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Remember the old days when we, as kids, used to try talking and screaming underwater? It wasn’t that easy to understand. That’s because our inner ears aren’t triggered by underwater sound waves the way they are above water.
Communication is really essential for divers, but can you talk while scuba diving?
The answer is no, not with ordinary diving gear. However, it’s possible to connect using modern technologies that facilitate sound wave transmission. Additionally, if these technologies aren’t available, there are always other communication methods.
Keep reading to find out how scuba divers talk, and what modern communication equipment is currently available.
Does Sound Travel Underwater?
Yes, sound travels underwater in the same way it travels through air, which is via mechanical waves. Nevertheless, these sound waves move so much faster underwater (almost 5 times) because the density of water is higher than the air.
As a result, our ears, which are accustomed to the normal speed of sound, fail to determine which way the underwater sound is coming from.
Can You Talk While Scuba Diving?
It’s hard to talk with all the scuba diving equipment. So, even if you managed to speak underwater with the regulator in your mouth, it could be challenging for others to understand what you’re trying to say.
Not to mention that in order for others to get what you’re saying, you have to get really close to the person, and speak loudly as well as slowly.
This isn’t practical nor effective in all situations, and this is why innovative companies are always attempting to develop practical solutions for underwater communication.
How Can You Talk While Scuba Diving?
Because communication between divers is essential and it can sometimes be lifesaving, companies have tried to develop verbal communication devices to use while scuba diving. Currently, there are two devices that make it possible to talk underwater which are:
1. Full-face Masks
Full-face masks are one of the best solutions for talking underwater. That’s because while wearing this mask, your whole face is inside an air-filled space. Consequently, you can use your mouth and nose freely to breathe as well as communicate.
Some of these masks come with a microphone and a speaker, which allow the divers to speak with each other and with the boat. They use wireless technology to transmit signals through an attached transmitter/receiver.
Unfortunately, these masks have a few downsides to them. They’re pretty expensive, especially those that come with communication devices. Additionally, they require extra training to use safely because they’re a bit complicated.
Logosease is an underwater device developed by Casio to help divers converse with each other. The device is fairly small and easy to attach to your mask strap, which makes it highly convenient.
Logosease uses ultrasound communication. It works perfectly at a distance of up to 45 ft and a depth of 130 ft. The device has a built-in bone conduction microphone that collects vibration from the speaking person’s bone and transmits them through ultrasonic waves.
The ultrasonic waves are then received by the other person’s built-in bone conduction speaker. In turn, this speaker transfers the ultrasound to the receiver’s bones.
This device is perfect, especially at night or in muddy waters where it’s not easy for divers to spot each other. It incorporates other senses when the sense of sight is obstructed due to out-of-hand conditions.
The only downside is that Logosease requires special training to be able to speak clearly with the regulator in your mouth.
Other Underwater Communication Methods for Scuba Divers
Now, there are traditional communication methods that divers have been using effectively for ages. They work just fine, especially when new speaking technologies are expensive and sometimes not as effective.
Classic underwater communication methods are quite easy to use and reliable in certain situations.
Method #1: Hand Signals
Hand signaling is the most common method of underwater communication. You learn a few of these signals during your first couple of sessions as a new diver. With time, you add more signals to your knowledge.
Hand signals are designed to be as simple and clear as possible. They allow you to ask and answer questions or give a piece of your information to your diving partner.
There is a set of hand signals that are commonly agreed upon among divers, which they call the “standardized signals.” These are universal signals that the World Recreational Scuba Training Council created.
The Most Common Hand Signals Used While Scuba Diving
These are some of the most common underwater hand signals. Remember that you can use the same hand signal to either ask or inform.
- OK: Linking the tips of your thumb and index finger indicates that everything is ok.
- Both Hands Over Head: Placing both hands over your head has the same meaning as the ok sign, and it’s used in lower visibility areas.
- Thumbs Up: Gesturing a thumbs up with your hand means “ascend,” and it’s usually confused with the ok sign.
- Thumbs Down: Gesturing a thumbs down obviously has the opposite meaning of thumbs up, which is “descend.”
- Something Is Wrong: You can convey that something is wrong by flattening your hand palm down, spreading your fingers, and twisting it side to side.
- Stop: Raising your hand, like you do when taking an oath, means stop.
- Turn Around: To tell your diving buddy to turn around, raise your index finger and move it in a circular motion.
- Look: Pointing your index and middle fingers at your own eyes, then pointing in the direction using the index finger is the sign for telling your partner to look at something.
- Boat: The signal that means “boat” is usually done by cupping your hands together the same as you do when you want to fill them with water.
Method #2: Light Signals
This method works perfectly in low-light or low-visibility areas. The dive light is a special flashlight that divers use to illuminate their surrounding environment underwater. Divers sometimes use their dive lights to communicate.
You can use your dive light to grab the attention of your fellow diver or to make a meaningful signal. A few of the most common light signals used while scuba diving are:
- Moving the light side to side usually means: there’s an emergency.
- Moving the light up and down mainly means: attention! Or Danger ahead!
- Moving the light in a circular motion while directed to the ocean’s floor means: you’re okay.
Method #3: Dive Slates
A dive slate is another simple way of communicating and it doesn’t require training or memorizing signals. That’s because you use this erasable board to communicate with your fellow diver through writing.
These dive slates are typically made of plastic or PVC, and they’re fitted with a waterproof marker. Some of these dive slates come with a glow-in-the-dark marker, which is perfect for nighttime diving.
The only downside to this method is that it requires you to carry the slate around while diving. So, make sure that it’s properly secured to your wrist or your Buoyancy Control Device (BCD).
Method #4: Rope Tugs
Divers don’t use the rope tug method to communicate with each other, instead, they use it to communicate with the boat operator or crew. When the crew member pulls the rope once, it means “is everything ok?” Similarly, pulling the rope twice means “stay where you are.”
To answer these signals, all you need to do is repeat the action. One tug means “I’m ok,” and two tugs mean “I’m not moving.” Other signals include “descend,” which is three tugs, “come up,” which is four tugs, and “emergency, “which is five tugs.
Method #5: Noise Makers
Noisemakers are audible underwater signaling devices that are usually used to grab your partner’s attention while scuba diving. These devices include rattles, tank bangers, or shakers, which produce enough sound to travel through water.
They’re inexpensive, easy to use, and usually small enough to fit inside your BCD’s pocket.
Method #6: Improvisation
It’s possible for you and your diving buddy to create special signals for underwater communication that only you two can understand. It’s fun and feels like having a secret language.
Tips for Underwater Communication
There are a few tips to follow before you attempt communicating underwater, which are:
- Stay close to your diving group/diving buddy and never drift away from each other.
- Take your noisemaker so that you can grab your partner’s attention whenever needed.
- Take your dive slate, because you never know when you might need it.
- Practice your hand signals with your diving partner before making the dive.
- Practice also your lighting signals for when you go diving at night.
Talking is the human’s basic way of communicating, but can you talk while scuba diving? Underwater communication is essential for both professional and recreational divers. That’s why people are always developing easier ways to have underwater conversations.
It’s not possible to talk while scuba diving if you’re using ordinary diving gear. That said, there are a few devices that facilitate talking underwater, but they’re quite expensive. So, if you’re not willing to break the bank, just stick with the basic communication methods.