so much better at descending and moving underwater (I could stay still on the sea floor and move without flipping around). Since we dived more further away from the boat, I was able to see many more fish and corals. I was amazed at the sights of shoals of tiny fish and touched by how many diverse lives the ocean holds.
From this trip, I learned the technical skills of diving, the importance of cooperation within a group, and also really important — the wilderness underwater. It was the first time I saw an aquatic life by my own eyes and I felt grateful for the beautiful sight of nature that I couldn’t have known without this experience.