Category Archives: Diving News

White Rock is ready for Try Scuba days!

White Rock pavilion Banner at White Rock

We spent the day yesterday at White Rock park yesterday.  New lines have been run from the sunken van to the school bus, and from the school bus to the wall to make a nice route for divers to take a short tour.  The old rope was removed, our banner has been hung on the pavilion and I have two signs out advertising Try Scuba at White Rock.  While we were there, Bob Brewer completed his first day of open water certification.  I want to send a heartfelt thank you to Bob for helping me with some of the land and surface items and for acting as my spotter while I was running lines.

We will be at White Rock next Saturday from extremely early until closing time to get a few things done ahead of the park opening, and offering certification dives and Try Scuba/Tandem Dives for park attendees.  Remember, entry fee into the park is $12.00 for the day and Try Scubas will be $30.00 per person.  This is a great way for a non-diver to experience scuba diving one on one with a certified instructor.  Reservations are advised due to the private nature of the excursions and limited number of time slots.

Call us at 859-594-4611 or email us at info@aquaticdreamsdiving.com to reserve your spot or just come join us for the day!

 

Simple Rules to Dive by – June SDI article by Rob Bradish

trimmed diver and turtle

photo credit: Ray Bullion

Deep diving is a portion of recreational scuba diving that can present dangers and concerns for any diver. These factors can be avoided through proper technique and training. First, divers must utilize common sense and safe practices prior to getting wet.

So, let’s start off with a level set. I started diving in 1977. I was not a professional until about two years ago, and while I have traveled a fair amount, I am certainly not a once-a-year, off to the islands kind of diver. I am, for the most part, just like most of you; I like to dive. This is just my opinion and I encourage you to think on it and more importantly, develop your own response. That said, with over 35 years of diving, I have never gone into unplanned decompression, never run out of gas, and never had an incident become an accident.

I am constantly shocked at the number of divers on a boat dive that need to spend 8 – 10 minutes on the line at 20 feet during a recreational dive. Even scarier is the frequency with which I will hear someone come up the ladder with their computer beeping. When asked, they seem shocked and say something like, “I wondered what that was.” Moreover, an informal survey among charter professionals seems to indicate many of these divers are younger, some with just a few years or dives under their belt. This worries me because as I review the training and knowledgebase available to divers today, the detail is much greater than what we previously had.

So, it begs the question, why are divers today, who are better trained and have more information available than ever before, experiencing incidents that we all know, for the most part, are avoidable?

So, what are some differences between new divers and those who may have more experience? Well, right off the top, I have a few rules I dive by, many of you may have heard before.

1. Plan your dive, dive your plan. We have all heard this for years, but how many especially in our age of computers, actually do it? Most computers even have a modelling software built in to help you. But this goes way beyond anticipating your depth and runtime. In sports and high risk activities, people are taught visualization as a means of preparation. The point here is to, first, psych yourself up for a positive outcome, but more importantly, try to visually prepare and foresee any incidents before they occur. Sure, you can talk about what you hope to see and your separation plan, but do you talk about your dive time? What happens if you go to deep, or stay to long? You get the idea, sit with your buddy and talk about the dive, the goals, and the contingencies to insure you both have success and a good time.

2. Three strikes, I’m out. This is one that is personal. I have found that if I have three mini-incidents, my head can get out of the game, and the best thing for me to do is call it. This even includes driving to the charter! I have also learned for me specifically, the number one thing that can lead to an incident is new equipment or a new configuration. Not yet familiar with that new computer? Get a phone call from the boss about work on the way to the site? Can’t quite get your kit to feel right? Any of these items can take your mind out of the game, but a couple or more together, and I know I will be distracted.

3. There is no dive today worth all of my diving tomorrow. Seems simple, but I am always shocked at the number of people who are afraid to call a dive. Fifth dive of the day and you suddenly get a booming headache? Long ride out and you notice the boat bobbing more than you are used to? No matter how hard you try, you just can’t wrap your head around the dive? CALL IT! There is no dive that is more important than all my future diving. This also leads to an additional rule that tech divers frequently state. Any diver can call the dive at any time, for any reason, without fear of repercussion. Now don’t get me wrong, there will likely be some good natured razzing, but we have all called one. It makes no sense to harass someone when there mind isn’t 100% in the game! More importantly, this rule does not just apply above the waterline.

A few years ago, I was privileged to complete my cave diving certification, a section of diving which is dedicated to rules that are necessary to have a successful cave penetration dive. Now, years later, nearly every time there is a death in caves, one or more of these rules was broken, frequently by divers with a great deal of experience and practice. It is important to note however, it was likely not the broken rule or rules that lead to tragedy, but complacency that lead them to ignore the rules in the first place.

I won’t tell you that there is never a reason to run out of gas or go into unplanned decompression. I will tell you however, if you refuse to be complacent about the rules taught to you as a new diver, then the likelihood of you experiencing an incident or accident will be greatly reduced.

Tips and Tricks for a Successful Drift Dive – June SDI article by Lauren Kieren

2 drift divers

Photo Credit: Becky Kagan Schott

Drift diving is like flying underwater. When you are soaring along the bottom contour, neutrally buoyant, guided by a gentle current, watching the marine life; it gives you a perspective of the underwater world that is difficult to obtain any other way.

Depending on where you dive, Divemasters (DM’s) and dive operations may use different techniques for drift diving. In many cases, drift dives are conducted off a boat while a DM guides the direction of the dive while towing a Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) to mark the divers’ location in the water. Meanwhile, a boat might be following the group to pick up divers as they surface (keep in mind, drift diving from a boat requires a skilled boat operator to conduct drift diving procedures properly).

Prior to participating in drift diving activities, you should be extremely proficient in your diving skills. If you have not participated in diving activities for a period of six months or longer, we highly encourage a diver to go through a Scuba Refresher course before considering this type of advanced dive. Setting up a drift dive can be a fast paced activity that requires your diving skills and techniques to be dialed in – the ascents and descents can be challenging but once you are on the bottom… It’s your time to cruise along the ocean floor.

So what should you consider before drift diving? Here are a few tips and tricks before you hit the water:

STAY AHEAD OF THE GAME – Prior to entering the water, ensure all of your dive equipment is on, functioning, and you have completed a pre-dive safety check. Make sure you are properly weighted so you can descend with the group. If you are having difficulties equalizing on the descent – signal to your buddy and be aware of the divers’ location on the bottom, and the surface marker buoy signaling your location. If conditions allow (good visibility and manageable current) slow your descent to catch up with the group. If conditions do not allow for this and you cannot catch up with the group, surface with your buddy to abort the dive.

GO WITH THE FLOW – Once you are on the bottom, it’s important to “go with the flow.” Avoid swimming against the current, as this will increase your work load and air consumption rate. Streamline yourself and your gear to glide effortlessly through the water. Keep an eye out in front of you to plan your moves accordingly. If you see obstructions ahead of you – whether it’s a coral head, a wreck, or a cluster of fishing line – it’s important to plan your moves ahead of time to avoid a collision.

SELF AWARENESS – As previously mentioned, the descents of a drift dive can be fast paced. It is extremely important during all dives (especially drift dives), to monitor your depth gauge to ensure you are staying at a consistent depth versus drifting downward or upward without realizing it. Also, keep a close eye on your no decompression limit (NDL), as you glide along the bottom your air consumption rate may be reduced due to the lack of physical exertion required during this phase of the dive. Remember, just because you have ample an amount of cylinder pressure remaining, does not mean your NDL, or bottom time hasn’t exceeded the limits. Finally, check your tank pressure early and often and make sure you will have an ample supply of breathing gas to make a slow ascent, conduct a safety stop, and safely surface with some remaining tank reserve.

surface marker buoyMAKE YOURSELF NOTICEABLE! – No, we’re not talking about wearing flashy dive gear… Prior to ascending, make sure to keep your eyes open and your ears tuned for boat traffic. If you and your buddy are surfacing before the group, ascend in sight of the SMB the DM is towing. Once at the surface, deploy your own Surface Marker Buoy, give yourself some distance from the SMB marking the divers underwater, then signal to the dive boat for pick up. If necessary, carry a whistle or audible alarm to be heard from a distance if you are not seen. When the boat makes its way towards you, stay put and do not swim towards the boat unless instructed by the boat operator.

Drift diving is a fun and exciting way to explore the underwater world, however, it can also lead to increased stress and anxiety if you are not prepared. This text is not intended to replace proper dive training, nor does it cover all aspects and requirements of drift diving. Following these tips along with proper training will ensure you get the most out of your drift diving experience.

How to Stay Out of Deco on Deep Dives – June SDI article by Dr. Thomas Powell

deep diver by reef

photo credit: Ray Bullion

Diving is a unique sport that can capture the hearts and interests of people of all sorts. For many, the urge to go further, learn more, and in some cases go deeper, will keep divers in the water. The problem with this mindset is, some people may push too hard, or go too far out of excitement or even bravado. These factors suggest that any and all recreational divers, at any level, must remember that one of our biggest objectives is to avoid decompression requirements unless we plan for them. Venturing beyond your no decompression limit (NDL) is a risk that any diver faces if he or she does not monitor their instruments and the overall situation.

To avoid this potential life-threatening problem of passing your NDL, there are various actions a diver can take.

Learn your computer! – Almost every computer today comes with bells, whistles, and alarms to let a diver know when a problem has occurred, or when the diver is approaching a problematic scenario. There is no excuse for any diver failing to learn the proper use of his or her computer. The computer is an essential item required for all SDI/TDI/ERDI divers. When lights flash or numbers change, the diver needs to know what this information means. Learning to properly read your computer and react to what it says, will help a diver get wet the next day. Similarly, the computer will track time as the diver approaches his or her NDL. This easily recognizable data can allow a diver to avoid crossing that threshold and going into a scenario requiring decompression.

Create a game – Take the time to use the information displayed on your computer to create a game. Monitor data, set goals, set limits, or even follow display data in a manner that forces you to look at your computer or gauges every short period. This action will force you to see your display and recognize information. A task as simple as this can force a diver to see NDLs approach or problems arise.

Make a deal with your buddy to check each other – Prior to any deep dive (or any dive for that matter), a diver can establish a plan with his or her buddy to check each other’s computers or gauges every so often. This action will ensure each diver has a redundant data check periodically. As NDLs are approached, and if a diver misses this information, the buddy may recognize the issue before problems arise.

Monitor your surroundings – Computers and gauges can tell us our depth. Despite this factor, if color changes or environmental factors alter, you may have drifted a bit deeper than planned and not yet noticed on your computer. Even if you plan to dive deep, we all know that going deeper will reduce your possible bottom time and therefore, your NDL. Pay attention to where you are, and use these observations to create a mental reference to check your computer.

Map out your plan in advance – Our training teaches us to plan deep dives in advance. Prior to any dive, set a route, walk through your objectives with your buddy(ies), and plan for possible problems. If you and your buddy set limits for max depth and understand your probable route, you may be able to foresee potential problems, or recognize when your buddy deviates from the proposed plan. Understanding when and where your team should be, will help all parties associated better pre-plan for avoiding NDLs.

The goal of any dive should be to have a good time, accomplish possible objectives, and be able to dive tomorrow. When we fail to meet these goals, bad things can happen and life-threatening problems may arise. As divers and dive professionals, we need to understand our actions, and ensure safety throughout a lifetime of enjoyment, no matter how deep someone chooses to go.

The Diving Casualties of War – May TDI article by Steve Lewis

TDI war tank wreck on ocean floor

It was veteran journalist and author Tom Brokaw who first coined the term “The Greatest Generation” to describe those Americans who had lived through the Great Depression and who had fought in World War II. In his 1998 book of the same name, Brokaw wrote, “it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.” They fought, he wrote, not for fame and recognition, but because it was the “right thing to do.”

I am old enough to have a very direct connection to that generation… in its English variant at least. As a kid, WWII and the challenges that generation overcame, were as real and as much a part of my everyday life as Ilderton Road Primary School, New Cross Speedway and Millwall FC.

My mother, aunts and grandparents survived the Blitz on London, and walking to school, my mates and I passed by the ruins of a several houses destroyed during one of the hundreds of air-raids that city endured. Nobody seemed to think it odd or particularly remarkable that more than a decade later, the blasted and burned shells of family homes were left like decayed teeth among rows of otherwise normal looking, if modest, terraced houses in the street next to ours. For my friends and me, it was just a cool place to explore and play in, a situation that would send Health and Safety inspectors into a coma today.

During WWII, my father spent six years in uniform — much of that time in North Africa fighting the Afrikakorps — but he rarely shared stories. Most of any insight I gained about being “at war” came from an uncle who served on a Flower-class corvette assigned to convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean.

“Uncle Dave” told me about the way his ship rolled around even in moderate seas, dipping her head with every wave and throwing salt water over everything and anyone on deck. He explained how crowded it was, with every inch of space below deck occupied with men or supplies… or both. He spoke about the constant and unappetizing diet of canned and powdered food, and the antics to find anything resembling real food whenever the ship reached harbor. He told me about standing watch on Arctic convoys dressed in every scrap of available clothing, but still feeling the bite of freezing temperatures. The day-to-day routine sounded relentlessly boring, and only occasionally punctuated by any action approaching the classic fight between the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine that we see in war movies.

There was no drama about these very occasional “adventures.” He had no flamboyant tales of dashing into action against U-boat wolf packs, and sinking them all. Perhaps this is hardly surprising since the approximately 200 “Flowers” that saw action in the British and Allied navies from 1939 to 1945, are credited with sinking only 47 German and four Italian submarines. His take on the Battle of the North Atlantic was far from romantic. “We lobbed depth charges into the sea that’s about the truth of it,” he said. His take on battle tactics was very simple. “The Old Man [the captain] would steam around hoping to keep the U-boats busy while the convoy disappeared over the horizon. No fuss, just like a drill.”

He spoke about no surface battles with marauding waves of planes trying to bomb the merchant vessels his ship was charged with protecting. No hand-to-hand fighting with crack troops from the Waffen-SS.
In truth, just the good-natured recollections of a young cockney lad from Southwark trying to do what he believed was expected of him… and hoping to make it home at the end of it.

Perhaps because of these stories, both their content and the way they were told to me, I have a true love of ALL shipwrecks that are casualties of war, and especially those who met their end as a casualty of WWII.

And over the years, I have been lucky enough to dive on scores of them, from the Bell Island Wrecks sunk in Conception Bay, Newfoundland, to the Japanese merchant vessels cloaked in living color at the bottom of Truk Lagoon, Micronesia. And in between, wrecks of Nazi and Allied shipping off the coasts of England, France, Nova Scotia, Scotland, the Carolinas, New York and New Jersey. Each wreck, war ship or merchant ship, a story to tell and I am simply glad that through some serendipity, I have the ability to listen.

I did not have the privilege to serve. My father convinced me that a spell in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces was not the best career path for me. Therefore, I have no special context, no special knowledge about how to organize the things these wrecks tell me.

I have simply marvelled at the destructive force of a torpedo while hanging in the water looking at the evidence of one exploding against a steel hull. A hole big enough to drive a London Bus through. The metal melted and twisted, the keel broken by shockwaves, any poor soul standing close by vaporized in an instant.

I’ve swum though holds filled with the materials of war: planes, trucks, explosives, ammunition, uniforms, food, a perfectly intact Sherman tank. All fascinating, all hugely interesting, and something divers like you and me have a special opportunity to visit.

During a trip “home” several years ago to spend time with family, my uncle asked me about the wreck of a U-boat I had recently been on. He wanted to know what class it was, the state of the hull, how it had been sunk, and the usual question about how deep it was.

After a barrage of questions, he finally asked if there were any members of her crew on board. There were and I told him so. He sat quietly for a few moments and then got up to make us a cup of tea. I was left wondering if the tears in his eyes were for buddies on his side of the conflict or for those German sailors who were trying to do what was expected of them… but who did not make it home at the end of it.

The “Perfect” Trim – April SDI Article by Lauren Kieren

perfect trim

Keep your head up, look forward! Stop slouching! Pull your shoulders back! Believe it or not, this is not your mother or grade school teacher reminding you to perfect your body posture and look presentable. However, they were on to something regarding the importance of doing so… at least for diving applications.

Body position and posture, often referred to as “trim” in the diving community, is just as critical underwater as walking upright is on land. It’s very common to dive out of trim without realizing it (unless you’re reminded, or have been trained on corrective actions) if it was not taught in the entry level scuba diver course.*

Now you might be wondering… why is diving in trim important? It’s not all about the looks and being presentable, though diving in trim does look pretty cool. Ideal trim allows for minimal water resistance against your every movement and in turn decreases your air consumption rate by reducing your work load. Also, it protects the environment by reducing the impact of fin thrust by shifting the direction of water flow straight back versus downwards; and opens up your field of view which increases overall awareness, communication and more.

So how can you achieve ideal trim? Start with these simple tips and tricks on body positioning:

    1. HEAD BACK / LOOK FORWARD / ARMS OUT – Keep your head back and your eyes forward. Bring your arms out in front of you and let your hands meet in the middle. This position streamlines your shoulders, arms, and hands in a V-shape and it also allows your personal dive computer (PDC) to be in your field of view if it is wrist mounted. Imagine a speedometer while driving a car. You don’t stare at it the entire time you are driving, your eyes are on the road and your surroundings but it’s always in your field of view to offer awareness on how fast (or slow) you are driving. The importance of having your PDC positioned in your field of vision cannot be overstated. You must maintain awareness of your depth, time, and nitrogen loading during all portions of the dive.
    2. SHOULDERS BACK / LOWER BACK ARCHED –Open your chest, push your shoulders back, and arch your lower back. This may seem uncomfortable in the beginning; however, with consistency, practice and experience, muscle memory will kick in allowing this position to become more natural and comfortable.
    3. trim lessonKNEES IN LINE WITH YOUR TORSO / FLEX THOSE GLUTES! – Flexing your glutes aides with keeping your knees up and in line with your torso. Picture yourself laying flat on the ground with your knees bent at a 90ᵒ angle behind you… this is the position you are striving for to improve balance and create a streamlined position. This will help reduce the surface area you are pushing through the water and improve efficiency. The easier you move through the water, the less effort it takes to propel you, reducing the amount of gas you consume on a dive.
    4. FINS FLAT (while hovering) – Keeping your fins flat (parallel to the surface or bottom contour), by flexing your ankles while hovering, helps stabilize your lower body, reduces the urge to kick, and increases your overall control.

After practicing these tips and tricks, you may have to adjust your tank position and equipment configuration to find a better center of gravity in the water. There are times when you will naturally drop out of trim for various reasons but making a conscious effort to strive for this position will allow it to become natural in time. Remember, practice makes better! It’s not all about being pretty; it’s about improving your proficiency while diving.

Wreck Diving Solves Archeological Mystery – SDI April Article by Tamara Thomsen

2 wreck diversPhoto Credit: Tamara Thomsen

On November 2, 1905 the goliath, wooden steamer Appomattox attempted to navigate into the harbor at Milwaukee’s North Point through fog and smoke so dense that the ship was enveloped in darkness. For nearly two weeks efforts were made to release the steamer, but she was eventually abandoned and broke up. Her machinery was subsequently salvaged, and today she lies in 20 feet of water only 150 yards off Atwater Beach just north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, her hull broken and scattered across the sandy bottom.

To many divers, a broken hull like that of the Appomattox holds less appeal compared to more intact vessels – even ships that are entirely stripped of rigging, gear, and artifacts. But to an underwater archaeologist or any diver with an analytical eye, these sites present a prime opportunity to study and learn about wooden vessel construction. The advantage of broken hulls like the Appomattox’s is they offer a view of many construction details that are hidden in more intact vessels. Like a fingerprint in a forensic investigation, construction features identified in the scattered remains can offer means of identifying a shipbuilder.

The Appomattox was launched in 1896 by master shipbuilder James Davidson, and was the world’s largest wooden bulk steamer ever built. Davidson’s career straddled the transformation from wooden to steel hull construction on the Great Lakes, but Davidson continued to push the engineering window to extend length limits of wooden ship construction at a time when many of his contemporaries switched to building with iron and steel. He utilized wide steel arches to strengthen his hulls (called hogging trusses), which ran the length of his hulls longitudinally. Internally in his hulls, Davidson utilized a lattice-like iron basket frame attached to the vessels structural frames. This prevented the wooden planking from separating and opening up due to the burden of stress and work in waves, and under cargo weight.

In 2003, archaeologists from Wisconsin Historical Society’s Maritime Preservation and Archaeology Program along with many local volunteer divers endeavored to piece together the history of the Appomattox. Like virtually assembling an expansive puzzle on the bottom of Lake Michigan, nearly all pieces of her 319-foot hull were located and documented in the survey. However, one gargantuan piece of the vessel was missing – the entire length of the starboard side of the ship. When I visited the Appomattox to photograph the wreck, I heard stories of another local wreck previously identified in the early 1980’s by local divers as the steamer Josephine. It was located just inshore, so we plunged into the cool waters of Lake Michigan once again to survey this vessel.

By examining the dimensions and spacing of diagnostic timbers on the Josephine, and the absence of a keel, it was determined that the “Josephine” was in fact the missing starboard section from the Appomattox shipwreck! Our careful observations led to the conclusion that this was not a separate shipwreck as was previously thought. Not only were the two ships united as one, but archaeological clues found in the “Josephine” wreckage allowed us to discover an important missing characteristic to Davidson’s vessel construction.

The presence of both interior and exterior steel arches spanning the entire length of the vessel’s sides provided evidence for Davidson’s use of hull-strengthening techniques. After this discovery on the so-called Josephine, reinvestigation of the main wreckage site yielded previously undiscovered remnants of an interior hogging truss. This is the first time this construction technique has been archaeologically recorded for one of Davidson’s vessels.

Much of what we know of Davidson’s work we have learned from the archaeological record, which exists on the lakebed today. The discovery that two shipwrecks were actually fragments of the same ship combined with careful surveys of the wreck at both locations provided important historical evidence for Davidson’s reinforced hull construction. As a result of this work, the Appomattox wreck site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Nitrox: When to Dive It – SDI March Article by Cris Merz

nitrox tankThe fantastic stories about voodoo gas seem to have mellowed out a little in the last 20 years. From, “It’ll kill you” to “You will have soooo much energy after the dive”, it never ceases to amaze how nitrox, as a topic for discussion, has always been a leader in misconceptions.

With many reasons in favor of diving nitrox, the reasons for doing so may hold a little more scientific value today than they did 20 years ago.

Few advances in the realm of diving have had a more profound impact during the past two decades than the widespread availability of Enriched Air Nitrox. And nothing has made the switch from diving air to diving nitrox more straightforward or more enjoyable than nitrox programmable dive computers.

Simply put, nitrox – air with additional oxygen content – allows divers to enjoy longer bottom times (and shorter surface intervals) than their air-breathing dive buddies, while staying within the limits that were stressed in their open water training.

Nitrox makes this possible because it contains reduced levels of nitrogen compared to air and less nitrogen translates into more bottom time! But of course there is a price to pay. Diving nitrox does present risks that are not present while diving air and these risks require divers to take additional steps during their pre-dive planning and then adhere to that dive plan.

The number one reason for diving nitrox is safety. When diving with a greater amount of oxygen (32% or 36%) in the mix, rather than air (21%), you decrease the risk of decompression sickness because you’ve lowered the amount of nitrogen you are breathing in at depth – and as we know, nitrogen is the number one culprit associated with decompression sickness.

When should we dive nitrox? Well, whenever the opportunity presents itself. It may not make a great difference but it certainly will not hurt. Unless you go diving beyond the Maximum Operating Depth (MOD) of the mix in your tank, it is beneficial to you every time, though sometimes those benefits are much greater than others based on your diving profile.

The moments when nitrox will make the greatest difference is when you are doing multiple dives over multiple days and are getting close to some of the no-decompression limits your personal dive computer is telling you about.

As stated, when you dive using nitrox you can take advantage of increasing your maximum allowable bottom time. This happens because the extra oxygen added to your breathing gas when it was filled has displaced nitrogen. Because there is less nitrogen in the mix to be absorbed by your body you can spend longer at depth before you reach the nitrogen limit – which is the decompression limit. Secondly, since you are absorbing less nitrogen on a given dive, your surface intervals can usually be shortened.

Being on a live-aboard, hundreds of miles from home where you are doing 3 to 4 dives a day will allow you to see a huge difference if you can compare yourself to those diving on regular air. You have paid a lot of money to get there and you want to make each and every dive count. You do not want to get back in the water for the fourth dive so you can zip about at 50 ft just because you have reached your no-deco limits for the day – especially when the schooling hammerheads are hanging out around 70ft. That is where you want to be… for as long as possible.

Despite having depth limits to be aware of due to the risk of oxygen toxicity, and perhaps some additional costs for the fills, the benefits of nitrox will play a role in your steps to keeping your dives within safer limits than if you were on air.

Carpe Divem – Sieze the Dive – SDI December Article

Carpe DivemYeah yeah we KNOW its cliché, but seriously, enjoy the dive you’re on. That’s why you’re in the water to begin with, right? Because you love it? There’s no bigger buzz kill on a dive boat or at a dive site than the diver who refuses to just enjoy the dive they are on and have compare it something “better”. Dive in the moment, there’s something great to be had in EVERY dive.

I got my open water certification in a sand quarry in Wisconsin. It was cold, the visibility was horrible, and yet it was possibly one of the most memorable dive outings of my life. I can remember how in awe I was to be surviving in a totally alien environment and how free it felt to be totally weightless. I could have hovered watching the cartoon-like blue gills guard their nests for hours if it weren’t for my instructor ruining it by asking me to remove and replace my mask. Even now, thousands of dives around the world later, I use those first few certification dives as my baseline. If I was able to enjoy diving to that extent in that cold, dark, near-lifeless sand quarry, how could I ever take any other dive for granted?

It’s a given that not every dive is going to match up to a night dive with manta rays in Kona, diving with a school of hammerheads in the Galapagos, or counting sea horses on the pier in St. Croix, but I have come up with a trick to get the most out of every opportunity I have to be under water. Anytime I find myself a little less than impressed on a dive, I try to find something unique about that particular dive and focus on that. When I still can’t find something worth noting, I try to just relax and enjoy the calm, quiet, weightless tranquility and wait for the dive to show me something. A great example of that happened to me recently while helping out with an event in Pennsylvania. The water was cold, dark, and I was mostly just in the water for moral support while some local instructors introduced new divers to different technical diving skills. For seven hours I was stationed in about 3 meters/10 feet of water watching students learn how to run reels for the first time. This was fun to watch for a while, but soon I became distracted by the largemouth bass that were hunting for crawfish under the rocks. I was so thrilled by this show that I was truly sad when the event was over and I had to get out of the water. This same type of thing happened to me recently while on a shallow reef dive in Bonaire. I was certain there was no way I was going to see something I hadn’t already seen when I spotted a frogfish hanging out on a sponge. After a few moments, I realized he was hunting and got to see my first live frogfish feeding. It was possibly the coolest thing I saw during the entire trip. It just goes to show that on some dives, you just have to relax and enjoy the dive for what it is…you might just be surprised by what you find.

So whether you are on the most amazing dive of your life in some faraway distant land or just testing out some new gear in your local quarry, don’t forget to “seize the dive”.

Nobody Goes to a Hyperbaric Chamber by Choice – Right? – TDI December Article

Hyperbaric Chamber

TDISDI led a group of technical and recreational divers on a chamber ride, by choice. Our goal: to reduce anxiety about the need for a chamber ride and to experience Narcosis in a fun adventuresome manner. Some even said – I don’t get narc’ed! – Sherri Ferguson, director of the facility had fun with that.

Treatment in a chamber for being bent is not shameful and divers should not be frightened of the experience. So says Executive Director of the Simon Fraser University Hyperbaric chamber facility, Sherri Ferguson who offers a half day chamber experience enhanced by having divers experience Narcosis and a decompression stop using oxygen.

The university chamber is located in Vancouver, Canada and is the only chamber in Canada used solely for research. The services and training programs are designed to simulate a wide variety of extreme environmental conditions or equipment malfunctions that may be encountered routinely or accidentally by individuals . From pressure testing fuel cells or other equipment housings and conducting human physiology studies, to training commercial pilot students to recognize the signs and symptoms of hypoxia with simulations in a controlled environment, Simon Fraser’s research programs are varied and diverse.

The Class “A” Hypo/Hyperbaric complex contains an Entry Lock (EL), Main Lock (ML), and Wet Pot (WP). The unit can be pressurized to 1,000 feet of seawater and a vacuum can be drawn to 100,000 feet above sea level, the equivalent of the atmospheric pressure of Mars. The ML will accommodate up to seven participants (including one inside tender) and contains four fold up bunks for longer duration or sleep tests/studies. Individual Built in Breathing Systems (BIBS) for both oxygen and other breathable gas mediums can be connected so each participant has their own mask to breathe from, reducing the risk associated with an oxygen enriched environment within the chamber. Loud speakers installed in the EL and ML ensure that all participants can clearly hear instructions from the operators.

Our seminar actually started a week earlier with background information on DCS and the dos and don’ts using a chamber. We could not wear perfumes, hair gels or piercings due to the risks associated with an oxygen rich environment.

On the day of the chamber ride everyone arrived anxious and excited. The session began with a fun and informative lecture that involved 12 divers actively learning about the theory of Narcosis, decompression, oxygen pressures, medical conditions and other uses of chambers followed by an explanation of how chambers operate. Afterwards, off with our clothes! We changed into scrubs, an additional safety measure to ensure divers did not inadvertently wear or carry flammable items.

After a briefing at the actual chamber by the on duty doctor and the tender operator, the riders were split into two groups. I know the split was because of the space restriction but I really think it was to allow each group to watch the other as they became narc’d in the chamber. You could really see what each person was going through and how they reacted in various ways.

Each of us climbed into what looked like a submarine from a movie with the bunks on either side for us to sit on. A tender joined the group in the chamber. The door was closed. Tension was high. The group was excited but quiet as each listened to the instructions. The chamber would pressurize and slowly drop down to 160 ft. You had to hold a ‘thumbs up’ gesture to indicate that you could equalize your ears both descending and ascending. It got very hot and steamy. Picture yourself as being inside a scuba tank…..we all know that as you add pressure, the tank heats up and that is exactly what we felt. Pressure increased as we descended just like a normal dive without, of course, wet suits, masks and heavy dive equipment. Although some did bring their dive computers.

What happened at depth? Nothing. No fish, no coral, no current and no bubbles. What happened was Narcosis, displayed in its’ various forms. It was fascinating to observe and experience., an opportunity you don’t normally have when diving. It was the dive computer that really made the experience real. It proved that we were at depth; this was a real dive. We hovered (ok, we really lounged in our seats) at 160 ft for about 15 minutes watching the computer display real decompression time. We tried a memory game to remember words printed on cards. Not a complicated task . There was a lot of giggling and laughing. From the Narcosis, hidden parts of personalities emerged that we hadn’t seen before from people who new each other well. Fortunately our tender and Sherri kept everyone in line. By the way, when you talk at 160 ft you sound like a chipmunk and the air is so dense that you can’t whistle, further increasing the giggle factor. You know that you are making a fool of yourself, but you don’t care. Soon it would be the other group’s turn.

What happened on the ascent? Think again of the scuba tank example. It became very cold. As the pressure dropped, we were told the temperature dropped from 80F to 50F. An ascent was made to 30 ft where everyone donned oxygen masks and slowly decompressed. The group became very hushed. You could hear the breathing. It was a chamber full of oxygen breathing Darth Vaders until the chamber operator announced that decompression was complete and we were returned to the surface.

Each of us slowly internalized what had just happened. I remembered on my last deep dive looking at my computer 3 times, over and over, to have the depth and time information really register. I now knew why. It was because of Narcosis. At depth some of the group expressed uninhibited emotions by being verbose while others were withdrawn and pensive. Because of Narcosis. No one could remember any of the words on the three displayed cards. Because of Narcosis. From beginner to expert Narcosis had become real. Not to be feared as we now know what to expect, but to be respected and managed.

What a way to learn about a decompression chamber! Learn and experience Narcosis in real terms, complete a decompression dive and have some fun. But the lessons were and are real. It wasn’t just the supposed drunk feeling but the inablity to think and remember. And decompression is not a bad thing. Staying longer on a safety stop or for decompression divers, not rushing up after the oxygen at 20 ft is a good thing. But now if you do get a hit, a visit to the chamber isn’t so terrifying. Like when a doctor gives you a prescription when you are sick, the hyperbaric chamber is a great prescription to help divers beat decompression sickness