Have you ever done something that you thought was way too hard to manage? That made you ask yourself “Why am I actually doing this?!”
I hadn’t, and I can say that for sure, because now I have. The training to become a certified European Scientific Diver (ESD) was one of the toughest and most challenging courses in my life. But at the same time, one of the most rewarding!
In Germany, as one of many European countries, scientists are not allowed to dive for scientific purposes unless they are in a team of three and all certified ESDs. The course usually takes a total of 5 weeks of active training with a shorter or longer break in between for studying the material. It is very dependent on the institution that offers the course and the place where it will take place.
I participated in a course offered by the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (Germany) in cooperation with the Alfred Wegener Institute Centre for Scientific Diving (Helgoland) and the Sven Lovén Center in Kristineberg (Sweden). We were 9 trainees from four different countries and were trained by experienced staff that had done plenty of ESD courses before.
The course to become a qualified scientific diver is challenging but extremely rewarding at the same time. Reason for that is the intensity of training with equipment that may be new to you, the amount of skills you learn and the abilities you develop.
At the moment there are a few countries that are full members of the European Scientific Diving Panel (Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, UK with Bulgaria, Croatia and Greece as associate members) in which people (at some institutions) need the certificate to be able to dive for collecting scientific data. The main reason for this association is to make scientific diving even more safe than it already is.
Personally, I thought I could dive. But it is a very different experience to dive with a rope, connected to the team leader on land/boat and be in dry suit and full-face mask compared to a wetsuit and normal, warm-water equipment. Particularly challenging were the tasks of removing the full-face mask under water and putting it back on, as well as the regular safety days, during which the teams train (relatively realistic) rescue and first aid scenarios. Yet, it is a really valuable experience that trains you to be more aware of safety measures before things happen. Diving with the full-face mask (with which you can talk under water) and audio communication cord to the boat, was something I highly appreciate when doing field work now.
I did not know that everyone can hold their breath about 1-2 minutes under water (it is our brain that tells us that we can’t), and I didn’t know what my body was capable of doing; for example carrying a man’s body (also in full gear), out of the water, up a 2m ladder, with only the help of one person on land.
If you want to participate in this year’s course find more information here.