Question Sheet: The Pressure of Scuba Diving


Before reading:

  1. What’s the deepest that you’ve ever swum?
  2. Have you ever noticed your ears “popping”? Where were you? What do these places have in common?
  3. How can you tell which is more dense, water or air?

During reading:

  1. What does “scuba” stand for?
  2. What’s the main reason for being cautious when you scuba dive?
  3. What are some of the precautions that divers take to prevent water-pressure injuries while diving?
  4. Why, even when wearing scuba gear, does staying underwater for too long potentially put you at risk?
  5. When you intentionally pop your ears to “equalize” pressure, what exactly is being equalized?
  6. What causes “tooth squeeze”? Can you think of any other parts of your body that could be “squeezed” when diving?

After reading:

  1. Would scuba gear help you breathe more easily on top of a high mountain? Why or why not?
  2. After reading this article, would you still want to go scuba diving? Why or why not?
  3. Who invented scuba gear? When? See


  1. Pretend your close friend has written to you from Belize that under no circumstances is she willing to go scuba diving. Write a short letter trying to convince your friend that scuba diving can be safe.
  2. Emily Sohn compares nitrogen bubbling up in your body to “carbonation in a freshly opened can of soda.” What are some other examples of things that bubble up?
  3. Diving too deep can result in nitrogen narcosis. Think about the words narcosis, narcolepsy, narcotics. What do you think the root narco means? Check it out in a dictionary or some other reference source.


Where in the world is Belize? What is the country’s population? What is the country’s capital city? If you were to visit Belize, what sorts of excursions could you take? Why is it a good place to go scuba diving? For information about Belize, see ( or (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency).


A standard sheet of notebook paper is 11 inches long and 8.5 inches wide. What is its surface area? Given that air pressure at sea level is 14.7 pounds per square inch, how many pounds of air push on the sheet of paper?