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Night Diving: Just say No to glow sticks!


Night diving is a favourite kind of diving for many scuba divers around the world. The same dive sites we visit by day can take on a new life at night, prowled by vastly different creatures and presenting to us a much more focused view of the world, as seen through the narrow beam of our dive lights.

To be safe, night diving requires of us a few extra precautions to ensure that we can navigate the dark underwater work with our buddy and return to our starting point; we must be armed with dive lights.

According to the PADI guidelines, all night divers should be armed with a primary dive light. A secondary back up light and a “marker / chemical light” is also recommended.

We agree wholeheartedly with the requirements to carry lights, and several of them. But what is the environmental impact of this, and how can we minimize this?

We had plenty of time to ponder this over the weekend on a relaxing night dive from shore in the beautiful Thousands Islands.

First, regarding our lights (both primary and secondary). There are many kinds of dive lights on the market today, and all share one common requirement: they need a power source. Traditionally, this was in the form of disposable batteries (AA, AAA, C or D). But if we do lots of night dives, how many batteries will we be using and throwing away?

Did you know that it takes over 100 years for a battery to decompose in a landfill, and when it does, the acid and heavy metals that escape are corrosive and dangerous? This is clearly not great for our planet. Moreover, as with most trash, batteries often end up disposed of in the oceans or lakes, spilling their toxic chemicals into our waterways, poisoning the very marine life we came to see on our night dive.

A better alternative, and a cheaper one in the long run, is to use rechargeable batteries. Or better yet, buy a light that itself is chargeable with a built in battery. Check out the Light & Motion SOLA lights for a great example of a powerful, rechargeable light.

Plus, if you get an efficient light, that uses LED lighting for example, you`ll use even less power!

Our second concern is with our tank markers, or chemical lights. The point of one of these coloured lights is to allow for visibility underwater, regardless of whether our primary light is functioning or visible. Having a distinctly coloured light enables us to quickly identify our buddy by the colour of their glowing light, and allows others to spot us from a distance and pinpoint our location. While important, they can also be a tremendous source of trash and marine debris.

A popular tank marker today has always been a glow stick, the kind that emits a coloured glow for several hours once you snap it. Cheap and readily available at party stores or dollar stores, many divers use these one-time use markers for night dives. They also often use them to tie to dive lines and dive sites in to order to help with navigation.

However, if you ever dive a popular night dive site, you may notice used light stick carcasses lying around or still tied to dive bouys or even wrecks.  These glow sticks are made of plastic, made from petro-chemicals in an energy intensive process, and filled with more chemicals, which are bad for the environment. Once again, this form of marine debris is toxic and does not belong in our underwater world or our landfills.

A better, more environmentally friendly alternative is a reusable coloured night dive light, battery powered and ready to join you on hundreds of night dives with minimal impact. One great example is the i-Torch i-Buddy dive light, which is available in a variety of colours, and some models even allow you to set a different colour choice for each dive.

So the next time you get ready for a night dive, think about these and other ways to reduce your negative impact on the planet. Invest today in rechargeable batteries and lights, and reduce your footprint tomorrow.

Happy diving!

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