Lynn Brennan –
When most people think of scuba diving, they imagine crystal-blue waters, colorful fish and tropical paradises.
Conditions the Missouri State Highway Patrol dive team faces stand in stark contrast to that vision.
“About 90 percent of the dives that we dive in is in black water — where you can’t even see your hand in front of your face,” said Trooper Jason Kuessner, one of the dive team’s nine divers.
“You can take a flashlight around with you and shine it in your face and you can’t see the bulb burning.
That’s why training in this clear water, it helps guys get comfortable with their equipment and their gear.”
Kuessner and the eight other members of the dive team spent a hot summer day in the cool waters of the Quail Run Diver’s Quarry in Rolla conducting panic avoidance training.
“Today we’re doing emergency out-of-air exercises,” said Sgt. Kurt Merseal, dive team leader.
“We’re doing what we call zero-visibility ascents and descents.
Most of our diving is zero-visibility. You can’t see anything. So what we’ll do is, we’ll drop down to about 30 feet and we’ll black out a mask.
We’ll have you do what is called a controlled ascent.
Sometimes people have trouble with vertigo when you can’t see – you don’t know if you’re going up or down or sideways.
It’s a good way to overcome that.
Then we’ll actually do it without a mask so you’ll lose your primary mask, you’ll have something to breathe from, but your nose is exposed, your eyes are exposed, you have to work your way up slow.
Here it’s easy, but when you’re in 100 feet of black water, it’s tough.”