By Bob Halstead
Perhaps you’ve noticed? While discussing our beloved sport of scuba diving, some of the uninitiated will pre-empt any possibility of experiencing nirvana by stating that they could not possibly learn scuba diving, as they suffer from claustrophobia.
They will already have asked “How deep have you dived?” and “ Have you seen a shark?” and you will have no doubt wasted 30 minutes or so explaining that no one has to dive one inch deeper than they want, but deep diving is awfully good fun, and that sharks are beautiful – a joy and privilege to see underwater, and only ever eat divers who swim funny and use split fins.
But the mention of claustrophobia always leaves me stuttering. I know what the word means – according to Oxford dictionaries, “an abnormal fear of confined places”, and I think I may have even suffered from it – but never while scuba diving. I try to explain the overwhelming sensation of freedom that diving offers, the escape to the blue ocean, and the way we float and glide in “inner” space.
I think that the origins of the scuba diving myth of claustrophobia may well have been the deep-sea diving exploits of helmeted divers. The cumbersome weighted suits, and copper helmets, would definitely feel confining. Restricted vision, and permanent attachment to the surface, obviously limit a diver’s freedom.
In my youth I well remember tall tales of deep-sea divers having their hoses entangled inside shipwrecks while searching for treasure. Sometimes bad guys slashed the hoses. This, before the invention of non-return valves, resulted in the whole diver being squeezed into his helmet. A truly gruesome end, no doubt, but a thrilling thought for a schoolboy.
In the seventies, spaced-out compressor attendants blowing marijuana smoke into the air intake enlivened deep sea diving using surface supplied gear. At the time I thought this irresponsible, but now realise that it was necessary to reduce claustrophobia.
Obviously these images must have been widespread leading to the public perception that scuba somehow confines a diver.
Perhaps the diver’s mask is a problem for some. It does cut off any possibility of breathing in through the nose. Most people adapt in a few seconds but for some it is a lingering restriction.
There are circumstances where a scuba diver may be inviting claustrophobia. Inside tight caves or tunnels or inside a shipwreck (or barrel sponge!) or even in really pea soup visibility, but I do not regard these as being typical scuba experiences. Most of the time in the tropics we are caressed by warm clear water and enjoy vistas of unsurpassed loveliness with easy access to the surface when necessary.
The Proust Questionaire is a revealing entertainment at parties and the question I most enjoy answering is “What is your favourite Journey?” My answer is “The journey from the surface to the sea-bed.” and my favourite of these journeys is in deep water, where on entry I cannot yet make out the reef or wreck that I am diving to. As I descend, surrounded by the sea, I feel welcomed and liberated. Soon vague shapes appear as the sea-bed comes into view and I make out the corals and fishes. I feel free, not confined!
How differently this is out of the water. For a long period I lived in PNG without leaving the small town of Alotau. Then I was invited to speak in Sydney and looked forward to travelling and sightseeing. It was a shock walking the Sydney streets, and being pushed off the miniscule sidewalks by rushing pedestrians. Building constructions blocked my path and traffic overwhelmed me.
I realised I was feeling ill and …. claustrophobic! I had to get on a Harbour ferry before I recovered. It took a while to get used to cities again, and I even delayed an invitation to travel to New York. When I did finally arrive and strolled down 5th Ave. my fears were replaced by astonishment as the broad sidewalks opened vistas of the mesmerising skyscrapers.
But in Australia these days we live enmeshed in a far more potent claustrophobia. The Nanny state snares us with spy cameras, speed traps and RBT’s. Insane and insulting rules force our behaviour. In Cairns City I am now told never to cross a road without an illuminated green man to aid me.
I recently had to have a “Pool Safety Certificate” issued for my swimming pool fence that involved two council inspectors invading my (I thought) private property, and me paying for the privilege. Why? Evidently in case some other person was too slack to properly supervise their non-swimming infants who may trespass into my already fenced yard. Every time I look at the pool fence I get annoyed. The $5,000 it cost me to build in the first place – a fence I neither needed nor wanted – was the new camera housing I did need and want!
I am told to make sacrifices to save the planet because some very noisy Green fanatics believe that CO2, a natural plant fertiliser, is warming everything – or making it cooler, or dryer or wetter or – whatever. At great expense I changed my light bulbs to flickering, poisonous devices that produce a repulsive illumination. Now I am expected to subsidise wind turbines that produce intermittent power at great expense and vandalise great expanses of beautiful countryside.
The media presents speculation as evidence, alarmist activism is proclaimed science, and eco-fascists declare their “belief” in anthropogenic climate change – it is now a religion requiring faith. Sceptics are heretics denounced as “Deniers”. It’s suffocating.
I sit in horror at the flooding devastation dealt on some of our unfortunate fellow citizens and wonder how it is, since this has all happened before, that these people were not protected. Was it because we were told that floods were a thing of the past? Tim Flannery, David Karoly and their mates, well publicised by the ABC, have been preaching for years that with “Global Warming” we can only expect droughts.
Is it too much to expect that with $1,571,098,000.00 budgeted for the Australian Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency 2010-2011, someone might have said, hang on a bit, lets spend some of that making sure that whatever the weather does, citizens are safe right now? Especially since none of the Al Gore alarmist predictions are actually coming true. The Argo buoy network shows global Ocean temperatures have been declining since 2004. Polar Bears are doing just fine, atolls are growing and in 2010 Antarctica had a record maximum Sea ice extent.
Then I only need a word from Julia Gillard to know that we are doomed, she backs the fools and charlatans all the way. As if a carbon tax will influence La Nina. Albert Einstein said that only two things are infinite – the Universe, and human stupidity, and he was not certain of the former. Our lives are becoming more and more claustrophobic as mind-numbing stupidity smothers us.
There is only one escape – go diving!
If you want to cut through the spin and find out what is really happening, and has historically happened, to the Earth’s Climate then read palaeoclimatologist Professor Robert Carter’s brilliant “Climate: The Counter Consensus”. (Stacey International 2010 IBSN: 978 1 906768 29 4). It is essential reading for anyone who wants an intelligent opinion on anthropogenic climate change.
And I’m looking forward to reading Dr. Patrick Moore’s “Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout – the making of a sensible environmentalist”. Patrick was a co-founder of Greenpeace but resigned when the organization was taken over by fanatics. He supports science over alarmism – and realises that nuclear power is essential for our futures.