The fun they had at TEKCamp

An awesome week of meeting the best UK technical divers and learning from them

Diving in The Red Sea

Warm water, clear visibility makes for a great holiday!

Malinbeg Harbour

Often, the simplest local dives are the best.

Fundamentally Speaking of Course: GUE-F



In December of last year I wrote “The Master Plan”; which was basically all my diving goals and objectives for the pending 12 months. Needless to say, as with all best laid plans, it’s falling apart. Long story short, I’m ‘possibly’ changing jobs, career in fact; as a result my available time for training and trips has been obliterated.



The casualties have been TekCamp and Normoxic Trimix; it is simply impossible for me to attend.



Normoxic will be rescheduled, but unfortunately TekCamp will continue without me; obviously without success due to my absence.



I jest of course, I can’t recommend TekCamp enough; we had an awesome time last year, and i am truly gutted I can’t go.



However, it’s not all doom and gloom. 


I have managed to salvage two of my major plans; RedTec liveaboard, with the tattooed South African Paul Toomer; and GUE Fundamentals with Rich Walker






I also managed a sneaky trip up to Malin Head the other week, in a vain attempt to retain some of my tech diving skills.



So, first up for 2012 will be Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) Fundamentals class with, GUE Technical Training Director, Richard Walker - sounds impressive doesn’t he?

Well, we’ll see how he copes with us for a week.



WHAT IS GUE FUNDAMENTALS?


Fundies” as it’s compassionately known, is basically the doorway into the GUE style of diving; focusing on the very basics of diver training and encouraging the ‘thinking diver.’


That’s my interpretation, but here’s what they say:


The GUE Fundamentals course is designed to cultivate the essential skills required by all sound diving practice, irrespective of level or environment. A prerequisite for all GUE classes, save Recreational Diver level 1 course, GUE Fundamentals performs a three-fold function:

• it provides the recreational diver, who does not desire further diver training, with an opportunity to advance his/her basic diving skills, thereby developing more comfort, confidence, and competence in the water

• it provides the diver with aspirations of more advanced diver training with the tools that will contribute to a greater likelihood of success

• it provides non-GUE trained divers with a gateway to GUE training.


The ‘thinking’ bit concerns me slightly, bearing in mind most of my dives are spent with an inner monologue consisting of; “Whao! – how come that fish isn’t getting blown about the current like I am?



HOW I DISCOVERED GUE




I first encountered GUE a few years ago. I can’t recall how exactly, but I basically ended up watching some you tube videos of a GUE instructor demonstrating in water skills; smb deployment, flutter kick, mask removal – stuff like that. 


If you’re not familiar you should go and check them out, it’s inspiring stuff. 



The thing that got my attention was the level of control. The skills on display weren’t anything out of the ordinary; I learned them all myself during my PADI Open Water, but not that way.



In short, the GUE divers perform all tasks in an extremely controlled manner - a very flat position, mid water column, with their back legs sticking up, fins horizontal.



After watching a few more videos, I reflected how I looked in the water performing similar tasks. The answer was simple – not like that. My mask removal was conducted on my knees on the sea bed, smb deployment the same, and OOG drills were an in water debacle.



I wanted to be better. I wanted to look like that.



GUE AND DIR

I quickly learned that the divers in question were members of Global Underwater Explorers; a non-profit scuba agency based in Florida. 

It evolved from a bloke called Jarrod, a very American looking fellow who likes to dive caves. He decided it would be better if all divers adopted a Hogarthian style rig, standardised equipment and procedures. There’s obviously a bit more to it, but that’s the bread and butter of it.


Somewhere along the line the style got penned “Doing It Right” – the now iconic acronym ‘DIR.’ The term DIR get’s a bit of bad rap, as it implied everyone else was “Doing It Wrong.”

I don’t quite get why a lot of people get all annoyed about it; I’ve been diving for years without GUE training and never felt I was ‘doing it wrong,’ but there you are.


Anyway, GUE appear to have distanced from the three letter curse irrespective, so nobody needs to be offended anymore. You read it here first!



DIRX


A bit more research, which basically meant typing “DIR” into the magical Google, led me to the DIR Explorers internet forum.

DIRX is a fantastic resource for any diver, more so for those interested in the GUE mind style of diving. It was a massive help for me in gaining a better understanding of the system.



GUE/DIR EQUIPMENT


Over the last couple of years I have been embracing the gear configuration encouraged by GUE. There really isn’t much to it; back plate, wing without bungee, one piece harness, a long hose, short back up and non split fins. 



It was a bit of a departure from my split fins and BCD, but I’d already fallen out with my BCD by that stage anyway.

I love scuba gear, and have thoroughly enjoyed re-configuring my equipment. By, “reconfigure” I mean putting all my gear on ebay, and buying a whole load of new stuff.



Buying scuba stuff is great; I don’t know any diver that doesn’t like getting new kit.



At that stage I was still diving recreationally, and despite appearing ‘technical’ in nature, I found the gear worked splendidly for the 20m dives I was doing. 

My single tank set up

It must have been, as within 6 months even Wifebuddy had adopted a similar system; despite numerous proclamations, “You’ll not catch me in a back plate and wing; i love my BCD!” 



Whenever Kerri and I began our technical training the configuration really began to make sense. To dive a twinset; all I had to do was slap on a larger wing, an additional first stage and I was ready to rock.


Surprisingly the migration to technical diving was the least expensive transition of all my diving. Go figure?



GUE TRAINING


Post TDI course, I was still very interested in doing some GUE training; unfortunately there are no GUE instructors in Ireland. I had emailed a few UK instructors back and forth over the last couple of years, but the logistics became confusing and it kind of fizzled out. 



To complicate matters, Wifebuddy wasn’t totally convinced about the whole thing. She too enjoyed me buying her a new wing etc, but didn’t entirely see the need to take a class.



Then TekCamp happened.



During our week at Vobster we got to meet Rich Walker in person, and upon manipulating the system slightly, we ended up completing 2 days solid training with him. We also became part of his human centipede… but you can read about that in your own time.



Having met Rich and experienced his instruction first hand, both Kerri and I were sold; and we booked a GUE-F class there and then.



WHY TAKE THE CLASS?


In short, I want to be a better diver.

I am a qualified technical diver; this means I have acquired the ability to really hurt myself. Obviously, any diver can get hurt, but as I continue to conduct decompression dives the risk increases. I am capable of the diving I do, and my TDI training was excellent; but personally I could do with improving my basic “platform.”

I want to know, that if I have to deal with a problem at depth under a virtual ceiling, I can deal with it effectively, efficiently and prioritise objectives accordingly.


I have been striving to improve my diving on my own; attempting better buoyancy, improving skills, buddy awareness, by diving as regularly as possible, and by accompanying more experienced divers. This has helped, but I am still not at the level I want to be. I am hoping GUE training will give me the knowledge to learn what needs improving, and provide me with the skill set to do so.



I don’t know if I will progress with GUE, but I am hoping this will give me opportunity to make an informed decision.



THERE’S MORE


Either way, Wifebuddy and I are off to the UK to spend an inappropriate amount of time with Rich Walker, freeze our asses off in a quarry in an abortive attempt to obtain proper trim, and ultimately have some diving related fun.

As a result there will be no blog next week, but a ludicrously in depth report will follow thereafter.



Anyone else done a GUE-F course? What are we in for?



I’m scared…

SS Laurentic, Malin Head (IRE) – Meet the Internet

SS Laurentic 1908

Dive Site:
Malin Head (IRE)

Dive Type: Boat Dive

Dive Attraction: “SS Laurentic 1908”: White Star Ocean Liner

Depth: 38m

Experience: Experienced / Technical



Those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, will be quite aware that I have been attempting to dive The SS Laurentic for quite a while.

However, as the shipwreck is located at the bottom of The Atlantic Ocean, to dive it requires a journey on a boat. Journeys on boats are best conducted in certain conditions; conditions that chose not to present themselves for a matter of weeks.


Last weekend however, after numerous cancellations, Poseidon must have got laid; the sea flattened and the dive was on.



To the Laurentic!


SS Laurentic : Biography

[source: Irish wrecks online : wiki]


The SS Laurentic was a British Ocean Liner of the White Star Line; aka Titanic fame.

Built in Harland & Wolff of Belfast, she was launched in 1908 to serve between Liverpool and Montreal. When World War 1 kicked off, The Laurentic was commissioned as a troop transport for the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

In 1915, the 14,892 ton liner hit two mines off Lough Swilly of the north of Ireland; sinking inside 45 minutes. 52 officers and 316 ratings were saved.

At the time of sinking, SS Laurentic was carrying 3,211 gold ingots. Needless to say, The Royal Navy made efforts to recover the cargo between 1917 and 1924; leaving only 22 bars unaccounted for.

It took the Navy 7000 dives, and a lot of explosives, to locate the majority of the gold; some of which were 10m below the sea bed.



BUDDY REPLACEMENT


In my previous Malin Head trip, to dive the U-861, Wifebuddy became inconsolably sea sick. Since then we have tried numerous, but completely unsuccessful, solutions. Unfortunately, the only method of preventing Wifebuddy from hurling a month’s worth of dinners over the side of a rhib; is to not go.

With Wifebuddy out of action for Malin Head diving I had to resort to ‘DIR Dave’ as my dive buddy; sorted.



THE INTERNET COMES TO LIFE

Dave arrived from Dublin on Saturday afternoon, and we made the journey from my place, to the big house where all the divers would be staying.

The Divers House


We arrived late evening and headed down to, what had to have been, the emptiest pub in Ireland on the St. Patricks’ Day weekend. We wandered in, and were immediately subject to one man and his half tuned acoustic guitar; which was, for no good reason, amplified through a PA.

Dave got the pints in, and we joined a table of divers who had been up for the entire weekend. This turned out to be excellent craic, and extremely informative.



Despite having never met the guys before, I knew them.

I admit this appears paradoxical, but the reason is simple – the internet forum. Technical Diving IE is an Irish online resource for divers to talk diving, gear and arrange trips; hence my recent excursions to Malin Head.




It was great to put faces to user names, and one of the guys happened to be the creator of the site itself; Stephen McMullan.

I also ended up chatting to Barry McGill, an extremely experienced rebreather diver and Malin Head veteran. I am now quite educated in bail out options when diving deep on a rebreather.




At this point I began to feel a little out of my depth, as i soon learned the dive boat the following day would be stuffed with highly experienced technical divers, and a smattering of rebreathers.



After a further few hours of chat, continued acoustic guitar annihilation, (and amazingly) not very many pints we headed back to the accommodation for a more civilised pot of tea; this was mainly due to Mike being unable to tolerate any more “traditional irish music.”

Dive talk continued into the early hours, which was fantastic, and the guys really put some of my nerves at ease about the pending dive.



DIVE DAY

I woke at 8am, and over the next 4 hours, an army of divers arrived up for the planned exploration of SS Laurentic, not to mention the aptly named ‘Spidge’; Ken and Jane’s little Jack Russell.

"Spidge"


Breakfast and pots of tea followed, along with introductions to even more internet personalities. It was soon apparent I was the only diver in attendance that hadn’t dived the wreck previously; and with the aid of breakfast condiments, I received detailed information of the wreck layout.

It resulted in a very definite dive plan; Dave and I would drop down the shot line, onto the croissant where the boilers would be, fin to the yogurt to investigate the big gun, and if time permitted visit the banana in the hope of foraging for ammo shells.


Simples.



THE BOAT TRIP


Eventually, we all departed and ventured to the pier for kitting up and boat loading process.



I have very limited boat diving experience, and the prospect does make me anxious. Coupled with the fact it was a relatively ‘big dive’ (for me), having not executed a proper technical dive since my last visit 6 months prior, I was feeling unnerved.

A brief chat with Stephen alleviated some of the jitters; he explained time pressures would be alleviated as the rebreather guys would go in first, and be out last. Their extended bottom time would give Dave and I plenty of time, and space, to kit up and go diving. 


Once on the boat I felt a bit better and a boat ride later we were over the site.



THE DIVE SITE

The boat journey was bouncy. I distracted myself by chatting to Mike, who offered further tips on managing gear in the bobbing swell. I felt pretty good and the excitement finally started to kick in.

The Swell


The conditions at Malin Head are quite unique compared to the other Irish boat dives I’ve been on; it’s all about ‘swell.’ Despite the skipper’s proclamation about being ‘calm’ – it was soon clear I needed to reassess my sea conditions scale.


The small rhib heaved up and down at least a few metres on the surface; as divers struggled to don twinsets, stages and rebreathers. 

It makes one feel very small and insignificant being tossed around on the surface of The Atlantic Ocean, but there is a vivid adrenaline surge in accompaniment; coupled with the feeling i was about to undertake a dive that an average diver does not.


THE DIVE

Dave and I decided we would go in last; sacrificing an early plunge for more space on the boat to get our kit on. With a little help from the Geoff the skipper, I was in my twinset and stage; as soon as the backplate pressed against me - my nerves abated.


I was ready to go diving.


Dave rolled off first and I followed. We quickly finned to the buoy and descended down the shot line onto the wreck 38m below.

At about 30m the SS Laurentic loomed into view. The visibility was around 10m – 12m, poor by Malin standards (apparently), but great compared to what I’m used to.



Upon reaching the sea bed I gave myself a once over, switched on my posh light, signalled OK, and we were ready to rock.



THE BOILERS 

The boilers were situated just were we landed. They were HUGE. I was reminded of big farm sheds; it was incomprehensible just how humongous they were; and the vastness of, what was once, an ocean liner was immediately apparent.



Dave descended slightly below me and was obviously scanning the debris, possibly in the hope of finding gold; who knows? 


Once we drifted between two of the boilers I found myself at a bit of a loss. I was overwhelmed by the scale of the wreck; it just wouldn’t compute. I simply hung about 5m from the sea bed, smoothing my posh torch from left to right, in awe of the wreckage.



Iron girders, steel plates, big cog things, random machinery part, cables, pipes, all lay as far as my light beam could penetrate. It was breath taking.




The navy certainly made a mess searching for the gold, it was flattened; and I pondered what she would have looked like intact, as I couldn’t quite get a ‘ship-shape’ into my head of what I was looking at.



Dave and I skulked about as I continued to snap off some dreadful photos. I wasn’t even focusing on anything particular; I didn’t want to miss something, so I just held out my camera and pressed the button sporadically as I glided across the steel wasteland.



THE BIG GUN

We headed north, as instructed by Stephen McMullan, in search of the yogurt. After several minutes Dave gave me a shrug when I signalled ‘cowboy guns’ at him; then within seconds a huge barrel protruded from the murky green water. 



It was the remaining gun from the bow. (The second gun is on display on dry land in Downings, Ireland.)


I made a distinct effort to get a photograph that was remotely in focus, and finned about the huge weapon. It was amazing.

Again, I found myself hovering around just staring at it. It was eerie; despite all the devastation, it sat completely upright - ready to fire. It was a superb sight.







TURN AROUND TIME

As per the dive plan, turnaround time (and pressure) advanced. I was really sad to leave the SS Laurantic behind me; I couldn’t get over how quickly the 25min bottom time passed by.

Dave led us back between the boilers and illuminated the shot line. We stowed our lights, Dave gave me the big thumb, and we began our ascent.



Gas switches were conducted at the 21m mark, as i chuffed down some 50%, and Dave switched at 18m as he enjoyed his 52% nitrox.

There was a bit of a current, but a firm hand on the shot kept us right; and we completed our decompression obligations without issue.



THE ART OF SURFACING

We broke the surface ‘bang on’ our scheduled run time and I clung to the trail line from the buoy scanning the horizon for the boat. Geoff, the skipper, was located perfectly down tide from us, I was instructed to let go and I simply drifted down to the rhib; an impressive display.



YOU APPEAR A BIT WHITE

As the last open circuit divers in, Dave and I were the last out, so there were plenty of hands to grab stages, camera, and generally help us back onto the boat; for which i was eternally grateful.

As we waited for the rebreather guys to finish their extended bottom time I began to feel a little rough. On the move was fine, but hanging about in the “calm” swell was proving a little too much for my delicate disposition.

Once the rebreather-ers were recovered I enjoyed the journey back as my pallor returned; but not without a little gentle gyration regarding my skin transition from white, to green, to white, and finally to a more acceptable state.

Me receiving the look; "You not well son?"




CONCLUSION

What an amazing weekend. 


It was fantastic to meet the internet; the guys from the forum are a phenomenal resource, know the sites at Malin back to front, and freely offered invaluable advice.


I’m also thrilled having survived a second dive trip to Malin Head. The conditions are definitely challenging, but I’m slowly getting to grips with it. A little more practice on the boat, a sea sick tablet or two and I’ll be sorted.



I am totally ready for another dive on SS Laurentic; it’s a fucking brilliant day out.



To the Irish Contingent: Sincere thanks to Dave for buddying up with me, and navigating once again! A special hail to all the new faces I met as the weekend progressed; I hope to get another dive with you all soon!

Grand Theft Scuba



If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will appreciate I like to keep my posts fairly light hearted; some may say slightly comical. It’s not that I am particularly amusing, least of all in real life; it is simply that I don’t know how to be completely serious for prolonged periods of time.


Why are you telling me this you ask?


serious face
It is more of a disclaimer than a reason to be honest. Today’s post is a pretty serious matter, and I don’t want to demean it any way; it’s just highly likely I will lose the ability to remain sombre. Never the less; I shall attempt it.





This post is about Scuba Gear Theft.



SCUBA GEAR STOLEN



Stuff get’s stolen. Unfortunately it is a fact of life that cannot be avoided, and undoubtedly everyone will be robbed of something at some stage of their life.

Besides my virginity, I have been subject to a greater proportion of theft than I feel is fair; namely car theft - having lost 2 cars and experienced several break-ins and various auto vandalisms.


Needless to say I have moved house since then and the problems have abated.


Scuba divers are also a target for thieves. The first time I heard about a diver being robbed of their equipment I was completely shocked; in my mind scuba gear is very unique, and I couldn’t comprehend some local moron flogging regulators or wet suits at the local car boot sale.


It does happen.


Due to significant thefts of late in Ireland I have become more aware of the problem; and after a little research online, it became immediately apparent it is a global occurrence. A sad state of affairs.







WHERE DOES IT HAPPEN?


When I read a post on a scuba forum about gear being stolen, I imagined it was some evil diver who simply lifted a mask, an smb, or set of fins, lying abandoned at a dive site.


Again I was wrong.




Gear has been stolen from:

  • Car
  • Caravan
  • Trailer
  • House
  • Shed
  • Garage
  • Dive site
  • Boat
  • Dive Schools
  • Hotel/Holiday 

The list is endless, and after reading various renditions of robbery I realised I have been very lucky.



HOW TO AVOID SCUBA GEAR THEFT



Ultimately, as with everything in this world, if someone REALLY wants to steal your stuff; they will. However, there are always things we can do to stop the opportunistic thief:

VEHICLE: I often have gear in the car, post or pre-dive. It can be difficult to hide, but throwing the bags on top of tanks can hide the obvious fact there is scuba gear inside.

Remove any “divers go down for longer” bumper stickers; they just draw attention to the possible contents of a car boot. Plus; they are crap.

The same applies for "compressed air" stickers etc.


HOME: I don’t leave my gear near big windows, patios doors etc, and the room with our kit has the blind, pretty much, closed all the time. An alarm is an obvious addition to, even a fake one.


GARAGE/SHED: Cover any windows, or throw something over gear like an old tarpaulin; make it look like it’s been there for years.


DIVE SITE: Inland sites are an easy target, as they are so busy. Most of us dive with a buddy, so it’s prudent to never leave kit unattended. Send your buddy to get the air fills and teas – you “guard the gear.”


BOAT: This is pretty difficult as stuff usually ends up all over the place on a rolling boat. I do my best to keep my gear together in one spot, reducing the chance of something going astray.


DIVE SCHOOL: Alarms are obvious, but if someone is robbing a commercial building these are usually bypassed somehow. Security guards would be nice, but not too many dive schools make that much money.


HOTEL/HOLIDAY: I become hyper vigilant when on holiday; Wifebuddy often accuses me of becoming overly paranoid in a foreign country. I can’t help it, after our bus driver got mugged in Barcelona; I decided paranoia was my friend.

If I have to leave my gear in a hotel room, I kinda hide it in the wardrobe, in cupboards, under the bed etc.

At the dive centre it’s a bit out of divers’ hands. I hate leaving my regs and stuff in crates, but there isn’t a lot you can do about it; it’s the way most resorts work. I just leave the bare minimum. I empty all my pockets and ensure I take computers, torches, smbs, spools back to the room with me.



INSURANCE

House insurance should cover theft from home, but it may be advisable to check with your broker to make sure it is definitely covered. I have found certain expensive items need to be listed separately; items over £1000 for example. We all know insurance companies aren’t the most accommodating when it comes to pay outs.

Gear stored at home may not be insured?

Specialist insurance can be purchased, but be wary of “restrictions.” Google will throw up plenty of insurers; Scubasure, H20 insurance etc.



ITEMISE YOUR GEAR

Our tanks


INVENTORY: One thing that I have done lately is take an inventory of my kit; a big ass list of stuff.


SERIAL NUMBERS: Nearly every piece of scuba gear, certainly the predominantly expensive items, are stamped with serial numbers. You can simply make a list of every piece of equipment and note of any serial numbers.


PHOTOGRAPHS: I think this is the best way to keep track of your kit. I’m fortunate as this blog is littered with photos of my gear; I even have a post dedicated to my scuba bag!

The advantage of a photograph is that it captures distinguishing marks on gear; scuff marks, blemishes and so forth.

Ensure and take pictures of ALL your gear; even the old boots that are hanging together by a thread; an easily identifiable piece of kit could lead to the recovery of an entire set.

Hydro test date

Make, weight, serial number

first stage serial number

Wing serial number

suit inflate reg serial number

SPG numbers


Photographs don’t protect your gear per se, but in the unfortunate instance of theft, it can be crucial in proving they are yours.



WHAT TO DO IF SCUBA GEAR IS STOLEN


  • Contact police and provide as many details of what was stolen.

  • Post list on scuba internet forums.

  • Place a “Stolen Gear” advertisement on local ‘buy and sell’ websites.

  • Social networking sites can be invaluable for spreading the word.

  • Speak to other divers, in case they have been offered kit for sale at stupid prices.

  • Visit local pawn shops / second hand stores, and leave information of equipment, in case someone attempts to pass it on. 


CONCLUSION


I sincerely hope none of you have had kit stolen, and deepest sympathies to those that have.

I have spent a absolute fortune of my hard earned money on scuba gear, and the thought of some scum bag stealing it frightens the life out of me.

The points above are the best I can come up with for protecting gear and giving a diver half a chance of recovering it, if the worst happens.




Do you have any extra tips or advice? Please post in the comments section below, it would be much appreciated.

Rapture of the Deep – or Narcosis perhaps?


Without intending to sound like a broken record, my Malin Head dive trip was cancelled AGAIN this weekend. That’s 2 weeks in a row by the way. It was very disappointing, but I find it cathartic to share my dismay with my many, many readers; or something … maybe.

It can be such a shame that diving requires the sea. I am considering creating a movement in which the majority of famous shipwrecks, including The Titanic, will be shipped to a purpose built quarry within walking distance from my house.

Titanic in Vobster


More on that in a future post perhaps.


As my original dive plan was scuppered, I had to formulate an alternative; in other words - Strangford Lough. I visit The Alastor shipwreck in The Lough far more than I would like, but it’s a pretty cool dive, I work some skills into the outing, and it’s better than not diving. Any diving is better than not diving in my book.



My planned Malin Head dive buddy, ‘DIR Dave’, and his many Halcyon Scout back-up lights, agreed to come along for the grand expedition, on the site I’ve dived about 50 times.

Dave arrived on schedule; we loaded my jeep with far too many twinsets, unnecessary stage bottles, Wifebuddy’s can light, and headed to the dive site.






We were both diving air, and brought a stage bottle along for a bit of a skills circuit. Checks done, we shuffled down the shoreline and went for a dive.





The visibility was excellent, which was both weird and exciting; as it’s usually appalling. Once we arrived at the wreck I spent the first 5 minutes laughing to myself as to how (relatively) clear the water was; about 8m in every direction.



The clear(er) visibility made the dive very different from my usual weekly experience in The Lough. I was even able to get a few pictures, in which you can actually determine the content. 



The wreck lies in 20m-25m of water depending on the tide; on this particular dive we maxed out at 21m. Usually, on the journey from the shore out to the wreck, I have a ‘moment’ at 16m.

The moment The Rapture takes hold!

In standard visibility, 16m is where the dark is; natural light is eradicated and the poor visibility amplifies the effect, shrouding the diver in murk. My ‘moment’ consists of a mental slapping, as my brain chooses to remind me I’m under water, in the dark, relying on a piece of plastic to feed me the life blood, which is my air supply.



The cause is simple; The Rapture of the Deep, scientifically known as Narcosis.



What is Narcosis?

Narcosis is the effect on the mind of a diver caused by breathing from scuba at depth. Nitrogen is the main player in this as it makes up the greatest proportion of air, 79% roughly.

As a diver descends, the partial pressure of nitrogen increases to a point where it causes an undesirable mind state.




Although often referred to as “nitrogen narcosis” it may not be accurate, as oxygen and other gases present in air are considered narcotic at depth. Carbon Dioxide is also narcotic; often caused by exertion or poor breathing techniques.



Narcosis is expected to occur at 30m, but it can be accentuated by diving conditions, or the diver in question, resulting in narcosis at shallower depths.



Effects of Narcosis

Narcosis when scuba diving can have different effects depending on the individual. Most divers refer to it as a ‘drunken feeling.’



I know divers that dive ‘deep’ on air, and have described elation, lack of fear, the inability to complete basic tasks, or simply don’t care about anything anymore; including their air supply.


The drunken comparison seems quite accurate; after a bottle of vodka i approach a level of invincibility Wolverine couldn't look at. I'm equally as hard too. I don't drink Vodka anymore, it appears to inhibit my ability to get the claws to come out.


When I get a narcosis ‘hit’ I tend to get a little perplexed. I would rather get the ‘happy-happy’ feeling most divers talk about, but no; I get certain doom. That seems a little unfair to me.



How to cure narcosis

The only way to truly remove narcosis from a dive is to stay shallow, or replace the nitrogen in air with the inert gas Helium.

Helium has no narcotic effects and is less dense, which has a positive impact on the work of breathing of a diver. An improved work of breathing also helps reduce carbon dioxide levels.



Narcosis Management

Divers cannot develop a tolerance for narcosis, fact; although some divers claim that it can be managed.

I’m not sure if I personally “manage” narcosis, but I have experienced the symptoms, and understand the process. This helps keep me calm if the rapture takes hold, and I know that if I ascend slowly, the partial pressure will drop alleviating the undesirable experience.

Keeping on top of skills helps. Muscle memory is a great tool, so if things ever go a bit mental at depth, a diver is more likely to be able to deal with it, if skills are rehearsed regularly.



BACK TO THE DIVE...

Ironically, on the dive in this post, I didn’t receive my customary “iffy” moment at 16m. I think the good visibility helped.

Dave, on the other hand, explained (post dive) he did experience narcosis; and I recalled him signalling he was disorientated as we reached the bow of the wreck.

At that stage of the dive a signal wasn’t really necessary to be honest, as he had finned off the wreck entirely and began investigating the sea bed quite emphatically.



I must confess I was slightly amused at the time; although equally concerned of course … ahem.


As a precaution, we ascended 5m onto the upper deck, and all was well with the world. Dave signalled ‘OK’ and we continued on with the dive.



The dive concluded with some fabulous stage handling and gas switching, but was marred by an absolute abomination of smb deployment on my part. I would love to write that off as narcosis, unfortunately I was only at 6m when the smb began fighting me.



What can I say? I need practice.



CONCLUSION


Narcosis is part of scuba diving. The only definitive way to avoid narcosis is to keep your diving shallow, or dive Trimix.

  • Have you experienced The Rapture of the Deep?

  • How do you cope with narcosis?

  • Do you think a rich Nitrox helps fight narcosis?

  • Share your experiences in the comments section below.