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In this paper we present DUCS (distributed underwater clustering scheme), a new GPS-free clustering scheme specifically designed for underwater wireless sensor networks. DUCS is adapted to the intrinsic properties of underwater environments, such as long propagation delays, low data rates and difficulty of synchronization. DUCS minimizes the proactive routing message exchange, and compensates the high propagation delays of the underwater medium using a continually adjusted timing advance combined with guard time values to minimize data loss and maintain communication quality. The simulations carried out in deep water demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed scheme in these environments.