Q: Hey Diver Dana, what does SCUBA stand for and who invented it? 
A: Would you believe SCUBA stands for see cute underwater big animals? Guess not. Actually SCUBA is an abbreviation for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. In 1943, French explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau and engineer Emile Gagnan invented the Aqua-Lung, and SCUBA diving was born. Carrying a supply of compressed air on their backs, divers could stay under water for extended periods and swim about freely, exploring the sea.

Q: How do SCUBA divers breathe underwater? 
A: A SCUBA diver needs two things to breathe underwater; a tank to hold air and a regulator to deliver the air to her. The regulator has a piece that attaches to the tank and a piece that connects to the mouthpiece the diver holds in her mouth. This way the diver can be underwater and breathe normally while enjoying her dive.

Q: I've heard there's special SCUBA gear made for younger kids like me. Is that true?
A: Yes, our Underwater Explorers program has specialized dive equipment designed for kids. It's pretty much the same as what adults use, with a few alterations; the tank is much smaller and lighter, the regulator is configured for surface use, and our drysuits and Bouyancy Control Devices (BCD)'s are designed to fit kids. All of this gear allows you to stay dry and float on the surface while you explore the ocean! Another type of setup is SASY (this stands for Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth).

Q: Why do I need to wear a mask when diving? 
A: Humans live on land and our eyes are not designed to see underwater. A mask creates an air space between our eyes and the water that allows us to see the underwater world and all of the cool critters that live in it!

Q: What will I see underwater? 
A: Depending on where in the world you are, you will see many different types of plants and animals. Here on the central coast of California we have forests of giant kelp—large algae that look like underwater trees and can grow as much as 20 inches in one day! Swimming through this underwater forest we come across all kinds of unique life such as rock fish, decorator crabs, sun flower stars, sea lions and harbor seals.

Other locations, such as the Caribbean, have coral reefs systems. Corals are colonies of millions of tiny animals that build structures to support the many other organisms that live there. Animals commonly found in coral reefs include parrot fish, large groupers, angel fish, sharks and more! Click here to learn more about the plants and animals that call the ocean home.

Q: Can I feed or pick up the animals? 
A:  The animals we see while diving or exploring the beaches are in their natural habitat and it's best to leave them alone and not touch or feed them. By simply viewing and taking photos we help to encourage the health of these amazing ecosystems and the animals that live there. This type of responsible behavior will allow divers and others to see these special creatures for years to come! 

Q: How old do you have to be to get SCUBA certified? 
A: All SCUBA divers receive special training to earn certification. Each training agency has its own guidelines for age limits, however NAUI and PADI (two of the largest agencies) certify children as young as 10 years old as Junior Open Water Divers. Once you're certified you can enjoy SCUBA diving with restrictions on the depth, time limits and who you can dive with. Once you turn 14 (NAUI) or 15 (PADI) you can upgrade to a full open water diver. Additionally there are experience programs like PADI's Bubblemaker and Seal Team that allows kids as young as 8 years old to participate in diving under close supervision.

Q: Hi Dana, Is it possible to dive if you are disabled? 
A: Many people who are disabled enjoy SCUBA diving on a regular basis. They receive specialized training from instructors trained to certify disabled divers. As a matter of fact, some of the divers in our Volunteer Dive Program teams are disabled. During our Underwater Explorers program in the summer, the Aquarium, in conjunction with the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Foundation and the Children's Miracle Network, conducts Days of Discovery—three special days for kids ages eight to 14 with exceptional challenges to dive in our Great Tide Pool. If you know a disabled child who would like to experience the underwater world, you can learn about Days of Discovery by calling our Underwater Explorers program staff at (831) 648-4822 or e-mailing jbonovich@mbayaq.org.