Friday, August 28, 2009

Deep Blue

The last Bank Holiday of the summer and the weather looks to be a little unpredictable for the work I have ahead. Among the flying jobs between Thanet and the Isle of Wight, I have two marriage proposals, one wedding and happily no funerals!

If this blustery wind persists overnight, then two nervous suitors with big plans are going to be very disappointed and I'm doing my best to manage their expectations in view of the weather forecast.

I've always had an unfortunate tendency to pick interests which are weather dependent. in the early 1990's I ran Submariner Consulting Ltd and had an interesting time contributing to the development of the early industry surrounding mixed-gas deep diving; writing extensively for several specialist publications such as aquaCorps.

The picture on the left was taken on a dive on the cruiser Wilkes-Barre, which lies off the Florida Keys in over 250 feet of water and some other equally interesting adventures included visiting Comex in Marseilles for their 800 metre record, exploring central Florida's 40 Fathom Grotto on air in the years before new technology made it more accessible, and introducing Trimix procedures to the Israelis, 100 metres down off Eilat.

When I was a much younger I used to test my kit at high tide off St Mildred's Bay but one day, between it and West Bay, I was hooked by an excited angler from the promenade, so never tried that again!

The sad thing about the days, pre-circa 1995, is how so much useful information is now buried in boxes or archives and will never find it's way on to the internet. Cosquer Cave for example that I once wrote about, a fascinating prehistoric mystery, a cave which is now only accessible from a narrow entrance under the sea near Marseilles and which has wall paintings and carvings dating back to Upper Paleolithic.

In the attic, I have a volume of aquaCorps magazines which are now collectors items, as they chart an important period in the evolution of underwater exploration technology on a par with advances in the computer industry at the same time. But these and so much more interesting items of history simply don't exist in our modern world unless your'e prepared to go looking for them in a dusty archive or someone's attic

Two of the greatest underwater explorers, I knew well, are dead along with several others. The unassuming and professional Sheck Exley who reminded me of a test-pilot and our own adventurous and fearless Rob Palmer, who now lies somewhere at the bottom of the Red Sea. I wrote reams of material about such adventures but you won't find the stories anymore, unless perhaps you go searching in the British Library

The internet is a wonderful thing but sometimes we forget there was a time and a world that existed before it!


ascu75 aka Don said...

What a bore research must have been pre internet looking in books and asking questions instead of jumping to conclusions and believing everthing that appears on a computer screen.

Mr Friday said...

Whoa. I have been diving to just over 42 metres in the Red Sea and that was way deep enough. I know mixed-gas enables you to do much more but that was pretty much the limit to what I was comfortable doing. Really mad experience looking up and seeing the surface a very long way above you !!!

DrM. said...

Mixed gas does of course make it safer and particularly if we are talking "Nitrox" mixes on relatively shallow dives.

Trimix rathers moves one into the realm of operational diving with a distinct ceiling and the knowledge that mistakes can be fatal from a decompression standpoint.

The good thing is that "Mix" sport divers away from the real risks of "Deep air" and when I dived the 240 feet to the bottom of 40 Fathom Grotto with Hal Watts, there's not a huge amount I can remember about it the experience, I was so "narced", even after a week working up tolerance to such depths.

When I think about it now, I wonder at how crazy that was!

Mr Friday said...

I am Nitrox qualified but am nervous about using it as a gas at some of the more remote dive sites in the Red Sea. Reason being the vicious down currents which can sometimes pitch you down 10-20 metres in a few seconds. If I was on Nitrox I could be in real trouble so I tend to stick to "normal" air unless the diving is pretty straightforward.

Do envy you those really deep dives though. Not many have been that deep.

DrM. said...

Nitrox.."The Devil Gas"!!

I was almost burned in effigy by the BSAC in about 1992 when I spoke at their confernence about its benefits.

Rob Palmer, Kevin Gurr and I had been trying to introduce the idea of enriched air as a means of promoting safer diving and a very cautios and cynical BSAC would have none of it.

Deric Ellerby, the chair of BSAC said "These techniques mean shallower dive limits and will reduce the number of accessible dive sites rather than increasing them."

Then, a few years later, BSAC claimed the whole idea was theirs anyway!!

It was almost the same with PADI who fought hard against the idea at first and then re-invented it to save money.

I recall certifying my old friend, PADI boss, Mark Caney as a Nitrox diver at 40 Fatom Grotto in Florida.

My view, if it makes it safer then use it!

Miss Piggy said...

Dr Moores,

Have you had much experience with the re-breather systems?

Expensive, but after seeing a friend on a course in Sharm last year I'm beginning to think it may well be worth the money.

I tend to stick to air with my dives, Nitrox is absolutely excellent, I cannot fault it, but i guess im a purist at heart!

DrM. said...

"Simon" or "DrM" is fine - Thanks!

Re-breather systems are without the way forward but they took a very long time to mature and the sad loss of Rob Palmer illustrates the risks that the diving community took inthe early days.

Today, I wouldn't hesitate to plunge into the re-breather space if the opportunity allows. I haven't yet followed that path myself because I've been busy on other projects but perhaps one day I will.

Good luck.. let m eknow how it goes if you do!