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Are you attending Scuba.Digital 2021?

Scuba.Digital was the first live and in virtual person dive show. And though its numbers were modest (800+), those who attended had a great time. And this year they are doing it all over again. So what’s going on for 2021?

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What is Scuba.Digital?

Well, if you were unconscious last year you may not know about the pandemic and its effect on mass events around the world. Specifically, dive shows! There weren’t any (at least that we know of).

Scuba.Digital was the first live and in virtual person dive show. And though its numbers were modest (800+), those who attended had a great time. You could see and hear the main stage, take part in various live sessions, take part in the random networking, and browse the exhibitor booths, which were also largely live. And this year we are doing it all over again. So what’s going on for 2021? Read on…

Scuba.Digital 2021

Building on our inaugural 2020 show, this year will again offer a huge series of LIVE presentations from Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) and DAN Europe, from some well known photographers, conservation orgs, and from more on the main stage. In addition, there will be exhibitor booths and exhibitor presentation sessions, open chat sessions, as well as our random networking thingy (a bit like speed dating only for divers!). Exhibitors can now have one-to-one (or up to 4) private video chats, and these can be booked by attendees through our appointments system even before the show itself.

Scuba.Digital Trade Day

Aimed at trade organisations and professionals, our Trade Day is just that, an opportunity for those in the trade to meet and greet, talk shop and even have a drink together, though it’s bring your own. It is a full 24 hrs and follows the sun around the world, meaning you can meet with anyone from anywhere if they are at the Trade Day.

It is free to attend; you just have to register, which you can do here, and once you have registered you will be given access to the event platform and a link to a free ticket. Inside the Trade Day there will be exhibitors (free if you are exhibiting at Scuba.Digital 2021), our random networking, and a few open sessions. You will also be able to make appointments just like in Scuba.Digital 2021. Think of the Scuba.Digital Trade Day as an online DEMA, without the travel and expenses and with the convenience of attending from whereever you want!

If you are a trade professional and would like to attend the Scuba.Digital Trade Day, then you can register here. Or visit Scuba.Digital to contact us for more info.

Scuba.Digital Underwater Photography Competition

Launched for 2021, the first prize is a liveaboard trip to Cocos Island on board the Argo in 2022. We have 11 different categories, and the winners of the categories will go into the final round of judging for the top prize. We have categories for Wide Angle, Macro, Wrecks, Nudibranchs, Free Diving, Divers, Portrait, Black & White, Underwater Art, Compact, and Sharks. So, there is something for everyone. You can enter one or more than one category. You can vote on other people’s photos, and the highest voted photos are then judged by our volunteer judges. Category winners and the overall winner will be presented on the main stage at Scuba.Digital 2021.

If you are interested in sponsoring a prize for one of the categories, get in touch. Check out all the amazing underwater photos that have already been submitted, or find out how to enter the competition.

Scuba.Digital Community

Having created the Scuba.Digital Dive Show, we wanted our website to be more than just a front page for the show, and so we have created a community for divers, freedivers and snorkelers. A bit like Facebook and other social media only without the algorithms! We will never spam you at Scuba.Digital and we will never sell your data to any third parties. Ever! There will be an offer area for liveaboard, resorts, and manufacturers to place their ads, but you will have to choose to go there. Your choice, not some random advert on your timeline! 

So, what does the Scuba.Digital Community offer you?

  • Connecting with other divers, snorkelers, and ocean lovers from around the world
  • Groups for special interests such as destinations, equipment, and more
  • Upload of photos and videos
  • A chance to be among the first to learn everything about Scuba.Digital – the #1 Online Dive Show
  • Fantastic prizes you can win by entering our photo competition, with the grand prize being a free liveaboard trip to Cocos Island in 2022.
  • Exciting new features coming soon!

Best of all, it is free to register.

With so much going on, we thought that you might want to get a free ticket, so we have given some to InDepth magazine to give away. Just answer this simple…… no not really, just follow this link to get your ticket for Scuba.Digital 2021. No competition entry required!

Click here for your free ticket compliments of InDepth

We hope to see you at Scuba.Digital!

The Scuba.Digital team

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The Price of Helium is Up in the Air

With helium prices on the rise, and limited or no availability in some regions, we decided to conduct a survey of global GUE instructors and dive centers to get a reading on their pain thresholds. We feel your pain—especially you OC divers! InDEPTH editor Ashley Stewart then reached out to the helium industry’s go-to-guy Phil Kornbluth for a prognosis. Here’s what we found out.

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Helium Technical Diving

By Ashley Stewart. Header image by SJ Alice Bennett.

Helium is one of the most abundant elements in the universe, but here on Earth, it’s the only element considered a nonrenewable resource. The colorless, odorless, and tasteless inert gas is generated deep underground through the natural radioactive decay of elements such as uranium and thorium in a process that takes many millennia. Once it reaches the Earth’s surface, helium is quickly released into the atmosphere—where it’s deemed too expensive to recover—and rises until it ultimately escapes into outer space. 

Luckily for divers who rely on the non-narcotic and lightweight gas for deep diving (not to mention anyone who needs an MRI scan or who uses virtually any electronic device), some helium mixes with natural gas underground and can be recovered through drilling and refinement.

Yet the world’s helium supply depends primarily on just 15 liquid helium production facilities around the globe, making the industry uniquely prone to supply chain disruptions, which this year caused the industry’s fourth prolonged shortage since 2006. The shortage has caused many technical dive shops around the world to raise prices, limit fills, or stop selling trimix altogether, according to an InDEPTH survey of GUE instructors and affiliated dive centers.

Longtime helium industry consultant Phil Kornbluth, however, expects the shortage will begin to ease gradually now through the end of the year, and for supply to increase significantly in the future.

Photo courtesy of Extreme Exposure

While a majority of the world’s helium is produced in just a few countries, a new gas processing plant in Siberia is expected to produce as much as 60 million cubic meters of helium per year, about as much as the US—the world’s largest helium producer—was able to produce in 2020. The Siberian plant ran for three weeks in September, but experienced major disruptions over the past year, including a fire in October and an explosion in January, that delayed its planned opening until at least 2023.

Meanwhile, according to Kornbluth, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Texas closed down from mid-January to early June due to safety, staff, and equipment issues, wiping out at least 10% of the market supply. The plant reopened in June and is back to normal production as of July 10. The supply of helium was further reduced as two of Qatar’s three plants closed down for planned maintenance, a fire paused production at a plant in Kansas, and the war in Ukraine reduced production of one Algerian plant.

With the exception of the plant in Siberia, Kornbluth said virtually all of the recent disruptions to the helium supply chain have been resolved and should yield some relief. And the future looks promising. Once the Siberian plant is online, it’s expected to eventually boost the world’s helium supply by one-third. While sanctions against Russia could prevent some buyers from purchasing the country’s helium, Kornbluth expects there will be plenty of demand from countries that as of now are not participating, like China, Korea, Taiwan, and India, though there could be delays if those countries have to purchase the expensive, specialized cryogenic containers required to transport bulk liquid helium. “Sanctions are unlikely to keep the helium out of the market,” Kornbluth said.

Meanwhile, there are at least 30 startup companies exploring for helium, and there are other projects in the pipeline including in the U.S., Canada, Qatar, Tanzania, and South Africa. “Yes, we’re in a shortage and, yes, it’s been pretty bad, but it should start improving,” Kornbluth told InDEPTH. “The world is not running out of helium anytime soon.” 

THE SURVEY:

To find out how the helium shortage is affecting divers, InDEPTH surveyed Global Underwater Explorers’ (GUE) instructors and dive centers and received 40 responses from around the world. 

The survey’s highest reported helium price was in Bonaire—a Dutch island in the Caribbean that imports its helium from the Netherlands—where helium costs as much as US$0.14 Liter(L)/$4.00 cubic foot (cf) and is expected to rise. At that price, a set of trimix 18/45 (18% O2, 45% He) in double HP100s (similar to D12s) would cost around $360.00 and trimix 15/55 would cost $440.00.

“We have enough to support both open circuit and CCR, but in the near future, if the situation remains, we may be forced to supply only CCR divers,” Bonaire-based GUE instructor German “Mr. G.” Arango told InDEPTH. “We have enough for 2022, but 2023 is hard to predict.”

Not far behind Bonaire was the Philippines, where helium costs around US$0.13 L/$3.68 cf—if you can even get it. Based on the responses to our survey, Asia is experiencing the greatest shortages. Supply is unavailable in some parts of the Philippines, limited in South Korea, and unavailable for diving purposes in Japan as suppliers are prioritizing helium in the country for medical uses, according to four instructors from the region. In Australia, it’s relatively easy to obtain.

Four US-based instructors reported that helium prices are increasing significantly and supply is decreasing. Helium remains “very limited” in Florida and prices in Seattle increased to $2.50 from $1.50 per cubic foot ($0.09 L from about $0.05 L) in the past six months, and there was a period when the region couldn’t get helium as suppliers were prioritizing medical uses. In Los Angeles, prices have reached as high as $2.80 cf (nearly $0.10 L) and one instructor reported helium is only available for hospitals and medical purposes, even for long-term gas company clients who are grandfathered in. Another Los Angeles-based instructor said direct purchases of helium had been limited to one T bottle per month, down from three. 

“Currently, we are only providing trimix fills for our CCR communities,” GUE instructor Steven Millington said. “Possibly this will change, but the current direction for active technical divers is CCR. I agree (and already see) that open circuit technical diving in some regions will go the way of the dinosaur.”

In Western Europe, helium is becoming more difficult and expensive to acquire, 10 instructors in the region told us. Instructors in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and Germany reported longer wait times, high price increases, and limited supply. 

Meanwhile, Northern Europe appears to be a bright spot on the map with comparatively reasonable prices and general availability. In Norway, two instructors reported helium is easy to obtain, with no lead time from suppliers. Likewise in Sweden and Finland, though one Finnish instructor told us that in the past year prices have increased significantly.

Three instructors in Northern Africa and the Middle East said helium is easy to get, but is becoming more expensive. The price of Sofnolime used in rebreathers is increasing in Egypt as helium becomes more expensive and more difficult to obtain. Lebanon has minimal lead times, but helium is among the most expensive in all of the responses we received at US$0.10 L/$2.83 cf.

Helium is generally easy to obtain in Mexico, though prices are increasing dramatically and instructors are starting to see delays. In Brazil, prices in São Paulo quadrupled in the past 12 months and by 30% in Curitiba. Suppliers there aren’t accepting new customers and existing customers are having difficulty obtaining supply. Supply is mostly constrained in Canada, with the exception of one outlier: an instructor who has a longstanding account with the gas company and pays less than US$ 0.035 L/$1.00 cf. “I have been hearing of helium shortage every year for the last decade,” instructor Michael Pinault of Brockville Ontario told InDEPTH, “but I have never not been able to purchase it.”

Many instructors around the world said that helium shortages and skyrocketing prices are, no surprise, fueling a shift to CCR for individual divers and exploration projects. “CCR is saving our exploration projects,” GUE instructor Mario Arena, who runs exploration projects in Europe, said. “These projects would be impossible without it.”

Please let us know what helium prices and availability are in your area: InDEPTH Reader Helium survey

Additional Resources

US Geological Survey: Helium Data Sheet: Mineral Commodity Summaries 2021

NPR: The World Is Constantly Running Out Of Helium. Here’s Why It Matters (2019)

The Diver Medic: The Future of Helium is Up in the Air,” Everything you wanted to know about helium, but were too busy analyzing your gas to ask—talk by InDEPTH chief Michael Menduno


InDepth Managing Editor Ashley Stewart is a Seattle-based journalist and tech diver. Ashley started diving with Global Underwater Explorers and writing for InDepth in 2021. She is a GUE Tech 2 and CCR1 diver and on her way to becoming an instructor. In her day job, Ashley is an investigative journalist reporting on technology companies. She can be reached at: ashley@gue.com


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