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Underwater Wakulla- December 13, 2018

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The next step Underwater By GREGG STANTON

The next step Underwater

Underwater, life support means either good breath holding skills or some sort of compressed gas cylinder strapped to your back or side from which to breathe. Before the 1940’s oxygen rebreathers prevailed, but were limited to shallow water. Hans Hass used underwater photography to open the public’s perception of the underwater world while breathing from an oxygen rebreather.

Cousteau first experience with rebreathers was less than successful. So he turned to compressed air regulated by an auto propane that resulted in the invention of what we know as SCUBA. At first the cylinder was worn on your back. Then we added another to make doubles: twice the breathing supply and twice the bottom time.

As Technical Diving developed in the 1990s we began to carry extra cylinders on our sides, under the shoulder and strapped to the waist. The logical progression was then to drop the back mounted cylinders and only use side mounted cylinders. With more than one cylinder, redundancy of gas options is assured.

The new century brought the rebirth of the rebreather, a back mounted life support package that increased bottom time by 4 times and up to 10 times that of open circuit SCUBA. We recovered the benefits of warm, moist, high oxygen low inert gas breathing conditions underwater.

A small group of divers have been working on the next generation of dive technology over the last decade. Yup, you got it! Side mount rebreather. Three weeks ago I agreed to try it and was amazed at the progress these people have made. The side mount CCR has arrived, now selling 2:1 over back mount.

They configure this package into a unit no larger than a 100 cf cylinder that straps into the space you have for a side mount rig. There are 2-2 liter cylinders with regulators, the rebreather head with redundant electronics, two counter lungs, a 5 hour CO2 scrubber, and hoses to and from your mouth. In the water this rig is neutrally buoyant. Currently, you would carry the bailout cylinder on the other side.

I can clearly see the day when two side mount rigs will be worn for almost unlimited diving! I have my Side Mount Rebreather with me with which to teach in Hawaii but I will bring it back in April.

The evolution of dive technology is always exciting!