Saturday, December 29, 2012

THE HEART OF A SOLO DIVER: Once unheard of, Solo Diving is starting to gain acceptance

(DiverWire) Contributing Editor John Flanders talks about the growing acceptance and changes in the industry when it comes to Solo Diving.

I’ve taught many divers to be self-sufficient and written several articles on Solo Diving. Several years ago, this topic was taboo and even scorned by many. The buddy system was rooted firmly in most divers’ minds and only radical non-conformists would even dare think about breeching this tried and true practice. However, as time grew on, the debate took on a depth outside of the normal constraints that solo diving was figurative practices more than a literal practice. Even with a diver right next to you, there was still a possibility that you were a solo diver. The concept of solo diving evolved to a higher level and the pundits, while still holding firmly to their buddy system, even agreed that the idea of practicing emergency drills without the aid of a buddy was a good idea.

Welcome to 2012. Just about every major agency has embraced a self-reliant or solo diver course. Charter companies are reviewing standards and procedures for solo divers. More divers at the recreational level are thinking about self-sufficiency, redundancy, and fault tolerance. Some would say the solo divers have won. But you have to ask … have they?

It wasn’t too long ago I was on a charter boat in California. One of my former “solo diver” students was sitting on the deck preparing for his upcoming dive. I saw him as he handed over his solo diver release to the boat captain (who accepted it with a grimace of suspicion, but accepted it nonetheless). I watched him as he dressed for the cool waters of Southern California. I watched him closely as he wobbled his way to the swim step. It was at this point I stopped what I was doing, walked back to the swim step and stopped him. I asked one simple question: “Where is your buddy?” He laughed, a bit over-confidently, and stated, he was solo diving today. I looked him square in the eye and said, “no you’re not.” At this point, he chuckled uncomfortably. “What do you mean”, he asked. “I am a certified solo diver, don’t you remember?” I told him I remembered his class quite well, but he obviously did not. At that point, I corrected all the problems I saw in my brief inspection.

I could list all the things he did wrong prior to our brief interaction, but his preparation was faulty at every level. The simple fact is, he had a solo diver card and he thought that entitled him to dive without a buddy any time he wanted. However, what he forgot was all the equipment, planning, and preparation that go into solo diving. Simple and obvious points he was missing included (but were not limited to) spare mask, appropriate cutting devices, qualified redundant air systems, and filing a dive plan with the boat crew. He was a solo diver that was breaking every rule in solo diving. But, most of all, he was missing the heart of a solo diver.

The heart of a solo diver is a simple concept. A solo diver is prepared to come back from every dive. In fact, all the planning, preparation, equipment purchases, and mental practices are geared to one objective: Come back from every dive … alive! A solo diver is not someone who just dives on their own, on occasion. A solo diver is someone who is prepared at the highest levels with a host of contingencies for even the most remote problems that may occur. A solo diver does not just review a quick checklist and jump in the water. A solo diver spends weeks, maybe months, reviewing their equipment, reviewing dive plans, getting site briefings from local experts, and learning all the angles that go into a particular dive. A solo diver is someone who attacks every dive with the highest degree of complexity. Yes, even that 30 foot reef dive has protocols of redundancy, self-sufficiency, and fault tolerance. The heart of solo diver beats in one rhythm: Be prepared, come back alive! A solo diver is not just a solo diver when they are alone, but the heart of a solo diver beats on in every dive, regardless of their buddy plan. It never stops beating. At the beginning of every dive, a solo diver knows he can count on himself or herself first should any problems arise.

Thank you John Flanders

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Website goes virtual so divers can go deep

When Greg Davis’ father relocated to North Carolina, he lost his dive buddy.

Now he has a dive buddy almost anywhere he wants to dive, thanks to, a website he acquired in 2006.

While dive shops often post names of people looking for a dive buddy, Greg found that was inadequate and was determined to offer more.

“DiveBuddy was a listing service going back to 1998 . . . a website to post email addresses everyone could see,” he said. “It was a central repository but was not dynamic and it had to be updated by the webmaster. It was very rudimentary.”

His skill as a webmaster and SQL (a type of database) developer in his workplace was a big advantage in his desire to take to another level.

“I worked my magic on it. I loved to dive and I wanted to create a better service. It is not just a ‘find-a-buddy service,’ ” said Greg. “It’s a total community – sharing photographs, articles, adding dive sites and maintaining a virtual dive log.”

The website is accessed at and to see the map that locates dive sites, click on “Scuba Earth” at the top of the Home page.

“I probably put 2,000 development hours into it. We have over 20,000 members on DiveBuddy. That is divers, dive centres, charter services, resorts and manufacturers, but most are divers and instructors.

For Greg it’s a hobby that pays its own bills but is not a revenue maker nor was it intended to be one. “Social networks are free. It is the ability to have a dive buddy in any state or country . . . I have friends in every location, a cool group of people all there for one purpose.”

He started with an “open source” listing of dive sites. He didn’t want to input everything himself because that is very work intensive. Also, by opening it up to others, as Wikipedia does, any member can add a dive site they are familiar with and “because we have so many divers, everyone double checks each other. I keep track of all the changes.”

So far, about 81 percent of the members are in the U.S., three percent in Canada, three percent in the United Kingdom and the remainder are in “the rest of world; over 150 countries are represented on”

In the U.S., Greg says the four largest areas in terms of dive sites, are Southern California, all of Florida, Texas in the Gulf region and the tri-state northeastern states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In Canada, he sees the main areas as Ontario and British Columbia.

Greg pinpoints scuba areas similar to how Google Earth locates streets, houses and other buildings. He believes his website does a better job locating dive areas than one operated by PADI. He suggests that scuba divers view them both and decide for themselves.

There are also forum discussions on diving, underwater photos and he has added a special centralized section for stories written by his members on dive sites with which they are familiar. “It’s a member-driven community.”

Greg’s personal favourites are wreck-diving off the coast of North Carolina and the Blue Lagoon near Huntsville, Texas, an old quarry that is not too deep and is a popular training area. An open water instructor, Greg has certified more than 400 students. Blue Lagoon is one of several inland dive sites in Texas, he says.

His two favourite sites represent rather dramatic contrasts. “Wreck diving is an adrenalin rush – that excitement of being on a wreck and cruising through it. It can be complicated. On the flip side if you go to Blue Lagoon there’s serenity. Your ears can relax while you enjoy a peaceful day on the water.”

Thanks Greg for the interview.

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, December 6, 2012

6 Things to Leave at Home on Your Next Dive Trip

Scale-tipping gear bags don’t have to be your fate as a dive traveler. Stroll onto the dive boat with less stress and a lighter load with this list of our six favorite things to leave behind.

» Scuba Gear Depending on the situation — for example, you're only going to be able to squeeze in one dive on a family vacation — some gear might not be worth lugging. There’s no shame in renting — good dive operations have quality gear that gets regularly cleaned and serviced. Alternatively, buy a set of travel gear — lightweight, high-performance BCs and regs are a big part of many manufacturers' gear lines — for your dive vacations, and perhaps another set of "regular" gear for your local diving. It might cost a little more in the short term, but bringing your own travel gear adds a factor of safety and comfort.

» Beach Towels Towels from home inevitably make the return trip either unused or still wet, while hotels and dive boats usually provide them. Still find yourself lacking? Buy an inexpensive sarong on-island for a multipurpose, space-saving beach blanket.

» Foreign Currency Changing money before a trip is a hassle, and airport exchanges are a rip-off. Hit the ATM at the airport after you land to withdraw a cash stash for tip money and cab fares. You’ll get the best exchange rate and pay a flat transaction fee rather than a percentage.

» Mask Defog and Other Liquids Every dive boat in the world has defog — guaranteed. Not to mention that a bottle stored in a mask box can trigger a bag check or pose a potential luggage leak. Ditto for basic toiletries. Ever been to a hotel or dive resort that didn’t have free shampoo? Us neither.

» Shoes Pick one pair of all-purpose shoes — such as canvas sneakers or boat shoes — to wear on the plane, stash lightweight flip-flops or sandals in your carry-on, and leave the rest at home.

» Jewelry Dive-boat fashion is all skin-tight neoprene, split-fins and wrist-mount computers — no one takes the plunge to check out a tennis bracelet. Between the potential for small items to go overboard and the possibility of theft back on land, jewelry is better off at home.

Thanks to Sport Diver----always a "wealth of scuba diving info"

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jimmy Buffett narrates Manatee awareness video

“Preventing the risk of extinction of manatees due to human related encounters is critical to all of us in the dive industry who have enjoyed snorkeling and diving with these majestic marine mammals,” said Tom Ingram, Executive Director of DEMA. “DEMA feels privileged to work with Jimmy Buffett and the Save the Manatee Club on this important endeavor.

”The Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA), a non-profit trade association for the scuba diving industry has teamed up with Save the Manatees to release a new Public Service Announcement. Narrated by well-known performer Jimmy Buffett, the PSA is aimed at increasing awareness of the need to protect the manatees.

Often referred to as Florida’s mermaids, the PSA provides tips on how to enjoy but not endanger these gentle giants and was released in support of the State of Florida’s November Manatee Awareness Month.

The video provides divers and snorkelers with fundamental knowledge on how they can keep the manatees safe and highlights the rules of sharing Florida’s oceans, rivers and springs with Florida’s official marine mammal.

Manatee Awareness Month was created to expand efforts to raise awareness about the presence of manatees in Florida’s waters and to reach more people in Florida and outside the state about how to prevent harm to the manatees. You can find more detailed information about Save the Manatees and how you can help at

Thanks to Divewire

Kathy Dowsett

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trubridge Powers Through to a New Constant Weight Freediving Record

Today was the penultimate day of Suunto Vertical Blue. And like the seven other days of competition that came before, it did not disappoint. The official top time for the event’s host William Trubridge came at 11:10 am eastern and just about four short minutes later a new national record for New Zealand appeared as he completed a dive to 121m under constant weight in Dean’s Blue Hole. As a freediving event Suunto Vertical Blue has become historic in its proportions garnering an incredible 53 national titles so far. This is Will’s first national record at the elite competition.

Great anticipation has surrounded the Kiwi freediver as onlookers have watched William and Russian freediver Alexey Molchanov battle for first position in the category of constant weight (CWT). Coming into the comp Alexey held the world record for constant weight, and after a few days at Dean’s Blue Hole he retained it by making a dive to 126m. Trubridge is the current world record holder in both free immersion (FIM) and in the sport’s most arduous discipline constant no-fins (CNF).

After a shortfall and a black-out on his own 126m attempt, today was a welcomed good day for the soft-spoken champion. “I just wanted to get a decent, solid CWT dive out and get a white card. The world record escaped me this competition.” Will said matter-of-factly. Upon his ascent to the surface on this 121m dive Will reached for the comp line (the GloRope) but lunged and missed it because he was wearing fluid goggles that distort his vision.

“I was determined to keep my airway above the surface and not get a DQ – my mind was ticking over the 15 seconds – I was lucid.” And as he counted the seconds he managed to masterfully keep his body upright as you will see in the video below. Once the requisite surface protocol was complete Will was in the clear; “ I felt a little bit of relief!” he mused, “the monofin felt less like an appendage and more like an angry dog gripped to my flailing leg! I think my training peaked just before the event, and I’m on the downhill slope energy-wise…“ As for the last day of the competition, Will is planning a ‘fun” dive so he can relax and enjoy the success that surrounds him.

Thanks to deeper blue for this article

Kathy Dowsett

Friday, November 30, 2012

History of the Dive Computer

In a 1951 secret meeting at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, members of the US Navy Committee for Undersea Warfare and Underwater Swimmers discussed improvements to scuba diving gear. Top of their list was a foolproof way of monitoring nitrogen loading.

Two years later two Scripps researchers, Groves and Monk, published a paper that set out the functionalities needed for a decompression device. They said such a device must calculate three things – decompression during the dive, the remaining nitrogen in the human body from previous dives and, based on this information, an optimised, faster ascent rate. Groves and Monk suggested the use of an electrical analogue computer to measure both decompression and
air consumption.

American manufacturer Foxboro came up with the Decomputer Mark I in 1955 (above). It was the first analogue dive computer. A needle indicated danger during an ascent by moving towards a red zone on the display. After several test dives, the US Navy found the device to be too inconsistent – despite their efforts, the use of dive tables was still far more accurate.

It was back to the drawing board. In 1963 the SOS Poseidon 5 was introduced. It automatically calculated how long decompression stops should be based on dive depth and bottom time. However, imprecise calculations for deep and repetitive dives gave it the nickname ‘Bends-o-Matic’ and the US Navy advised against its use for recreational diving.

The same year the market saw the first electric analogue device – the TRACOR. The unit ran on two batteries, but the high power consumption, especially in cold waters, resulted in limited dive times and a worrying rate of system failure.

Next up was the MARK V S developed by the DCIEM (Defence and Civil Institute for Environmental Medicine). It was the first dive computer to tick all the boxes and was sold to industrial and military agencies in the 1960s but was not available to the public.

In the late 1970s dive computers went digital. The XDC-1 was a desktop device designed in 1979 for laboratory purposes and looked like a cash register. The device built the foundation for the improved XDC-2 and XDC-3, or CyberDiver that became the first digital portable computer and 700 units were sold between 1979 and 1982. The later XDC-4 worked with gas mixes, but was too expensive for the mass market.

In the 1980s the technology quickly improved. In 1983 the Orca Edge hit the market as the first commercially viable dive computer. The model was based on the US Navy dive tables but did not calculate a decompression plan. Its design was ahead of its time – it resembled an iPod Nano. However, production capacity was only one unit a day. It was never going to emulate Apple’s sales figures.

A year later, the Decobrain arrived and the modern recreational dive computer was born. It had all the features we have come to expect from a dive computer, including calculated ascent times and an integrated warning system for fast ascents. The Decobrain was also the first dive computer to achieve success in the European market.

DACOR’s follow-up model Microbrain was the first industrial scaled dive computer and the first one using a silicon chip.

In 1986 a little known Finnish company, Suunto, came out with the SME-ML. The computer had all the essential features and was able to store 10 hours of dives, which could be accessed any time. This, and the simple design, was key to its success and marked Suunto’s break into dive gear manufacturing. It took another decade before the Finns became market leaders.

In 1987 the Swiss company UWATEC introduced the Aladin that swept aside all rivals. The unattractive, chunky, grey housing could be seen strapped to wrists from the Red Sea to the Barrier Reef. Soon more divers were using computers than not – and more were using Aladins than anything else.

Thanks to Dive

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

5 Diving Tips for Saving Air

Diving Tips: Saving Air

Do you breathe your tank down faster than your buddy? Here are 5 diving tips to help conserve your oxygen and extend your bottom time.

1. Fix the small leaks

Even a tiny stream of bubbles from an O-ring or an inflator swivel adds up over 40 minutes, and may be a sign of more serious trouble ahead anyway. A mask that doesn't seal is another kind of leak in that you have to constantly blow air into it to clear out the water. It's also a source of stress, which needlessly elevates your breathing rate and thereby reduces your breathing efficiency. Does your octo free-flow easily? That can dump a lot of air quickly. Detune it or mount it carefully so the mouthpiece points downward.

2. Dive More

Inexperienced divers are famous for burning through their air supply at a furious rate, so one of the best diving tips for saving air is to simply dive more often. You may not be a new diver, but unless you dive almost every week it's still an unnatural activity. By diving more, your body will get used to the idea, and you'll breathe less.

3. Swim Slowly

The energy cost of speed is even more than you might think: Swim half as fast as you do now, and you'll use less air.

4. Stay Shallow

Because your regulator has to deliver air at the same pressure as the water, a lungful at 33 feet (two atmospheres) takes twice as much out of your tank as does the same breath at the surface. At 99 feet (four atmospheres) it takes twice as much as at 33 feet. There's absolutely nothing you can do about that except to avoid being deeper than you have to be. If you're making a transit over an uninteresting sand flat to get to the edge of the drop-off, do it at 15 feet instead of at 40 feet, and you'll save air.

5. Minimize the Lead

If you're overweighted, you have to put more air into your BC to float it and be neutral. The inflated BC is larger and requires more energy and oxygen to push it through the water. An extra eight pounds of lead means your BC is one gallon bigger when inflated enough to make you neutral.

Thanks to Scuba Diving----an informational scuba blog.

Kathy Dowsett

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lessons for Life: Death in the Shallows

Thanks to Eric Douglas and Scuba Diving

Jolie kept hoping things would get better. She had been certified a year earlier, but had been in the water only once since then. Her first dive of the day had been shaky, but she got through it. She just couldn’t get the hang of her buoyancy, and felt like she was either banging off the bottom or floating to the surface. During the surface interval, her buddy told her she just needed practice and it would get better. She kept reminding herself to relax and breathe slowly and easily.

Visibility was poor on her second dive. She felt like she was looking down a tunnel and everything got dark. All she could think of was getting to the surface and breathing air. She was breathing faster and faster, but nothing seemed to be coming from the regulator. She spit it out and looked around wildly for her buddy.


In her mid-20s, Jolie was in good shape and enjoyed being outside. She thought learning to dive sounded like fun, and she enjoyed the classes. She dreamed of diving somewhere warm and sunny in clear water, but she hadn’t been able to make a trip to the ocean yet. Her friends went to a local quarry regularly, but Jolie never got used to it. She didn’t like the heavy wetsuits, and while everyone said visibility wasn’t bad, it made her feel uncomfortable and closed-in. She had had problems with claustrophobia when younger, and the dark water brought those feelings back.


Jolie was using some borrowed gear and had rented other pieces. She was reluctant to invest in equipment until she felt comfortable. When she got to the quarry, she realized that the low-pressure hose on her borrowed reg didn’t match the inflator connector on her rented BCD. She had learned how to orally inflate her BCD in her certification class, so her dive buddy convinced her to make the dives anyway. He reasoned that they were going to stay in the shallow end of the quarry where the open-water students practiced, a maximum depth of 10 feet. The one piece of equipment she forgot to bring was her weight belt. She ended up placing her weights in her BCD pockets.

Throughout the first dive, Jolie struggled with her buoyancy control. When she began letting air out of her BCD on the surface, she dropped quickly to the bottom. She orally inflated her BCD, and then found herself on the surface again. She felt like that was all she did the entire dive. She spent so much time working on her buoyancy that she never really looked around or had time to relax. The dive ended relatively quickly when she noticed she had breathed through her entire tank. Her buddy told her that was no problem, but asked her to try to relax and breathe more slowly on the second dive. He also told her to descend to the bottom and add in a little air into her BCD, not an entire breath every time.


Jolie’s panic began early in her -second dive. She was uncomfortable on the surface, trying to remember everything her buddy had told her and the lessons she had learned in class a year before. As soon as the water closed over her head, she began breathing quickly. Her buddy said later that it looked like a constant stream of air bubbles coming out of her regulator. She descended quickly and hit the rocky bottom on her knees. A group of students had just cleared the area and silt had been stirred up, reducing visibility to less than normal. Jolie stayed on her knees for a moment. She took the regulator out of her mouth and began scrambling for the disconnected inflator so she could add air into her BCD. She never found it. Her panic escalated. The only thought that reached her mind was that she needed to be on the -surface. Air.

Jolie’s buddy grabbed her alternate air-source regulator and tried to give it to her. When she refused it, he tried to give her his own, but she refused it as well. Without warning, she bolted for the surface. Resuscitation efforts on the beach and at a nearby hospital were unsuccessful.


This is a classic case of panic leading to a dive fatality. Jolie wasn’t thinking clearly in the water. She took out her regulator before she found her inflator hose. Just those few seconds without an air supply were enough to tip her over the edge.

There is very little you can do for someone in a panic state, aside from removing them from the situation and allowing them time to calm down. This is extremely difficult and dangerous underwater. But while the panic ultimately killed Jolie, the triggers on the dive caused the panic in the first place.

Jolie had latent problems with claustrophobia. Struggling with her buoyancy got her agitated to the point that she wasn’t thinking clearly. A root cause of this issue was the disconnected low-pressure inflator. She entered the water on the second dive with the same problems, now even more agitated.

An ascent from 10 feet was more than enough of a pressure change to cause a lung overexpansion injury and cause an arterial gas embolism, or AGE. This causes strokelike symptoms as a large air bubble is introduced to the brain, cutting off blood supply. It can also cause death rapidly. This is the reason scuba divers are trained to never hold their breath.

Lessons for Life

1 Don’t make dives you aren’t comfortable making. Don’t allow peer pressure to goad you into a dive you aren’t ready for.

2 If you feel panicked or have trouble catching your breath underwater, stop on the bottom or hold onto something stable and attempt to relax. Wait for your breathing to settle before you attempt to swim on. If that fails, abort the dive.

3 Be properly equipped for the dives you are making. Making do with improper equipment is unsafe.

4 Seek additional training and experience in a situation supervised by a dive instructor.

Eric Douglas co-authored the book Scuba Diving Safety, and has written a series of dive-adventure novels and short stories. Check out his website,

Kathy Dowsett

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Eunice aphroditois aka 'bobbit worm'

Eunice aphroditois :: apparently given the nickname by an underwater photographer two decades ago.

It snares its prey using a complex feeding apparatus with two sharp mandibles which snap shut like a pair of scissors

The ocean floor is home to many weird and terrifying predators, many of which could discourage anyone from ever setting foot into the sea again.

This creature is Eunice aphroditois - also known as the Bobbit worm, apparently after an underwater photographer decided two decades ago that its hunting methods were similar to the Bobbitt family incident of 1993.

That incident involved Lorena Bobbitt slicing nearly half her husband's member off. E. aphroditois is similar, according to a 2011 paper in Revista de Biologia Tropical, 'because either the widely open jaw pieces resemble scissors, or because the exposed portion resembles an erect penis.'

The nickname is inaccurate - Mrs Bobbitt inflicted the grievous injury on her husband using a knife rather than scissors - but it has stuck nevertheless.

And it is perhaps a close enough comparison to dissuade any man from skinny dipping in warm waters near the sea floor at depths of 30 to 130ft, where the long-living nocturnal worm is generally found.

The creature, which spends its life mostly buried beneath the sand of the sea-floor, sticks just a portion of its body up into the water where it has five antennae to sense its prey, usually smaller worms and fish.

Mammoth: A scientists poses with the 10ft-long E. aphroditois discovered in Japan's Seto Fishing Harbour in 2009.

It snares its prey using a complex feeding apparatus called a pharynx which can turn inside-out, like the fingers of a glove, and has sharp mandibles on the end which snap shut like scissors.

Unlucky creatures are sometimes sliced in two because of the speed and strength of the worm's attacks, and it can dish out nasty bites to any humans who stray too close.

One the prey is caught, the worm shoots back into its burrow to feed. When prey is scarce it also feeds seaweed and other sea plants, and will scavenge for morsels around the surface of its burrow.

Noted for its unusually large body size and length, E. aphroditois is found in warm waters all over the world.

Since the 19th century, marine biologists have recognised it has having one of the longest bodies among polychaetes - a class of segmented, mostly marine worms.

They average a length of about one metre, but specimens measuring as long as three metres have been discovered.

The creature, which spends its life mostly buried beneath the sand of the sea-floor, sticks just a portion of its body up into the water where it has five antennae to sense its prey, usually smaller worms and fish.

It snares its prey using a complex feeding apparatus called a pharynx which can turn inside-out, like the fingers of a glove, and has sharp mandibles on the end which snap shut like scissors.

Unlucky creatures are sometimes sliced in two because of the speed and strength of the worm's attacks, and it can dish out nasty bites to any humans who stray too close.

One the prey is caught, the worm shoots back into its burrow to feed. When prey is scarce it also feeds seaweed and other sea plants, and will scavenge for morsels around the surface of its burrow.

Noted for its unusually large body size and length, E. aphroditois is found in warm waters all over the world.

Since the 19th century, marine biologists have recognised it has having one of the longest bodies among polychaetes - a class of segmented, mostly marine worms.

They average a length of about one metre, but specimens measuring as long as three metres have been discovered.

A report by Hiro'omi Uchida, assistant director of the Kushimoto Marine Park Centre in Japan, describes one such mammoth worm found hiding in one of the floats of a mooring raft in Japan's Seto Fishing Habour in 2009.

'[I]it is uncertain when the individual first entered the mooring raft and fish corral during the 13 years the structure sat in the harbour,' he writes.

'It is also uncertain whether the worm arrived by larval settlement or at a semi-adult stage of development. Nonetheless, the individual surely had been living in its comfortable floating home for a quite a long time.'

At 9ft 10in long, about a pound in weight and with 673 segments, the worm they discovered was one of the largest specimens of E. aphroditois ever found.

That same year, a report in MailOnline Science detailed how a 4ft-long specimen was unearthed in a Newquay, Cornwall aquarium that was attacking coral and prize fish.

Workers at the attraction had been left scratching their heads as to why the coral had been left devastated and - in some cases - cut in half. After staking out the display for several weeks, the last resort was to completely dismantle it, rock by rock.

Matt Slater, the aquarium's curator, said: 'Something was guzzling our reef but we had no idea what, we also found an injured Tang Fish so we laid traps but they got ripped apart in the night.

'That worm must have obliterated the traps. The bait was full of hooks which he must have just digested.'

Staff believe the beast - which they nicknamed Barry - arrived by hitching a ride into the aquarium hiding inside a piece of coral when it was young and grew enormous over a number of years.

Mr Slater added: 'It really does look like something out of a horror movie.

Thanks to the Daily Mail

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, November 5, 2012

Life on a "liveaboard"

It’s eating, breathing and sleeping scuba diving, 24/7.

That’s life on a “liveaboard” boat that Fraser Debney experienced in the Bahamas recently. He had liked his first liveaboard trip so he decided to try it again this year.

On April 13, Fraser and some of his friends left port in Nassau Bahamas aboard a Blackbeard Cruises ( liveaboard ship for a seven-day adventure. It would confirm his first impression of the experience. He loved it. The dive boat becomes your home and restaurant for a week and you don’t return to port until the trip is done.

“It would be our shark dive,” Fraser replies when asked for his favourite experience on the trip.

It takes place at a wreck site, and a good wreck dive on its own merits. But it is also a wreck dive with a difference. Using a rope, the boat’s crew suspends a glob of waste food about 20 feet above the divers. Looking up from the wreck the divers get a close-up look at the reef sharks, which range in size from four to six feet. Fraser acknowledges that many people object to attracting sharks like this but says it is good for tourism.

“These sharks were not aggressive and I don’t believe they generally are.”
That day they saw at least 20 sharks, as well as Nassau groupers and a lot of tropical fish, “all swimming around in the same area eating the scraps as the sharks chomped on the chum. Curiously, the sharks don’t bother them (the other fish).”

James Bond Grotto in the Bahamas, where the Thunderball movie was shot, was another favourite “because of the vast expanse of things to see. That movie is underwater battles. It is almost like a small cave. There were a couple of octopus, a lot of old and interesting elk horn coral growing out of the ground and various tropical fish that made the cave their own. It has an access and exit point.”

The boat itself is about 65 feet in length and on this trip accommodated 19 divers and a crew of six. Instead of cabins there are open bunk areas. Each serves as the sleeping quarters for four to six divers. “For anyone expecting 5-star it is not 5-star. It is camping on the water with the diving as a bonus. The diving is fantastic. As long as you are comfortable being in a trailer (atmosphere) and having to be organized, the space you have is adequate. If you spread your stuff all over it is not for you.

“All the entities of a dive shop are on the boat. You don’t touch your gear. They fill up the tanks on the spot. It was interesting for me,” says Fraser. “The food was fantastic. The meals were like homemade.”

Meanwhile, the boat is travelling from one dive site to another. While bad weather limited them to a couple of dives on the first two days, generally they made four or five dives a day. When moored at the end of the day they would do night dives before moving on to the next site in the morning.

The week-long experience costs $939. It includes everything to do with your diving, food and drinks, including a beer keg in the gallery, along with wine and rum punch.
“Your first alcoholic drink is your last dive (of the day). They’re very strict. If you have a drink at 10 a.m. you don’t dive at all.”

It’s not a loud and late night, either. Tired by the busy day of diving, most people are in bed by 8 p.m.

Kathy Dowsett

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Diving Doc: Preventing and Treating Coral Scrapes

Scuba diving is traditionally a look, don't touch kind of sport. But even careful divers can inadvertently run into trouble. By far the most common diving injury is the common scrape, usually from coral.

Irritations often occur as a result of a brush with coral or sponges. Coral scrapes can be painful and sometimes difficult to heal because the living organisms in the coral can get into the wound and cause infections. Contact with a sponge can leave irritating fibers in the skin, producing an itching rash that can range from mild to severe, possibly with pain and blistering.

Even if you're careful, it's likely you'll come into contact with coral someday. If and when, here's what to do:

1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Makes sure your body is covered, even if just by a dive skin, and wear gloves where allowed.

2. Regularly irrigate a scrape with copious amounts of vinegar over a period of about 30 minutes.

3. Apply triple-antibiotic to the wound twice a day for a couple of days.

4. Scrapes can become infected even with proper initial care. Watch for hotness to the touch, redness or red streaks around the site, swelling, discharge of pus, or fever. If you see them, contact a doctor.

5. Fragments of coral sometimes become lodged beneath the skin and the body mounts a prolonged allergic reaction to them. In some cases, debridement is required to resolve the reaction.

Even in the absence of embedded coral remnants, it is not unusual for a marked hypersensitivity response to a coral injury to continue for three to four weeks before significantly improving. Sometimes the lesion will resolve, then return.

If a scrape doesn't substantially resolve within a month, or gets worse, you should consult a dermatologist.

Editor's Note: Even innocent injuries can turn deadly if you have an allergic or severe reaction. After any accident, watch for severe swelling, dizziness, blurred vision, breathing difficulties, weakness, muscle pain, cold sweat and a rapid heartbeat. If any occur, call 911 (or DAN's emergency hotline 919-684-4DAN if no emergency services are available) immediately. Injectible epinephrine can help calm allergic reactions. CPR may be necessary until help arrives.

DocVikingo has been scuba certified for more than 35 years and has dived all over the world. He is a practising doctor in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area and has held faculty positions at several major hospitals, including Johns Hopkins. With an interest in diving medicine, he serves as administrator at Scuba Clinic Online.

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thirteen Things You Didn't Know About Scuba Diving Gear - But Should

Thanks to Darryl Carson and Sport Diver

Divers have an intimate connection to our equipment. But the history, evolution and hidden inner workings of many integral pieces of our collective kit might be a mystery to many of us. Check out these 13 curious details, historical head-scratchers and surprising facts, including why dive watches glow and what the heck is the “Bends-O-Matic?”

One of the earliest “dive computers”, the SOS Decompression Meter, was completely mechanical and simulated the process of gas absorption in the body. Its sketchy performance earned it the nickname “Bends-O-Matic.”

The first decompression tables, and the basis for modern dive computer algorithms, were published in 1908 by John Haldane. They were based on simulated dives using a hyperbaric chamber. The test divers were English goats.

Depth ratings for extreme deep dive watches have exceeded the known depth of the oceans. The Sinn UX is rated to 12,000 meters, more than 1000 meters deeper than the Marianas Trench.

Tritium, a radioactive material safely used in tiny quantities to make illuminated markings in many dive watches, is also used as a “booster” in multi-stage hydrogen bombs.

The rhythmic, mechanical breathing of Star Wars’ Darth Vader is iconic. It’s the amplified sound of a scuba regulator.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan invented the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus in 1943. It was based on a diaphragm regulator design first developed more than a hundred years before.

Last year, Allen Sherrod, a dive instructor from Florida, spent 48 hours and 13 minutes breathing from a regulator while submerged off Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida. It was a world record time for a saltwater dive.

Many warm-water divers use their octopus as a defense against stinging jellyfish. A brief purge beneath an oncoming assailant will gently lift it out of the diver’s way.

An ancient bas-relief dating back to 900 B.C. shows Assyrian divers using animal skins filled with air, which they carried with them to increase the length of their dives.

Before the standard power inflator came along, horse collar BCs incorporated small CO2 canisters to provide emergency inflation when needed, just like many personal floatation devices do today.

The popular backplate-and-wing BC design came as a cave diving innovation and improvement over “belly bags,” which uncomfortably sandwiched divers between an air bladder and a pair of heavy steel tanks.

No welding is used in making a typical aluminum scuba tank. Instead, a 32-lb. aluminum slug, 7-inches across, is pressed into shape by 2,500 lbs. of pressure in just 20 seconds.

Everyone knows LED lights are more efficient than incandescent models. But how efficient? Tests have shown burn times may average 30 times longer using identical battery power.

Kathy Dowsett

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wearing Contact Lenses When Scuba Diving

Avid divers know what an amazing feeling it is to submerge into a world so different from our own. The underwater paradise is the only real frontier left to explore on the planet and even in frequently visited locations, like the Red Sea or Bunaken, you’ll have the opportunity to experience something unique, see fantastically colored fish and impossibly shaped coral reefs.

However, when you are scuba diving, you rely heavily on your sense of sight to take in all the beauty. This means that if live with a vision defect, such as nearsightedness or astigmatism, you will need prescription goggles or, if your wallet doesn’t stretch that far, a pair of contact lenses. So, there is no reason not to get the best experience every time you’re down in the water.

Using Contact Lenses when Diving

It is possible to wear glasses when scuba diving but it’s not the optimal choice when you’re also wearing a diving mask. What we would recommend is to wear contacts while diving. There are a couple of things to consider when you wear lenses underwater.
■If you experience mild discomfort, perhaps feel as if the lenses tighten a bit while you’re down, simply use lubricating eye drops before and after each session. This should relieve some of the irritation.
■Another thing to think about when diving with contact lenses is that you should blink as much as possible. In doing so you’ll prevent bubbles from forming underneath your lenses – these bubbles are in no way harmful to your eyes but they can cause minor discomfort and blur your vision.
■Also, when you clear your mask of water, remember to close your eyes so that you don’t lose your contact lenses!

Which Lenses to Wear

As most contact lens wearers know, there are two types of lenses; hard contacts and soft contacts. When diving, it is recommended to wear soft contacts, due to the fact that soft contacts contain a percentage of salt water which helps prevent them from floating off your eyes if they are open when you flood your mask. Hard contacts (gas-permeable) are more likely to simply disappear off your eye into the water, and it’s next to impossible to find a lost lens under water due to their inherent translucency. This is why you should always wear disposable lenses when doing water activities, since an eventual loss is not that great.

More to Think About

You shouldn’t worry about wearing contact lenses when scuba diving – it is perfectly safe. But, eye care experts suggest the following tips to keep in mind when using lenses
■When using contacts it’s important to ascend slower than normal.
■Wear soft contact lenses.
■Rinse lenses between dives to get the salt water out.
■Bring an extra pair if a problem should occur.
■Let your diving buddy know you’re wearing contacts so that he or she can retrieve your mask if you should lose it.

Other than this there is really nothing special to think about when hitting the water –simply dive right in!

Thanks to Scuba Diving

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, October 8, 2012

Return to Antikythera: Divers revisit wreck where ancient computer found

Thanks to:
Jo Marchant is the author of a book about the mechanism, Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer

In 1900, Greek sponge divers stumbled across "a pile of dead, naked women" on the seabed near the tiny island of Antikythera. It turned out the figures were not corpses but bronze and marble statues, part of a cargo of stolen Greek treasure that was lost when the Roman ship carrying them sank two thousand years ago on the island's treacherous rocks.

It was the first marine wreck to be studied by archaeologists, and yielded the greatest haul of ancient treasure that had ever been found. Yet the salvage project – carried out in treacherous conditions with desperately crude equipment – was never completed. So this month, armed with the latest diving technology, scientists are going back.

Antikythera Mechanism
Between 1900 and 1901, the sponge divers retrieved a string of stunning antiquities, including weapons, jewellery, furniture and some exquisite statues. But their most famous find was a battered lump that sat unnoticed for months in the courtyard of Athens' National Archaeological Museum, before it cracked open to reveal a bundle of cogwheels, dials and inscriptions.

It has taken scientists over a hundred years to decode the inner workings of those corroded fragments, with x-ray and CT scans finally revealing a sophisticated clockwork machine used to calculate the workings of the heavens.

Dubbed the Antikythera mechanism, it had pointers that displayed the positions of the sun, moon and planets in the sky, as well as a star calendar, eclipse prediction dial and a timetable of athletics events including the Olympics.

It's a stunning piece of technology that revolutionises our understanding of the abilities of the ancient Greeks. Nothing close to its complexity is known to have been created for well over a thousand years afterwards, and the emergence of mechanical clocks in medieval Europe.

There are questions that remain unanswered, such as where it's from and who built it (Posidonius, a philosopher who lived on Rhodes during the first century BC, is one candidate, while the third century BC genius Archimedes may have invented this type of device). But one of the most intriguing mysteries relates to the wreck on which it was found. What's still down there?
The wreck lies in around 60 metres of cold, rocky, current-swirled water – not an easy place to visit. The sponge divers who salvaged its cargo worked in clunky metal diving suits with little understanding of the dangers of diving at such depth. By the time they abandoned their project, two of them had been paralysed by the bends, and one was dead. They left behind stories of abandoned treasures, including giant marble statues that rolled down the steep slope from the wreck and out of reach.

The undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau spent a couple of days at the wreck site in 1978 and brought up some precious smaller items, including some coins from the Asia Minor coast, which suggested that the ship sailed from there around 70-60 BC (probably carrying war booty from Greek colonies back to Rome). But even with their sleek scuba gear, Cousteau's divers could spend only brief minutes on the seabed without risking the bends.

No one has been back since. Now, after years of negotiations with the Greek authorities, Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist based at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, finally has permission to dive at Antikythera. He's working with Greek archaeologists including Theotokis Theodoulou of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities.

This week, the team begins a three-week survey using rebreather technology, which recycles unused oxygen from each breath and allows divers to stay deeper for longer. The aim is to survey the wreck site properly for the first time, to find out once and for all what has been left down there – and to check down the slope, to 70 metres depth or more, to see if those stories of runaway statues are true.
Any items found on the wreck site could provide further clues to the origin or ownership of the ship. And not all of the pieces of the Antikythera mechanism were ever found. It's a long shot, but those missing bits could still be on the seabed.

This isn't what gets Foley most excited about the project, however. His team will also dive around the entire island, a distance of about 17 nautical miles, using James Bond-style propellers to cover ground quickly. Foley hopes this could reveal a whole clutch of previously unknown wrecks.
The island of Antikythera sits in the middle of what has been a busy trade route since ancient times: a treacherous shard of rock notorious for downing ships in a storm. In Roman times, it was also an infamous centre for pirates. So it's a good bet that there are plenty of other wrecks here, from all periods of history.

On a two-day reconnaissance survey in June this year, Foley and his team discovered the wreck of a British warship called HMS Nautilus, lost in 1807, plus a range of ancient anchors, ceramics and a 19th-century naval gun.

This suggests the area hasn't been looted (which makes sense given the difficulty of diving here), so any new wrecks found could be pristine. "Everyone is very, very excited," Foley says of the upcoming mission. "This ought to be extraordinary."

He also points out that the Antikythera ship, with its valuable cargo, is unlikely to have been travelling alone. When it sank, others in its fleet may have gone down too. Could one of them have been carrying another Antikythera mechanism? For the past hundred years, this awe-inspiring device has stood alone, our only glimpse into a technology lost for millennia. That might – just might – now change.

Kathy Dowsett

Friday, September 28, 2012

Diving with a buddy - are you liable if anything goes wrong?

Thanks to:::
Andrew Tonge is qualified as a Solicitor and a Barrister. He has been practising law for over 15 years. He is also a PADI Instructor, experienced technical diver and a director at Odyssey Dive Centre Limited, based in Stockport and Wigan. Andrew can be contacted at Nexus Solicitors, Manchester, where he is a partner.

Diving with a buddy is one of the best ways of exploring the underwater water world. No instructors, no knowledge reviews. Just diving!

For most of us, our buddy is a close friend and someone we trust. Someone we know to be a properly trained diver, someone who understands the way we dive. But year after year, divers, in buddy teams, get into difficulty. Year after year, many divers are seriously injured or killed at home in the UK and abroad.

So what happens in these cases? There is no dive school to point the finger at. No instructor or divemaster who was ‘in charge’. If anything happens to your buddy, who carries the can?

If you (or anyone else diving with you and your buddy) take certain steps either before or during or even after the dive, then the law sees that you have assumed responsibility and will impose a duty of care on you.

This means that the law expects you to behave in a particular way. In other words, you must act so as to make sure that you do what is required in any of the circumstances that arise on the dive so as not to harm those with you.

Whether and when the law imposes a duty on a dive buddy is a very complex area of law and it is easier than you think to find yourself on the hook.

For example, if you ‘lead the dive’ you may have assumed responsibility for the welfare of your buddy. This is not only where you are a more experienced or better qualified diver. This does not mean that everyone who ‘leads the way’ underwater becomes responsible in law for their buddies but it is easy to overstep the mark and become so.

Where, say, you are familiar with a wreck and your buddy isn’t, then the law is likely to require you to lead in a way that keeps your less-familiarised buddy safe. This may mean briefing him properly, possibly to the standard required of a wreck qualified dive leader, because in the eyes of the law, that is what you have said you will do.

It’s a little like a car driver, taking a friend for a ride in an articulated heavy goods vehicle. The driver must drive not simply like a car driver or ordinary road user, but as an HGV driver.

It is also very easy to fall foul of this legal conundrum in much less obvious circumstances. A buddy check means that you must do that buddy check as a reasonable diver would. As soon as you take the job on, you assume the duty of care. Maybe not for your buddy’s safety on the whole dive, but as far as checking his kit is concerned.

A loose weight pouch that drops out or a loose cylinder band, that should have been checked by you and which causes injury (or worse) to your buddy, will mean that you have not discharged your duty of care and may be liable in civil law to your buddy or his estate after death.

The same applies to everything you do, during and after the dive.The legal duties of care do not always end when the dive does.

If for example, you are unable to render assistance to your buddy because your alternate air source is not serviceable, then you may be liable for some or all of his injuries, because a reasonable buddy would have had kit that would have been useable by a buddy in trouble.

This is where the rules of diving as set out by organisations such as PADI would be used to assess whether you have behaved in the right way. The PADI diving rules are not the law, but the court, in deciding on how you should have behaved will look to the current reasonable practice of other divers and diver training agencies, in the same way as the court may look to the Highway Code.

Of course, whilst you may not, in certain circumstances, be obliged to attempt a rescue of your buddy, you may, by simply diving with your buddy have impliedly accepted that he can use your alternate air source or that you will dive in particular way (e.g. close enough for him to use your octo) so as not to put him at risk.

If you do attempt a rescue during the dive, or say administer first aid after the dive, you must of course do so, as the reasonable diver or first aider would do. To make the situation worse may leave you liable.

It is worth noting that simply being an instructor or divemaster does not in itself give rise to a duty of care towards the people you dive with, but it may be harder to guard against assuming a duty of care especially if those diving with you are less experienced and qualified than you,
They may be asking questions which you answer in a way that causes you to assume a duty, either in the answers you give, say on how to safely enter the water, or how to configure kit or which route to take to the wreck, right through to a need to closely supervise the divers in the water.
It may not be enough to simply state, at the waters edge, “…it’s every man for himself by the way!” Once a duty of care has been assumed it is legally very difficult to exclude or limit it in cases of personal injury or death resulting from the negligence (behaviour falling below the standard required) of the person with the duty.

The standard of the reasonable diver is an objective standard and is irrespective of a lack or training or expertise. To say that you were not qualified to lead a particular dive or give particular advice is not enough. And where you are better qualified and more experienced than the ordinary, reasonable diver, you may in certain cases be assessed against that higher standard.

In a world where legal action is commonplace and diving as a sport is expanding, with the growth of areas such as deep, mixed gas, technical diving, the dive buddy is taking on a responsibility that must be properly managed.

Check your insurance. Does it pay your legal fees if your buddy (or his relatives) sues you?
Get proper diver training. Dive with a recognised organisation such as a PADI Dive Centre and make sure that you and your buddy know what you are getting into. If you have any doubts, speak to a specialist solicitor.

Kathy Dowsett

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dirty Diving

Scuba Diving Lets Me Get Away With Otherwise Socially Unacceptable Behavior.

Thanks to Natalie Gibb and

This morning, I sat in front of my clients and spit. How many people can say that? They weren't offended; spitting in a mask is just something a diver does to keep his mask from fogging. I love diving because of the adventure of finding unexpected wildlife and the beauty of the underwater world. I love working in diving because I don't have to pretend to be anything more than the slightly uncouth tomboy that I am.

Diving lets me get away with behavior that wouldn't normally be socially acceptable. For example, I love to use language that is common in diving, but makes people do a double-take until they put it in context. There is no better way to get a group of chattering divers to quiet down and pay attention than to pause half-way through the pre-dive safety check and proclaim loudly, "Oh wait, I just need to grab my CROTCH strap." Silence. Now I have their attention. For variety, sometimes I also ask people if they can "look at my butt ring" and see if I have a reel there. The tricky part is keeping a straight face as I speak.

I wear whatever I please to work. No one complains when I show up to guide cavern dives in comfy running pants and no makeup. It would be silly to guide cavern dives wearing lipstick and eyeliner. When I cut all my hair off, everyone accepted my boy-cut as practical. At the end of the day, I am typically covered in either mud or sand, and I couldn't be happier!

Diving is the perfect job for me, because I don't have to act demure or ladylike. I get to be myself, and my clients accept me as I am - dirty and happy.

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Slave Ship Artifacts Uncovered

ON craggy rocks and in silent gullies at Lynyard Cay in the Abacos lay the fragments of an American-owned slave ship, the 129-ton, 88-foot schooner, the Peter Mowell.

Luckily, 390 of the 400 of its human cargo were able to clamber safely ashore – they were quite young: 96 men between 20 and 36 years old, 37 women between 20 and 30, and 256 children between six and 20. Thanks to the ever-changing winds of fate, though, they were not to be sold as slaves like the estimated 12-million Africans forced across the Atlantic over the course of the three-and-a-half century slave-trade era. Rather, rescued by Ridley Pinder and other wreckers from Cherokee Sound, they joined some of the last of the 37,000 African-born immigrants who had been rescued in the Bahamas, whose descendants most likely make their homes there today.
But what is left of the ship intrigued archaeologist Michael Pateman from the Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Corporation of the Bahamas, a Nassau-based, non-profit, quasi-government agency, and archaeologist Corey Malcom from the Key West, Florida-based Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society and more importantly – because the information gleaned will add to the Bahamas’ rich cultural history – what happened to its human cargo, crew and wreckers? Where are their descendants now and what stories do they have to tell?
So, on the 152nd anniversary of its wreck on July 25, 1860, and partnering with William Mathers, of the Florida-based marine archaeological organisation, Atlantic Sea Resources, they set out to see for themselves. Using co-ordinates recorded by the governor of the Bahamas at the time (Bayley) to the Duke of Newcastle, they returned to the site and were able to spot piles of ballast stones that were scattered along the shoreline as its hull was ripped apart on the reefs, along with encrusted copper nails and spikes that had become concretised together over a century and a half.
“Everything that we see from the wreck matches what we know from accounts of the Peter Mowell,” Malcom said. “Although the environment at Lynyard Cay is more harsh than we anticipated, and the preservation of the site is not as good as we had hoped, we feel confident that we have found the remains of the wreck of the Peter Mowell. This provides a tangible reality and a remarkable story from the slave trade era and provides a subsequent starting point to search for the descendants of these African refugees, crews and wreckers.”
“This research expedition is an early step of an ongoing project to develop an exhibit studying aspects of Bahamian slave history at the Pompey Museum in Nassau, through a grant from the Templeton Foundation,” Dr Pateman said. “The Peter Mowell entails far more than finding an actual wreck; It gives us the opportunity to learn the story about these liberated Africans, the people who rescued them, the slave traders and all of their descendants.”
“The history of the Bahamas is fascinating, and the Peter Mowell wreck is a particularly compelling story. It’s exciting to reawaken it and make it public knowledge,” Dr Malcom said.
“We want to present a story of Bahamian history that hasn’t been told before and needs to be told, so that we can learn more about the history of our islands and its rich heritage,” Dr Pateman said.
The successful location of the wreck of the slaver Peter Mowell promises to open a new chapter in the archaeology and history of the Bahamas and the transatlantic slave trade; it could allow modern Bahamians to trace their roots to the site and remains of a particular slave ship. Any Bahamian descendants of the Peter Mowell survivors or wreckers who have knowledge of this shipwreck are asked to contact Michael Pateman on 242-326-2566.
“What we have is the opportunity to link families descended from the survivors of this event – from the Africans, the wreckers and the slave-ship crew,” Dr Malcom said. “Our ultimate goal is to bring the members of these families together.”
Thanks to Tribune 242 
Kathy Dowsett

Monday, September 10, 2012

Scuba Diving: How to Perform the Open Water Skill "proper Weighting"

Imagine swimming  through a watery paradise, soaring through the ocean like an eagle through the sky. kirkscubagear scuba gear provides an excitement few activities can replicate, however you must master the skills before you can move with ease and agility. One such skill, proper weighting or a buoyancy check, is performed before you even descend. It is crucial for both your protection and enjoyment.

Before you learn how to properly weight yourself, you must first understand the principles behind it. Scuba divers should be able to descend easily into the water, but not be so weighted that they are pulled down to the bottom. They should be able to swim with ease, and not use too much air.

Establishing the proper weight, which depends on the diver's body, suit and equipment, creates such buoyancy. Weighting yourself is exactly as it sounds - placing weights upon your body so that you can accomplish an ideal buoyancy in the water. The difficult part of the skill is deciding how much weight to add.

There are formulas you can follow to weight yourself, which will give a general idea of the required weight, however it is best to perform a check yourself. Weights can depend on body composition in addition to size, which is difficult to measure within a formula. Before you weight yourself, you must decide which type of weighting system to use. Weight belts are the simpler type and consist of nylon or fabric belts with spaces for weights to be added. A more comfortable device is a weight system integrated into a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD), the device that allows you to control buoyancy by adding and deleting air into a bladder. Such a system does make you a little heavier outside of the water.

When you are ready to weight yourself, follow the following steps:

1. Position yourself in the water. You should not be able to stand and it should be the same type (saltwater or freshwater) as the water where you are planning to dive. Make certain that you are wearing exactly what you will wear during the actual dive. If your cylinder is full, add two pounds to account for additional buoyancy during the dive. Relax yourself. It is important not too move as this can serve to lift you and give a false impression of being under-weighted.

2. Inhale a normal breath and hold it. With the deflator over your head, push the deflate button to release the air from your Buoyancy Control Device.

3. The goal is to float steadily at eye level. If you are sinking, then you are too heavy. You must remove weight and restart the process with the first step. If you are floating too high, then you are too light. Add weight, and begin the whole process again.

4. Release your breath. Now you should sink. If not, try to breathe out more. If you still do not sink, then more weight is required. Add the weight and restart the procedure from the beginning.

It is important to weight yourself before any dive in which you have changed any aspect of the dive, such as using different equipment or diving in a new location. You should also check if some time has passed since your previous dive since subtle changes in your body could affect the amount of weight necessary.

Many factors affect the proper weight needed. Even the difference between salt and fresh water can call for a change in weight of almost six pounds. Incorrect weighting will make it more difficult to swim through the water, can cause you to crash into coral at the bottom of the sea or can use up your air too quickly. With proper weighting, you will soon be soaring amongst the vibrant creatures of the sea.

Thanks to Suzanne Rose @ yahoo

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Waters of Lake Michigan are a treasure trove of sunken wrecks

Roger Rice says the Bermuda Triangle, that polygon in the western Atlantic reputed to occasionally gobble up ships and aircraft, "has got nothin'" over the storm-battered waters off Wisconsin's Door Peninsula.

"Lake Michigan was a nautical superhighway for schooners and freighters in the 1800s and early 1900s, and a lot of them (hundreds, in fact) went down on the shoals off Door County, at Death's Door on the tip of the peninsula and over in Green Bay," said Rice, a veteran scuba diver.
And while the boats and aircraft that (supposedly) went down in the Bermuda Triangle have never been found, divers can explore at least three dozen ships off the Door Peninsula. Some are in relatively shallow water, so snorkelers can get an easy look; others are more than 100 feet down, requiring scuba tanks and training.

Rice, 69, lives at the tip of the peninsula in Gills Rock, Wis. He got his scuba certification eight years ago, after atrip to visit his son in Hawaii.

"It looked like so much fun that I had to try it, and I was a little peeved I couldn't dive with him because I didn't have my license," said Rice, who has logged more than 300 (and counting) dives since then off the Door and in California. He has no plans to slow down.

"There are wrecks out there all over the place," said Rice, whom I met while diving on the Frank O'Connor last summer. The O'Connor, a 300-foot wooden steamship, sank in 65 feet of water several miles off the Cana Island lighthouse. It was launched in 1892 and went down in 1919 after a fire.
"And really, the boats are what make diving interesting, because the bottom of the lake is so flat," he said. "It is really great to explore those old ships."

As we sped out to the wreck on a dive boat piloted by Jake Gransee, Rice said O'Connor is one of his favorite wrecks because its two large boilers and a 12-foot propeller remain intact.

"The thing burned and went straight down," he said. "So the old steam engine is just sitting there on the bottom."

Some 30 minutes later, I was geared up in a hefty wetsuit to keep out the Lake Michigan chill (it was about 50 degrees at 65 feet) and moving slowly down a buoy line toward the ship.

Just as Rice promised, the big propeller was still standing, connected to the steam engine. Unfortunately, the wooden sides of the boat had collapsed over the years and lay spread out on the bottom. Pieces of shiny coal used to fire the boilers nearly 90 years ago were scattered nearby.

The O'Connor was constructed by shipbuilder James Davidson, who built freighters in the late 1800s, when sailing was giving way to steamships. Davidson constructed his bulk carriers of wood rather than steel to save money. But they were fire traps and nearly all ended up burning.

As Gransee and I swam along the ship for the next 30 minutes, we could see layers of zebra and quagga mussels covering nearly every section of exposed wood and metal. Invaders from the Caspian and Black seas, these filter feeders are thought to have been brought to this country as ballast from tankers.

Since their colonization of the Great Lakes in the early 1990s, they have covered the undersides of docks, boats, anchors and spread into nearby streams. Widely despised, they can grow so densely that they block pipelines and clog water intakes of municipal water supplies and power plants.

But — for divers, anyway — they have an upside. Because they are filter feeders, they have greatly improved the visibility in the Great Lakes. The change has been dramatic, said Gransee, 38, who began diving when he was 14.

There are billions of these mussels in the Great Lakes, and studies show that they can filter roughly a quart of water a day.

"When I first dove on the O'Connor back in 1994, it was great to have 30-foot visibility, and 40 feet was considered phenomenal," he said. "Now it's not unusual to be able to see 100 feet, and it's a bad day when you can't see at least 50 feet. That's a huge change in less than 20 years."

Gransee, who grew up in Baileys Harbor on the Lake Michigan side of the Peninsula, said he began snorkeling around age 10 with a buddy.

"We went to a dive shop up in Gills Rock to get some gear, and the owner drew us a map of some wrecks in shallow water of around 12 feet in Baileys Harbor," he recalled. "I forget the name of the boats, but after that, we were hooked."

A self-described history buff, Gransee said he enjoys researching the wrecks he's visited and imagining what the conditions were like when the ships went down in storms.

"I also like introducing people to wrecks they haven't seen before," added Gransee, who dubbed his dive charter operation "Dark Side" after the 1973 Pink Floyd album "Dark Side of the Moon."
Gransee said he often takes divers to the O'Connor and then returns to the warmer and shallower waters of Baileys Harbor to examine the Emeline, a 111-foot-long schooner that sank in 1896 in less than 20 feet of water.

"It's a nice wreck for beginners to explore, and the water is considerably warmer than down where the O'Connor is located, where it can drop into the 40s," he said.

Gransee said he and his diving friends are always looking for new wrecks.

"There's a lot out there that hasn't been discovered," said Gransee, who uses sonar to map possible dive sites. He was planning to purchase a 'side scan" unit, which he said will "literally paint a picture of the bottom and really tell us what's down there."

"It would be great if we could find a new wreck in the 100- to 120-foot depth range," he mused. "That would really stimulate interest in diving up here again. It was more popular in the past. And way back in 1969, National Geographic did a big story on Door County and devoted a whole section to wreck diving."

In the meantime, he's content to lead customers to lakeside wrecks that start just a few miles south of Baileys Harbor and include the Ocean Wave, a scow schooner that sank in 110 feet of water in 1869.
And he can go 20 miles north to the infamous Death's Door, where three wrecks off Pilot Island went down so close together that they are touching. He also dives sunken ships on the Green Bay side of the peninsula and can even head north to islands off Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

If you enjoyed this blog, you will enjoy reading Ross Richardson's new book "Search for the the Westmoreland"

Thanks to the St Louis Dispatch

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Second Life for Discarded Fishing Nets

Abandoned and lost fishing gear makes up about 10 percent of the trash that collects in the world’s oceans, according to a report from the United Nations. Much of this debris is lost in storms, vandalized or simply discarded. It piles up on beaches, creates a navigational hazard for boats or settles to the bottom, where it can damage sensitive ecosystems. Discarded nets can cause a particular problem as they continue to “ghost fish,”trapping fish and other sea animals like turtles, seabirds and dolphins.

Much of this material can find a second life, according to the United Nations report, which was issued in 2009. For instance, a number of programs in the United States, with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, now collect old fishing nets and other debris to generate electricity in waste-to-energy plants.

But in many areas, especially in the poorest regions, local fishermen lack incentives to properly dispose of worn-out gear. That problem was front and center World Oceans Day, an annual happening where individual events around the world draw attention to concerns like overfishing and ocean pollution.

To coincide with World Oceans Day, Interface, the global carpet manufacturer, proposed a novel solution to the problem: turning discarded fishing nets into new carpet tiles while providing income to the communities that collect the nets. Interface said it would form a partnership with the Zoological Society of London to introduce Net-Works, a six-month pilot program with the coastal fishing community of Danajon Bank in the Philippines.

In this ecologically fragile coral reef area, thousands of families eke out their living by fishing the local waters. But they also leave behind thousands of miles of discarded nets each year — enough to cover the bank 400 times over, according to estimates.

During the pilot program, local community groups will oversee the collection, processing and transportation of the nets. Payments for the material will be used to finance economic development programs in the community. The point of the program, said Nigel Stansfield, Interface’s chief innovations officer, will initially be to gauge how best to distribute the funds to the community and to assess how much material can be collected.

Interface consistently ranks among the world’s most sustainably minded companies, thanks to its founder, Ray Anderson. As part of his ambitious green agenda, Mr. Anderson committed the company to eliminating its environmental footprint by 2020.

Currently, some 44 percent of the material the company uses to make carpet is either recycled or products derived from renewable biological resources, Mr. Stansfield said. He hopes that projects like Net-Works will further reduce the company’s reliance on virgin raw materials while fulfilling an important social mission.

If the program proves successful, the company will look to take it to other communities, he said.

Thanks to Project Aware

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Air Breaks… what are they, and do people take them for the wrong reason?

Thanks to doppler and his Tech Diving Blog

I find the concept of taking air breaks to manage oxygen toxicity while decompressing comparable to using a paper towel to mop up an incoming tide at the beach. Or put another way, air breaks in this context are about as useful as ashtrays on a motorcycle.

Allow me to explain. I believe oxygen toxicity is one of the biggest risks to recreational divers, especially technical divers, but air-breaks as commonly described and executed, are no substitute for proper CNS planning… and are useless as a CNS management tool in any event.

The first time I remember hearing the term air-breaks was in a conversation with a hyperbaric doctor over a bottle of wine and a grilled fish supper some years back. The context was a discussion about the practice of getting hyperbaric chamber patients on air after 20-minute spells breathing pure oxygen at a “dry depth” of 18 metres (60 feet). Of course, this therapy – part of the procedures called for in the US Navy Diving Manual – delivers an oxygen partial pressure of 2.8 bar, well in excess of the 1.6 bar recommended as a maximum for recreational divers… technical or otherwise. I have no clue how or who decided that this term was the right one to use to describe the practice of switching to a low-oxygen content gas after breathing oxygen during staged decompression stops in the water. Nor can I fathom what it can possibly have to do with managing central nervous system (or pulmonary toxicity, gods forbid) while recreational diving.

Oxygen toxicity is a condition resulting from the harmful effects of breathing oxygen at elevated partial pressures. The most serious form of oxygen toxicity has the potential to affect a diver’s central nervous system and is a result of breathing very high-partial pressures (more than one bar or atmosphere) for a relatively short period of time (less than a few minutes at extreme levels). This type of toxicity may result in a clonic-tonic seizure; which in the water usually means death by embolism or drowning. Historically, this central nervous system condition was called the Paul Bert effect. The less problematic whole-body or pulmonary condition – a function of breathing lower partial pressures (less than one bar) over much longer periods – goes under the name the Lorrain Smith Effect, after the researchers who pioneered its discovery and description in the late 19th century.

I have heard and read that divers manage both Paul Bert and even Lorrain Smith effects by taking a short “air-break” during moderately long decompressions. The typical scenario is this: A diver conducts a deep or deepish dive which earns her a lengthy series of staged decompression stops on her way back to the surface. She finishes her dive by breathing pure oxygen at 6 metres on up. In this scenario, the decompression schedule requires the diver to breathe oxygen for around 20 minutes. There are a pile of variations on this theme, but the common thread is a fair amount of time breathing a gas that is delivering around 1.6 bar of oxygen… by the way, the NOAA limit for exposure to 1.6 bar of oxygen for a diver is 45 minutes, so this type of exposure does load a diver with the potential for a CNS incident… there is no argument there.

The “air-break” myth goes something like this. At some point during her spell breathing pure oxygen – sometimes at the end and sometime mid-stream – the diver will “RESET” her CNS “clock” by switching from breathing oxygen to breathing bottom mix, air, a less oxygen-rich nitrox (typically the mix she was breathing during her ascent to her final stops). Let’s illustrate the air-break protocol with a dive profile calling for a final decompression stop for 21 minutes at six metres or 20 feet. In this example, the diver might use oxygen for ten minutes, and then switch to say an EAN50 for five minutes, and finally switch back to oxygen for eleven minutes to finish up their deco. Typically, as in this example, the time spent on an “air-break” is not credited against the decompression obligation.

What I have yet to hear fully explained is how a five-minute break from breathing pure O2 resets a diver’s CNS loading during this procedure. Actually, you may also read postings from divers who rely on the same technique to manage Lorrain Smith effect, which shows an even greater misinterpretation of the mechanism behind the syndrome*.

OK, let’s take a step back and turn on the logic filter. According to NOAA – the folks who literally set the standards for nitrox use in the recreational dive community – a period of 20 minutes breathing oxygen at 6 metres – a practice that delivers a partial pressure or oxygen depth of around 1.6 bar/ata – has a corresponding time limit of 45 minutes. When we calculate the CNS loading for a dive, we are taught to account for the CNS loading for ALL phases of the dive. That’s to say, every minute spent breathing elevated levels of oxygen. Let’s ignore whatever came before during our example dive, and let us just focus on what happens at six metres or 20 feet. In a nutshell: The diver has to account for 20 minutes on pure oxygen. The NOAA tables don’t give a rat’s behind whether those 20 minutes are accumulated in one lump or two… or three or four. Twenty minutes is 20 minutes and uses up about 44-45 percent of the total allowable time regardless! The five minutes breathing another gas – in our example we can say she used EAN50 delivering an oxygen partial pressure of about 0.8 bar – simply adds a little to the total CNS loading, albeit a very tiny about (less than one percent). There is nothing in the NOAA dive manual or any of Hamilton’s published work that tells us anything different.

Now, to set the record straight, faced with the situation outlined above and breathing pure oxygen for that long, the chances are that I would take an air-break and recommend taking one to my team-mates; however, it has NOTHING to do with CNS but rather to help optimize off-gassing.

Oxygen is a vasoconstrictor – it causes some blood vessels to shut or partially shut – which may have some effect on general perfusion levels. This does not seem like a great plan for those of us trying to eliminate dissolved inert gas.
The bottom line is this: Let’s agree to take a break from pure O2 during our deco, but let’s not confuse the issue by suggesting that doing so magically helps manage CNS toxicity. Better yet, let’s opt to employ a better option and a slightly more helpful gas. But more about that later.

* Prolonged breathing of gas with an Fio2 (Fractional Inspired Oxygen) greater than 60 kPa (0.6 bar/ata)can lead to pulmonary toxicity and eventually irreversible pulmonary fibrosis, but this takes many hours or days and does not constitute an issue for the rank and file technical diver. Most likely, the “burning” sensation and pulmonary toxicity like symptoms mentioned by technical divers breathing oxygen and oxygen-rich gas during recreational decompression is a function of breathing cold, dry air (the dew-point of oxygen in the cylinders in my fill station is marked as -40! That’s dry.) This air has the ability to dry the mucus membranes lining our lungs and bringing on something called dry-air asthma. A less far-fetched probable outcome than pulmonary toxicity.

Kathy Dowsett