Advanced Open Water Diver: Search and Recovery

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SearchRecovery

You’re on vacation and your favorite sunglasses are feeling a bit loose. As you take them off to see what’s wrong, you notice that the tiny screw attaching one of the arms to the lens has worked its way nearly all the way out. While you’re staring at it, relieved that it’s an easy fix, it pops out and absolutely disappears in the sand between your legs. Your stomach goes cold and panic sets in, you just “know” that all is lost.

Then your PADI® Advanced Open Water Diver training kicks in. You remember the Search and Recovery dive and the first thing you do is mark the most likely location of your screw with a handy bottle top. Calmly, you make sure that nothing disturbs the area and you start a careful visual search in a series of expanding circles around the bottle cap, on the third pass you see something tiny glint in the sunlight and there it is.

Many of the skills you’ll learn in the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course have application far beyond diving. Search and Recovery is a great example. It’s not so much the specific search patterns you learn but the overall approach and discipline that really make a difference and help with myriad day-to-day situations.

Divers using lift bag - search and recovery

During the Search and Recovery dive your instructor will help you learn an approach to finding and recovering an object underwater (within certain limits, this is not about raising the QE2). That’s not an easy task and success is among the most rewarding experiences you’re likely to have.

The first thing you’ll do is define, and mark, a search area. Then, depending on a number of factors including object size, visibility and bottom conditions, you’ll decide on a specific search pattern. Once you find the object, after letting out an underwater whoop, you’ll either put it in your pocket or mark it for later recovery.

The recovery is great fun too. Using a lift bag and a few reliable knots you’ll bring an object (such as a small outboard motor) to the surface and onto the shore or boat. You’ll find that the knots you learn and use (the bowline, sheet bend and two half hitches) are remarkably useful for many purposes such as loading a roof rack, rigging a canopy or tarp for a party. They’re secure and easy to untie even after being put under a big load for an extended time. The Search and Recovery dive will help you say farewell to the ubiquitous and truly terrible granny knot forever.

Don’t forget that the Search and Recovery dive is only the tip of the iceberg: There’s a great deal more to learn in the associated Search and Recovery Specialty course and the dive you just made counts towards that certification too.

Ready to get started now? Enroll in an Advanced Open Water Diver course at your PADI Dive Center or Resort.