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Mapping Project

As far as Divemaster Qualification goes, the Bible is the Instructor manual. For the ‘Mapping Project’, the Bible is a bit vague. Certainly it tells you what to do but does not give any indication of scores or standard. The Divemaster Candidate Information and Evaluation Form isn’t much more help. To pass the standard is ‘verified adequate’. The result is wide variation on what is judged as ‘adequate’. I have seen every interpretation, from simple line drawings to charts that would put the UK’s Hydrographic Office to shame.

The PADI instructor manual asks for a detailed map of the site, including underwater relief, important points of interest and any relevant environmental notes, recommended entry/exit areas, local facilities and potential hazards. Pretty comprehensive map then!

I had decided to complete the project at Wraysbury: I knew the site, it is local and the lake’s poor visibility would provide enough of a navigation challenge to keep me honest. My buddy was a fellow Divemaster trainee, who I had met a few days earlier. The dive briefing was more detailed and deliberate: we would first do a surface swim, check bearings, distances and confirm fin kicks. My buddy had a reel with line that had been marked off at meter intervals: absoluely invaluble.

PADI Divemater Mapping Project

Dive Mark's Barque

The first dive was interesting. Diving with a new buddy always throws up challenges, but add work loading, poor vis and those challenges magnify. Suffice to say I lost my buddy and had to surface a few minutes after we had started diving. It was a mistake that was not repeated, we quickly became familiar with each other’s diving style and started to work very effectively. Our first dive located a number of underwater attractions: training platforms and a Rusting VW Camper Van. After half an hour of confirming bearings, distances, mapping dimensions and noting hazards we surfaced to compare notes.

Happily we agreed and were able to fill in each other’s ‘gaps’.

The second dive was to confirm what we had found, note depths and bottom composition and finally to see what else we could find. A U Pattern search was planned and we started off on our first leg. Everything was going to plan: bottom composition, distances, relief and……what on earth is that! We nearly swam headlong into a wreck of a motor cruiser. OK, this is Wraysbury – people know it is there – but the point is: we didn’t. After our initial shock, we quickly got to work measuring and recording details.

What did I learn from completing the mapping project. Well first I confirmed that my navigation skills in poor vis are quite good and that gives me confidence. Second, I learnt that it might be best to do a ‘fun’ dive with a new colleague before loading on lots of work. But most of all I learnt that the Divemaster programme is only as good as the work you put into it. I could have just done a line drawing with headings and distances.But I would not have learnt half as much or be as experienced if I had not done those two project dives: the first to get an overall ‘feel’ for the site and the second, U pattern search to get the detailed information. And OK, its not perfect – distances and bearings are approximate (and I’m not sure about the actual position of the trench) but it is probably adequate.

Oh, and of course, Wraysbury is good for skills training.


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