Author Archive

How To Pack Your Scuba Diving Gear and Equipment for Travel

Monday, April 25th, 2016
How to travel with scuba diving gear and fly safely
It can be hard to pack all of your scuba diving gear and equipment when you’re flying or traveling for a dive trip. Here are our tips to make packing easier.

Best Freediving Training Destinations

Sunday, March 27th, 2016
freediver underwater photo red sea blue hole

Freediving in Florida, Hawaii, Grand Cayman, and the Red Sea are some of the best locations to train at.

Gear Solutions for Cold-Water Diving

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
Thermalution Heated Vest for Scuba Diving

Zach Stovall

Need some extra heat on your next cold-water dive? A heated garment is your ace in the (ice) hole. For tips on how to dive in freezing waters like a pro, check out the latest Dive Hacks column.

Thermalution Yellow Grade Plus

The first power-heated undersuit equipped with a rechargeable wireless remote control — which charges by being placed on an included charge pad — the Yellow Grade Plus is designed for long, deep dives. It’s easy to select from among its three power levels even when wearing the thickest gloves, and makes cold-water diving seem almost like a summertime plunge. (Almost.)
MSRP $749; INFO thermalution.com

Dive Hacks: What You Need To Know About Diving in Cold Water

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
Scuba Diving in Cold Water — The Training You Need

Andy Morrison

Dive like a polar bear and have the experience of a lifetime.

Few things are more shocking to the body than plunging into frigid water. Our sophisticated human machine knows instantly that it’s not where it’s supposed to be and reacts accordingly. Automatically, arteries tighten, blood pressure and heart rate increase, and lungs gasp for air. In as little as five minutes, hyperventilation can occur, while extremities, including arms and legs, begin to lose feeling and the ability to move. As hypothermia sets in, the tongue swells and thoughts become cloudy as the body begins to lose its battle to focus blood flow to vital organs. A loss of consciousness follows, and it’s not hard to imagine how the story ends.

So why do divers risk this slow and potentially deadly torture? Because cold water breeds a wild variety of amazing marine life, along with some of the most unique underwater environments on the planet. From the beautiful pastel anemones, hooded nudibranchs and giant Pacific octopuses of British Columbia to the towering kelp forests and playful pinnipeds of California, the otherworldly tectonic crack of Iceland, the dreamy leafy sea dragons of South Australia and the menacing leopard seals and comical penguins of Antarctica, bucket-list adventures abound in water that flirts with freezing. Add to the plus column natural preservation of aging ship- wrecks at such destinations as the United Kingdom’s Scapa Flow, northern Europe’s Baltic Sea, Canada’s Nova Scotia coast and America’s Great Lakes, and you have ample reason to brave these icy waters.

Thankfully, technology and training have advanced throughout the evolution of diving to make submersion in hostile environments possible — and even safe. Durable drysuits made from tough materials, silicone sealing systems that really keep the water out, advanced life-support systems designed to resist freezing and heated undergarments that can keep body- core temperatures at near summertime levels can make cold-water diving seem like a dip in the Caribbean. (Almost.) No divers know this better than the hardy souls who thrive in the Great Lakes, where water temps average in the 50s. Dough Bell of Scuba North in Traverse City, Michigan, has been exploring the shipwrecks of Lake Superior and its deep blue sisters since 1979.

“I’ve been able to dive some of the most prominent shipwrecks around the globe,” says Bell, including Andrea Doria, USS Monitor and SS President Coolidge, along with the World War II wrecks of Bikini Atoll, Chuuk Lagoon and Scapa Flow. “But I’m always drawn back to the Great Lakes. They have everything from schooners dating to the 1700s to modern-day freighters. And new discoveries are made every year.”

A professional since 2010, Bell teaches trimix, cave and technical courses. Says the Michigan native, “There are many different definitions for ‘cold-water diving,’ but practically speaking, I consider it anything below 60 degrees.” During his long underwater experience at these trying temperatures, he’s learned some lessons.

“When you spend 3 1⁄2 hours in cold water on one of these wrecks, you really have to prepare well,” says Bell.

PREPARE FOR THE CHALLENGE

Bell’s first step in a successful cold-water dive: using specifically designed equipment that has been properly maintained and regularly serviced. “It is essential to use regulators that are designed for cold-water use,” he says. “Free-flow can be an issue if you do not have properly serviced equipment.”

Hoods and gloves are standard fare. “If you are not used to them, it’s wise to start with a couple of easy shore dives,” Bell explains. “In recent years electrically heated undergarments have become standard equipment and have made a huge difference, comfortwise.”

CRAFT YOUR PLAN ACCORDINGLY

A cold-water dive plan should take into account variables not present in warm-water diving, says Bell.

“It is not uncommon for surface air-consumption rates to increase in cold water, oftentimes due to some level of anxiety,” he explains. “So it’s good to be aware of this when planning your dive.”

Learning how to handle a free-flowing regulator and being comfortable with air-sharing drills is paramount. Practicing mask clearing and removal in cold water is a good idea, Bell says, because it’s quite a bit different when that cold water hits your face. “Understand signs of hypothermia and what to do,” he recommends. “Also, it is important to be completely comfortable calling the dive when you feel yourself starting to get too cold.”

ACCLIMATE TO THE COLD SLOWLY

Instead of giant-striding off the platform into 50-degree water, Bell advises to proceed gradually to allow your system to acclimate. “Slowly allow your body to be introduced to the water,” he says. “Shore dives are great for this and allow your breathing rate to stabilize prior to descending.” By avoiding the instant shock of immersion, the body can more safely adjust. “Go slow and allow yourself to get comfortable at each step. Then incrementally increase your depth.”

FINISH STRONG

When your dive is done, raising the body’s core temperature is a prima- ry goal. “First, put on some warm clothes,” says Bell. “Hot drinks are great as well.” And remember to glean tips from the other divers in your group. “Having an experienced cold- water diver mentor you is a great benefit,” Bell says. “Don’t be afraid of the cold water. It’s simply a matter of using the right equipment, building experience and gaining confidence. It will open the door to some of the best diving in the world.”

Underwater Architecture Could Be The Real Estate Of The Future

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Sci-fi fantasy could become a reality for divers who dream of living beneath the surface of the ocean if these forward-thinking projects ever come to fruition.

OCEAN SPIRAL

Billed as “a new interface between humankind and the deep sea,” Ocean Spiral is a wild future-city concept by Japanese engineering corporation Shimizu Corp. designed to solve present-day environmental challenges including shrinking food production, growing energy demand, decreasing freshwater reserves, increasing CO2 emissions and dwindling natural resources.

At the surface, a population up to 5,000 will inhabit the Blue Garden, a floating sphere measuring 1,640 feet in diameter that houses residences, businesses, a hotel, research facilities and other infrastructure in a 75-floor central tower with 360-degree views. Plunging more than 2 miles deep, the Infra Spiral will contain a factory producing power from carbon dioxide using micro-organisms; generators that create energy from seawater through thermal conversion; aquaculture farms to grow food; and a desalinization plant to create fresh water.

At the bottom, the Earth Factory will store CO2 emissions and house a submarine port. Total cost for the self-sustaining city, if built, is estimated at $26 billion, and construction could take five years.

CITY OF MÉRIENS

From the mind of French architect Jacques Rougerie, who also envisioned the Sea Orbiter oceangoing skyscraper, this “universal city” is designed to house an international community of 7,000 scientists, teachers, students and other ocean lovers for extended periods. Measuring almost 3,000 feet long and 1,600 feet wide, the floating structure would offer living quarters, laboratories and classrooms, along with recreation areas and lounge spaces. It’s designed to be self-sustaining and autonomous, running on renewable energy drawn from the surrounding marine environment and leaving behind no waste.

The mantalike design is inspired by the creator’s love for the ocean. “Another type of imagination is awakened in me as soon as I am underwater,” Rougerie told radio station France Inter in 2014.

SUB-BIOSPHERE 2

When Earth becomes uninhabitable due to “a runaway green-house effect, it might be safe living underneath the sea in the long term,” says British designer and futurist Phil Pauley. To preserve all forms of life, the Sub-Biosphere 2 would act as a global seed bank and house 100 people, “the minimum number required to rebuild our species,” Pauley says. In his design, eight biomes recreating Earth’s climatic zones would be arranged around a larger central biome housing integrated life-support systems that link each outer zone to exchange water and air in a manner meant to mimic our planet’s weather. Inside the complex, which measures more than 1,100 feet wide and can be raised or lowered to avoid foul weather or natural disasters, the human inhabitants would interact with each biome to grow hydroponic crops, raise animals, perform research and sustain life as we know it.