We all learned in our beginning certification course how to use some basic hand signals to communicate underwater. As we mentioned in a previous post about full face masks that have integrated electronic communication, many of us still rely on hand and other underwater signaling methods.
Fortunately, many of hand signals are fairly universal, such as the thumb & forefinger OK sign, the horizontal palm down across our chest to signal out of air (hopefully one you’ve never had to use) and pointing your thumb up or down to signal ascent or descent.
Did you know there is a whole set of hand signals to communicate what kind of marine life you’re seeing? For example, gently flapping your arms means a manta ray, your hand on top of your head with your fingers pointing up means a shark and a wiggling your fingers with your hand held down means an octopus! For more hand signals, check out this graphic.
Of course, an easy way to communicate exactly what you mean is to carry a slate specifically designed for underwater use. You can clip one onto your BC, like this Cetacea Slate or attach one to your wrist like this one.
You should work out your signals ahead of time if you and your buddy haven’t done a lot of night diving together. You’ll need dive lights you can easily maneuver underwater (make sure you have a backup light – the last thing you want is your only light to fail underwater at night). You should also have a light attached to your tank.
A flashing strobe that can be seen far away underwater and on the surface is also a good idea to have on you for both night and day diving.
You can shine your dive light onto your hands and use traditional hand signals, but this only works if your dive buddy is pretty close by. Basic movements include moving your light in a big circle to signal you are OK (but not pointed at the other diver’s eyes!) and waving your light rapidly back and forth means something is wrong.
Being able to make a recognizable sound underwater is not only convenient, it can be a lifesaver in an emergency. Of course, you can always bang on your tank, but that sound doesn’t usually carry very far.
Whistles and shakers might not be enough on the surface if you need to signal a boat, which isn’t uncommon in drift diving. Signaling the boat can become critical in an emergency if you have to make an ascent far from the boat too.
You can signal the boat using sound and visible accessories such as lights, and inflatable buoys and surface tubes.
We have a whole line of dive lights and signaling devices at Scuba Toys! Shop online or stop by the shop in Carrollton, Texas.
What kind of signaling signals and devices do you use while diving? Have you ever had to use one in an emergency? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bbmexplorer/