Invest in underwater camera equipment, and your pre-dive trepidation will no longer be an excitement fuelled what-will-I-see feeling. Instead, your angst is likely to focus on whether your camera will leak. Good underwater camera insurance will cover this eventuality but knowing the correct procedure might just save your set up.
FLOOD! © Howard Lake
- The first thing you should do is remain calm and not bolt for the surface. You are more important than your camera; ascending too quickly is a factor in decompression sickness. You should proceed to the surface at a safe speed and make an informed choice on whether or not you will make a safety stop.
If your camera has a lens that extends, then there will be space where the camera housing surrounds it. This part is called the port, point this down. This action will allow water to run past the camera and collect in this reservoir. Depending on the speed of the leak and your depth, this may just save your camera. Importantly, keep it level on the surface and remember to be clear with whoever you are passing it to that it must remain orientated like this. Make sure it is not placed in the rinse tank otherwise your endeavors will be worthless.
- The next thing to do is get out of your gear and dry enough so that you are no longer dripping, your biggest culprit here is your hair. Make sure your hands are thoroughly dry. The temptation to rush to your camera will be overwhelming, but if it’s out of the water and correctly orientated, it’s not getting wetter. On the other hand, if the leak has already gone beyond what the lens reservoir can cope with then there is still no real rush as, to be honest, it’s not likely you are going to save it.
- For housings that had a small leak and where you have directed the water away from the camera, it’s possible that your camera will still be functioning. Remove the camera carefully and check to see if it’s wet. Tissue paper or toilet roll is good for this job as it makes it easy to see as well as being super absorbent. Be aware of moisture around the card slot and battery area and remove and dry if moist. Salt will cause havoc with connectors so do your best to clean and dry thoroughly. Turn it on and check for functionality and remember to check that your lens extends and retracts correctly.
- If it’s completely wet, remember your number one enemy is salt. As it’s had a thorough soaking, there’s no harm in cleaning it with fresh water. Take it apart, battery, memory card, lens, and rinse in fresh water and then dry as best you can. It possible that this will save the memory card. Your final hope is asking for a large bag of rice from the crew and packing your camera in it. Forget about it for at least a week, longer if you can stand it and you never know….
- If the level of damage is somewhere in between the above two states then proceed as you think is best. Remember, the camera can be replaced, and if you have backed up your photos after every dive, you will only have lost the images from the dive you just aborted. It’s upsetting, but it’s not the end of the world, and you shouldn’t let it ruin the rest of your dives or holiday. If you’re on a trip, you’ll find that others with cameras are sympathetic to your plight and will often share and even take some snaps of you too.
- Next, you need to think about your housing. If it doesn’t have electronics then rinsing it in fresh water is fine. You are going to want to find the cause of the leak, it’s usually an errant o-ring so check them. Once checked, take the housing out for a dive and watch it carefully. You may not have fixed the problem so getting a clear view of where the water is entering is important. If it remains dry, then insert your camera and hope.
- For further reading, we have tips on taking better photographs, pointers for diving with a camera and how to make sure your entry and exits are safe with a camera.