By Kristin Molinaro, The BayonetAugust 20, 2009
FORT BENNING GA - "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."
- Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Seventy-five percent of the Earth's surface is covered by water. Oceans, rivers, lakes, and even the nearby watering hole, add up to millions of miles of underwater adventures for scuba diving enthusiasts. Become a recreational diver and you can see the world you've been missing that's located literally beneath your feet.
CPT Mike Jones, an instructor at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and a recreational diver since 2005, said some of the most interesting things he's seen in the water include moray eels, barracudas and a shipwreck off the coast of Panama City, Fla.
"What draws me to scuba diving is being able to find those things that maybe some other people can't see, or haven't seen or discovered yet," said Jones, who completed nearly 65 dives as a recreational diver. "I also enjoy seeing what other people have found."
So what's under the water that has divers like Jones talking'
"Megalodon shark teeth," said Josh Blair, a diver since he discovered the hobby in 1997 while stationed at Fort Benning.
Blair, a course director, which is one of the most advanced types of divers, took a team of divers to the Cooper River in South Carolina recently and they returned with a bucket full of prehistoric shark teeth Blair estimates are 16 million years old.
"Some people like to go search for treasures like shark's teeth ... or explore reefs and the biology under water," he said. "Diving has it's own appeal and it can be a very addictive sport."
If treasure hunting is not your style, there are other things to discover beneath the waves.
"I did a dive at a spot in Maui called the 'underwater cathedral'," said 1LT Jaime Lopez, training officer for the 11th Engineer Battalion at Fort Benning. "There was a natural rock formation that made it look like a cathedral and the light seeping through its cracks made it seem like there were stained glass windows. I saw someone performing a marriage ceremony down there. They had the facemasks on as they said their vows. That was pretty cool."
Lopez, who has been a recreational diver since 2004, said his most memorable dives included swimming with hammerhead sharks in Maui and looking at a 1,000-foot reef wall in Cozumel, Mexico.
"Once you do your first dive, you will get hooked," he said.
Recreational divers can dive to a depth of up to 130 feet, said Blair, who is also a scuba diving instructor and owner of Chattahoochee Scuba in Columbus.
To become a recreational diver, you must be certified as an open water diver, he said.
More advanced classes and specialty classes enable divers to dive deeper as well as learn the techniques for cave diving, wreck diving, rescue diving and a variety of other skill levels.
If someone is interested in scuba diving, Blair recommends finding a dive shop that offers certification classes from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
"PADI is one of the largest agencies and they are the most recognized scuba agency in the world," Blair said. "For about 95 percent of travel destinations, whether you go to the Caribbean, Europe or anywhere else, your PADI card will be recognized. The process is smoother if you have a PADI certification card as opposed to certification from another agency."
For more information or to find out about classes available online, visit www.padi.com.