My friend Richie Kohler called the other day and wanted me to take a quick look at an article he had due to the scuba magazine, “Alert Diver”. He just needed another set of eyes for “Hazards in Wreck Diving”. As usual with his writing, it was well done. It also brought to mind the whole recreational diving and technical diving. A quick detour though into scuba.
From the 1950s through at least the 1970s scuba was pretty much an extreme sport due to rudimentary equipment. As more people joined in and developed increasingly sophisticated equipment with the idea of making it a mainstream kind of water activity it changed considerably. Yes, during training you focus on the safety aspects and how to handle emergencies, but with the right equipment properly maintained and following normal precautions, it’s a safe sport. Now though is where you diverge into two paths. Recreational diving (with no decompression) means you dive to 130 feet or less. But if you dive much below 50 feet when you start to surface, you do a “safety stop” where you hang at 15-20 feet for 3-5 minutes to allow the nitrogen gas in your body to dissipate. This is the primary precaution against decompression sickness (the “bends”). Since how deep you go also impacts how quickly you use air and therefore how long you can stay on a dive, most people will not go below 80 or 90 feet for long and 50-70 feet lets you have nearly an hour of diving. It so happens the reefs around Key Largo are shallow at like 30-40 feet with the deeper dives on the wrecks. This is the kind of diving I do.
Since there will always be those who “want more” in any sport, technical diving requires specialized equipment and training that allows a diver to go deeper than 130 feet and get into what are now decompression dives. So, if a diver goes to say 200 feet, he or she has to calculate “decompression stops” as part of the dive time. That means stopping multiple times on the way up for a designated number of minutes in order to allow the nitrogen to dissipate. (This is also referred to as off-gassing). Notwithstanding the fact guys like Richie, quite a few of my friends, to include Hubby get into this, it is simply way more complicated than I want to mess with.