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SCUBA is an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

How deep you can go depends on your training and qualification level, your ability and comfort level, your threshold for risk, and the purpose of your dives.

Scuba diving can be divided into two branches, recreational and technical diving. Technical diving means going beyond recreational scuba diving limits.

The maximum depth for a recreational diver is 40 metres. If you're using tables, you will find that a dive to 40 metres is over rather quickly! Plus, depending on your breathing gas mixture, even at depths under 40 metres, the partial pressure of oxygen can become toxic, and nitrogen narcosis can be a danger. Therefore, if you want to go deeper you will have to enroll in technical diving courses.

Professional divers such as underwater welders will often work at depths below 200 feet, but they do so only with special safety precautions and decompression chambers.

The free diving record is somewhere around 450 feet. Ultimately, deep diving becomes competitive, and extremists tend to get macho about deep diving. But there is a point where a competitive nature becomes lethal.

Most scuba training organizations insist that a prospective diver be at least 10 years old before attempting scuba.

However, 8- and 9-year old kids can do the Try Scuba Program in the pool only (or confined water) to a maximum depth of 5 metres. 10-year olds or older can complete the Open Water Diver Course, but the maximum depth for 10- and 11-year olds is 12 metres. In addition, students younger than 15-years old will be certified as Junior Open Water Divers and must dive under the direct supervision of a dive professional or a certified adult within the recommended depth limits.

Despite speculation to the contrary, the risks to children have nothing to do with lung development, body size or nitrogen narcosis. The age limit is set for maturity reasons.

Here's a useful test: Press the mask to your face, without strapping it on. Just by breathing in with your nose, you should be able to suck the mask onto your face and walk around without it falling off. That proves that you have a good seal around the edge.

No! He's not kidding! Many dive and snorkeling operations don't want to provide mask defog for their customers in order to save money. If it were possible, would you spit in your own eye? That is essentially what you are doing when you use saliva as defog. Another thing to think about; if you are renting gear on a snorkeling cruise where the staff advises the use of saliva as defogger, who else's spit are you putting into your eyes? Professional defogger is much less expensive than a prescription to cure an eye infection.

Decompression sickness (DCS) happens when a diver ascends to the surface too quickly or stays at depth for too long, and nitrogen gas dissolved in the blood and tissue comes out of solution, forming bubbles. Minor DCS symptoms include pain in the joints rash. Severe DCS affects the central nervous system, cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, and can be lethal. To avoid DCS, pay attention to your dive tables, ascend smoothly and slowly to the surface, and always respect your no-decompression limits (or decompression stops when necessary).