Thursday, September 29, 2016


This is a common question asked when people board a dive boat. My answer is it is not required but I encourage it. Let me tell you why.

The other day I asked my friend John if I could relay his story. He was diving on a new dive site in favorable but less than ideal conditions. He is actually a great diver although he has only been diving a short time. Before he got back to the boat he realized he was low on air he ascended. After inflating his BCD he was really low on air and struggled to get back to the boat admitting he swallowed a lot of sea water. I noticed that when I went diving with him this week he had put his snorkel back on his mask.

A few years ago, when I owned a dive shop I read an article in Alert Diver magazine. It stated some interesting facts. Roughly 80% of all diving accidents happen to people not wearing a snorkel. At first glance a lot of you will say well almost 90% of all diving accidents occur at the surface so that makes sense. But do the math. That means more than 90% of the diving accidents that occur under water happen to people who don’t wear snorkels. The point of the article was this “Almost all diving accidents happen because the diver failed to do something he was taught in Open Water Class or attempted to do something he wasn’t taught in Open Water Class.” I will accept that the increase in some of the more technical aspects of diving within the recreational community has spawned some of this. However, the point of the article was “A diver who fails to use a snorkel, a required piece of equipment, has already accepted that the education provided for him by diving experts doesn’t apply to him all the time.”

Another day I was diving with a diver who I actually asked to wear a snorkel. He refused saying he was extremely experienced and assured me that in his 100 dives he had no need for one. Maybe I should have insisted. We were doing a scheduleD 40 min. drift dive. The reason for this was that the most scenic portion of the dive was too dangerous to bring a boat in and the strong current would have prevented us from returning to the starting point. Instead of informing me of the exact amount of air he had left when I asked he gave me the “time out” sign which generally means you have half a tank left. He was actually below 1000 lbs. Minutes later I saw him heading to the surface where I joined him. He was struggling to keep his head above water so I hit his inflator and his tank went dry before I got it filled enough to make him positively buoyant. I then dropped his weights and orally inflated his BCD the rest of the way. I asked if he could swim with me away from the dangerous area so the boat could retrieve us. He said he didn’t think he could because he was out of air and had no snorkel. I had to tow a 240 lb. diver to safety because HE didn’t wear a snorkel and HE was experienced enough to not need it. Apparently he was experienced enough to keep an eye on his air and report it accurately… NOT!

I have over 8400 dives and if you do the math this means I have spent almost 2/3 of a year in my life underwater. I always wear a snorkel. I understand that sometimes a snorkel could be a safety hazard as in cave diving and wreck diving. It can also be a hindrance for some underwater photographers and videographers. But, divers like myself may not always be there to rescue you as in this last story. It’s still your decision but a smart and safe diver wears a snorkel.

Until next time always make your total number of ascents equal your total number of descents.

Your really cool blogger


Thursday, September 22, 2016


Photo by Betty Wills
No I didn’t!!! This is a conversation had frequently by experienced and inexperienced divers on our boat. In fact it happened again yesterday. The common Caribbean Reef Squid is large enough to be mistaken for a cuttlefish. However, cuttlefish don’t exist in the Caribbean.

Peculiar traits

Squid are members of the class cephalopoda. Cepha means head and poda means foot so you could call them head feet. Other cephalopods are octopus and… you guessed it cuttlefish. They really have no torso hense, their name. Only possessing a head and tentacles they have no bones and are therefore invertebrates.

Cephalopods are carnivores. They use their tentacles to eat fish, mollusks ie. clams, scallops, and conch, and crustaceans like shrimp, crab, and lobster. The tentacles pull the food to a small parrot like beak which tears the food into bite size morsels.

Humans have one heart with 4 chambers. 2 are ventricles. They build the pressure for the 2 atria to distribute to the body. One ventricle and one atria supply the oxygenated blood to the body for consumption. The other pair sends the blood now higher in carbon dioxide to the lungs to be reoxygenated.

In contrast, some squid have 2 hearts each with one atria and one ventricle. One heart sends the blood to the gills for oxygen while the other heart sends it to the body. Other squid have 1 heart with 1 ventricle and 2 atria. In this case the ventricle supplies the pressure while each atria boosts the blood to the respective organs. One to power the body and one for respiration.

While we are on the circulatory system, Sam reminded me that Cephalopods have a green blue blood. You have heard the term hemoglobin. Our blood has iron based proteins that carry oxygen making it red. Squid, octopus, and cuttlefish all have hemocyanic blood which is copper based proteins giving their blood a blue green tint.

Cephalopods skin is composed of many special cells called chromatophores. This allows them to change color and patterns rapidly. You might think this serves well for camouflage. You would be right. However, cephalopods have extremely large brains compared to their body mass and are therefore very intelligent. They use their color changes to communicate with each other rapidly. Divers often enjoy watching a chorus line of squid moving in synchronization as if they were all attached by wires. This is because the subtle changes in color pass the seemingly choreographed moves from one squid to the next almost instantaneously.


Sometimes you might notice a squid split down the middle with 2 different colors, generally red and blue. Then, in a split second it will reverse. When squid mate, anywhere from 2 to 5 males will compete for a females attention. The healthier the female the healthier males she will attract insuring survival of the fittest. Females are generally larger than males. But, the largest or healthiest of the males will insert himself between the other males and the female. He turns red on the side closest to her telling her “Hey baby I’m hot for you”. The other half turns blue telling approaching males to take a cold shower. If the advances come from the opposite side of the female he will switch his location and reverse his colors sending the same messages. Knowing this, if you pay attention you can stop and watch the act in process. I was fortunate enough to witness it, know what was happening, and stop some inexperienced divers to watch a National Geographic moment of a lifetime.

Once a male and female have separated to mate she may not accept him. He performs a dance blowing water on her until she finally gives in and says “I really don’t have a headache get it over with.”  This usually occurs in a very short time but can take as much as an hour. She has to be selective as she can only reproduce once. Males can fertilize more than one female. Squid reach maturity for reproduction within 1 to 2 years. At this point, the males have the largest male sex organ for their body size in the animal kingdom. It is short lived though as they die shortly after breeding season. After he inserts a packet of sperm onto the female he tries to find another partner until breeding season is over. The now “impregnated” female fertilizes her eggs by using her tentacles to relocate the sperm to her egg sack much like lobsters but that is another blog (stay tuned). When the eggs are fertilized she attaches them to the bottom usually in shallow water but I have seen them as much as 40 ft or 33 m deep. The clumps of eggs look like groups of white night light bulbs. If you look closely you can actually see the embryonic squid inside. When the female is done depositing her eggs her work on earth is through and she passes on.

The next time you see cuttlefish… excuse me SQUID, freeze. Watch them closely. Don’t forget to look behind you. My wife Laura always does. A school of squid usually sends out 2 sentry squid to detract you from the main body. Then she turns around and sees the entire school.

Until next time always make your total number od ascents equal your total number of descents.

Your really cool blogger


Thursday, September 15, 2016

photo by Cathy Church from

photo by David Doubilet from pinterest
When you look at great pictures by legendary photographers like Jim and Cathy Church, David Doubilet or great amateur photographers like Faithe Evans and Steve Judd you won’t notice they all have one thing in common. For example: they all enjoy different subjects or they all frame their pictures differently.
 They do have in common well composed photographs that center on the important subject that is well framed and well positioned to capture the essence of the subject. So why is it that they don’t take blurry photographs of fish butts that are so far away that you have to squint to even see them in the picture?

by Faithe Evans from Facebook

The answer is great buoyancy. While I will address some of these other issues in another blog, I would like to take a stab at the most important aspect of great photography… being in control of yourself.

Last Friday the divers following me noticed that a school of Blue Runners got into my shadow and followed me for a good portion of the dive as if I was a large fish myself. I used this example as a lesson that the calmer, smoother, and more naturally you move non-threateningly through the water the more you become a natural part of the environment. If you are non-threatening then the sea life will come to you instead of you chasing it.

by Steve Judd from facebook
The amateurs I mentioned are great examples. Steve and Faithe are capable of approaching their subjects smoothly, naturally, and SLOWLY. They don’t hold on to rocks or worse yet coral or a sponge to hold position. They use a skill we were all taught in our Open Water training… Hovering.

Back to Basics

Neutral Buoyancy Check.

If you want to improve your photographs go back to your basics. Start with a neutral buoyancy check. Holding a normal breath of air you should be able to completely deflate your BCD and sink to eye level.  NO HANDS NO KICKING. Once you are in that position the surface of the water should cross the bridge of your nose. If you continue to sink you are wearing too much weight. If you can’t sink to eye level add a little. When you exhale you should sink.

Fin Pivots

Laying on the bottom you should take a deep breath and continue to inhale until your torso rises off the bottom. As soon as this starts to happen, exhale until you sink back to the bottom again. NO HANDS NO KICKING. If you can’t get off of the bottom drop a few pounds until you can.


Hovering maybe the most important of all of these skills to good photography. Start in any position you are comfortable. Take a deep breath to rise off of the bottom a foot or two. Then control your breathing by exhaling if you feel you are going up and inhaling if you feel you are sinking. NO HANDS NO KICKING.  As you improve at this skill practice it in other positions until you are comfortable holding your place in any position.

Continuing Education

If you continue to have problems managing these skills see your local dive shop and take the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy specialty course. This course also covers things like. old wetsuit vs. new, 7mm full suit vs. 3mm shorty, steel tank vs. aluminum, 80 cu. ft. vs. 63 cu. ft., and full tank vs. empty tank. Did you know that 80 cu. ft. of air weighs about 4 lbs. Therefore, if you are down to 750 psi. you are 3 lbs. lighter at the end of the dive than you were at the beginning.

Another option is to ask a dive guide or a diver you respect as having good buoyancy control watch and advise you. I have been an instructor for 21 years and I have yet to stop learning.


As you continue diving if you have a few minutes on the bottom before the group gets down or at the end of the dive when those low on air are ascending…practice. I practice every time I am working with students and sometimes while I am leading dives and no one even notices.
Faithe and Steve exhibit good buoyancy skills
Let me challenge you with some goals.  I only need 6 lbs. of weight to stay down with an aluminum 80 and a 3mm shorty. When I guide I wear 12 lbs. so that I have a few extra in case someone needs it. First, I never have to add air to my BCD to control my buoyancy. Conservatively I suggest, if you are adding air you are at least 4 lbs. too heavy. Second, when you have good enough control, try moving through the water by inhaling, exhaling then changing your body position. You can actually swim without using your hands or feet albeit slowly with this technique. When you reach this point you too will be able to close up on the subjects you want to photograph in a non-threatening manner and get that cover shot.

Always make your total number of ascents equal your total number of descents.

Your really cool blogger,


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Feather Duster Worms

Hello Aqua Action blog followers.

Amy has moved on to new adventures and I, Duane Hausch, will be filling her fins.
I will attempt to provide you with relevant and interesting information just as she did.
Like this...

Feather Duster Worms
Photo compliments of Albert Kok from Wikipedia

Many new divers marvel at this flower that magically disappears when I snap my fingers. Eventually, as they gain more experience they realize that these are so common that they lose interest in them.

Waning interest in seeing them aside this is actually a very interesting animal and not a flower. Recently one of our regular divers asked me how they reproduce. So here is your answer John.

Feather Duster Worms 101:

Feather Dusters are actually worms. For you taxonomists they are polychaetes and the one pictured is Sabellidae.

Polychaete basically means multiple bristles. Each worm has 8 thoracic sections each having chaetae or bristles along the bottom or venteral side. As they have no legs, these bristles help them move in and out of their home which is a calcium carbonate based tube The head has two fan shaped clusters called radioles that are used for filtering food out the water. These are the feathers.

 Hold onto your hat movie goers. Polychaetes have been around since the Early Jurassic period. As long as there have been living organisms there have been dying ones. While much of their food supply is filtered out of the water they are detrivores. This means that they help sweep up dead and decaying matter to keep the reef clean.

Another key to the survival of these worms is their ability to reproduce. Polychates reproduce both sexually and asexually. Much like coral each animal can produce both male and female gametes (eggs and sperm) in the water column during broadcast spawning. When a male and female gamete collide by happenstance fertilization occurs and our new little wormie floats around planktonicly until it becomes large enough to settle to the bottom and start it’s own little tube.

When you see clusters or colonies of them, you are seeing clones. In asexual reproduction the last thoracic segment of the worm falls off and generates a new worm while the head grows a new tail.

 So the next time you see Feather Duster or Christmas Tree Worms don’t wave your magic hand and make them disappear. Instead look a little closer like I have. Maybe you too will realize their markings are as individual as snowflakes.

Email me at to let me know what you would like to see me write about next.

Until then make your total number of ascents equal your total number of descents.

Your Really Cool Blogger,