Wednesday 7th May 2008 by C. Freeman
Student, Lewis Kernaghan has seen coral reefs, aquatic wildlife and even a lone shark during underwater diving trips. Lewis, from Year 10, was recently awarded his PADI Open Water certificate after he completed diving tasks and a written assignment.
He said: 'The main training is done in a swimming pool and you need to know the basics, like mask clearing and regulator retrieval. Once you've done all your pool work you do open water dives. To qualify I did four open water dives at Stoney Cove, a former quarry in Leicestershire.'
Stoney Cove is the UK's national diving centre and they offer training and underwater experience to divers from around the world. The cove is divided into different zones to cater for everyone from novice divers in seven metre waters to experts in depths up to 36 metres. There are also more than 20 submerged objects to explore from a Wessex helicopter to a bus!
Lewis first learnt to dive four years ago in Cyprus and, since then he and his dad have completed lots of dives. He had to complete the PADI certificate so he was qualified to dive off Sharm El Sheik in Egypt during a recent holiday.
Lewis was swimming off the hotel's coral reef and he saw turtles and a shark. He said: 'On holiday we did roughly a dive a day and also spent a day diving from a boat. While we were out there we saw a coral reef shark. It was fairly big but as it was far away and not dangerous the situation was not too scary.'
Diving is a sport where there is a lot of essential information to keep in mind, from remembering to check pressure gauges to see how much air is left in the breathing apparatus, to monitoring the depth and time of dives to avoid getting decompression sickness. This is known as 'the bends' where gases, mainly nitrogen, can form bubbles in the body which can lead to pain, paralysis and even death.
Lewis has swum in a range of conditions, from tropical waters to chilly British weather. Once, while diving in Leicestershire he got out from the water and inflated his dry suit with air remaining in his tank as it was warmer than the air outdoors!
There are basic rules to staying safe in the water including always diving with a 'buddy' in case either person gets into difficulty. Lewis said : 'It's very technical, there's a lot of things to remember but the main thing when you're in the water is don't panic. You've got to breathe with slow, deep breaths and you have to stay calm.'
Lewis intends to carry on with his diving training and plans to complete a rescue diver course on first aid in the water next year when he is 15. He can then go on to become a 'dive-master' when he has completed 60 dives, and ultimately he'd like to become an instructor, although divers have to be aged 18 to reach that level.
As far as Lewis knows he is the only student in the College who does dive but he recommends it as a sport. He said: 'It's fun. You get to see different things and it can be really colourful underwater. Egypt was the best place I've dived so far. You weren't allowed to walk from the beach into the water, you had to step on buoys because the coral reef started straight from the beach.'