maandag 28 mei 2012

Diving in the Vinkeveense Plassen

The majority of students in our MSc program on marine resource management is a diving fanatic. One of them, for instance, did an internship in Madagascar at Blue Ventures, an NGO that does research on the status and value of marine ecosystems in Madagascar and Belize and that offers volunteer work (i.e. to pay them to do work for them) to do dive surveys. Another student conducted a survey among divers in the Dutch Caribbean to estimate their willingness to pay for diving there. Diving is a major source of income of many marine conservation areas, especially coral reefs. So I figured I should at least know what it's like underwater. Last weekend I did a discovery dive with Jacobs Diving in the Vinkeveense Plassen to experience just that. (OK, to be really honest, I figured it would make a nice birthday present for Monique, who told me before she would like to try diving.)

Photo taken by Jacob Van Velsen
The place we went to turned out to be a very popular place among Dutch divers, and it is not difficult to understand why: the water is exceptionally clear for Dutch standards and the presence of fish is so predictable that guide books show them on the map. (Seriously, it said: big fish here, and yes, they were real.) Jacob gave us short instructions of what we were going to do and then we went in. The first you notice is the heaviness of your own breathing: you suddenly feel like Darth Vader with bubbles. Everything else (the tinkling of the chains of a buoy, the breathing of other divers) is only slightly noticeable. As you hover through the sparse vegetation at about 2 meters deep you slowly see the rim approaching of a deeper area. Beyond that there is only dark, but as you go further you start making out shapes: a sunken boat, other divers. These diving places are full of objects to dive to, including a bus, a laundry carousel (complete with clothes), and one of those typical ANWB emergency telephones. The place wasn't like a playground: it was a playground. There are even a couple of spring riders.

  video

I can now understand what attracts my students in diving: in fact, I'm considering taking a PADI course myself. It's a cliche, but there is a whole world down there and the experience is almost extraterrestrial. And this was just the Vinkeveense Plassen!

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