What can you see underwater?

An 'oldie but goldie' video adapted from a posting from my Tumblr threads, posted many years ago. My Unit is now closed but it's still a question I'm often asked so soon you'll know.

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We are always being asked by people what we can see when we go diving. It’s hard to explain but I’ll try and describe it to you in this blog. Last week I dived with an underwater camera, my aim was to try and show you what we see in pictures because a video is better than any way that I may be able to explain it

What we can see varies depending on where you are but mainly we don’t get to see anything and we call this diving in ‘zero vis’. Most of our police diving is in inland waters; ponds, lakes and rivers where you bump into traffic cones, shopping trolleys, bins and other stuff. Because of the fact that Sussex is mainly clay soil the water is quite often black to start with, occasionally we may go somewhere where you can see stuff when you first enter the water but as soon as we land on the bottom to begin our search the silt and sediment gets stirred up and that’s it, the rest is in darkness. When I first joined the Unit I used to try and keep my eyes open when the clouds of silt were billowing around me, as sometimes I might glimpse the odd thing but it really hurts your eyes doing this so it’s best just to shut them and get on with it. The worst visibility I ever had was the Military Canal in Rye, it was literally pitch black as soon as you went beneath the surface, I searched for and recovered a body that day. The best I have had was at a quarry in Surrey, I was searching for and recovering a body that day as well, it was strange seeing the body under water and as I brought it up. (Having just written that last sentence I think it’s strange that the best and worst visibility examples I have had are body recovery jobs….?!)

Another thing that people say is that it must be eerie searching under the water and then suddenly seeing the face of a dead body right in front of your mask, but honestly, you don’t generally see that, you just bump into the body and have to feel it to check it is what you’re looking for and personally I’d rather have it this way than have the lasting image of it in my head. Of course I see bodies on the surface when we deal with the recovery but that’s a little different and you get used to all of it in time, as gruesome as it sounds. (To learn about how I felt when I dived for my first body you could read 'My First Body’). After making the explanatory video I dived using the underwater camera, you can see what I saw here:

My aim was to keep the camera with me throughout my dive but when I got to the bottom and it all went black I decided it wasn’t worth continuing filming. I didn’t want to lose the camera so I turned it off and sent it back up the shot line to the surface so I could continue with my search. There is distant audio on the underwater camera, you can hear me talking to Critch on the surface through our communications system.

If you have anything you would like to know more about you can always contact me via our Twitter account, Flickr site or via email. Sometimes I just have an idea in my head of what to blog about but I’m not always sure if it’s that interesting for you. I enjoy writing to you through my blog though and if you tune in then thank you and I hope you enjoy it too.