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Everybody Loves Miami April 27, 2016

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Shipwrecks.
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That may be true, but the airport is a bit confusing. Due to scheduling conflicts my ride from Miami to Key Largo wasn’t happening, and Geoff, who arrived about an hour before me, was in the same predicament. No getting our groove on for the night this time. So the two of us found each other in the terminal and went off in search of transportation to our destination.

Our first idea was to rent a car at the airport and drop it off at Key Largo. So we took the automated train over to the rental car terminal and waited in line for a considerable time for an Avis representative. We were told that it would be no problem dropping the car off anywhere in Florida but further into the transaction we found out that the Key Largo Avis closed at 1pm and wouldn’t be open until Monday. There was no drop-off while the location was closed so we would have to rent for two days when we really only needed two hours.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car told us we could drop the car off the same day, but there would be a $125 drop-off fee – basically worse that Avis. So we declined and went downstairs to the Greyhound station. There we were told we’d have to wait 1h 15m for the bus, which was a depressing enough thought without the delay. So we decided to go for the Keys Shuttle.

That meant we had to go back to the train, back to the terminal, walk through the terminal all the while getting incorrect advice about where we were supposed to go. Advice: don’t ask anybody where things are, just use the Internet or call them. The problem was that when the word “Shuttle” is in the question, any shuttle seemed to be OK. We were advised by one person to go to the departures level door 10. Fortunately I saw the shuttle one level below us loading up, and called to the driver that we would be down shortly. So for future reference it across from door 8 on the arrivals level.

The shuttle is $60 one-way. A trip for two, though, was only $70. So for $40 each including tip we got a reasonably friendly and comfortable ride right to our Motel. Shortly after we arrived the gang went to Hobo’s Cafe for dinner, looking forward to diving the next day.

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Diving in the News, October 13, 2012 November 12, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Miscellany.
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Unfortunately the weather has turned cold and I have to content myself with writing about other people’s diving for now…

A UK Diver received a bravery award at Buckingham Palace for rescuing another diver in trouble. No doubt that he saved his fellow diver’s life. The people that I dive with wouldn’t hesitate to do the same thing, and every one of us has done some “minor” rescue of a fellow diver, rendering assistance before they got themselves into real trouble. I’m glad I dive with people like that.

Also in the near miss category is another diver drifting away in Florida. This one was rescued by a fisherman. The diver had a safety sausage with him. That’s a good idea when diving in the ocean. A little further South from Juno Beach we dove in some fierce currents on the offshore wrecks. If you’ve got a decompression obligation you could end up surfacing several miles from where you started if you had nothing like the wreck or a line to hold on to.

My first glimpse of this story revealed the name “Amigos Del Mar” and I immediately thought of the dive operation in Cabo San Lucas with  the same “Friends of the Sea” name. It’s probably a pretty common name for dive shops in the Spanish speaking world, and this one is in Belize. An employee of the shop was killed by an exploding scuba tank while filling it. While these incidents are rare, they are mostly preventable with good maintenance. The article speculates about faulty gauges and faulty compressors putting too much pressure in the tank, but I doubt it. If a gauge consistently read low, people would start to notice when they attached their regulators to tanks that had been filled at that station. A one time sticking gauge might have been the problem, but more likely it was a fault in the tank caused by daily use in a salt-water environment with insufficient attention to inspection and maintenance. Tanks also have burst discs that blow when they are overfilled, which is supposed to be below the pressure used in their hydrostatic tests.

Diving in the News, Oct 27, 2012 October 27, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Emergencies, Fitness and Nutrition, Miscellany, Training.
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A La Jolla, California diver died in hospital after losing consciousness on a boat dive. It seems that everything that could have been done was done to save him. The cause appeared to be a medical problem, and the diver appeared to be over 40. From the news at least it seems that the most common cause of death among divers is medical problems with older divers. Fitness would clearly be a good thing, but so might better training and skills. Diving should be relaxing, not physically stressful. I’ve reported on fatalities in La Jolla before. A solo diver died there in September, and a man died on his first solo dive at 155′ a few years back.

Diving in the News, October 20th, 2012 October 20, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Miscellany, Shipwrecks.
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The Hindustani Times ran a first person article about panic while learning to dive. I felt compelled to correct the reference to an “Oxygen Tank”.

Instructors and Dive Shops should take note of this report on a dive shop which failed to provide a medical questionnaire before training. Even though the former student had died on a holiday, they were found responsible, fined, and expelled from PADI.

After the Costa Concordia disaster I thought it might end up as diving destination. It already has, with looters stealing what they can from the wreck. Sometimes, often actually, I’m truly embarrassed for our species. Meanwhile there are plans to refloat it, so the thieves will be the only ones besides police and search and recovery divers who get to dive it. In the “it’s a small world” department, the woman who cuts my hair was once a hairdresser on the ship.

The world record for longest cold & salt water SCUBA dive has been broken in Ireland. Kudos to the diver and support team for raising money to support families of children with cancer, in memory of his two year old nephew. If any of my dive buddies who are reading this want to give it a try, I’ll happily be your support diver, but as I don’t have a pee valve in my dry suit I’m not about to do it myself. As I reported earlier the definition of cold in this case is below 15 degrees Celsius (59F).

A 68 year-old diver died in the Great Barrier Reef (hardly a week goes by without at least one diver death). I’m not counting, but it seems like a lot of fatalities are older divers. Of course, this proves nothing unless you also adjust the stats for a some variables, like the number of divers in each age group, etc.

Let’s be careful down there.

Diving in the News, October 6th, 2012 October 6, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Emergencies.
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I’ve taught Search & Recovery as part of the PADI Advanced Diver Course. We couldn’t get a lot of interest in the full course from new divers. This search course at the San Diego Harbour Police looks challenging, and fun. I mentioned before that in the early eighties my NASDS course we lifted a car (a Vega, I think) in our advanced driver training. We’re a little less ambitious with today’s courses.

I didn’t know there was good diving in the French Riviera. If I win the lottery I’m definitely going to swing the yacht by every once in a while. I’d have to buy a ticket of course, which I never do.

It’s hard to glean the truth out of news stories, especially those about diving fatalities. This article describes the death of a diving instructor in Lake Mead, and says he ran out of air at 350′, with another short article saying he was diving a Hoover Dam relic. Diving on air at 350′ isn’t sensible (in both senses of the word), but the reporter seems to have got it wrong. He shared “air” up the ascent line and was separated from his “dive partner” and made a free ascent to the surface. From a little Google searching Xavier was an accomplished diver, and has been described as an technical dive instructor in this article, which also says that were separated when he attempted an emergency ascent – a small but critical difference in the description. The article quotes Jill Heinerth, who was associated with Xavier on the “We Are Water” campaign, which included this video. He was 48. A post on Scubaboard corrects the news reports to say he was diving on mixed gas.

Diving in the News, Sept 29, 2012 September 29, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Emergencies, Miscellany.
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OK I get it I think. The son of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, also called Eugene, is a diver. His project cleaned up trash from the L.A. River and made art about it. Good publicity and awareness I think but not my thing. Not that I’m not for cleaning up the bottom of our inland waterways, and not that getting public awareness is bad, and the sculpture they created is actually pretty good. So OK, I like it…. I guess.

Paris Hilton scuba dives. Lately in Maui according to Twitter. Perhaps I’ll run into her on a dive boat some time.

You can now go scuba diving in the virtual world with Google who have mapped the coral reefs in Google Earth, but c’mon now, get up off the couch and do something real, for Pete’s sake.

Speaking of Los Angeles, there were some more older diver deaths this week. A 59 year-old woman died near Anacapa Island, which is about 150km North West of Santa Catalina Island where I dove several years ago. Also reported was a 55 year-old ex-Mountie who died in Alberta. The accident may have begun with an equipment failure. A 45 year-old diver in La Jolla, California died. It seems he was diving alone. Another 45 year-old diver from Wichita Falls died diving in the Roi-Namur, in the Marshall Islands Kwajalein Atoll.

A 35 year-old Oregon woman drowned after surfacing from a dive, only 50 feet from shore. She was out of air, but on the surface. We all have two options that don’t require air. One is to drop the weight belt, and the other is to orally inflate the buoyancy compensator. Maybe more training is needed on these skills. OK if you’re a tech diver you generally can’t drop a weight belt, but then again you shouldn’t run out of air, either.

I was somewhat shocked that a couple had to close their diving business in the Ozarks because of the planned dumping of mining waste containing lead in the pristine lake they used for dive training. What a shame. It says here that this was done under the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Over the Atlantic in Cornwall, England, a diver found a camera underwater and discovered that the chip holding the photos was intact. The (non-waterproof) camera had 800 family photos and once the story got out, it was reunited with the owners. That story reminds me of how I was involved in connecting the underwater memorial for Maureen Matous with the family who’d lost it in Cozumel several years ago.

Justin Timberlake is afraid of sharks, but Jessica Biel helped him overcome his fear. She probably have that effect on me as well.’

That’s all for this week. Let’s be careful out there and don’t dive beyond your experience and training unless you’re with a qualified instructor.

Diving in the News, Week Ending September 22, 2012 September 22, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Miscellany.
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I’ve been thinking that I’d like to dive some of the wrecks off the South Carolina coast some time. I’ll try to remember not to use Coastal Scuba, though, based on the articles I’ve read about a recent fatality. If it wasn’t so tragic some of this would be funny, especially the report of an employee throwing the only non-empty Oxygen bottle overboard because he thought it might blow up. While the reports of the company’s actions on board the boat allege they were frozen in inaction, they have been quick to send their clients threatening letters from their lawyers, according to one report. A pair of registered nurses who tried to revive the woman apparently had to “bark” at the boat captain to get him to call the Coast Guard.

A diver died in Cape Breton last Sunday, which was also reported by the CBC. Cape Breton is part of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. He was part of a group of 10 and 56 years old, and was determined to be missing when they left the water. I wonder who his buddy was. It seems, although I don’t have stats, that deaths amount divers 50 years and older (like me) are due to medical problems.

Diving in the News – week ending September 15th, 2012 September 15, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Ecology, Miscellany.
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There are about 100,000 divers in China. Not that many considering the population. I enjoyed this WSJ article about diving a sunken part of the Great Wall of China. The water is green and visibility only 3′. Sounds like places I’ve been in Canada. One thing I noticed was that Pauli Husa needs a shorter inflator hose. It sticks out too much and will probably catch on something. From his LinkedIn profile I see he’s also a ham radio operator like me.

The US and Canada have agreed on measures to protect the Great Lakes, which has been praised by environmental groups. My father was an environmental engineer, although he dealt mostly with air pollution. He had a very pragmatic approach to his profession, and pragmatism is needed in environmental matters because there are so many variables and interests to balance.

Here’s some praise for the GoPro camera. Unfortunately, for most of the diving that I do the ambient light is much less than your average dive in Cozumel, and the low-light performance of the GoPro is terrible. I hope some day there’s a low-light version because I really like them otherwise.

I’ve only been back at the blog for about 10 days but have encountered the first report of a diver fatality.  The diver was 66 years old. No matter what shape we’re in, as we get older there’s a certain risk of having a medical issue under water. A medical issue anywhere is more likely, I suppose, but under water the chance of rescue and resuscitation are considerably less. Concentration of skills can help that by reducing the effort of diving, but sometimes you’ve got to go all out under water to rescue someone else. I suppose that means as you get older you should make sure you dive with people who know how to keep themselves out of trouble. That’s easier said than done.

The ice is melting in the Arctic and David Suzuki has spoken up about it recently. An interesting tidbit in the article is how the Republicans ignore warning about global warming except to mock the scientists who bring it up. Politics, a profession dominated by lawyers, is rife with advocacy over truth. Each side will argue what it believes will serve the usually short-term vested interests of its constituency to the point of outright lying, as many recent articles about U.S. vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan have revealed (whose response of course is to attack the reporters, which may well be justified in some cases). My grade 11 chemistry teacher, Mr. Newman, was fond of saying that in science, 1/2 of what you believe to be true will be invalid in 10 years. That doesn’t make science wrong, it is in fact its greatest strength in the search for truth. So when politicians mock scientists because some were worried about a new ice age in the 70’s, I believe they know full well that they’re in fact making a mockery of the truth. At least I live well above sea level. Later, another article talks about being able to sail the Northwest Passage due to the lack of sea ice.

A few years ago I addressed an audience in Vancouver about “green” technology companies, in which I appeared right after the president of the David Suzuki foundation. Someone in the audience asked me what my company was doing about it, and I told them we were encouraging telecommuting and shrinking our office space, and that our downtown location encouraged people to use public transit. Someone else asked me if I thought the world would actually address the global warming issue. My reply was along the lines of “no, we are going to dig up all the oil and burn it, then we are going to start burning our crops as well to supply our energy needs”.

There’s not really much I can add to this article and video about a frisky male dolphin making advances on diver. Warning there’s explicit scenes in this video, at least if your a dolphin .

Some diver deaths in the news this week. A 66 year-old Palm Beach man died while on a routine dive. An off-duty policeman Cayman Islands policeman also died while diving.

Changing Attitudes to Deep Air September 13, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Technical Diving.
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Some day I’ll get trimix certified. I’ll probably try it out before I do so (if that’s shocking remember that someone had to be the first to try recreational trimix, and they certainly weren’t certified for it). When diving the Jodrey recently we discussed using normoxic trimix instead of air. We didn’t end up doing it, partly because not everyone could reasonably put up the money for a $150 fill. Still, as the owner of Dive Tech said, “it’s like diving two different wrecks” and as I push to greater depths I’m starting to cross what is a very fuzzy line between what is reasonable and what is not. Perhaps I’m already past it. I think that the narco stop concept has reduced some of the risks, but I still know that my reactions are slowed by the onset of narcosis.

I came across an abstract of a paper in the Rubicon Foundation archive a couple of days ago and I thought I’d repost it here. It has the catchy title: CLINICAL EVALUATION OF REPETITIVE DEEP DIVING BY RECREATIONAL DIVERS ON THE WRECK OF THE ANDREA DORIA. It seems to say that the divers in the study were just fine diving air at greater than 200′. The emphasis on the comment about narcosis is mine.

Ten male recreational divers were clinically evaluated over a 3 day period as they made repetitive deep dives [> 200 fsw) with compressed air to the wreck of the Andrea Doria in the North Atlantic Ocean. Diving profiles were recorded and verified while divers were followed clinically for signs/symptoms of decompression sickness, air embolism, and/or other diving maladies. Ultrasonic Doppler testing was used to assist in objective analysis. The divers ranged in age from 27 to 47 years old, weight from 145 to 285 lbs., previous logged dives from 50 to 1250, and diving depth from 187 to 240 fsw. During the 3 day study period the ten divers performed a total of 49 dives. None of the divers exhibited any signs/symptoms of decompression sickness or air embolism. Intravascular bubbling was detected in only 2 divers and only one diver attained a Spencer rating of 2 on any dives. The incidence of positive Doppler testing was 4.3%. Nitrogen narcosis was not a significant problem for any diver. The equipment used by each diver was extensive and included multiple back-up devices and systems. Eight divers carried at least 1 dive computer, while 1 carried 3 (in case the other 2 failed). With the water temperature at depth of 46 degrees F., all divers wore drysuits, except 1. All the divers had trained for these deep dives by performing progressively deeper dives [ > 130 fsw] several weeks to months prior to attempting these truly deep dives. Although not recommended for the average diver, repetitive deep diving by experienced recreational divers, with appropriate equipment and training, led to no incidence of decompression sickness, air embolism, or other diving maladies during this study.

Florida Keys 2011 – Vandenberg September 11, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Technical Diving.
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This is a continuation of the trip I took in April 2011 to dive in the Florida Keys, and I’d written most of this then but decided to finish it now. Like many bloggers the urge comes and goes. I’ve left this alone for quite a while. I left off with a dive on the Spiegel Grove, but Matt and I chartered that separately, which was great because we ended up diving the wreck 3 times during the trip.

The first official dive of the trip was on the Vandenberg off Key West. We used a different dive shop, Sub Tropic this time and they were more conveniently located for parking than the previous year’s operator and a very short distance to the dive boat. The dive boat itself was reasonably well suited for those of us diving doubles.

It was a fairly rough ride out to the wreck and several divers were sick, although fortunately I wasn’t one of them. When we got there, Matt and I agreed that we would run a similar profile using our computer maxing out at either 1 hour bottom time or 30 minutes deco time, using EAN50 as our deco gas and air as our back gas. This turned out to be our standard profile for the remainder of the week, sometimes modified slightly to accommodate the various depths.

The wreck is a lot of fun where you get to swim around the big satellite dishes (and even through the hole in the focal point of one of them) as well (assuming you’re trained and equipped) lots of easy penetrations through the hallways.

The staff were among the most helpful I’ve ever seen and well-deserved the tips we gave them. The dive shop has now closed, though, but a different one has taken it over.

One thing I’ll never forget is on the ride back from the wreck we passed a Naval vessel moored near the residences for married sailors. One guy on the boat who lived there was a chief nurse who had done some rotations through Kandahar, Afghanistan, describing it as “the worst place on earth”. It made an impression.