How to Join the Team

All certified SCUBA divers are eligible to enroll as dive candidates with the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher dive team. Candidates must provide proof of their suitability to dive to the Dive Safety Officer (DSO). Information provided to the DSO sets a minimum level of health and fitness that each diver must maintain while assigned to the team.

The dive team accepts certifications from any member agency of the Recreational SCUBA Training Council (RSTC). Members include but are not limited to: PADI, NAUI, SSI, SDI, TDI, IANTD, YMCA, etc. US military dive certifications are also accepted.

Written verification of medical qualifications are required to dive. The verification must be signed by a licensed physician. Acceptable forms of this verification can be obtained from the DSO or downloaded here: Volunteer Diver Physical.

Candidates are required to successfully perform the following assessments in the presence of the DSO, or an examiner approved by the DSO:

  • Swim underwater without swim aids for a distance of 25 yards without surfacing.
  • Swim on the surface for a distance of 400 yards without swimming aids or stopping in less than 12 minutes.
  • Tread water for 10 minutes, or tread water for 2 minutes without the use of hands or swimming aids. This assessment must begin within 10 minutes of completing the 400 yard swim.
  • Without the use of swim aids, each candidate will transport another person of equal size a distance of 25 yards on the surface.

Candidates must demonstrate their ability to perform underwater skills in a confined water area, preferably under realistic conditions. Skills evaluated are at the discretion of the DSO, and will include at least the following:

  • Entry with full equipment
  • Neutral buoyancy skills
  • Flooded face mask clearing
  • Air sharing as both donor and recipient, while stationary
  • Breathe underwater without a mask for at least 30 seconds
  • Breathe from a free-flowing regulator
  • Show knowledge and proficiency with hand and arm signals underwater
  • Remove and replace all equipment while submerged, including weight system
  • Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent from greater than a 20 foot depth
  • Underwater skills acceptable to the DSO

After completing all initial requirements, candidates will be designated as a probationary diver. New probationary divers will attend probationary training with the DSO or assigned trainer.

Probationary Diver Status

Once a candidate completes assessments, they will be offered a probationary diver position. Probation is designed to further assess a diver’s ability to remember new information and to refresh basic knowledge in areas such as diving physics and physiology. Probationary training ensures fair and achievable standards assessed by multiple personalities. Assessment is constant and will include formal assessment in the following areas with a standard for each:

Basic SCUBA knowledge at the Open Water Diver level

  • Animal identification
  • Husbandry knowledge assessment
  • Adult Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation – ARC standards
  • Adult First Aid – ARC standards
  • Oxygen Provider for SCUBA related injuries
  • Basic SCUBA Rescue Skills
  • Basic Aquarium facts (dates, locations, etc)
  • SCUBA equipment rigging and de-rigging
  • Cylinder handling procedures
  • Dive procedures
  • Dive facility operations
  • Diver health and welfare
  • Dive control procedures

After completing all assessments, probationary divers will be assessed subjectively for suitability to serve on a dive team. Probationary divers are expected to learn what it means to be a diver working on a team and can expect three dives during their training period, including:

  • Underwater skills assessment
  • Mk 20 or OTS Guardian Full-face Mask (FFM) familiarization dive
  • FFM out-of-air emergency reaction dive

The dive team members execute the daily dive rotation, not probationary divers. However, a probationary diver may be inserted into the daily rotation, if necessary.

Permitted diver status

Permitted divers are assigned to teams and fall under the leadership of that specific team for assignment and control. Permitted divers are expected to commit to five out of seven weeks during their tour. For example, during a 14-week assignment, a permitted diver is expected to be available for duty 10 of those weeks. Divers who cannot commit will be assigned as stand-by divers.

Stand-by diver status

Stand-by divers are able to dive within their skill levels, above the probationary level. All stand-by divers are fully trained as Full-face Mask (FFM) safeties and should be scheduled accordingly. The DSO must approve all coordination for use of stand-by divers.


Divers must adhere to Aquarium volunteer uniform standards. Divers wear SCUBA equipment properly. The dive team has a color scheme dictated by the state. Each piece of equipment worn by our divers must conform to this scheme. The only personal diving equipment allowed is diving masks conforming to the scheme. All other diving equipment is provided. Click here for the Volunteer Diving Manual.