Uncharted territory: The makers of ancient navigational charts had it easy. Whenever they ran out of information on the boundaries of the known world they simply scrawled quick and convenient warnings like, ‘Here there be Monsters’, onto any blank spaces on their maps.
In the modern world, diving into the internet is sometimes similar to putting to sea with one of those early charts. Now just a mouse-click away, information on every aspect of diving is close at hand. The problem being that with hundreds of thousands of sites devoted to the topic, a journey through cyber space can be as unpredictable as diving in the middle of a shark-run with a dead mackerel strapped to each fin.
Restricting your internet activities to talk about diving is equally fraught with risk. Pick a topic - from underwater photography through to hyperbaric medicine or rebreather technology - and the chances are that there’s an internet forum or social media site providing opportunities for people in countries as far apart as Finland and Patagonia to air their views, opinions and prejudices.
Not recommended for the sensitive or faint of heart some of these forums are notorious for the ferocity of their debates. Reduced to words on a computer screen there’s often a low signal-to-noise ratio; a lot of talk punctuated by very little verifiable substance and all of it passing around the world in just seconds. And anyone – regardless of their diving qualification or experience - can play.
The fact is that the internet – despite its growing status as an invaluable resource – is strong on information but frequently lacks that wealth of acquired diving knowledge and wisdom that’s the hallmark of a good dive shop; a place staffed by professionals with a vested interest in ensuring that their customers don’t stray into uncharted territory.