Every new diver wants one, but do you know its intended use?
The scuba pointer, a simple, affordable, yet versatile piece of accessory most scuba divers want. Is it known to divers by several names such as, muck stick, tank stick, tank banging stick, shark stick, reef stick, that poking thing… well you get the idea.
Here’s a quick guide to its uses:
As a pointer: As the name suggests, it’s widely used by divers, dive guides, dive masters and instructors to point out marine life without having to get too close or touch the subject. Case in point… pointing out that well camouflaged venomous stonefish without getting stung, or even pointing out that tiny seahorse that no one seems to spot.
A signalling device: No, not swinging your magic wand pointer as if you are trying to cast a spell. Rather, by “banging” it against your scuba cylinder to get the attention of your diving buddies in case of an emergency or a stunning sighting. Do note that, although unofficial, a continuous prolonged tank banging is typically an indication to stop all activity and ascend (in a safe manner).
A muck stick: When diving in muddy or silty sites, a pointer is a great way to stay off the silty bottom (with can greatly reduce visibility), but be mindful to only come in contact with lifeless areas. Also, the pointer works well to “pole” along a (lifeless) sandy bottom to getting your bearings right and trace your directions of travel in the event of terrible visibility. Please do not assume that all seabeds are lifeless. The seafloor community is made of infauna and epifauna, marine animals that live in and on the seafloor. They are the ones that are most likely to be harmed by pointers.
A monopod for photographers: It keeps the photographer and his/her camera set up from making contact with the reef, and also help support the weight of a heavy set up. Try this on for size: CAREFULLY plant your pointer into a lifeless area of the reef, sand or muck. Hold the pointer in your hands as your grip your camera, lock in your focus to the desired subject then snap the shot. Do all this while keeping your fins up and well clear of the reef or bottom.
An “anchor” in strong currents: In the absence of a reef hook, a pointer can be used to anchor yourself in strong currents to give yourself a breather as you fight the current. Again, please “anchor” your pointer in a lifeless part of the seabed.
To prevent touching anything: While scuba divers are well aware that one should not touch anything, sometimes it maybe unavoidable especially when diving in strong currents or inside a wreck or a penetration dive (assuming you possess the proper certifications). In such instances, it’s better to use your pointer to touch the surface to prevent collision, especially during wreck dives to avoid cuts or even sea urchins.
With great versatility comes great responsibility!
While the humble pointer may seem like a fantastic piece of accessory, there are unfortunately abuses. There are irresponsible divers that use the pointers to tease and poke marine life with their magic wand, this is inappropriate as using gloves for the same reasons (oh, I can touch things without harming them – wrong!).
For the uninitiated, some may use it as a tool for buoyancy control. “Ah, I use a pointer to avoid touching the reefs”. Again… wrong. The pointer is still making contact with the reef and can cause long term damages.
Please be reminded that a pointer is not a replacement for poor buoyancy control. Want better buoyancy? Enrol yourselves in a specialty course. Practice makes perfect.
And as with any piece of equipment, when not in use, please stow it away so it does not dangle and inadvertently make contact with the fragile reef. Dive safe, dive smart, and protect the environment! =)
Do you use your pointer in other creative ways? Do share your experiences with us by commenting below.