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A visit from the past
Those of you who have been following Gregg’s column learned long ago that he has led a very busy and in fact, full life. Back in 2000 he was just building the fourth university program, the Advanced Science Diving Program at FSU in Panama City when I joined him as a researcher.
The focus of my attention was the intricate details of rebreathers, a technology that Gregg has mentioned many times in this column. Rebreathers are an old technology by concept, but have only become viable for extended diving in science and recreation in the past decade or so. They facilitate an increase in exposure time by recycling the diver’s breath, thus allowing the use of much smaller tanks while at the same time mixing the ideal breathing gas on the fly.
If this sounds complicated, then it is only because we still don’t fully understand or appreciate the true requirements and capabilities of our own physiology. You can imagine that, as a researcher, this was (and still is) a wide open field and I was having the time of my life.
Gregg was instrumental in allowing me to pursue this research, and in turn I spent a lot of time and effort assisting him in building his academic program. A student joined us in our efforts by the name of Terry Jolly. While matching our enthusiasm and dedication, she also added her good looks to the formula, which undoubtedly increased the male participant’s interest and helped secure a large student enrolment.
What kept us all focused was the common goal of what we were trying to achieve. Mind you, rebreathers were very much in their infancy (even more so than they are today).
We dreamed of a time when rebreathers would become so easy to use that they required very little preparation, and allowed a diving freedom far beyond what we could do with open circuit.
We used the rebreathers that were available to us at the time, with all their limitations, during numerous underwater science projects, and brought home the data to prove the rebreather’s viability. While it was clear that the rebreathers at the time certainly matched open-circuit technology, their advantage was still debatable.
Fast-forward a decade!
Terry got married, and now has three cute kids. Although she has had plans to become a scientist in the marine field, she accepted a job in a marketing agency, where she spends all day in front of a computer. Family life takes up all her spare time, and her gills have dried up.
Out of the blue we received an email from her informing us that she will be in the area and would like to stop by for a visit. It was certainly a pleasure to see her again after such a long time. She had not forgotten about our ideas and goals, only for us to realise that Gregg and I are where we wanted to be over a decade ago! The dives we do today far exceed what we did a back then, and is even less of a hassle with regards to preparation than we could have predicted.
As we have often pointed out in this column, knowledge and the advancement of technology have progressed dramatically in the last 10 years. Terry’s visit helped us put it back into perspective.
Some things have not changed much (she still looks great), and we still dream of where we want our program to be in 10 years time.
Some things have changed a lot (the advent of space-age technology in our diving).
We should continue to believe in our own rhetoric, at least once in a while.