Notes about things regarding scuba diving that I have come to know.

Night-Time SCUBA Diving Tips

Night dives are an especially exciting and interesting way to enjoy the underwater world. Many critters are nocturnal and plants will display differently in the night and under artificial light. Night dives do represent a new level of task loading. Using a light for viewing the sights, managing your instruments and other gear in the dark and communicating all require a heightened awareness and additional techniques above and beyond diving in daylight. Night diving like all diving is best enjoyed in a stress free manner. For this reason I suggest not doing a night dive until you are comfortable making daytime dives and have established reasonable buoyancy control.

What follows are some tips I have gathered and learned over numerous night dives. I hope you find them helpful as you contemplate your first night dive or if you are looking to make your night dives more enjoyable.

  • Night dives are something you should be doing initially if not always in a conservative manner. Being out in the water after dark when few if any other people are around to render assistance represents an elevated risk to begin with. If you are not at your best or conditions are sub par dive at another time. Conditions must be good, seas down and good visibility likely
  • It should be a site you have been to before, ideally earlier in the day or at least recently.
  • A shore dive will be easiest since you never need to be alone in the water column. Pull on your fins drop a few feet and follow the bottom out.
  • Your distance range will probably be smaller, night dives are generally more about detail.
  • A first night dive is best done with an experienced buddy or as part of an AOW class. Knowing there is a group in the water and at the site is comforting to many.
  • Your first night dives should begin as darkness approaches. Night happens fast and what may seem like a premature start will soon become dim and there will be a gentle transition to full darkness.
  • If the site is remote and lacks artificial surface light such as streetlights wait for a full or near full moon that will be up in the sky.
  • Be sure you will have a usable shore marker like range lights on the beach or permanent lights. Remember that the folks with the cottage on the water may turn the porch light out while you're under.
  • Range lights for diving are a lot like the lights airplanes use as they approach an airstrip. Two lights are placed onshore at different elevations. They are placed to form a line that is the heading you want to use to exit the water. This way if you are off shore you just get to where they are one on top of the other and can take a final bearing to make your exit.
  • Having someone to do shore duty can be a nice luxury. If you have placed lights or are parked in a secluded area having someone to tend extra lights as you get out or heaven forbid, call for help if need be can be indispensable. Remember that in most cases you will be alone and on your own.
  • If you are parked near the beach and your state registration pates are reflective like here in Maine the plates will light up when you sweep your light.
  • Keep your light down and out of others eyes, letting your eyes adjust to the dim light is important.
  • Be aware of backscatter. Any particulate or organisms in the water will reflect light back to you. The reflection of the direct beam on particulate will put the light back into your eyes, like driving in a snowstorm or fog with high beams. Often your best viewing will be outside of the center of your beam.
  • Light your instruments when needed by using the edge of your beam to limit glare.
  • If you saturate your instruments with your dive light they are probably phosphorescent and will glow for a while.
  • Establish some special signals:
    • Making a circular pattern on the bottom "O" I'm OK. Your buddy should repeat. You can make this a fairly regular exchange of contentment
    • Sweeping side to side (like nodding NO) not good, get over here!
    • Nodding up and down (like nodding YES) come see this!
  • If you need to make hand signals use your light to light your hands so your buddy can see what you're doing.
  • Have a back-up light with you. If this happens to be your day light be sure the batteries are up to the job if your primary goes out.
  • Wear a tank marker light or light stick up on your valve. Colors help identify who's who. You will have a less detailed view of your fellow diver(s).
  • Keep your dive plan simple and follow it.
  • You will be diving in a much smaller space, consider it an intimate space. Focus on details. You will be amazed at what comes in front of your light if you pause. You will have a new understanding of that "crud" that spoils your visibility, a lot of it is the living ocean!
  • Keep your primary light on to limit the chance of a failure. If you want darkness to enjoy the phosphorescence off of your buddy's fins moving through the water or by sweeping your arm press the lens to your chest to contain the light. I like to block my light and swim along just following my buddy's pool of light.
  • The divers light beam is like an extension of the diver. The beam usually makes it very easy for the lead diver to keep track of the buddy.
  • Having a strap-on headlamp to use topside after the dive is indispensable as you break your gear down and pack it for the trip home.

Night diving is an amazingly different and special side of diving. You are almost certain to see stuff you don't get to see otherwise. For obvious reasons it can have a little bit of a technical/adventure feel to it and that's fun too. Be sure to plan the evening so you can enjoy some sort of meal or refreshments afterwards so you have a chance to relate the experience while it's fresh in your mind.

For obvious reasons night diving is not for everyone but it seems that the vast majority of those that try it like it. Unless you have an acute topside phobia of the dark I'd suggest giving it a try. Personally I'd rather go underwater with a dive light in the dark than enter a dark room in my home. Many of us find night dives to be especially delightful and peaceful.

This page created August 22, 2008