By Bob Halstead
Some one asked me the other day how I was feeling. There was an easy and immediate answer, I told him I needed a dive. I often feel that I am happier underwater than I am above it.
As I get older I am far less tolerant of the cackling of ignoramuses, and the exultation of the mediocre. Excellence is elusive, and acknowledgement of my own very obvious inadequacies is extraordinarily frustrating. Then, when I do find myself confronted with an all too rare truly wonderful human event or achievement, I am overcome with emotion and choke up.
I am unable to wallow in the miseries that inhabit our planet, nor do I feel any moral imperative to sacrifice my life for a good but impossibly hopeless cause.
So is diving an escape? – you bet – but diving is of course a lot more than just that. There is the adventure. The challenge of using skills and knowledge to overcome the substantial risk that being underwater implies. The fantastic scenery, the myriad fishes, the absurd marine life – and being weightless and welcomed to the womb of the deep.
I also love sharing diving with others, particularly my wife Dinah whose eyes see what I merely look at, and who has enabled me to photograph critters I otherwise would never know existed. NAUI, a sterling organisation whose members believe in Safety Through Education (not regulation!), gave me ambition and, as a young man, a direction from which I have never wavered. Now a NAUI instructor for 32 years I have had great personal satisfaction from teaching men, women and children, often initially fearful or lacking confidence, that they too can live magical moments in the ocean, survive, and achieve their own personal fulfilment. Perhaps that is my mission in this life. It is fun to teach diving (especially, ladies, such vital skills as mouth to heart resuscitation) and to stretch experienced divers with new diving situations, skills such as underwater photography, and critters they have not met before.
Great divers have blessed me with their wisdom. There are too many to mention them all, but I would like to pay tribute to two in particular. Dr. Eugene Clark, whose boundless curiosity, razor sharp and scientifically elegant mind – and great sense of fun, inspires all that meet her. Of a certain age this year, Genie started diving in the 1940’s (in hard hat!). Also Valerie Taylor, whose courage, strength of purpose and dedication to the marine world, have always left me in awe. I treasure the generosity shown to me by both these beautiful and extraordinary women.
Australia is a fantastic country for diving and supports a proud sport and tourist diving industry run, in the overwhelming main, by dedicated professionals. Unfortunately we also are plagued by bureaucrats and sensationalising media. Bureaucrats have unreasonably and irrationally focussed on diving for regulation – something they would not dare do for, say, snow skiing.
A recent news item showed a Queensland politician promoting some new policy, probably funding for Crown of Thorns eradication, while diving on the GBR. The video was revealing. He looked very uncomfortable and out of balance to me, could not fin, and flapped his arms as though he was conducting a symphony. Poorly.
The media, even here in North Queensland where they should know better – hang on did I just write that? OK, it is North Queensland, and perhaps that is too much to expect. Know this:- if someone has a heart attack mowing the lawn, they would never report is as a death by, or while, mowing the lawn and call for stricter regulations for lawn mowing, but if a snorkeller has a heart attack……
Enough, I’m sick of them all, I need a dive!