Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The PADI Story

Reprinted from PADI

The PADI story: How frustration and scotch helped create the world’s biggest scuba organization

Frustration over the state of the diving industry in the 60s paired with long conversations over a bottle of Johnny Walker served as the springboard for what is today the Professional Association of Dive Instructors – or PADI as most of us call it.

Founders John Cronin and Ralph Erickson – a scuba equipment salesman and swimming instructor, respectively – both had major concerns about the industry. Basically, they thought it was unprofessional and made it unnecessarily difficult for new people to join the sport.

Over shared libations, a partnership formed and with $30 the pair started PADI. The goal was simple: provide people the chance to learn important scuba skills and enjoy the underwater world through modern scuba diving training. They wanted to reach people around the world, helping to create confident scuba divers who dive regularly and support the growth of the sport.

For how big PADI is today, it’s hard to imagine the days when the organization was a small community of passionate divers. In fact, the first couple years the organization struggled. By the late 1960s, PADI only had 400 members.

It was soon after that a few key milestones took place. First, Cronin went to a huge tradeshow in New York City and met with Paul Tzimoulis, who later became the editor of Skin Diver Magazine. Tzimoulis suggested divers’ pictures be placed on all PADI certification cards. The change was implemented and helped propel PADI’s global reach.

Starting in the late 1970s, PADI created its own multi-media student and instructor educational materials for each course, positioning themselves as the industry experts. This change parlayed significant growth, and differentiated it from other scuba organizations.

By the late 1980s, PADI was the industry leader, offering scuba diving training around the world. With the realization that so many new people were embracing the sport, the organization was compelled to embrace additional activities to promote protection of the underwater environments. Today there are numerous PADI initiatives to help protect endangered species, reduce pollution and increase understanding of humanity’s impact on our oceans and waterways.

Today there are more than 6,000 PADI Dive Shops and Resorts, and 400 employees in PADI corporate offices around the globe. The vision in the 60s remains the vision for the organization today: “PADI intends to be the world leader in the educational development of scuba diving professionals and enthusiasts.”

Kathy Dowsett

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Key Largo dive spawned young girl’s passion for scuba

It was during a cruise on the family boat from Hamilton, Ontario, to the Bahamas that Tess Miller came to appreciate her parents’ passion for scuba diving.

Just eight years old at the time, Tess, from London, Ontario, had taken some scuba lessons before the journey began. But she first experienced the beauty and serenity of diving in Key Largo. They were waiting there to rendezvous with two other families who also had their own boats, before going on together to their Bahamas destination.

“We dove every other day. It was amazing. I found it so peaceful,” says Tess. “It is my favourite thing to do. Any problem you have is wiped away under water. Everything is so quiet and beautiful. The water is crystal clear and the fish are stunning. I was very comfortable.”

Charlie Miller, Tess’s father, says Pennykamp, a protected coral reef off the Florida Keys, was their prime diving site in that area. It has great coral and aquatic life. “We were two months in that area.”
One of the things Tess saw underwater near Key Largo was the Christ statue, 30 or 40 feet down. “It is life size or bigger. I couldn’t really tell.”

Later, near Staniel Cay in the Exumas, a district of the Bahamas with almost 400 islands, she dove with her family in the Thunderball Grotto, a rock formation with a huge opening. Popular with both scuba divers and snorkelers, it was featured in two James Bond Movies, Thunderball and Never Say Never Again.

“That is my most vivid dive,” says Tess. “There is a hole in the ceiling and the light that shines through made it surreal. The whole cave was filled with fish. It was amazing.”

Her other favourite dive is the shark dive off Paradise Island in the Bahamas. “It’s a planned event. You sit in a circle called a ring and there is a person feeding the sharks. They don’t bite the hand that feeds them.”

The boat trip itself was an experience. Originating in Hamilton, Ontario in mid-August of 2004, the first part of the trip involved navigating the Erie Barge Canal, which connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean at New York. When they got to Baltimore they left their 53-foot vessel there for repairs, before continuing on. There were several other repair stops along the way. The southbound trip was made in segments of a week at a time. They arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida a few days after Christmas in 2004, before moving on to Key Largo.

From there they headed to the Bahamas, with their first stop there being Cat Cay to clear customs. Then it was on to Chubb Cay, 35 miles west of Nassau. Some good diving followed.

“We started to anchor out and felt we were remote. We were out for days just living on the boat,” says Charlie.
Nassau was the next stop to get provisions before heading south for the Exumas islands. “It (the Exumas) was magnificent. The beaches are unbelievable. They are like the postcards,” says Charlie.

There is an island there inhabited by pigs that swim out to meet boaters, who have been feeding them for years. “The pigs will come up to the boat and you can feed them,” adds Charlie.

The Exumas has a “land and sea protected park.” Fishing is not allowed.

Underwater, the Millers found an old shipwreck that was “crawling with lobsters.”

The family started to work their way home in May, beginning with restocking in Nassau. “Then we went out to Eleuthera, a really exclusive series of islands northeast of Nassau, where we dove some wrecks, Charlie says.

They reached Freeport by mid-May of 2005 before heading on to Fort Lauderdale. From there it took them just 21 days to get back to Port Stanley, Ontario, on Lake Erie’s northern shore. They accomplished that by running 10 to 12 hours a day, as well as some “all nighters.”

It was the end of June by the time they got home, but on July 15 they decided to take the boat north to Killarney, Ontario, in the North Channel.

“When we got back to London we were still prepared to go for another trip.”

Diving has been a long-time passion for the Miller family, beginning with Charlie’s diving certification about 30 years ago in the British Virgin Islands. He was the first to dive the 250-foot, steel-hulled freighter SS Wexford, which sank in a storm in November of 1913 eight miles off the Lake Huron shoreline from Grand Bend, Ontario. That discovery was made on Aug. 25, 2000.

Tess, now 17 and on schedule to finish high school soon, has now logged about 75 dives, of which 40 to 50 were on the boat trip to the Bahamas.

There will be many more dives for Tess. As well as easy access to summer diving in Lake Huron, she has passage to warmer waters much farther south.

“I have a 55-foot Sea Ray, full of dive gear in Nassau,” says Charlie. “It’s a great dive boat. We go down once a month from October to March. We have 10 special dive sites around Nassau.”

Access to great diving with her family has whetted Tess’s appetite for diving much farther away: “I would like to do some of the big dives, like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, things that most people that dive would love to see.”

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cookie Cutter Sharks

Thanks to e-How

The cookie cutter shark is a relatively small deepwater shark known for its rather unusual feeding habits and the round wounds it leaves on its prey items. There is still relatively little known about this elusive species, but better deep sea exploration and improved dissection techniques in recovered specimens have helped shed light on it. While the species is not considered threatened, they are difficult to find and observe due to their deep water habitat.


The cookie cutter shark was once called the cigar shark due to the fish's dark brown color and long, rounded shape. Most cookie cutters average 12 to 15 inches long, though specimens as large as 20 inches have been recorded. The shark has a distinctive, rounded jaw opening with somewhat fleshy lips and protruding lower teeth.


Cookie cutters have been observed at depths of over 11,000 feet, though it is highly possible that they travel deeper still. Like many deep sea species, cookie cutters generally rise to much shallower depths in search of prey during the night, and return to deeper water by daylight. Their range is vast, and specimens have been recovered in virtually every sea in the world. Like many other deep sea fish, they do not do well in captivity. Little is known about their reprodiction habits, except that females give birth to live young. Litters may average five to seven sharks, but that data was insufficient as of 2010.


Considered a parasitic species, the shark attaches itself to large prey items such as squid, whales, and even other sharks by suctioning on with its fleshy lips. The shark then sinks its lower teeth into the flesh of its victim, and through a combination of swiveling its teeth and thrashing its body, removes an almost perfect circle of flesh from the prey animal---just like a cookie cutter. This process is normally over in a few quick movements, and most prey animals will recover with just a scar as evidence of the attack.

Other Adaptations

Large eyes help the cookie cutter see at extremely low light levels, which makes it very much at home in dark waters. The cookie cutter's enlarged liver is filled with low-density oils that help the shark remain floating in its high-pressure deep sea environment. It also has a small bioluminescent patch on its abdomen, which glows to attract prey.

Interesting Facts

Cookie cutters shed their entire lower row of teeth all at once, rather than singularly like other sharks. This ensures that the shark has a razor sharp cutting edge at all times, and acts to prevent individual teeth from becoming dull and snagging in the flesh of prey items. Another point of interest is that the bioluminescent patch on the shark's abdomen may continue to glow for up to three hours after its death.

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, November 4, 2013

Compressed Gas Tears Skin, Penetrates Body

Reprinted From Divers Alert Network for the Diving Community

A scuba diving high-pressure hose ruptures, causing air under pressure to inject into arm.

Reported Story

The boat driver was helping one of the divers. He held the first-stage regulator with his left hand and opened the tank valve with right hand. At that moment the high-pressure hose ruptured, and a jet of gas under pressure made a hole in the boat driver's left hand.

His hand started to bleed and appeared to be full of air. We stopped the bleeding by applying pressure, and we stopped the air from spreading further by applying a bandage at armpit area. We massaged his arm, pushing the trapped air to his hand. This helped a bit; we saw some bubbles coming out of his hand.

We called for an ambulance and administered oxygen during the time it took us to return to the harbor, approximately 20 minutes. The ambulance were there when we arrived.

I recommended that his boss to take him to the recompression chamber, but he told me the doctors would take care of him. I later asked about his state of health, and his boss told me he is OK and ready to go back to work.

Expert Comments

The injury described above is rare, especially outside of an industrial setting. Certain terms do need to be clarified for discussion purposes. In the diving vernacular any reference to high pressure (HP) is related to the compressed gas in the cylinder at 3,000 psi. Any reference to low pressure (LP) relates to the intermediate pressure that results from reduction of high pressure in the first stage. Typically this can range from 120 psi to 140 psi. Clinical references designate any pressure at and above 100 psi as HP. It has been established that pressure at a minimum of 100 psi can penetrate unbroken skin.1 These wounds require immediate medical treatment no matter how benign they might appear.

In the industrial setting the possible materials that can be injected at HP include but are not limited to compressed gas, oil, grease, solvents, paints and diesel fuel. There are, of course, greater concerns with the petroleum products and other chemicals due to their toxicity and potential tissue damage. The risk of an inflammatory reaction from surrounding tissues and infection is quite high.

In the diving environment compressed gas is obviously the most likely injectible. Industrial workers who sustain these injuries are generally inexperienced or unfamiliar with the devices they are using or servicing. With divers, familiarity may lead to a certain level of complacency. Despite fewer potential complications there is still a risk of secondary injuries that can result from any HP injection injury.

Common injection injury sites are the palm or fingers of the nondominant hand. Injection into a finger(s) can be particularly problematic. The fingers cannot accommodate a large volume of any material due to limited tissue compartment space. The immediate insufflation and swelling can cause vascular compression, which can severely compromise circulation. The palm of the hand or other similar sites can accommodate the same volume with less risk of circulatory issues. However, a larger volume can produce the same risk of vascular compromise.

While compressed gas poses less risk from toxicity or surrounding tissue damage compared with other possible injected substances, it is not benign. Along with the compressed gas, fragments of hose, brass fittings and bacteria from the skin or environment will be injected into the wound simultaneously. This is part of the mechanism for a high infection risk.

It is unknown if there was any previous problems or concerns with the HP hose on this regulator. It is also unknown if a visual inspection would have offered any suggestion of hose failure. It is still worthwhile to remember to inspect all hoses and consider periodic replacement. Please discuss these issues with a local certified repair technician.

Proper first aid should include bleeding control and urgent transport to the nearest medical facility. For a compressed-gas injection, surface oxygen is of little benefit as it would not expedite the absorption or elimination of the injected gas. Treatment in a hyperbaric chamber is not an appropriate first choice for treatment for this type of injury. The bystanders made an effort to express the gas through the injection site by massaging the arm. This is not recommended. They may have inadvertently forced the gas into other areas or into the fingers. Forcing the gas into the fingers could further complicate the injury, as explained previously. Some HP injection injuries may require surgical intervention to reduce pressure and to clean the wound. Thorough cleaning and disinfection is best left to the medical professionals.

This is a very rare injury, but diligence and forethought will likely reduce the occurrence. Do not underestimate the energy released with the rapid expansion of compressed gas. Cases like the above should not increase fear but rather remind us to be respectful of the potential consequences of inattention.

Thanks again to Divers Alert Network

Kathy Dowsett

Friday, October 18, 2013

How to Determine the Diopter for a Scuba Mask

Thanks to e-how and Pamela Stephens

Obtain a current eye glass prescription. Using an out-of-date prescription can result in an inaccurate diopter choice for your scuba mask lenses.

Refer to the eye glass prescription. Decoding the prescription is not as difficult as it might first appear. "Oculus dexter" (OD), "oculus sinister" (OS) and "oculus utrique" (OU) are Latin terms that mean right eye, left eye and both eyes. Sphere is the amount of correction needed in each eye. Cylinder is the amount of astigmatism.

Locate the sphere number and the cylinder number for the OD and OS. These numbers will likely be different for each eye.

Choose the numbers for one eye and calculate the diopter. Add the sphere number and half of the cylinder number to determine the diopter. For example, if the prescription indicates a sphere of 2.0 and a cylinder of -.50 this would be calculated as 2.0 - .25 = 1.75.

Round down when possible, because water is a natural magnifier. Diopters are in increments of .25. In the example, a diopter of 1.5 would be chosen.

Repeat the same formula to calculate the diopter for the other eye.

Purchase specific diopters for each lens in the scuba mask. Most full-service dive shops have step diopter lenses in stock and can easily replace regular lenses with them. You will not need to show your prescription to purchase step diopter lenses; however, dive shop professionals can double check your prescription to make sure that you purchase the correction that is best for your sight.

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, October 7, 2013

Secrets to Saving Air

Do you consistently run through your gas supply faster than other divers on the boat? Do you frequently have to end the dive before the rest of the group? What's going on? And what can you do about it?

First, you can stop beating yourself up over it. People are different. Those with slower metabolisms will--other factors being equal--use less oxygen. Small divers have to use less energy than big ones to swim forward, so they also use less oxygen. Nature doesn't distribute her gifts equally, and you may never be the stingiest sipper of gas on the boat.

On the other hand, most of us can reduce our gas consumption and thereby extend our dives. We can be better, even if we can't be the best. Typically, divers waste air in one or more of these three ways:

By leaking it before it gets to their lungs, thanks to free-flowing octos and worn out O-rings.

By using more energy than necessary. Using energy means using air, because oxygen is necessary to burn the calories that make energy. Every bit of unnecessary exertion costs you psi.

By getting less than maximum benefit from each breath. When divers breathe inefficiently, they exchange less oxygen for carbon dioxide with each breath, so they need to take another breath sooner.

Here are 18 tank-stretchers to try, starting with the obvious first step.

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. You don't think you have leaks? Do you have eyes in the back of your head? Ask your buddy to look behind you to be sure. 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.

Dive More

Inexperienced divers are famous for burning through their air supply at a furious rate. The reason is anxiety. A new diver is understandably nervous, and his body's automatic response to danger is to raise his metabolism, his heart rate and his breathing rate. It's hard-wired, the body revving its engine to be ready for fight or flight, though the result is a lot of air cycled through his lungs but never used, just dumped into the ocean.

You may not be a new diver, but unless you dive almost every week it's still an unnatural activity, and your body isn't as happy as you are about putting its head under water. Dive more--your body will get used to the idea, and you'll breathe less.

Take a Class

Any class, almost, will reduce your gas consumption just by making you feel more accomplished and therefore more comfortable. But the best bet is probably a class to improve your weighting and buoyancy control. When you get that dialed in, you can control your altitude mostly with your lungs, so you're not squirting that valuable gas into your BC and then venting it to the ocean. Most important, you can now forget (nearly) about the mechanics of diving, drift like a fish, and relax.

Sleep More, Party Less

Be well rested on dive day. Fatigue is stress. If you start the dive already tired, your body has to work harder to overcome the extra burden, so you breathe harder. A hangover is stress too. You may think you're sober in the morning, but in fact alcohol and other drugs affect your physiology the next day. As SSI instructor Jim Bruning puts it, "Your body does what your mind tells it to. If you had a good night of sleep, your body and mind are going to be much more relaxed, much calmer."

Be Early

If you're late to the boat, running to get your gear on board, worried about the hard looks of divers who were on time, stuck with the least-convenient gear station and generally playing catch-up all day, you're giving yourself unnecessary fatigue and mental stress. You start the day breathing hard and never have a chance to calm down. On the other hand, if you're early to the boat, early to gear up and early to the dive briefing, you'll conserve your energy, feel confident and relaxed, and your breathing will remain slower.

Swim Slowly

The energy cost of speed is even more than you might think because it's an exponential function proportional to the square of the speed. So swimming twice as fast requires four times as much energy and air. But the reverse is true, too: Swim half as fast as you do now, and you'll use only one-fourth as much air.

Stay Shallow

It's physics again. 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.

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. Imagine the extra effort of having to push a gallon-sized water jug through the water.

Adjust Your Trim

If your body is horizontal in the water, when you swim forward, your legs and fins will pass through the "hole" in the water made by your head and shoulders. You'll disturb less water and expend less energy and air.

Many divers, however, swim with their feet lower than their torso and their head higher. Adjust your trim by moving some lead from your hips to your back--to trim pockets on your BC or to your tank.

Seek Neutral Buoyancy

Always being exactly neutral is the key. If you're not, if you're slightly heavy or light, you're constantly using fin power (and air) to maintain a constant depth. If you're not neutral, you can't glide between fin strokes and you can't hang effortlessly.

Streamline Your Gear

All fast-swimming fish have smooth skins with few or no protuberances. That minimizes drag so they can swim with the least energy and oxygen consumption. Divers, by contrast, have rough, convoluted surfaces with all sorts of attachments from scuba tanks to whistles. Anything disturbing the flow of water past your body creates drag and wastes air.

Do your best to imitate the fish. If you don't need a light on this dive, for example, don't take it. If you do need something, try to hide it in a pocket instead of dangling it from a D-ring. Take the snorkel off your mask and strap it to your leg or tuck it under your BC or get a folding snorkel that fits into a pocket. Shorten hoses that are too long. Clip your console close to your body. Suit your gear to conditions: You don't need the bulk of a BC with 40 pounds of lift in the tropics.

Streamline Your Movements

Keep your arms close to your body. Straighten your legs and keep them as close together as your fins will allow. Kick with short strokes so your fins stay within the slipstream of your body. Some fins do require a wider stroke so you have to compromise between efficient propulsion and streamlining. But usually you're better off finning faster instead of wider.

Breathe Deeply

Any oxygen taken from your tank but not absorbed into your bloodstream is wasted. That's the case when you take short, shallow breaths. A large part of the air you take in fills your throat and bronchia, but doesn't reach your lungs before it is expelled again. You have to take another shallow breath sooner because you didn't get much benefit from the first one, and a lot of air is wasted.

Instead, try to inhale deeply, filling your lungs completely with each breath. A deeper breath brings air to more of your lungs' tiny "air sacs" (the alveoli) where gas exchange takes place. It also adds more fresh air to the volume of "dead air" that remains in your lungs, throat and mouth from the previous breath, so the mix is richer. When more alveoli are more fully inflated with fresher air, gas exchange is more efficient: More oxygen is extracted from the incoming air and more carbon dioxide is released. Although each breath uses more air, you will take fewer breaths, and the net effect will be that less air is used. Short, shallow breaths are more frequent and less efficient.

Exhale fully too, so you expel as much carbon dioxide as possible. Anything not exhaled is carbon-dioxide-heavy "dead" air. On your next inhale, that dead air — instead of fresh air--partially fills your lungs. The urge to take the next breath is triggered not by lack of oxygen but by excess of carbon dioxide, so you find yourself inhaling again sooner. On the other hand, a deep exhale extends the time before you feel the need for another breath.

Breathe Slowly

You consume considerable energy just by breathing, by sucking the air in and pushing it out again. To inhale, you have to suck open a demand valve in your second stage and pull gas down your throat and into your lungs. Each inch along the way and each corner the gas stream turns mean friction and turbulence. Both increase the effort you put out in just breathing and decrease the amount of gas that actually gets to your lungs. Friction and turbulence are unavoidable, but the amount goes up dramatically when you try to breathe quickly--just as a faster-moving boat creates a bigger wake. The problem gets worse as you go deeper because the gas is thicker--it's like trying to suck a milkshake instead of water through a straw.

So don't force it. Try for a long, slow inhale until your lungs are full, then a long, slow exhale until they are empty. More air will get to your lungs, it will spend more time there exchanging "good" for "bad," and you will use less energy pushing the air back and forth.

Upgrade Your Gear

Overhaul your regulator on schedule and consider one with lower work of breathing, especially if you often dive deep. Scuba Lab tests have shown that the work of breathing demanded by some regs can be three times as much as others, even more. A "hard-breathing" reg not only demands more energy and therefore oxygen just to operate it, your difficulty breathing through it increases your anxiety level and elevates your breathing rate. So it wastes gas two ways.

Get in Shape

Two people climb a flight of stairs. At the top, one is huffing and puffing and the other is breathing normally. The heavy breather is getting more oxygen, but he's wasting a lot of what he inhales because he's breathing so rapidly there isn't much time for gas exchange. It's an adaptation that makes sense only on land where the air supply is unlimited.

Diving can be surprisingly strenuous because water is so much denser than air. Swimming into a current, it's not difficult to elevate your breathing to the very wasteful rate of huffing and puffing. But even much lower levels of exertion will cause your breathing rate to rise. How much it rises and how soon depend mostly on your aerobic conditioning. A diver in better condition will have less increase when the workload goes up, so he will use less air. The other part of getting in shape is to lose fat and achieve a more streamlined shape.

Stay Warm

Even warm water is cold when you're immersed in it, because if it's cooler than about 95 degrees, it takes heat out of your body at a surprising rate. Heat is energy that has to be replaced by metabolism, using oxygen to make it. Getting cold also creates mental stress which, often without your noticing it, increases your breathing rate.

And Just Chill Out

The competition over who uses less air can itself be a problem when divers associate low gas consumption with diving skill, virtue and the right to take up space on the boat. It's one of those self-fulfilling prophecies: You worry about using more air than your buddy, which causes stress, which elevates your breathing so you do, in fact, use more air.

In fact, a higher rate of air consumption can be caused by many things, some of them fixable and some not. In itself it means little or nothing and is nobody's business but yours and arguably your buddy's--who, we hope, is not out to ruin your day. So if you'd like to reduce your gas consumption, work gradually on reducing your lead, controlling your buoyancy, improving your shape and posture in the water, going slowly, breathing slowly and relaxing. Then forget about it. That alone will help.

Thanks to Sport Diver

Kathy Dowsett

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Salvage of Shipwreck Gold May Resume in 2014

Scuba Scoop enjoys Dr Lee Spence's writing on shipwrecks, and is pleased to re-print a portion of this.

Gold of the Central America

The sinking side-wheel steamer Central America of South Carolina in a hurricane in 1857 was one of the worst shipping disasters of the Gold Rush era. Hundreds of people were lost, many of them dying with the treasure they had dug out of the California gold fields. Her cargo also included major gold shipments for various banks, making her one of the richest shipwrecks ever discovered.

Even though tons of gold bullion in bars, nuggets, dust and rare gold coins, possibly worth over a billion dollars, are still thought to be on the wreck of the Central America, the last time anyone was on it was over 20 years ago. That salvage was done by the Columbus America Discovery Group, headed by Tommy Thompson, at a cost of 22 million dollars. The salvaged gold was conservatively valued at over $40,000,000 while other reports placed the value at many times that amount. Now a report filed with Franklin County Common Pleas Court indicates the salvage could resume next summer.


Thanks to Dr Lee Spence

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Japan's ama divers: still fishing after all these years

Mieko Kitai takes a huge gulp of air as she surfaces from the clear, blue waters of Japan's Pacific coast with a large abalone in her hand.

Now in her 70s, the dive -- with nothing more than a mask -- does not get any easier and the pickings get slimmer with every passing year.

But she and her fellow "ama" divers reap the fruits of the sea in a way that has been practised in parts of Japan for thousands of years.

"Finally, I got one," she says as she climbs aboard the boat and pulls the mask off her weather-beaten face.

Kitai is one of a dozen free divers who gathered on a recent sunny day in Shima, Mie prefecture, in western Japan.

They chatter loudly from excitement and necessity -- some have suffered hearing loss because of the high pressures experienced at depth -- as they rub their masks with a kind of slimy algae to prevent fogging.

Some join hands and utter a Shinto prayer for those they have lost, including an 80-year-old who died last year on a dive. "Her heart gave out," said one of them.

Each has a weight belt around their waist to give them a little help when they jump overboard into water up to 20 metres deep. Some are gone as long as a minute before they surface again with a shellfish or an urchin.

"Today, the fishing was better than I thought it would be," said Kitai as she dropped an octopus and several turban shells, a prized shellfish delicacy, into her catch net.

"In the past you could get as many as 40 abalone in a day, but now getting four counts as a good day," said fellow free diver Sumiko Nakagawa, her face lined by her years in the salty water under the beating sun.

Pollution and overfishing have taken their toll on abalone, the main source of income for these women, with the creature's population dropping by 90 percent in the last 40 years in Japan.

A kilogramme of wild abalone sells for around 8,000 yen ($80), although most consumed in Japan are now farmed.

In 2011 local authorities released young abalone into the ocean in a bid to prop up their numbers. They also ban the use of scuba tanks and limit catch to specimens over 10 centimetres (4 inches) long -- a size they usually reach around the age of 10.

This kind of fishing was once the sole preserve of women, who were commonly believed to be better at coping with the sometimes-cold water because of a thicker layer of fat under their skin.

It was also traditionally done topless, although their most famous cinematic outing -- in James Bond's 1967 effort "You Only Live Twice" -- saw sultry actresses cover their modesty with skimpy bikini tops as they cavorted with Sean Connery.

The advent of wetsuits opened the profession to men, says professor Yoshitaka Ishihara, director of the Toba Sea-Folk Museum.

"Now there are almost as many men as women," said Ishihara, whose museum houses skin-diving artefacts dating back 10,000 years.

The scant rewards and the high risks have discouraged many young people from taking up the profession, and many fear the tradition could die out when those in their 60s, 70s and 80s pass away.

Younger divers who take up the profession find it is not easy.

"Initially I made virtually nothing," said Satomi Yamamoto, 37, as she grilled sea urchins on the harbour in Shima. "But I got better and four years later, I was earning about 100,000 yen a month."

Yamamoto is one of a handful of women of her generation to have embraced a way of life they were not born into.

"I was raised in Osaka and I had always lived in a big city, but I am much happier since coming here seven years ago to join my husband," she said.

Yoshitaka Ishihara says as Japan mechanised its fishing and farming, the way of the ama changed a little to keep up.

"Until 1970, girls started fishing when they were about 16 or 17 and learned from just watching their mother," he said.

"Now recruits have to undergo a tough initiation and for the first four years have to work with an experienced diver."

But despite the shrinking number of creatures in the sea, there is a real camaraderie among the ama of Shiba.

"We never compete for fish," said the now-retired 83-year-old Yuriko Matsui. "If we did, all the shells would have disappeared by now."

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lessons for Life: Wounded Grouper Strikes Back, Fatally

kirkscubagear is publishing this article as a learning/teaching experience for divers. My condolences to Danny's Mother/Family.

Danny was having one of the greatest days of his short dive career. Conditions were perfect. Visibility seemed to go on forever. Big fish circled the oil rig where he and his mom were diving, and he had just shot a big grouper with his spear gun.

Now he had the large fish dangling from a stringer that he had connected to his buoyancy compensator. Its weight was slowing him down some, so he looked around for his mom before he headed back to the boat. Danny moved toward one of the steel rig supports, looking for his mother, when he felt a sharp jerk on his BC jacket. He turned to see what caused it, when something knocked his regulator out of his mouth and his mask askew on his face.

Suddenly he couldn’t see what was going on, he couldn’t breathe, and he was in trouble.


Danny had wanted to dive for several years, and finally convinced his parents to give him lessons for his 15th birthday. He loved to fish and swim in the ocean not far from his house, and he wanted to spearfish. He joked with his friends that spearfishing on scuba gave him the chance to get on the same level as the fish. He could chase them down where they lived.

The trip to dive the oil rigs and spearfish was a present for his 16th birthday. He had made a few dives — including a few spearfishing dives — since earning his certification, but not as many as he would have liked. He was diving with his mom, but Danny thought she was pretty cool, and they enjoyed being together. She wasn’t interested in spearfishing, but she went everywhere he did on the dive, although she stayed apart from him so she wouldn’t spook the fish he was chasing.


Danny and his mom were diving from a local charter dive boat that regularly ran spearfishing charters to offshore oil rigs. Fish of all types congregate around the rigs. Divers could find everything from smaller reef fish to bigger pelagic animals patrolling the structures.

The bottom was more than 500 feet below them. They were 50 miles from the shore and had boarded the boat early that morning for the two-hour ride to the dive site. They had great visibility, and Danny felt at ease going deep in search of fish. Danny didn’t have a dive computer of his own, but his mom had one. Her computer recorded depths of more than 200 feet on the first dive, and they went back to the same area on the second. She spent her time looking at smaller fish and crustaceans clinging to the steel supports of the rig while Danny hunted.

He saw what he was looking for: a large grouper hovering calmly by a steel support. Danny lined up a perfect shot, spearing the fish through its side. The barbed head on his spear was stuck in the fish, so he tied the line off to his BC and looked around for his mom to show her his prize.


Everything was going fine until the stunned fish attempted to get free. It flailed around, charging to the end of the stringer line, and then changing course and going in another direction. When it bolted back on its own tail, the grouper collided with Danny’s face, knocking his mask askew and pulling his regulator out of his mouth. Danny frantically searched for his regulator, but the fish took off in another direction, jerking him once again. Panic set in quickly, and Danny’s actions and reactions failed to do him any good. The fish struck Danny again in the body and then in the face as it attempted to make its escape, finally breaking the stringer loose from Danny’s BC before it took off for the bottom of the ocean.

Danny’s mother first realized that there was a problem when she heard her dive computer beeping. They had maxed out their bottom time and were going into mandatory decompression status. She looked around for her son to tell him it was time to go to the surface when she saw Danny struggling with the fish. She arrived just as the grouper broke free and took off.

She grabbed Danny, only to realize he was unconscious. She attempted to straighten his mask and put his regulator in his mouth, but she couldn’t get him to inhale. She immediately began swimming with him to the surface while inflating Danny’s BC.

Danny and his mother surfaced close to the boat, and the crew quickly responded to her cries for help. They dragged Danny on board the boat and began resuscitation efforts, but they were unsuccessful. Danny never regained consciousness.


This fatal accident occurred for several reasons, both dive related and general-safety related. Danny was not a very experienced diver and didn’t follow the general rules of dive safety. He was well beyond recreational diving limits, but was more focused on the fish he could catch than on his own safety. He was not tracking his own dive profile, either with a depth gauge and a watch or with a computer. Instead, he relied on his dive buddy to do it for him. That is never a good idea. In this case, the two divers weren’t even staying together. (It didn’t have any direct bearing on the accident, but when police inspected Danny’s regulator afterward, they found it to be in marginal working condition.)

Danny wasn’t a very experienced diver. He should have gained more experience in the water, enough to be completely comfortable, before he began spearfishing.

He should have practiced the emergency procedures that he learned in his open-water diving course before he picked up another task. This is true for any secondary activity underwater. Anytime you add more equipment and more mental tasks to an already task laden activity, you increase your risk.

The large fish attached to Danny’s dive gear wasn’t dead, only stunned. The fish didn’t intend to hit Danny in the face, but it did, and Danny was unable to respond to losing his mask and regulator underwater. Because Danny and his mother had different goals for the dive, they weren’t close enough to each other to be able to help each other.

If Danny’s mom had been within five to 10 feet, she could have quickly helped him find his regulator, or given him her alternate to get him under control before the problem got worse. As it was, she didn’t even know there was a problem until it was too late.

Drowning doesn’t have to be a long, slow process, and it doesn’t require the person to inhale large amounts of water. Often, just a teaspoon or two inhaled into the airway will cause the airway to shut off. This is called a laryngospasm. Danny’s larynx probably closed off with his first inhalation of water and he suffocated, losing consciousness fairly quickly.

Thanks to Scuba Diving and Eric Douglas
Kathy Dowsett
NB picture is from net---not related to story.

Monday, September 2, 2013

11 Quick Tips for Avoiding Motion Sickness

How Motion Sickness Occurs

Our body’s primary motion-sensors include the inner-ear sensors, our eyes and deeper tissues of the body surface. Technically speaking, the inner-ear sensors detect changes in acceleration rather than motion, such as the movement a boat makes when bobbing on top of waves in the ocean. When our body’s internal instruments sense these acceleration changes, and those changes aren’t confirmed by other sensory inputs, such as visual feedback from our eyes, the conflict in the sets of data they deliver to the brain can trigger motion sickness. Scientists aren’t sure what causes the nausea that comes with motion sickness, but the most popular hypothesis is that the conflicting data from multiple sensors causes the brain to assume that toxins have been ingested, and the body’s automatic response is to internally induce vomiting.

Even the smallest things can disrupt comfort while traveling and diving. Perhaps nothing ruins a dive trip more quickly than an urgent need to “feed the fish” from the railing. Thus, most divers try very diligently to avoid getting motion sickness – but how? What really works?

First, we need to understand what causes motion sickness. Often termed “sea sickness,” this malady really has little to do specifically with the ocean and everything to do with motion, so “motion sickness” is a more universally accurate term. When such motion causes the tiny sensors in our body to register something’s amiss, we start to feel a bit queasy, and if not remediated quickly, nauseous.

So how can we avoid motion sickness? Here’s an 11-part strategy:

1. Need to feed. A meal before you board is highly important. For most people, an empty stomach is more sensitive to being irritated, so filling it with comfort food 45-60 minutes before leaving shore is smart. Load up on carbohydrates at breakfast and avoid acidic and greasy foods, as they may contribute to motion sickness. Lastly, avoid alcohol and cigarettes.

2. Medicate. If you know you’re especially prone to motion sickness, investigate the use of over-the-counter antiemetic medications such as meclozine (Bonine, Antivert, Meni-D, Antrizine) or Dramamine. Meclozine reduces the activity of the portion of the brain that controls nausea. These medications are highly effective in most individuals, and thus can be a preventive measure for short trips or for mild cases of motion sickness. Be sure to start medicating the night before the dive trip to start establishing the proper blood level of the drug.

3. Go gingerly. In addition to medications, many divers swear that the intake of ginger is a simple and tasty way to help avoid getting ill. If this works for you, it’s an easy solution – just carry a Ziploc baggie of ginger snaps aboard and munch on them before and between dives. Although it’s not yet clear to researchers exactly how and why it works, studies show that the ginger root contains a number of chemicals that seem to help relax the intestinal track. As a result, ginger is often helpful in reducing the risk of nausea.

4. Avoid “conflicting instrument readings.” Look out across the horizon so your eyes can register the same type of acceleration changes your ears are reporting. Avoid visually focusing on things that are close-by, and most especially, avoid reading for more than a few seconds at a time. Also, face the direction the boat is traveling.

5. Your nose knows. Odors can complicate the mix of signals to the brain, increasing your likelihood of becoming ill. Avoid smelling diesel fumes, cigarette smoke, perfume and of course, anyone else’s vomit.

6. Minimize movement. Standing in different locations on the boat’s deck will result in different amounts of velocity/acceleration being transferred to your body. Stay topside, close to the center of the vessel.

7. Keep hydrated. Continue to drink plenty of fluids while on board and throughout each surface interval. This will help keep your stomach more full and will help your body metabolize food and process everything else better.

8. Stay cool. If you become overheated while on deck, you’ll be more at risk of becoming ill. Wear a cap to keep the sun off your head and face, sit in a shady location between dives and peel off part or all of your wetsuit.

9. Heads up! If you feel the urge to vomit, move to the leeward rail (with the wind at your back), lean forward and try to direct your explosion toward the sea. The fish will thank you. Never go into the head (marine toilet).

10. Dive in. If you do begin to feel the early signs of motion sickness, get into the water and submerge several feet below the surface, doing so will usually quell the queasy feelings because your body will stop receiving the conflicting acceleration readings.

11. Regulate it. If you happen to become ill while underwater, such as just after submerging, it’s usually perfectly OK to vomit in your regulator. It’s not the most enjoyable experience, but it’s typically over very quickly and you’ll feel better almost immediately.

The bottom line is that motion sickness can be managed and/or minimized by planning ahead with sufficient sleep, proper food intake, use of medications and consciously taking avoidance actions while on-board, before the first signs of motion sickness manifest.

Kathy Dowsett

Thanks to
Scuba Diving

Friday, August 23, 2013

Complacency Kills:::::If the Rules Apply to Me, the Rules Apply to You

Thanks Natalie!!

I am not writing this article as an attack on scuba divers in general, or any one diver in particular. However, a recent event reminded me once again that even the best divers can become complacent about protocols and safety. I don't know a single diver who hasn't been guilty of sloppy procedures at some point in his diving career, myself included, and I wonder how this comes about. We certainly know better.

I could write that many experienced divers consider themselves above the rules, but I do not think this is the case. If most divers were asked whether or not they should perform pre-dive checks and follow other safety procedures, they would probably respond in the affirmative. Nevertheless, I believe that we are sometimes lulled into a false sense of confidence in our dive gear and ourselves.

How does this happen? Over a long time frame, many experienced divers acquire a sense of invulnerability through a series of small slip-ups that fail to negatively impact their dives. A diver might exceed his air reserve, but be able to surface comfortably because no other diver had to share air with him. This will cause him to feel more comfortable exceeding his reserve in the future. He may forget to breathe from his alternate air source during the pre-dive check. If during that dive, the alternate air source is not used, or is used and functions properly, the diver will see no negative consequences from neglecting to double check his alternate air source regulator and his behavior is reinforced.

I see this happen in cave diving (my daily activity) which requires detailed and time-consuming pre-dive checks. Surprisingly experienced cave divers get in a huff, roll their eyes, or make snarky comments when I insist on going through a full pre-dive equipment check before every single dive. This behavior is in some ways understandable. After all, they have completed hundreds of dives without pre-dive equipment checks and nothing has ever gone wrong! However, just because something hasn't gone wrong yet does not mean that it will not go wrong in the future.

The irony here is that the very divers who are least likely to be methodical about procedures (the very experienced ones) are the ones who should be the most careful. It is a simple matter of statistics. If a person dives five times a year, statistically, it is very unlikely he will ever experience an equipment failure. However, a person who dives 200 times a year is much more likely to have a piece of gear break underwater or be required to deal with an emergency. With the amount of dives I make, I explain to people that it is not a matter of if, but when, something will break or I find myself in an emergency management situation.

After over 3,000 ocean dives and 1,500 cave dives, I know this is true. Strange and improbable things have occurred, and in most cases I prevented problems that could have become emergencies by following the rules and procedures. A tank burst disk blew underwater. I discovered the diaphragm had come off of my alternate air source (even though it worked underwater twenty minutes earlier) during a PADI pre-dive safety check with my students. I have caught cave divers about to descend without setting their dive computers to nitrox, with failed back up lights that worked on the previous dive, and with accessories that have fallen off. I had a completely unexpected, absolute zero visibility situation occur in the cavern zone of a cenote when a huge cloud of dirt came at us as the owners of an upstream cave were digging it out. I had to follow a line in zero visibility in a cavern zone.

Dive Safety and Essentials:
• The Reasons Behind the Limits of Open Water Training
• Scuba Diving's Golden Rule
• All Dives Are Decompression Dives

And before you say that it is your choice to break the rules, that it is your life to risk, please remember that while your individual life may not matter to you (or even to anyone else) any death in scuba diving affects all scuba divers. Every time a diver dies underwater, the safety of scuba diving is questioned. In many cases sensational news stories are published or aired. This damages the reputation of scuba diving as a sport, as well as the reputation of dive centers, boats, guides, and instructors who were in some way associated with the accident, even if they were in no way responsible for it. For example, a land owner in Mexico was forced to close his cave entrance for an indeterminate amount of time after a completely avoidable diver death in which he had absolutely no control or responsibility.

Safety protocols can be boring, and they take up time. In some cases following safe diving guidelines may restrict what a diver can do underwater, or cause him to cancel a dive. Although this may be frustrating, it is much better than the alternative -- death. And make no mistake, death is a very real consequence of broken procedures. While scuba diving has become very safe, it is safe because safety protocols and guidelines have been developed. The moment we start breaking those rules we put ourselves and our dive buddies in danger.

Please, follow safety procedures including pre-dive checks, tank analysis, dive plan reviews, and gas planning. Review emergency procedures and be prepared. Do not allow yourself to become complacent, and do not allow anyone else -- not a buddy, not a dive guide, not your best friend, not your spouse, and not your instructor -- to pressure you or rush you into breaking rules and guidelines. Your safety rules are commandments, write them in stone and follow them religiously. If you ever break a safety guideline and someone calls you out on it, thank that person from the bottom of your heart. And remember, if you break rules or procedures and are still here to read this article, you have been lucky. It is just a matter of time until you are not.

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Great Storm of 1913

It has been called "Freshwater Fury" and "White Hurricane," but for one Great Lakes historian, the Great Storm of 1913 is most accurately termed "a storm of legend.

"Many sailors didn't know what was brewing just beyond the horizon that November. Others didn't heed the warnings. Instead, they looked to the vast expanse of the Great Lakes and chose to make one more run — one more chance to earn money before the winter weather put a cap on the shipping season.

A century after the storm ravaged the Great Lakes on Nov. 9, 1913, with four days of violent winds and blinding snow, historians still label it the worst weather-related disaster in U.S. maritime history.

"We know that about 250 sailors died. We know a dozen ships were smashed, and we know at least a dozen more were run on shore," said Capt. David G. Brown from Port Clinton, Ohio, who authored White Hurricane: A Great Lakes November Gale and America's Deadliest Maritime Disaster. "What we don't know is how many fishermen died. We just don't know how much more devastation happened.

"When the winds quieted, it was discovered that 12 ships had sunk in the ferocious, icy waters and that all aboard had lost their lives. Five of the ships have never been found. An additional 71 others were damaged or destroyed. Only those sailing the waves of Lake Ontario escaped casualty.

According to official historical records, the U.S. Lifesaving Service (now the U.S. Coast Guard) reported that 248 people died both at sea and on land during the storm. Historians believe there may be many more. The devastation is perhaps made most personal in images captured in the storm's aftermath that depicted the dead bodies of sailors washed up on the Canadian shore wearing lifejackets that identified them as crew members of the ill-fated Wexford.

The foundered vessels that now lay silent on the lake floors stay vivid in the minds of Great Lakes historians and scuba divers alike. Most of the downed ships were stranded in the deeper waters of the lakes and so sank to depths reachable only by technical divers. Recreational divers can reach only three ships, which are located in Lake Huron's lower basin.

The 250-foot-long steel freighter Wexford was discovered in 2000 about seven miles off the Canadian shore. To date, the Wexford is the only one of the storm's victims to be found upright. Personal items such as bottles and hand tools can be seen scattered among the broken decking and cavernous cargo holds, while a single davit, which once held a lifeboat in place, hangs empty. The ladders that served the 18 sailors and two passengers — 19 men and one woman — can now be found lying on the silty lake bed.

Closer to the U.S. shoreline, in Lake Huron's Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve, is the final resting place of one of the area's most visited shipwrecks, the Regina. Also a 250-foot-long steel freighter, the Regina was discovered in 1986 lying overturned in about 80 feet of water.

Tools, personal items and food containers lie in the expansive debris field around the vessel. Perhaps the most impressive of the Regina's features is the ship's name on the bow, still easily visible thanks to divers who frequently rub the letters clean of silt and growth.

Farther south in the preserve, resting in 65 feet of water, is the Charles S. Price, also discovered upside down. At 504 feet from bow to stern, the Price sank with all hands lost — a total of 28 men — and is now an expansive dive site that features a massive four-blade propeller.

"I think the reason so many people are intrigued by the Great Storm of 1913 is because it shows the power of the lakes. It shows that Mother Nature can lash out and destroy anything she wants," said Ric Mixter, an independent videographer who has researched the storm. "It's a story that is terribly human and so very tragic."

Mixter said that in addition to the great losses that occurred during those four terrifying days, the storm brought stories of survival. These are the stories that he hopes to share in presentations 100 years later.

This year, museums and historical societies around the Great Lakes are featuring exhibits and programs about the Great Storm. On a building in Port Huron, Mich., is a 40-foot banner hung by the Port Huron Museum that says, "Imagine a wave this high." It's a striking and sobering reminder of the colossal waves that crushed the shores during the most vicious points of the storm.

"You look at a 535-foot ship and you think it's powerful. But what looks invincible is really so fragile in the throes of a storm," Brown said. "The 1913 storm became a storm of legend. It became a storm for sailor tales — sea stories. It became a touch point to say, ‘I was a sailor out there.'"

N.B. If you live in Southwestern, Ontario, Ken's Dive Locker (London, Ontario) offer expeditions to dive the Wexford.

Thanks to Alert Diver

Kathy Dowsett

Friday, August 16, 2013

“Always analyse your gas” – Statement from the NACD

Following a recent fatality at Ginnie Springs, the National Association for Cave Diving has issued the following statement.

NACD Gas Analysis Advisory

NACD National Association for Cave Diving Nitrox Trimix Rosemary E Lunn Roz Lunn The Underwater Marketing Company DAN Safety ReportThe recent death of a cave diver highlights the necessity to review some critical procedures that we should be doing before all dives – gas analysis. A couple of years ago there was a cave diver death in Cozumel that resulted from breathing high carbon monoxide content in a cylinder. This created quite a commotion that caused the sales of CO analyzers to jump quite a bit. These days it’s not uncommon to see divers analyzing their cylinders for CO during the pre-dive process. However, even with that awareness it is a bit surprising that there are still divers that do not analyze all cylinders for oxygen content. While the NACD does not have courses for mixed gas procedures diving at this time, all NACD instructors should be emphasizing the need for gas analysis during the pre-dive process.

Divers should re-analyze all cylinders to be used on a dive at the site during the pre-dive process and make sure the cylinders are properly labeled with oxygen content, helium content (if any helium in the blend), and MOD. This should occur even if the cylinders were personally filled by the diver. Each and every cylinder should be analyzed and clearly labeled, even if there is an isolator connecting the cylinders, and regardless what gas is believed to be in the cylinder.

While it is understood that not everyone may own enough cylinders to permanently mark them with content and MOD, cylinders being used for 100% oxygen should be permanently marked and only used for 100% oxygen. However, permanent markings do not substitute for additional labeling. Even permanently marked cylinders need to be analyzed and labeled with content and MOD to show confirmation of the contents. There should never be any confusion about labeling. It should be clear and concise to anyone who looks at it.

Finally, there is some controversy over whether gas analysis should be an individual responsibility or a team responsibility. All divers with mixed gas training of any kind have been instructed that all gas should personally be analyzed prior to every dive. Almost every dive training class emphasizes gas sharing with teammates. With that, there is always the potential for a diver to be breathing from a teammate’s cylinders. Gas analysis and confirmation should be a team project during the pre-dive process.

The lessons to take away from this:

1. Analyze every cylinder, whether you think it is filled with air, Nitrox, Trimix, or Oxygen,
2. Label every cylinder with gas content and MOD
3. Remove all old, Oxygen, Nitrox, and Custom Mix labels if the cylinder is to be repurposed.
4. Make gas analysis a team project.

If you are unfamiliar with or out of practice with analyzing gas contact any NACD instructor and request a gas analysis refresher. If you do not have an NACD instructor nearby contact the training committee and we will provide you with an instructor who can help you.

Gas analysis is not an optional activity. Your life depends upon it.

Rob Neto
NACD International Training Director
NACD International Safety Officer

Check out the new website National Association for Cave Diving

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Build A Diving Helmet from a Water Heater (Jan, 1932)

A Diving Helmet from a Water Heater

THEY go down to the sea in old water heaters along the Atlantic coast these days, now that some young man with a leaning toward aquatic sports has proved how easy it is to make an excellent diving helmet from a metal water heater which will enable its wearer to walk comfortably on the sea floor 35 feet and more below the surface. A few feet of garden hose, two pairs of bellows, a couple of valve boxes and a cylindrical metal boiler of the type used in most homes for heating water, are the essentials for building one of these helmets.

Perhaps the most important part of the whole apparatus is the bellows arrangement which furnishes air to the diver. Two bellows are required, operated alternately to furnish a steady stream of air. This air goes through two valve boxes which prevent its return, and it is forced down into the diving helmet and out around the diver’s shoulders. A pressure of fifteen pounds per square foot is all that is required at ordinary depths, and this the bellows will amply supply.

Four boards 12 by 24 inches are required for making the two bellows. Cut these to the pattern as shown, and in two of the boards drill a pair of one-inch holes to admit air. On the inside of the board, covering the holes, tack a piece of chamois by its four corners to act as a valve.

Gores for the bellows are cut out of leather in accordance with the printed pattern. Moderately thin and very flexible leather should be used, of the type which is usually found in shoe uppers and which your local shoemaker can supply. Prolonged soaking in soapy water will increase the pliability of the leather. Apply a generous amount of cold water glue to the edges of the bellows boards and tack the leather in place with brass headed upholstery tacks.

A tin snout is used at the end of the bellows to make a connection with the garden hose which is used as an airline in this diving apparatus. The hose is, of course, tightly secured at the connecting points with clamps or wire wound tightly around the outside. Construction of the valve boxes is simple and is clearly shown in the drawing.

Two are used, one for each line from the twin bellows. They are merely check valves to make sure that the air flows in one direction only, towards the helmet. White pine is used in their construction and the boxes are well varnished when completed. The valve used is of light chamois with a small oak counterweight tacked or glued to it to assure rapid closing of the valve.

The fittings used to connect the valves and the helmet with the hose line are ordinary marine water intakes which you can obtain at any hardware store, at a cost of about eighty cents apiece. Use white lead in the holes and apply rubber gaskets under the fittings. Three feet is the proper distance between the valve boxes and bellows; the distance between valve boxes and helmet can be varied to suit.

Next comes the helmet itself. Mark off the openings to be cut for the diver’s shoulders, being sure to leave ample space for the head. Suggested proportions are shown in the drawing. Cutting is done with a cold chisel or a welding flame. For padding around the edges where the helmet fits over the shoulders three or four layers of an old inner tube are used, folded and riveted into place
A piece of cylindrical glass of the same curvature as the boiler is inserted in the front of the helmet for a window.

This glass can be purchased for about two dollars from the nearest wholesale glass jobber, who can be reached through your local hardware merchant. A flange of 16-gauge cold-rolled sheet steel is used to back up the glass. Smooth-on iron cement which, when set, is watertight and strong, is used to hold the glass in place. In operation the helmet will prove buoyant, and to counteract this a set of lead weights should be attached. Twelve pounds will be sufficient in most cases.

Two men are necessary in using the diving apparatus, one as the diver, the other to operate the bellows, which are pumped alternately. The idea is to keep a steady pulsation of bubbles coming to the surface from the diver. He absorbs some of the air in the helmet when he breathes, which is replaced with fresh air, and when he exhales the surplus is forced out under the helmet and finds its way to the surface.

Should a break occur in the air line the diver is in no danger, for he can readily slip off the helmet over his head and swim to the surface unhampered. The depth at which this apparatus is workable is determined as the point where the pressure of the air supplied by the bellows is equal to that of the water. Depths of 20 feet are easily attained, and for making repairs on boat hulls, recovering sunken parts or for studying lake bottoms this is usually quite as far as one cares to descend.

Thanks to Modern Mechanix

Kathy Dowsett

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

BadDiverBill bares all about Australian diving

BadDiverBill is on top of the world over his dive trip Down Under.

Diving the famed Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s Queensland coast is on most divers “bucket list” and he is no exception. But it had a different twist than a more conservative diver would take. BadDiverBill’s first dive to the reef was in his birthday suit. Appropriately, it was on his birthday.

People thought he was crazy diving nude when there were sharks around, but BadDiverBill (his real name is Bill Hill) was more concerned that a nude dive would offend someone. That’s why he was the last to leave the boat, took off his trunks once he was discreetly underwater and a few minutes later put them on again.

He made his first nude dive on a much earlier Florida trip, which would influence the evolution of his “BadDiver” perception of diving. He went on two different dive boats on consecutive days in Florida. He likened the first one to a “military operation,” a good dive but something was lacking. On the second trip the diving was also fun and safe but the after-dive socializing was a big plus. The tipoff of party time was the boat captain’s shirt, which announced “rehab is for quitters.”

It was then that BadDiverBill realized that the after-dive libations and conversations were the icing on the cake of the scuba experience. That’s when he started his website and its short online shows (, illustrating dive spots around the world and the “adult beverages” consumed when the dive is overBadDivers is not a club with members but a vehicle to promote a lifestyle for scuba enthusiasts. Having fun after the diving is over for the day does not affect safety in the water, he argues.

Given that Australia has great dive sites and its citizens are known for their lust for adventure, the trip was natural for a free spirit like Bill.

He found Aussies interesting and a lot of fun. But native Australians were not alone on the Great Barrier Reef. “It’s interesting that people from all over the world were working on those dive boats. It’s a very touristy type of place. There were people from Europe, South Africa, The Netherlands, Germany, all over.”

On separate days, BadDiverBill took the 90-minute trip to the reef from the town of Cairns on two different boats – the Tusa (known as one of the best dive boats there) and the Silver Swift . Each trip offered three separate dives to the reef – two in the morning, then lunch and a third dive in the afternoon. He took all three dives each day, although some divers only took two.

It cost him about $300 a day for the dive boats, which he called “very commercial,” but it’s the only way to get to the reef. While most things tend to be expensive in Australia, including “adult beverages,” there is no tipping, he discovered, because bartenders are paid well. That was interesting news to BadDiverBill, who is a bartender by trade. Still, a kiwi drink featured in one of BadDiverTV’s first shows on Australia, cost $12.

The Great Barrier Reef dives involve a descent of about 20 metres. Divers were grouped according to their experience levels, but regardless of your ability BadDiverBill said it was worth paying an extra $10 for a guide who could take you to the sharks, turtles and wrasse (a pear-shaped fish).

The guides, who would take a maximum of six divers each, would also lead them through a tunnel under the coral. “Don’t ever touch a reef. It takes so long for it to grow back.”

Most of BadDiverBill’s dives were to the outer reefs, which are in good shape, but he was sad to see that the inner reefs were bleached out. Because of Bill’s love for the ocean and all waters, Bill and Ron Lynne wrote a BadDiversTV theme song called Weightless, for which they will shoot a video later this year. It is now available on iTunes and part of the proceeds will go to ocean conservancy.

“I dove Saxon reef and I dove a few different sites at the Great Barrier Reef . . . there was also Flynn reef. It was great. Along with chalking up three naked dives, I saw eight sharks in six dives over two days. One was a two-foot baby. They were white-tip reef sharks, one of few sharks in the world that can sit on the bottom. They don’t have to keep swimming to get water through their gills. They’re not aggressive at all. It’s nice to swim with the sharks. I’m more nervous about sharks when I’m surfing,” he says, explaining that when you’re under the surface in scuba gear, sharks and divers can see each other and they are less likely to mistake a human for food.

BadDiverBill says if he went to Australia again he would go to Port Douglas (north of Cairns) for a liveaboard night dive. Also to the north, he recommends a place called Cape Tribulation for its beautiful beaches.

When he wasn’t diving, Bill fed kangaroos, saw a crocodile come up to the boat he was riding in during a river cruise, and, on a sad note, at a lookout point along a river trip guides pointed out the spot where Steve Irwin, of television’s The Crocodile Hunter, was killed by a sting ray.

BadDiverBill did not see any snakes, but in Cairns he saw thousands of huge bats flying overhead at dusk and blackbirds that fly low and fast right around humans.

He also saw two cassowaries – the third tallest birds in the world that can grow up to six-feet tall and the second heaviest, weighing up to 130 pounds. They crossed the road right in front of a bus he was touring on.

Cassowaries don’t fly but they can be aggressive and inflict injuries on dogs and humans if they are provoked.

Fortunately, BadDiverBill had the cover of the bus – and his clothes – when he met them.

Kathy Dowsett

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Scuba Diving in Canada

There are a multitude of Canadian scuba diving destinations that will enthrall divers with their beauty. From the Pacific Ocean waters off the British Columbia coast to the shipwrecks of the Great Lakes and the marine parks of Quebec, scuba diving in Canada has something for everyone.

History of Canadian Scuba Diving

While archeologists believe forms of diving began around 6,500 years ago as people acquired pearls and other sea bounty from the ocean floor, it wasn't until 332 BC that wooden diving bells were first put into use. In 1839, Augustus Siebe of England invented the first diving suit with a detachable helmet tethered to the surface where air was piped through.

In 1943, Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan developed the aqualung or "self-contained underwater breathing apparatus" SCUBA. Canada, having the largest fresh-water areas in the world, became a hotspot for scuba diving. The Great Lakes offers thousands of shipwrecks to explore as well as the coastal waters with their off-shore wrecks and marine life.

Scuba Diving Equipment

Scuba diving equipment varies depending on the type of diving and water conditions. Thermal scuba diving equipment is required for cold water locations like Canada. • Diving Cylinders
• Diving Regulators
• Wetsuit or Drysuit for colder waters
• Shorty Wetsuits or Dive Skins for warmer temperatures
• Neoprene Diving Gloves
• Neoprene Diving Boots
• Safety Helmet with lamp
• Backplate for the diving cylinders
• Diver Propulsion Vehicle
• Dive Weighting to offset wetsuit buoyancy
Dive Fins
• Compass, Depth Gauge and Diving Watch
• Distance line to follow back in poor visibility

Types of Scuba Diving in Canada

• Commercial scuba diving in Canada is a big part of off-shore oil exploration. There are pressure-resistant dive suits that can reach depths of up to 450 m (1,460 ft) with no adverse affects to the diver.
• Scientific scuba diving is done in fields such as oceanography, marine ecology, marine biology, and archaeology. Environment Canada performs thousands of dives to locate and explore historic sites. Of note is the discovery of a Basque whaling galleon which sunk in 1565 at Red Bay, Labrador. Canadian Scuba diving is becoming a world leader in underwater archaeology.
• Recreational scuba diving in Canada is popular across the country, notably on both coasts and the Great Lakes region. The popularity has grown so much that Canada is at the forefront of scuba diving technology. Canadian diving contractor Can-Dive Services develops lighter, deep-water diving suits and Kybertec International develops submersible diving computers that give critical digital readouts.

Diving Schools for Scuba Training

With the popularity of scuba diving in Canada on the increase, scuba diving schools have been established across the country. If you want to learn scuba diving and obtain your diving certification, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. You can participate in scuba lessons for ocean diving at accredited diving schools on both coasts of Canada. For scuba training in wreck diving, the Great Lakes region offers the best dive training due to sheer number of sunken ships in these waters. Reputable scuba diving schools will be accredited by the Diver Certification Board of Canada.

Canadian Scuba Diving Destinations

The protected waters off the coast of British Columbia offer some of most scenic scuba diving in Canada if varied marine life is your preference. There are over 400 species of fish and thousands of species of invertebrates in addition to large octopus. Popular scuba diving destinations in B. C. include:

• Howe Sound
• Sechelt Peninsula
• Victoria Inlet
• Saanich Inlet
• Southern Gulf Islands
• Nanaimo
• Hornby Island
• Telegraph Cove

The Great Lakes are world-renowned Canadian scuba diving destinations if you enjoy wreck diving. These waterways have been used for over a century to transport people and goods from port to port. As with all marine travel, there are some ships that don't reach their destination. Some estimates put the number of sunken ships in the Great Lakes at over 4,000.

The Great Lakes are still an important shipping route and resulted in the introduction of the zebra mussel through bilge water. These mussels are responsible for cleaning up the water and increasing visibility to up to 30 m (100 feet). The water temperatures can still be quite cold in the summer especially for deeper dives. In almost all instances, scuba diving in Canada requires a wetsuit or drysuit.

Other notable scuba diving destinations in Ontario include:

• Tobermory's Fathom Five Marine Park is Canada's first underwater national park. Located on the Bruce Peninsula, popular for hiking in Canada, it offers numerous wrecks to explore.
• Kingston on Lake Ontario has many wrecks including a wreck "graveyard" where old ships have been sunk. The traffic can be heavy from those boating in Canada.
• Port Dover on Lake Erie has grown in popularity with "good condition" wrecks farther offshore and in deeper water.
It should be noted that removing artifacts from shipwrecks is against the law. As with laws dealing with hunting and fishing in Canada, infractions can result in your scuba diving equipment, vehicles, boats, or anything else that they deem part of the crime being confiscated...permanently!

Pointe-Au-Pere Maritime Historic Site in Rimouski, Quebec is a favourite scuba diving destination due to 1914 wreck "Empress of Ireland". It is easily accessible by Zodiac.

Arguably one of the best eastern North American scuba diving destinations, the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is a protected area where 15 species of marine mammals have been reported. Enjoy whale watching in Canada by encountering the protected belugas that inhabit these waters.

Newfoundland and Labrador are prime scuba diving destinations with a 500 year history of shipwrecks. If you can afford the $40,000 price tag you can take a submersible to the Titanic. The Labrador Current and the Gulf Stream attracts thousands of whales. It is also an excellent location for bird watching in Canada.

Whether you enjoy marine life or wreck diving, there are Canadian scuba diving destinations to "fit the bill". Scuba diving in Canada is gaining in popularity and areas like British Columbia, Kingston, and the East Coast are actively promoting this sport.

Thanks to Discover Canada Outdoors

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ask an Expert: Is it OK to Drink After a Dive?

Long after that drink, alcohol can be a gateway to a host of problems

By Natalie L. Gibb

Hot sun. Turquoise water. Palm trees. Most divers’ preferred destinations are tropical and come complete with umbrella-laced cocktails and ice-cold beers. Alcohol is available in most dive locations, but drinking after a dive is not always advisable.

Although no studies have linked post-dive alcohol consumption to an increased risk of decompression sickness, a Divers Alert Network accident-analysis report states that up to one-third of divers with decompression sickness consumed alcohol within 12 hours of diving. Consider the following:

1. Alcohol is a diuretic and causes dehydration. Drinking one beer after a dive won’t cause a severe state of dehydration. However, drinking every day after diving — in combination with heat, cold water and immersion diuresis, and the dehydrating effect of breathing dry air — might cause chronic dehydration over the course of a dive trip. Dehydration is thought to be a risk factor for decompression sickness.

2. Alcohol consumption reduces glucose levels. Reduced blood-glucose levels lower a diver’s energy. Diving is a tiring activity, and divers might find that alcohol consumption makes them even more fatigued. Furthermore, extreme exhaustion after a dive is one of the most overlooked symptoms of decompression sickness. Alcohol consumption after a dive might lead to confusion when diagnosing a possible case of decompression sickness.

3. Alcohol exits the bloodstream slowly. Blood-alcohol levels reduce by about 0.015 percent each hour, but the effects of alcohol consumption might last for up to a day after drinking. These effects include impaired judgment, reaction time and concentration. Underwater, the effects of even a small amount of alcohol in a diver’s bloodstream might be amplified by the additive effects of nitrogen narcosis and other factors.

4. Alcohol might increase susceptibility to cold. A diver who has alcohol remaining in his blood from last night’s drinking might find he gets cold easily. Alcohol is a vasodilator and causes the blood vessels near the surface of a diver’s skin to dilate, increasing his heat loss. Cold is another predisposing factor to decompression sickness.

5. Alcohol’s effects might be felt long after it exits a diver’s bloodstream. Even when a diver has no alcohol left in his bloodstream, the effects of alcohol — such as reduced attention span, awareness and judgment — might linger. Some studies have noted the effects of alcohol up to 24 hours after a night of drinking. Regardless of a diver’s blood-alcohol content, a diver who feels exhausted or cannot think clearly after drinking should not be diving.

When deciding whether to drink after diving, a diver should use moderation, consider his personal alcohol tolerance and drink plenty of water. Time any after-dive drinks so the alcohol has exited the bloodstream before diving, and never dive with a hangover. Over the course of multiple dive days, avoiding drinking after diving will help to avoid dehydration and lethargy, and ensure that a diver gets the most out of his dive trip.

If you can’t escape it — or don’t want to — relax and enjoy, in moderation.

By Paul Cater Deaton

Let’s face it. On dive trips, especially
 to tropical destinations, there are practices that are almost predestined. It’s pretty much in the regulations that every band must play Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley, Facebook posts will show someone’s feet in a hammock and every restaurant will claim that its jerk chicken is the best anywhere.

And people are going to drink.

Not surprising, most of the dive-safety community frowns on mixing alcohol with scuba-diving activities. DAN advises to, “think twice before combining alcohol and diving.” An ounce of prevention is preferred over an ounce of rum.

In the Caribbean, they are very proud of their rum. Almost every island has its own, and degrees of refinement run from rotgut to sublime. Not only is consumption of alcohol accepted there, it’s expected. In fact, it’s vigorously promoted. Every place has its own “national drink” or favorite local libation. It’s almost de rigueur to cap off a day’s diving by popping a few cold ones at the nearest beach bar. Says one veteran course director, “Nothing — I repeat, nothing — tastes better at the end of a dive than a cold beer!”

So long as moderation is exercised, I have a hard time finding anything wrong with enjoying a few drinks as the sun sets after the last dive of the day has been made.

Yet on vacation, “moderation” can be elusive. In the Virgin Islands, we see our share of tourists who think that because they are vacationing in a “foreign country,” anything goes. There is almost a perception of “diplomatic immunity” as revelers file into the rum shacks and start drinking with impetuous abandon.

The multitudes of “overserved” are quickly forgotten — those who party responsibly are remembered longer, and far more kindly. They do not pose a threat to themselves or others around them. They wake up hangover-free and can usually recall the events of the night before without cringing.

Diminished capacity on land is bad enough. Consequences range from embarrassing moments to a night in jail. When one takes alcoholic impairment underwater, things can go from nice to nasty in no time at all.

The moral is to exercise common sense. Be as prudent on a dive trip as you would at home. Enjoy a measure of libation but with a double shot of good judgment.

Kathy Dowsett

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