Where have all the heroes gone?

Posted in Penetration, Rebreathers, Tec Rec with tags , , , , , , on April 15, 2014 by Vikki Batten

This is the last part in a series of articles, click here for Part One.

Myth – As long as we all get back to the surface it was a good dive – get your kit off and grab a beer. Fact – Top tec dive teams put as much value in the debriefing as the rest of the dive.

Constructive debriefing identifies parts of the plan that did not work as expected or events that were not anticipated. Honest and open discussion of the dive can help adapt future plans and consider better options for the future. You just need to pop your ego in the cooler!

Phil Short

Jill H

So, don’t be fooled by the guy who thinks he’s cool because he has tatty old gear, a beer in one hand and a couldn’t care less attitude. These days “Geek Chic” is all the rage and nowhere is that more appropriate than in tec diving. So, if you see another diver displaying any of the myths we’ve discussed, or maybe even recognise yourself in any of these or similar scenarios, it’s time to change your habits. To paraphrase my colleague Karl Shreeves, anyone who doesn’t take safety seriously is not displaying their experience and expertise they are displaying their stupidity. I’m not saying that top tecchies don’t enjoy themselves, but they do prioritise their health and fitness – it’s the only way to stay safe for extreme dives.

Pete mesley 2

Instead of following in the footsteps of idiots, why not emulate the likes of real life diving heroes/heroines like Jeff Lofflin, Jill Heinerth, Martin Robson, Phil Short and Pete Mesley – all top PADI TecRec Instructor Trainers and explorers who role model good diving habits at all times. These guys don’t take anything for granted, they constantly seek new knowledge and work hard to make sure the extreme diving they do, is done in the safest way possible. This lot have dived to hundreds of metres deep, miles into caves, found unexplored shipwrecks and been the first people ever to explore flooded areas of caves. The price they pay is the hours, days, weeks, months and years of hard work, preparation and dedication. These guys don’t try to look cool, they ARE cool. Jeff Lofflin in Eilat relaxing after a dive

Mythbusters part three

Posted in News, Rebreathers, Tec Rec, Training with tags , , , , , on April 7, 2014 by Vikki Batten

This is the third in a series of articles, click here for Part One

Myth – You have to do skills to pass courses, once you have the card you never need to do them again.

Fact – Training courses are designed to teach you the skill and knowledge you need to start diving at a particular level . The best divers use their training as a launch point, they practice and improve their skills and continue to expand their knowledge. If you do nothing you won’t even maintain your level. Your skills and knowledge will quickly erode putting you and anyone you dive with at risk of diving beyond your current level of competence.

Sidemount02

Although this wasn’t a deco dive, Jared and Vikki practice their decompression and gas switching skills so that they are ready for the next dive.

Myth – Dive kit never goes wrong. You can just throw it together and jump in.

Fact – Meticulous preparation of equipment and use of checklists prevents deaths. Although equipment malfunction may be rare, diver error is less so, but proper preparation can avoid both problems and don’t forget the chances of equipment going wrong increase if it is not properly maintained .

 

Swimming slowly and quietly without trying to chase or grab animals results in the best wildlife encounters.

Swimming slowly and quietly without trying to chase or grab animals results in the best wildlife encounters.

 

Myth – I’m only one diver – it’s ok if I ……kick the bottom, break the coral, ride the dolphin etc…..as long as nobody else does it.

Fact – All diving environments and creatures come under environmental stress. We must all minimise our impact and think of what is best for the environment, rather than ourselves. Even seemingly indestructible environments such as rocky caves can be damaged by a clumsy diver, destroying millennia of development.

My rule is that I try not to touch anything. On many technical dives that involves gaining experience of equipment (and how “big” I am when wearing it) where there is plenty of room for error. It also means being absolutely sure that I know where all of “me” is before I pick up a camera or anything else that can distract me and reduce my awareness, such as a DPV.

If an animal wants to touch me (Seals for example) I stay still and let them come to me. I know it’s tempting to touch things, but what is the benefit to them? If we disregard the occasional animal that has suffered man made abuse ( e.g. caught in netting) there is very little they have to gain and maybe a lot they could lose by our interference. It’s time for us to stop being so self-centered and put the welfare of other critters first. If they do choose to interact with you, the experience will be even more magical, because you will know they have chosen to take part of their own free will, not because you grabbed them!

Check out Project Aware’s new “ten tips for divers” it’s not just for newbies – if we want tec divers to continue to be seen as role models we need to be the best at this part of diving too!

Click here for the Final Part of this series

 

Fact versus fiction – Day Two

Posted in News, Rebreathers, Tec Rec, Training with tags , on April 3, 2014 by Vikki Batten

This is part two in a series of articles – click here for Part One

 

Myth – Explorers dive on their own not with buddies.

Fact – Sometimes explorers do parts of their dive alone, however, they work as part of a team and are surrounded by support divers or team mates for as much of the dive as possible, often all of it. Team mates provide additional equipment, mental support and a back up brain if something goes wrong. I sometimes hear divers say that an inexperienced buddy is worse that no buddy. If your buddy is not certified or experienced enough to do the dive, they shouldn’t be doing the dive at all! Just because they are less experienced than you doesn’t mean they can’t assist you in an emergency or that you can help them to help you. Do not underestimate the value of team mates.

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Most exploration projects need a team of divers

 

Myth – The only reason for doing a training course is to get the “ticket”

Fact – Lack of training is one of the causes of serious accidents or diving deaths. Do not dive beyond your training and experience. Take the time to find the right instructor and course for you and make sure they have plenty of experience in the area you want to learn about. A good instructor will not rush you onto the next course, in fact they may even suggest that you gain more experience first. I know that price is always an issue, but the cost of poor training could be much more than simply money.

Thailand RB group

PADI Instructors, Instructor Trainers and staff continuing their own education, with Vikki Batten and Martin Robson

 

Click here for Part Three

Cool like Fonzie?

Posted in News, Technology, TecRec with tags , , , , on April 2, 2014 by Vikki Batten

In many areas of life the “cool kids” are those who bend or break the rules. Now, while not doing your homework might be a rebellion of sorts it probably won’t do you any immediate damage (I don’t think teachers are allowed to throw things any more!), however, even at this level you could be missing out on a vital lesson that you will need in later life. Indeed, much to my surprise, even quadratic equations have been useful in recent years, as I have become more interested in decompression theory! Diving safety and equipment reliability has increased massively over the last few decades, but bad habits and/or laziness sometimes creep in due to complacency. This has nothing to do with being cool so let’s recognise it for what it is. Just because you’ve always got away with unsafe diving practices doesn’t mean you always will!

Markus and Sverker role model the concept of well maintained and fully functional dive kit

Marcus Bener and Sverker Palmblad role model the concept of well maintained and fully functional dive kit

While many of our favourite film characters are the baddies, the ones we look up to and want to emulate are invariably the good guys. They may be unconventional, socially awkward or experimental in their approach to being a hero, but we recognise their good intentions and, above all, their desire to be the best they can be and help/save the rest of us. So who are our diving heroes? Well, they could be you…..IF you can rise to the challenge. Tec Divers, Instructors and Instructor Trainers are at the top of the diving tree with experience and knowledge not always available to other divers. Being a true role model, you can help dispel myths and encourage other divers to adopt safer practices, because they will inevitably want to copy their super cool tec diving buddy/instructor/trainer.

If you want to be a scuba hero you also need to stand like one!

If you want to be a scuba hero you also need to stand like one! For tips please contact Rich Somerset :-)

So over the next few days we are going to explore  what’s In and what’s Out, if you want to be the best of the best. Here is the first one:

Myth – You look like an inexperienced diver if you have shiny new kit.

Fact – Top Tec Divers look after their equipment and maintain it regularly. That doesn’t mean that older equipment should be thrown away, but it should be serviced and in good working order. Tec Divers regularly update their equipment and replace worn out items. In fact, nothing makes a tec diver’s eyes light up more than the arrival of  new toys! Set a good example with your own equipment and make sure that you have spares at the dive site. If you do have an equipment failure during kit set up you can relegate the problem item to “be repaired” and carry on diving with your spare equipment.

Click here for Part Two of this article

I don’t want to be a Tec Diver so what can Tec Diving do for me?

Posted in Rebreathers, Sidemount, Tec Rec, Technology, Training with tags on March 28, 2014 by Vikki Batten

 

If you love to dive on reefs, take photos, enjoy diving in the sunlight bathed shallows or just want to enjoy easy relaxed diving you may think Tec Diving has nothing to offer you, but just as you don’t need to be a Formula One driver to benefit from the innovations that have filtered down to make normal road cars safer and easy to drive, so you can benefit from what cutting edge divers have learnt and passed on.

Probably the most obvious contribution tec diving has made is the constant innovation and refinement of diving equipment. It takes time to trickle down but we now regularly see single cylinder wing and backplate systems with long hose configurations that keep the diver in a beautiful position while they dive, ensure they are uncluttered and streamlined plus are able to respond to out of gas emergencies with ease and flexibility.

rec sidemount2

 

Use of sidemount wing systems is not quite so widespread yet but with mainstream manufacturers bringing out systems designed for the open water diver which are extremely lightweight, streamlined and easy to use I don’t think it will be long before sidemount diving is the second most popular PADI specialty (EANx is the most popular).

Of course there are many accessories that have come from tec diving as well, for example reels. The large, lumpy ratchet reel now looks rather “1980s” compared to the latest free spooling reels and spools that stem from cave diving innovations. Modern reels are small, neat, easy to use and difficult to tangle (note – difficult, not impossible…)

The hottest equipment on the block at the moment is undoubtedly the rebreather. Since Poseidon launched the MkVI a few years ago and PADI launched their range of rebreather courses in 2011, the world has started to see rebreathers as a tool for recreational diving, as well as tec. Rebreathers give divers greater no decompression time because they optimize the gas mix at each depth, they are also quiet because they don’t give off many bubbles so are a great tool for photographers and wildlife enthusiasts.

luke hovering

Recreational rebreathers such as the Poseidon MkVI and Se7en,  Ambient Pressure Diving Evolution and Inspiration Rec and Hollis Explorer are much simpler that their tec equivalents. They are designed to be assembled with ease and have sophisticated electronics to help you both pre dive and underwater. Diving within the recreational envelope, the response to all serious problems is to ascend, either still on the rebreather or using open-circuit bailout procedures. Electronics monitor the rebreather and advise you when it is time to ascend due to the most pressing limitation, for example you are close to reaching your no deco time. Of course, there are some things a diver still has to do, such as monitor the system, but that is no more arduous than checking your SPG and if you forget something the rebreather will beep, buzz and flash messages at you until you pay attention. That’s not an excuse to forget to monitor it, of course, but an illustration of how good recreational rebreathers are at supporting our efforts.

It’s not just equipment though. Dive technique is an important tool for any diver. Tec training emphasizes good body position, efficient fining techniques and above all excellent buoyancy control. In conjunction with the right equipment improved dive technique can massively reduce a diver’s gas consumption as well as make them more comfortable in the water. Increased comfort leads to better awareness and divers who are relaxed and open avoid problems because they see them before they develop into a full blown nightmare.

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Tec diving also focuses on skill practice. Skills are practiced in realistic scenarios and fine tuned until they can be performed with ease. Tec divers practice at least one skill on every dive so that they remain familiar and comfortable with problem management. If problems do occur, a relaxed, neutrally buoyancy diver who is confident in their skills responds calmly but quickly to solve the problem, help another diver or abort the dive if necessary.

If you want to dip your toe in, but aren’t sure about getting wet, why not sign up for the Sidemount Diver course. While Sidemount is not a tec course it does cover everything we have been talking about above.

If you are a keen photographer or gadget mad the Rebreather Diver Course will open you up to a whole new world of diving still within recreational diving limits.

The Tec 40 Diver course can be completed on a single cylinder and pony set up, sidemount or backmount doubles and is an ideal introduction to the equipment and training concepts of tec diving. The course can be used as a way to increase your skills and knowledge without needing to dive any deeper or longer than a PADI Deep Diver does or it can be a stepping stone into further TecRec training if you get bitten by the tec bug.

8 Days in Guatemala – Launching Pana Divers as a Poseidon Rebreather Center, by James Roberton

Posted in News on March 26, 2014 by kattek

Guatemala-Map

Arriving in Guatemala, I was greeted like an old friend by Leo, the driver sent by my hosts, Pana Divers. The fact that I’d neither been to Guatemala nor met Leo before was entirely irrelevant to the warmth of the welcome he gave me. That warmth, generosity and joy of living of the Guatemalan people was an ongoing theme for what was rapidly becoming an amazing adventure!

Pana Divers is based in Guatemala, which is the name of the capital city as well as the name of the country. Pana Diver’s launch as Poseidon’s latest exciting Rebreather Center was timed perfectly to coincide with their 25th Anniversary. Pana Divers are the original pioneers of scuba in Guatemala and a PADI 5-Star IDC Dive Center. In addition to me being there to celebrate the combined launch and anniversary, Todd Martin, our US Tech Support Manager would certify Pana Diver’s Service Staff to support and service Poseidon Rebreathers and Regulators. Milton Marinho, Jr, a PADI MKVI/SE7EN Instructor Trainer from Brazil, would certify as Poseidon Rebreather Divers, eight of their dive staff. By the time I arrived, Milton had completed the Rebreather Theory and Pool Sessions.

Rebreather-Theory

The city of Guatemala sits at 5,000 feet / 1,500m in southern Guatemala, surrounded by mountains, with imposing volcanoes to the south west; Pacaya, Agua and Fuego, the last of which had erupted eighteen months ago. The Pacific Coast lies 60 miles / 100km to the south west of the city. With black sand and cooler water along the Pacific Coast, the diving does not compare to the spectacular tropical waters of the Atlantic Coast, which is where we were headed. We had been told to expect a five-hour journey by car.

As we wound our way out of the city, the first part of our journey was on an impressive, Taiwanese-built freeway that carved its way down the mountains to the plain, almost 4,000 feet / 1,200m below. The volcanic landscape was plain to see in all directions with much of the city’s bedrock being pumice stone; some 150 cubic kilometers of which were spewed out by much-earlier volanic eruptions. Veins of black obsidian could be seen glistening in the sunlight by the side of the road.

On the plain, the road became two-way where overtaking the many trucks was essential for good progress. The road is the only connection between Guatemala city and Puerto Barrios, the Atlantic port, so it is constantly crowded with trucks hauling imports up to the city.  Following the course of a river, the scenery varied greatly from near desert to tropical jungle. From bright, cloudless skies to tropical downpours. Our destination was Amatique Bay, a private resort to the south of Puerto Barrios, where Pana Divers operates a resort dive center and dive boat.

Dive-Buddies

One of many Guatemalan firsts – 5 Poseidon SE7ENs dive together!

The following morning, we woke early for the team to prep their dive gear for Day One of the course. The candidates were all diving the new Poseidon SE7EN, so this was the first time we knew of that five Poseidon SE7ENs would be together in the water. This was a first for Poseidon, Pana Divers and Guatemala! When new candidates prepare their rebreathers for the initial open water dive, it always takes longer than expected, as there’s much to learn and become familiar with. Milton and Rodrigo Solorzano had planned for two dives on the first day in confined open water. Diving alongside Milton and the Pana team, I was impressed with their combination of professionalism and fun. I was also impressed to see Milton, a Brazilian, being the quietest of the group!

On Day Two, we headed out on a journey of about 75 minutes. Having travelled over darker, deeper water, we were delighted to see the bright white sand and turquoise waters at the top of the seamounts, our dive destination for the day.

Seamounts are undersea mountains formed by volcanic activity that were once thought to be little more than hazards to submarine navigation. Today, scientists recognize these structures as biological hotspots that support a dazzling array of marine life. The biological richness of seamount habitats results from the shape of these undersea mountains. Thanks to the steep slopes of seamounts, nutrients are carried upwards from the depths of the oceans toward the sunlit surface, providing food for creatures ranging from corals to fish to crustaceans. New estimates suggest that, taken together, seamounts encompass about 28.8 million square kilometers of the Earth’s surface. That’s larger than deserts, tundra, or any other single land-based global habitat on the planet.

The plan for Day Two was to do three dives to build on the skills from day one, add in bail-out cylinders, deepen the profile of the dives and complete the graduation dive for the first group.

Mooring in around 20 feet / 6m of bright water, we were eager to go diving! From the shallow summits of the seamounts, the steep slopes dropped away down to 80-100 feet / 25-30m between the various summits, so this was recreational diving heaven and a perfect place to instruct a course. At the edge of the seamount range, the slopes drop to 500 feet / 150 m, so it’s also a perfect place to return for technical rebreather dives and courses.

Pool-session

Another Guatemalan first – a patriotic pre-breathe

Out on the boat, but not diving rebreathers that day, Rodrigo decided to entertain us during our pre-breathe with a sung rendition of the Guatemalan national anthem. To my amazement, the other divers joined in during their pre-breathes with a sound not unlike rebreather bag pipes! 5 minutes later, pre-breathe completed, riotous laughter ensued!

The group were exceptional divers and took to Poseidon Rebreathers like ducks to water making this one of the easiest and most fun courses I’d ever been involved in. I had the honor of being dive buddy on two of the dives with Roberto Matheu, founder and owner of Pana Divers and someone I’m now proud to call a friend. In talking with Milton on the boat ride home, we both agreed that the day really felt more like a day’s diving with a group of old buddies than a course with a group of strangers that we’d only met a couple of days beforehand.

For the second group of candidates, we decided to switch the dive program to three dives on the first day and two dives on the second, enabling longer dives on the second day so that everyone could really start to appreciate the possibilities of rebreather diving. In reviewing the program, we both agreed that, given the obvious skill of the divers, this would be a better way to do things.

A Final Guatemalan first – closed circuit tooth recovery

On the third day at 100 feet / 30m, one of the group lost a recently replaced tooth. As he proudly displaced the gap in his teeth, we realized that shared laughter underwater is another great advantage of rebreathers. Back on board, Milton demonstrated the “tooth recovery skill”, proving that the Poseidon Rebreather loop was indeed fully closed circuit! As an act of solidarity, all members of the group blacked out one of their front teeth so that the graduation photo would not reveal the identity of the toothless diver.

Toothless-in-Guatemala

The return to the city

On our return to the city, we prepared for the two evening launch. Wednesday night would be the dive professionals launch and Thursday would be for customers. I gave my first (and second) Poseidon Rebreathers presentation in Spanish which will be available shortly for download for those of you looking for Spanish language materials. The SE7EN manual will also be available in Spanish very shortly.

Two great evenings later, the trip was over and I was on my five-hour flight back to Los Angeles. Having arrived a week earlier in a country I knew little about, I left with wonderful memories and friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I’ll be back.Launch-2

Pana Diver’s coastal home in Amatique Bay proved to be a great base for the pro0gram with helpful staff, great food and accommodation that felt like home from home. I thoroughly recommend it.  If you’re interested in more details, please contact Roberto or Suzette Matheu and they’ll be happy to help! rmatheu@panadivers.com / smatheu@panadivers.com.

 

 

A Deceptively Easy Way to Die – Update by Rosemary Lunn

Posted in Cave, News on March 19, 2014 by kattek

At the end of 2013 I wrote a blog on the double Christmas Day Eagles Nest fatality entitled “A Deceptively Easy Way to Die“;

On Christmas morning a 35-year-old man took his 15-year-old son cave diving. They were trying out new scuba equipment. However the father was not a diving instructor, the son had no scuba training and neither of them had cave diving training.

The Sheriff’s Office has now released the findings following the investigation into these needless double deaths. The two men died after they ran out of air. It was also stated that the two men had dived to approximately 233 feet / 71 metres.

In the weeks following the accident, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received one request to close Eagles Nest and many requests to keep it open.

If you want to go cave diving, there is plenty of opportunity to get decent training from a plethora of instructors. Just ask.

And if you are hungry to know more about cave diving, there will be 12 talks given on this subject at TEKDiveUSA.2014 in May; www.tekdiveusa.com

Eagle’s Nest is a beautiful dive for those who are properly prepared for it. The park where it is situated takes public safety very seriously. This photo of the warning board was taken in May 2012, when I was last there, and makes it clear that this dive should only be undertaken with the proper training, experience and equipment – Vikki Batten.

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