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I see cool looking structures underwater sometimes but I never find it worthwhile to try and investigate them - it's dark and I can barely get to the bottom before I need oxygen.

Is it even worth exploring underwater? If it is, what are some effective strategies for doing so?

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related –  zzzzBov Nov 6 '12 at 15:37
    
Word or warning for the time being: you can't swim against a current. I don't know if this is a bug or a feature, but it means you can't swim up a waterfall. –  MBraedley Nov 6 '12 at 19:27
    
@MBraedley I thought you could? I swam up a waterfall just a few night ago on the standard up to date client, unless I'm mistaken..? –  sync Nov 7 '12 at 10:31
    
@sync: It might just be in the pre-release. Who knows if it'll make it to the 1.4.3 release proper. –  MBraedley Nov 7 '12 at 11:25

4 Answers 4

up vote 32 down vote accepted

I have found a few entrances to mineshafts and caverns at the ocean bottom, so I'd say it is certainly worth exploring any interesting features you come across, like weak sources of light (from lava or torches) or areas of oddly sunken sand.

There are three things you'll want to focus on for effective underwater exploration:

  • A good helmet: First and foremost, you should get yourself a helmet enchanted with Respiration, ideally the max level of III. This lets your air last for much longer underwater. It also helps to have Aqua Affinity on the helmet too, which allows you to mine faster when underwater. If you don't get both of these when enchanting a single helmet, remember that the new anvil tool let's you combine two enchanted items so that you can consolidate and improve enchantments without having to keep rolling the dice at the enchantment table.

  • Waterproof lighting: You need to be able to see deep under water, so you have to bring waterproof sources of light. Torches are out, as water will knock them off, but jack-o-lanterns and glowstone blocks work great.

  • Making air pockets: Respiration-enchanted helmets can only do so much, especially if you want to reach really deep depths under water. You'll want to bring items that you can place on the ocean floor which will displace the water source blocks and give you an air pocket where you can catch your breath. Things like ladders and signs work great for this.

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I've found that doors and sugarcane are both superior to ladders and signs due to the fact that they can form an air pocket 2 blocks high. This means no trying to find/build a block at the proper height to attach the ladder or sign to. –  Fambida Nov 6 '12 at 16:01
    
@Fambida: True, there are a number of other options for making air pockets. However, if you carry around a couple extra blocks of dirt or cobblestone, like I always do, then you can easily build up a small column to place ladders and signs on. Also, I never liked carrying doors because they don't stack. –  gnovice Nov 6 '12 at 16:05
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I'd still recommend using Optifine with these excellent methods, clear water really is amazingly useful. –  fredley Nov 6 '12 at 16:12
    
Fences is also a way to make air pockets. –  w1nger1 Nov 7 '12 at 11:28
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@w1nger1: They work too, but they impede your movement, whereas you can walk through signs and sugar cane. –  gnovice Nov 7 '12 at 14:37

Use Optifine.

It has a clear water setting that will allow you to easily see through water, allowing you to explore without needing to dive to the bottom.

It's a client mod, so it'll work with all servers.

Example:

Clearwater Off

Clearwater On

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Sounds like the kind of stuff I put on my contacts. –  Emerica. Nov 6 '12 at 14:02
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If there was something I could put on my contacts to enable super-underwater vision, I would throw a lot of money at it. The zoom and increased render distance functionality would be useful too... –  fredley Nov 6 '12 at 14:04
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Even better if you can score critical hits by looking down on someone. –  Alex Nov 6 '12 at 15:06
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But in all seriousness this is a pretty cool mod. We can pretend we are all in the carribean and then it doesn't feel like its cheating. –  Emerica. Nov 6 '12 at 21:55

You can use a bucket as a portable air source. When you are close to being out of air, right click with the empty bucket and you will have air. Remember to empty the bucket so you can repeat the trick

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A door placed underwater works as well, If you're working in an area for an extended period of time –  Robotnik Aug 9 '13 at 7:54

Potions of Night Vision works best underwater not just at night, but also daytime.

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