The dive where physics caught up with our water sampling
July 27, 2015
The inflatable boat was broken so, no diving. This has become a relatively recurring theme. So we spent the morning trying to sort out paperwork for our stay here… or rather we tagged along while our fantastic couch-surfing host, Olga, navigated her way around Russian bureaucracy. At 1pm we got a text that the boat was fixed and that we were going diving! So off we went.
Diving here is really amazing! At the surface the water is a nice and toasty 13°C but this layer of warm water is only 5m thick and right below it there is a current of cold water (6°C). Where the water mixes (thermocline) you see everything fuzzy.
Our dives are shallow around 10m and the rocky bottom with stunning rock gardens and gullies breaming with colorful life. If it weren't for the piercing cold it would be like diving in a tropical location. There is so much activity going on: massive anemonies hunting on sea urchins, tiny nudibranchs inching their way across rocks, huge colorful starfish, snails guarding their eggs, etc.
On this dive we also wanted to showcase our well practised water sampling skills and collect some water for ASC. On our ascent we stopped at 6m to collect the water. All that we had anticipated could go wrong when practising in the UK (and didn't) occurred here!! I was overly keen on the surface tightening the cap of the bottle and the cold had made my hands completely numb. This with 5mm neoprene gloves limited my dexterity and I couldn't open the bottle! The cheap plastic also deformed the container making it even more difficult to open!
After many attempts and cumbersomely trying to reshape the cap I managed to open the bottle! But our issues were far from gone! The plastic wouldn't regain shape and no matter how much I tried to squeeze it in every point it would not give way and continued to be flat and squished and 2 dimensional. There was only one thing left to do: get air in the bottle to force it to its original cylindrical, 3-D shape. I took a big breath in, took my regulator out and blew into the bottle. That did the trick! We had a bottle again! I managed to fill it relatively easily.
We had a water sample! But when I went to put the cap back on I realized that it had slipped out of my hand and with the gloves I hadn't noticed! We dropped down 2m to the bottom and started looking for a green cap in a bed of green sea urchins! We were sampling hovering mid-water with swell and current for quite a while which meant we had moved from the original spot. We searched the area for a while but then had to ascent, sad that we had failed in our feat, polluted the sea with a plastic cap and didn't have a water sample.
That evening we decided on an expedition to the local supermarket and analyzed all the 1l bottles they were selling to identify the best suited one for our purpose. The winner contains "тархун" a toxic-green-tarragon-based-very-sweet-slightly-fizzy drink. It's not too bad… I guess you get used to it!
Next day we went diving again this time equipped with our thick plastic bottles, not too tightened too much, and we decided to sample on the way down rather than up as that way I still had some feeling in my hands (but maybe that was more due to the sugar rush from all the tarragon drink! We managed to collect water samples easily and quickly this time!