Archive for Tuesday, October 15, 2002

South Junior High student savors trip to Great Barrier Reef

October 15, 2002


Have you ever dreamed what it would be like to dive deep in the ocean and see the sea life down there?

Well, the dream became a reality for Thomas Ashe, an eighth-grader at South Junior High School. When Thomas was 12, he and his family began taking diving lessons in Lawrence. Thomas received certifications in Junior Open Water, Advanced Water and Junior Masters.

Thomas took five specialty classes, swam 200 meters, did 50 logged dives and took a special first aid course to get his Junior Masters. A logged dive is documentation of where you went and for how long. The difference between junior certification and full certification is that you have to be 15 to go diving without a licensed adult present.

For Thomas, the hardest part of training was having to simulate rescuing an adult in the first aid course.

"In order to pass the course, you must get an unconscious adult to the surface, then take off both their equipment and yours, all while doing mouth-to-mouth every five seconds and floating," Thomas, 13, said.

Equipment used in diving includes a wetsuit, buoyancy control device, a compass, an air gauge and a depth gauge. A wetsuit keeps you warm underwater. It is of different thickness depending on how cold the water is. The buoyancy control device holds the air tank flat. A compass tells you which direction is up. The air and depth gauges tell how much air you have left and how deep you have gone in the water.

Last year, Thomas' father, a professor in entomology at Kansas University, was on sabbatical in Canberra, Australia. While there, Thomas and his family took two trips to the Great Barrier Reef.

"That is my favorite place to dive," Thomas said.

On his second trip to the Great Barrier Reef, Thomas and his family spent three days on what is called a Live-On-Dive-Boat. Thomas caught a sea cucumber during the excursion.

"There were about 30 people on the boat, and we basically ate, slept and dived four times a day," said Aagje, Thomas' mother.

When most people think of diving, they generally think you have to be an excellent swimmer. According to Steve, Thomas' father, this is not true.

"I'm not a very good swimmer, and I passed," Steve said.

Safety issues are another common concern about diving.

Classes necessary for certification teach divers how to keep track of where you are in the water and what sort of animals to avoid if you are diving in the tropics. There are tropic and temperate zones for diving.

One tip Thomas had for anyone interested in diving is: "Don't get scared about the depth. The almost weightless experience is worth it."

Most people don't realize that you don't have to be on a boat to go diving. The Ashes dived many times off of a beach when they were in Australia. Around Lawrence, there are not too many places suitable for diving, but you can go to Stockton Lake in Missouri.

 Beth Ruhl is a sophomore at Bishop Seabury Academy.

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