Body language makes up over 50% of human interactions on the day to day basis. However, this body language is often coupled with speech to convey the whole message, and left by itself can sometimes be confounding and leave us playing a frustrating game of charades. Because of this, finding a specific instance when I only used motion and gestures to communicate something on my mind can be quite rare.
Lucky for me, I SCUBA dive. While SCUBA diving, it can be difficult to communicate unless we have visual contact with our diving partner. Because of this, we rely on the senses available to us, most pertinently sound, so we can then make visual contact and facilitate communication henceforth. On this particular instance, I was diving in the Bahamian island of Andros, in the reefs by the tongue of the ocean. Sea turtles in this area are quite rare at the depth my partner and I were diving at. This day I was lucky enough to spot one, but it was moving fast and away. My partner was exploring a section a short swim away from me and so I couldn’t get his attention through visuals.
As certified SCUBA divers we are taught a series of hand signals to indicate our status in certain situations: to slow descent, to go back to the surface, to report a problem with our equipment, etc. Everything that isn’t related to our well-being, however, is left up to interpretation. To get my partner’s attention I pulled out my multi-tool and tapped it against my oxygen tank several times. Under water the sound you hear most often is the sound of your own breathing, and everything else is muffled. This resulted in the taps piercing normality and me being able to gather my partner’s attention. Next was getting the message to look at the moving sea turtle. Not being able to use my words, I did the first thing that came to mind: I moved my body to a horizontal position with my arms and legs extended, and waved my arms up and down and pointed in the general direction of the turtle.
It was but a mere instant that passed before I saw an unusually large set of bubble coming from my buddy (in a response of surprise, I can only assume) and saw him swimming quickly towards me to be able to see the creature more closely. When we were together we expressed our excitement to each other via hand motions which to us in that moment could only represent largeness, beauty, and amazement.
This experience belongs to a kind that never really fade from the memory, because despite the lack of words, motions, gestures, and expressions represent something more easily remembered: a feeling.
-Moving my body horizontally
-Waving my arms up and down
-Tapping my tank with my multitool
-Motioning size with my hands
The Combinations (Gesture+Posture):
-Body + Arms
-Size + Pointing
The fact that he was far away made my gestures more exaggerated and intensified to importance of them to him.
Being underwater made it more meaningful because anywhere else, we would have looked like dorks, but because SCUBA divers have to be in similar mindsets when diving, to us it was very serious and full of excitement.
SCUBA divers experience things underwater that no one else does, and being underwater is freeing, but also extremely dangerous. This knowledge and the feelings it brings us combined make for really interesting and immersive experiences.