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