1. Southpaw2380
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    Southpaw2380 Member

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    Help with body of water "rules of thumb"

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Southpaw2380, Aug 6, 2013.

    Hey everyone, thank you for your time.

    I have a character that grew up boating and is very familiar with bodies of water, boating, etc. I am currently building a scene in which her and the other characters are on a boat on a lake, and they want to dive in. I'd like my character (the one familiar with boating) to say something like "yeah you can dive in here, as long as _______, the water is deep enough" or something to that effect, just to show off some of her familiarity with the situation.

    as a side note, the water in the lake is very clean, so the characters were able to see the bottom of the lake easily as they walked the dock to the boat.

    Any and all help will be appreciated, thanks!


    ~~SP
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Quick question: Where are they? As in geographic area. Where I lived in Florida, lakes were never as clean and clear as you mention. Always green within a few feet of depth. Also.... gators. :eek::(
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Boating glossaries might be of help.
    Boat speak

    I'm unclear, are you asking for a fill in the blank word in the middle of that sentence, or a word that says "the water is deep enough"? The placement of your quotes confuses me.

    Is the character knowledgeable about that lake, or are you looking for a way she'd check out an unknown depth? "Sounding" is the term for measuring water depth.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Meh, all you need for gators is a push poll. ;)
     
  5. Southpaw2380
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    Southpaw2380 Member

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    It's a fictional environment, but I'd equate it to something like Maine or New Hampshire. No gator lurking around, that's for sure!

    They are new to the lake.

    I'm looking for a term or phrase she'd use to say the water is deep enough. for example, "Yeah, we can dive here, if lily pads don't get to the surface, it's deep enough" Of course that's not true, but something like that, to show that she can sort of judge the depth. I realize it's pretty impossible to know the depth, but I figure since the water is really clear by the shore, there's some sort of way to assume the water is deep enough.

    thanks!

    ~~SP
     
  6. Southpaw2380
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    Southpaw2380 Member

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    Oh and GingerCoffee thank you for those links, they will certainly be helpful! I've stumbled upon a few like them in my research for other scenes, but these two are new to me and will definitely aid me along the way to getting this novel written!

    ~~SP
     
  7. undertheradar
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    undertheradar Member

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    I think if the lake's new to them, the best way to show familiarity with the environment is for them to not do what you're suggesting (sorry!).

    I grew up around water/lakes etc and the one thing we were always told to do was to get in carefully and check out the bottom/hidden obstacles and dangers before diving in.

    Also, re lakes, I agree that clear ones as you describe are pretty unusual. Have a look at research on the two stable states of lakes theory by Professor Brian Moss of Liverpool University if you want to know the science behind why that is the case. For a lake to be deep enough to dive into but also clear, that means the ecology of it probably isn't great, so it may not be the idyllic setting I think you're aiming for? Usually if nothing else water can be clean but submerged aquatic plants will cover part of the bottom.

    Of course, I'm talking from a European perspective - maybe it's totally different in the US, in which case ignore me :)
     
  8. Southpaw2380
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    Southpaw2380 Member

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    Thank you undertheradar, I appreciate your advice! I've been told the same about getting in carefully in my little experience with lakes, however I wasn't sure if there was a way for people to sort of eye the depth in a sense. I've been to a lake or two in Northeast USA and have been very surprised by their clarity, though obviously as we moved offshore, the bottom became invisible. The people I was with knew where to go, so I never came across the situation my characters are in now. Certainly really clear lakes are irregular, however they do exist, and I didn't write it so that it appears completely void of aquatic plant life so you're correct in that the bottom would be covered in some sort of plant life.

    Thanks!

    ~~SP
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You're absolutely right, Undertheradar. While I live in the UK now, I grew up in Michigan. I have swum in many small lakes and large ones too (Lake Huron, Michigan and Superior.) The only one of these that was in any way clear was Superior, and that's because the waters are icy and far too cold to support much aquatic plant life—and to swim in as well, except in sheltered bays. Every small lake I ever swam is was weedy and the water was murky—clean and safe to swim in, but you couldn't see much below the surface.

    In fact, one of the reasons you NEVER dive straight in is because you never know what is underneath. I mean, you could do a very shallow, horizontal dive just to get in, but never a deep one. When you see people diving into small lakes (like the scenes in On Golden Pond), it's nearly always at a place where they will know the depth and know what's underneath, and know that it's safe. And even then, sometimes it's not!

    I would have been very suspicious of any lake that was 'clear.' It would probably mean the water is dead, and there is no vegetation.
     
  10. undertheradar
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    undertheradar Member

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    The other thing to remember is that water has a magnifying effect - it's approximately 10% in sea water, and presumably the same in fresh water though I don't know if salt has any effect.

    This is important because it makes it really hard to judge from the surface how close something is or how big it is - its very distorting! That's another reason why you're told not to dive/jump in without checking the bottom/depth first - it's really hard to figure out how big/close something really is.

    That's not to say the idea you're looking for doesn't exist though. Have you tried asking on a wild swimming forum? I reckon people on there would probably have some insight.
     
  11. undertheradar
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    undertheradar Member

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    In fact, could you approach this from a different angle? Could the character know where it's safe to dive not because they've been there before, but because they're involved enough in wild swimming to know where to find the info in advance/to have heard about it in advance?

    It's still pretty reckless, so you'd need that to fit with your character on a more general sense, even if it's a comment about it being out of character (if that makes sense!).

    But what if they said something like X said it was safe to dive once you got to the point where the rock was visible between the fork in the tree that's been struck by lightning. Although obviously in a more fluent way ;) X could be anything from another person to a wild swimming website or book.

    I think that might be more realistic, if still dangerous, behaviour.
     
  12. NeonFraction
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    NeonFraction Member

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    Generally, it's impossible to tell how deep water goes from sight. Hence why so many vehicles are completely submerged in 'puddles.'
     
  13. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    Someone familiar with wild swimming knows "Jump, never dive, into unknown water." - unless you can SEE the bottom (and preferably something to give scale), that's the rule that keeps your spine intact. Jump cautiously first, then dive once you know it's safe. It would be unusual to be able to see the bottom in fresh water.

    Although, if it's a row boat, they could check the depth with an oar?
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If the lake is large enough to have large rolling waves, you can always tell where something is near the surface because it will cause the waves to break. Roughly speaking, the height of the wave crests is also the minimum possible depth is the waves are unobstructed.

    However, there could still be free-floating yet submerged obstacles. If they rise and fall with the waves, they won't break the waves.

    Bottom line is that if you can't see at least as deep as you can dive, it's a risk. I have seen bodies of water clear enough in good light, but they're rare,
     
  15. Southpaw2380
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    Southpaw2380 Member

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    Excellent, thank you all for your help! I think I'll rework the scene a bit to find a way to still show off her aquatic knowledge, just in a different form. I don't need my protagonist breaking his spine, he's got big things ahead of him!

    ~~SP
     
  16. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    I'd use the boat itself to show off her aquatic knowledge - it takes a fair bit of practice to get the steering right, whether it's a rowing boat, outboard or sail.
     

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