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The Top Stories of 2022

We kick off the New Year with 10 hand-curated stories from our growing sea of content. They represent some of the most read, important, and fun stories from the last year. We hope you will enjoy them!

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Header image by InDEPTH art director SJ Alice Bennett. Two Dirty Dozen rebreather divers exploring a sunken armored tank at Chuuk Lagoon.

Greetings tekkies and mission-oriented divers,

January marks our fourth full year publishing InDEPTH, and it has arguably been our best year yet for content. In 2022, we published 113 new stories, and conducted seven surveys with our partner, The Business of Diving Institute—yes, it’s all about the data!

Rebreathers, of course, were the hot topic in 2022, particularly as helium prices continued to rise and availability was limited in some areas. In response, we offered a variety of stories on rebreather diving including in-depth looks at various units.

This burgeoning interest in rebreathers comes at a time when diving professionals from around the world will be headed to Malta this coming April for an industry, governmental and scientific symposium called Rebreather Forum 4. If you are professionally involved in rebreather diving, we encourage you to attend. 

I would like to thank our readers and subscribers, for your continuing interest and support. We want to be your number one, go-to source for serious diving content, and we will continue to work hard to win your loyalty! I also want to thank our many contributors from the global tech community, whose work and labors of love are represented here and elsewhere in InDEPTH. Thank you for your contributions! Special shout to our phenomenal, go-to picture makers and writers Jason Brown, Stratis Kas and Fan Ping! Keep your eyes on them people!

Lastly, I want to thank our illustrious sponsors, who make InDEPTH possible! Please join me in giving a big shout out to; Azoth Systems, Buddy Dive Resort, DAN Europe, Dirty Dozen Expeditions, Dive Rite, Divesoft, Extreme Exposure, Fathom Systems, Fourth Element, Halcyon Dive Systems, O’Three, OZTek, Shearwater Research, and The Human Diver. Thank you!! We hope that you will support these depth full diving brands!

In what has now become a tradition, we kick off the New Year with 10 hand-curated stories from our growing sea of content in The Top Stories of 2022. They represent some of the most read, important, intriguing and fun stories from the last year. We hope you will enjoy them!

We would appreciate it, if you would take a few minutes to complete our annual Reader’s Survey. This will help us deliver better content to your inbox. Our thanks in advance for your help!

 We have some exciting stories planned for 2023, so stay tuned!

Safe diving,
Michael Menduno/M2
Editor-in-chief

Here are the results of our 2022 surveys that we conducted with the Business of Diving Institute: InDEPTH’s 2022 Surveys .

There’s also a FREE DOWNLOAD of aquaCORPS #6 COMPUTING for you at the bottom of the page!


Divers Helping Divers: Next Stop Ukraine

June 1, 2022


1. Will Open Circuit Go the Way of the Dinosaur?

Closed circuit rebreathers have arguably become the platform of choice for BIG DIVES. So, does it make any sense to continue to train divers to conduct deep, open circuit mix dives? Here physiologist Neal Pollock examines both platforms from an operational and physiological perspective. The results? Deep open circuit dives may well be destined to share the fate of the Spinosaurus. Here’s why.

And if you’re wondering exactly, how many “deep” open circuit dives you’d have to conduct—you are using helium aren’t you?—to pay for a rebreather, training, and necessary experience dives, you’re in luck! Rebreather instructor and tech Instructor trainer Guy Shockey does the math in: The Economics of Choosing CCR Vs OC

Want a deeper understanding of how your rebreather’s scrubber works? Get a copy of John Clarke’s geeky new monograph, “Breakthrough: Revealing the Secrets of Rebreather Scrubber Canisters..” Dr. Clarke was the scientific director of the US Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) for 27 years.

Helium Technical Diving

2. 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 gas industry’s go-to helium market expert Phil Kornbluth for a prognosis. Here’s what we found out.

3. The Diving Industry Is Run By Middle Aged White Blokes. Our Future Depends on Making Them Uncomfortable.

Ahead of Women’s Dive Day, July 16, 2022 UK instructor and course director Alex Griffin examines why the industry appears to have trouble attracting and retaining divers from diverse backgrounds—and what we all can do about it. It might make you uncomfortable.

4. How Deep is Your Library?

Technical diving requires a deep body of knowledge that must be kept current. So, it seemed appropriate to ask, what books should tekkies have on their shelves? To answer that question, we turned to DAN’s nerdy risk mitigation coordinator cum cave diver, Christine Tamburri to suss out suitable tekkie tomes. Here is what she uncovered. Feed your head!

5. The Challenge for the Technical Diving Community? Connecting Divers With the Environment

While tech diving has come a long way in terms of extending our underwater envelope, enabling tech divers to truly go where no one has gone before, environmental consultant and educator, Alex Brylske, Ph.D argues that as a community there is still room for significant improvement in connecting divers with the environment. In the process, he details the results and meaning of InDEPTH’s survey of Sustainability in the Scuba Diving Industry and offers suggestions for moving forward.

6. Celebrating Wes Skiles

We explore and celebrate the extraordinary life and work of cave diving pioneer, explorer, conservationist, and underwater cinematographer/ photographer Wesley C. Skiles with a collection of curated interviews, portraits and perspectives from Fred Garth and Bret Gilliam, Julia Hauserman, Jill Heinerth, Todd Kincaid, Emory Kristof, and Bill Stone. We also feature nine essential Skiles films, some of his National Geographic photos, and a bevy of articles and content from the National Speleological Society-Cave Diving Section (NSS-CDS).

7. The First Helium-based Mix Dives Conducted by Pre-Tech Explorers (1967-1988)

More than 20 years before the emergence of technical diving, a handful of intrepid cave divers who were perilously pushing the limits of air diving, began experimenting with helium mixes for deep diving. Some succeeded, several were injured, and one almost drowned. Though some of their tales are known, no one had produced a definitive chronology until Woodville Karst Plain Project (WKPP) board member and explorer Chris Werner set out to clarify the record. Here, for the first time, are the origins of the “mixed gas” aka “technical diving revolution” that irrevocably altered the course of sport diving.

8. When Easy Doesn’t Do It: Dual Rebreathers in Extended-Range Cave Diving

Rebreather technology has enabled cave explorers to extend their underwater envelope significantly deeper and longer. As a result, a number of teams are pushing beyond the practical limits of open circuit bailout and so have turned to bailout rebreathers. But not without challenges! Tech instructor and DAN Europe editor Tim Blömeke dives into the latest research and field experience and explains what’s happening.

 9. Can We Create A Safety Culture In Diving? Probably Not. Here’s Why.

How do we improve our safety culture in diving? Is it indeed something that we as a community of divers can affect? Human factors coach Gareth Lock argues that there is no magic bullet and, in fact, that the sports diving industry needs to make a fundamental shift in how it manages diver safety if we are to improve safety. In other words, we still have a ways to go. The retired British Royal Air Force officer explains why.

And without question, the MOST FUN story of 2022, err, it actually dropped DEC 2021—we had it in the can. Call it:

10. Shitwrecks

We teamed up with some potty-minded wreckers to explore the poop decks of shipwrecks around the world, giving a new twist to the term, “Water Sports.” We offer these heady bits.

Note that InDEPTH featured a number of new shipwreck, cave and mine exploration projects in 2022, see: InDEPTH’s EXPLORATION ARCHIVES

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Download some early tech history with a digital copy of aquaCORPS #6 COMPUTING (1993) sponsored by our friends at Shearwater Research!

“Yes! I shall design this computer for you. And I shall name it also unto you. And it shall be called … the Earth.” Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy

aquaCORPS #6 COMPUTING was published in June 1993 following the magazine’s first technical diving conference, TEK.93, held in Orlando, Florida in January of that year. The issue focused on dive computing and included interviews with nitrox computer developers Randy Bohrer (Bridge), Kevin Gurr (ACE), Paul Heinmiller (Phoenix), an interview with Karl Huggins (EDGE), and a story about commercial decompression software developed by decompression engineer, JP Imbert. Note that there were no trimix diving computers at the time.

There was also a review by Dr. RW Bill Hamilton and John Crea, of four ten newly-released desktop mixed gas decompression programs. The cover of the issue shows a visualization of decompression risk that was rendered by David Story on a high-end Silicon Graphics workstation. The issue went on to envision the future of dive computing and provided a tekkie guide to the newly emerging Internet, and its implication for diving.

Equipment

InDepth’s Holiday Rebreather Guide: 2022 Update

Making a list. Checking it twice. Gonna find out which breathers are naughty or nice. That’s right! It’s time again for InDEPTH’s Holiday Rebreather Guide.
This year, the Guide features 28 models of back, chest, and side-mounted rebreathers, including two new entries, for your shopping operation. So, get out your pre-buy checklist, and that gift certificate and start ogling your loop of your fancy. Ho ho ho!

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InDepth’s Holiday Rebreather Guide: 2022 Update

by Michael Menduno, Amanda White and Kenzie Potter

Holiday images by Jason Brown, BARDO CREATIVE

A Guide to Backmount, Sidemount and Frontmount Rebreathers

1DEC 2022—Ho ho ho! Once again, we have updated InDEPTH’s Holiday Rebreather Guide adding two new rebreathers; the new Gemini sidemount, needle valve mCCR from Fathom Systems, and the Generic Breathing Machine (GBM) front mounted, needle valve mCCR, with a dive computer-compatible, solid state oxygen sensor from Scubatron. We also updated the features on the Divesoft Liberty sidemount, and the JJ-CCR. This year, Vobster Marine Systems was acquired by UK-based NAMMU Tech, which plans to rename and re-issue a version of the VMS Redbare. See link below.

Finally, Innerspace Systems’ founder Leon Scamahorn agreed to work on getting us the needed information to add the storied Megalodon to the Guide. Scratch last year’s coal, Xmas cookies for you Mr. Scamahorn! Happy holidays shoppers, here is our updated rebreather guide! Mind those PO2s!

17DEC2021: Ho Ho Ho! We have updated our Holiday Rebreather Guide with new rebreathers and updated features. Despite repeated requests, the only major closed circuit rebreather we are missing is Innerspace Systems’ Megalodon and its siblings. Tsk, tsk Leon Scamahorn, you’ve been a naughty boy! Behold, here is our updated guide. Mind those PO2s!

Sport diving rebreathers have come a long way since storied explorer Bill Stone trialed his 80 kg/176lb fully-redundant “Failsafe Rebreather For Exploration Diving” (F.R.E.D.), and spent a cool 24-hours underwater as part of his paradigm-shifting 1987 Wakulla Springs Project. In retrospect, looking back over the last 30-some years, the “Technical Diving Revolution,” which emerged in the late 1980s to late 1990s, was ultimately about the development and adoption of rebreather technology. 

Dr. Bill Stone’s manned trial of F.R.E.D. at Wakulla Springs (1987). Photo courtesy of the US Deep Caving Team

However, it took the fledgling tech community at least a decade to adapt mixed gas technology for open circuit scuba, including establishing the necessary supporting infrastructure, which was the first and necessary step in the move to rebreathers. A little more than a decade after Stone showcased FRED, British diving entrepreneur Martin Parker, managing director of then AP Valves, launched the “Buddy Inspiration,” the first production closed circuit rebreather designed specifically for sport divers, earning him the moniker, the “Henry Ford of Rebreathers.” [The brand name later became AP Diving] KISS Rebreathers followed a little more than a year later with its mechanical, closed circuit unit, now dubbed the KISS Classic. The rest as they say, is history, our history. 

Buddy Inspiration advertisement from 1998. Courtesy of AP Diving.

Today, though open-circuit mixed gas diving is still an important platform, rebreathers have become the tool of choice for deep, and long exploration dives. For good reason, with a greatly extended gas supply, near optimal decompression, thermal and weight advantages, bubble-free silence, and let’s not forget the cool factor, rebreathers enable tech divers to greatly extend their underwater envelope beyond the reach of open circuit technology. 

As a result, divers now have an abundance of rebreather brands to choose from. Accordingly, we thought it fitting this holiday season to offer up this geeky guide for rebreather shoppers. Want to find out whose breathers are naughty or nice? Here is your chance.

Your Geeky Holiday Guide

The idea for this holiday guide was originally proposed to us by Divesoft’s U.S. General Manager Matěj Fischer. Thank you Matěj! Interestingly, it doesn’t appear to have been done before. Our goal was to include all major brands of closed circuit rebreathers in back mount and sidemount configuration in order to enable shoppers to make a detailed comparison. In that we have largely succeeded. We  also included Halcyon Dive Systems’ semi-closed RB80 and more recent RBK sidemount unit, which are both being used successfully as exploration tools. 

Absent are US-based Innerspace Systems, which makes the Megalodon and other models, as well as Submatix, based in Germany, which manufactures the Quantum and sidemount SMS 200, neither of which returned our communications. M3S, which makes the Titan, declined our invitation to participate, as they recently discontinued their TITAN CCR—they will be coming out with a replacement unit, the TITAN Phoenix CCR in the near future. We did not include the MARES Horizon, a semi-closed circuit rebreather that is aimed at recreational divers. No doubt, there may be brands we inadvertently missed. Our apologies. Contact us. We can update.

Update (22JUL2021): French rebreather manufacturer M3S contacted us and sent us the specs for their updated chest-mounted Triton CCR, which are now included in the guide.

Update (9DEC2020): Submatix contacted us and the Guide now contains their Quantum (back mount) and SMS 200 (sidemount) rebreathers. We were also contacted by Open Safety Equipment Ltd. and have added their Apocalypse back mounted mechanical closed circuit rebreather.  We will add other units as they are presented to us by the vendors. 

It’s The Concept, Stupid

The plan was to focus on the feature sets of the various rebreathers to provide an objective means to compare various units. But features by themselves do not a rebreather make. As Pieter Decoene, Operations Manager at rEvo Rebreathers, pointed out to me early on, every rebreather is based on “a concept,” that is more than just the sum of its features. That is to say that the inventors focused on specific problems or issues they deemed important in their designs; think rEvo’s dual scrubbers, Divesoft’s redundant electronics, or integration of open and closed circuit in the case of Dive Rite’s recently launched O2ptima Chest Mount. Shoppers, please consider that as you peruse the various offerings. My thanks to Pieter, who helped us identify and define key features and metrics that should be considered.

Though not every unit on the market has been third-party tested according to Conformitè Europëenne (CE) used for goods sold in the European Union, we decided to use CE test results for some of the common feature benchmarks such as the Work of Breathing (WOB), and scrubber duration. For vendors that do not have CE testing, we suggested that they use the figures that they publicize in their marketing materials and asked that they specify the source of the data if possible. As such, the guide serves as an imperfect comparison, but a comparison nonetheless.

Santa’s Little Helper: Meet Rufus, BARDO’s Chief Muse Officer (CMO)

Also, don’t be misled by single figures, like work of breathing or scrubber duration as they serve only as a kind of benchmark—there is typically a lot more behind them. For example, whether a rebreather is easy to breathe or not is a function of elastance, work of breathing (WOB) and hydrostatic imbalance. In order to pass CE, the unit must meet CE test requirements for all three issues in all positions from head down, to horizontal trim, to being in vertical position (Watch that trim!), to lying on your back looking upwards. It’s more difficult to pass the tests in some positions versus others, and some units do better in some positions than others. 

The result is that some of the feature data, like WOB, is more nuanced than it appears at first glance. “The problem you have is people take one value (work of breathing for instance) and then buy the product based on that, but it just isn’t that simple an issue,” Martin Parker explained to me.  “It’s like people buying a BCD based on the buoyancy; bigger is better, right? Wrong! It’s the ability of the BCD to hold air near your centre of gravity determines how the BC performs. With rebreathers you can have good work of breathing on a breathing machine only to find it completely ruined by it’s hydrostatic imbalance or elastance.”

Due to their design, sidemount rebreathers are generally not able to pass CE requirements in all positions. Consequently, almost all currently do not have CE certification; the T-Reb has a CE certification with exceptions. However, that does not necessarily mean that the units haven’t been third-party tested. 

Note that the guide, which is organized alphabetically by manufacturer, contains the deets for each of their featured models. In addition, there are two master downloadable spreadsheets, one for back mounted units and one for sidemount. Lastly, I’d also like to give a shout out to British photog phenom Jason Brown and the BARDOCreative Team (Thank you Georgina!), for helping us inject a bit of the Xmas cheer into this geeky tech tome [For insiders: this was Rufus and Rey’s modeling debut!]. Ho, ho, hose!

With this background and requisite caveats, we are pleased to offer you our Rebreather Holiday Shoppers’ Guide. Happy Holidays!!

Ed. note: Most prices shown below were specified by manufacturer before tax.

Backmount Rebreathers

* In 2005, AP Diving launched its Vision electronics with In-Plane Switching (IPS) which enhances colour and visibility
**Typical scrubber duration using AP Tempstik increases practical duration to more than double CE test rate figures – as the AP Tempstik shows scrubber life based on actual work rate, water temperature and depth.
*** The work of breathing is the effort required to push gas around the breathing circuit BUT that figure alone is meaningless without knowing two other parameters: Hydrostatic load and elastance. Note that AP Diving rebreathers meet the CE requirements in all diver attitudes for both Hydrostatic Imbalance 0 degrees (horizontal, face down) and Hydrostatic Imbalance +90 degrees (vertical, head up.)
**** APD’s handset offers a “dual display” feature showing data from both controllers on the same handset. The user can also see the gradient factors chosen and the mVolt outputs of the cells by holding a button down.
* Divesoft will offer an upgrade for existing Liberty users

* Note that we plan to re-release our “Intervention CCR” (iCCR) in 2021. The unit was withheld due risk of loop being force dived when unsafe (pending re-release 2021).This enables the diver the option to manually trigger bailout to a known safe OC gas at any time with one finger and/or auto-bailout the diver if loop gas being breathed reaches unsafe level. Either Hi/Lo PPO2 or high End-Tidal CO2.
**For CE certification the recommended Apocalypse Type IV CCR scrubber duration is 2hr 45min to a maximum dive profile surface to surface of 100m in 4’C water to 2.0% SEV (20mb) at the mouth.
***iCCR (2009) 3x digital galvanic coax, iCCR (2021) x2 galvanic 1x solid state
****All performance data near near identical to single scrubber option other than increased scrubber duration of up to 5 hrs to 100 m profile in 4’C water)
Published Testing: https://www.opensafetyglobal.com/Safety_files/DV_OR_ScrubberEndurance_Retest_SRB_101215 .pdf https://www.opensafetyglobal.com/Safety_files/DV_OR_WOB_Respiratory_C1_101111.pdf https://www.opensafetyglobal.com/Safety_files/DV_DLOR_HydroImbal_101116.pdf
(FMECA) https://www.deeplife.co.uk/or_fmeca.php
* CisLunar series, MKVI 2009, SE7EN 2013, SE7EN+ 2019
** 40 m coldwater EN14143
*** Backmounted Trimix 10/70, 40M test: Backmounted Air
**** SE7EN+ Sport EU incl (harness, wing, computer, cylinders and sensors)

NOTE: Vobster Marine Systems were acquired by UK-based NAMMU Tech, which plans to rename and re-issue a version of the VMS Redbare (formerly the Sentinel) at some point in the future. See: Atlas CCR


 

Rey says he’s sticking to open circuit. What’s a Santa to do?

Sidemount Rebreathers

*Pre 2021 units are upgradebale
* For a tour of KISS rebreathers see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lelpTfGSYeE
https://www.facebook.com/T-REB-678683672151944/

Frontmount Rebreathers

*Tested with standard DSV, 6l OTS counterlungs, Upright/face forward, 40 m depth, 40.0 lpm RMV, Air diluent
**Tested with standard DSV, 45° head up/feet down orientation, 40 m depth, 40.0 lpm RMV, Air diluent
*** Micropore ExtendAir Cartridge:
180 liters of CO2 @ < 50 deg F [<10 C] (130 minutes @1.35lpm CO2)
240 liters of CO2 @ 50-70 deg F [10-20C] (180 minutes @ 1.35lpm CO2)
300 liters of CO2 @ >70 deg F [>20C] (220 minutes @ 1.35lpm CO2)
Test Parameters: 40 lpm RMV 1.35 lpm CO2130 fsw (40 m) depth Granular duration may be similar, but can vary greatly depending upon the type of granular and packing technique

 Download our two master spreadsheets, one for back mounted units and one for sidemount to compare rebreathers.

Special thanks to Amy LaSalle at GUE HQ for her help assembling the feature spreadsheets.


Michael Menduno is InDepth’s editor-in-chief and an award-winning reporter and technologist who has written about diving and diving technology for 30 years. He coined the term “technical diving.” His magazine aquaCORPS: The Journal for Technical Diving (1990-1996), helped usher tech diving into mainstream sports diving. He also produced the first Tek, EUROTek, and ASIATek conferences, and organized Rebreather Forums 1.0 and 2.0. Michael received the OZTEKMedia Excellence Award in 2011, the EUROTek Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, and the TEKDive USA Media Award in 2018. In addition to his responsibilities at InDepth, Menduno is a contributing editor for DAN Europe’s Alert Diver magazine and X-Ray Magazine, a staff writer for DeeperBlue.com, and is on the board of the Historical Diving Society (USA)


Amanda White is the managing editor for InDepth. Her main passion in life is protecting the environment. Whether that means working to minimize her own footprint or working on a broader scale to protect wildlife, the oceans, and other bodies of water. She received her GUE Recreational Level 1 certificate in November 2016 and is ecstatic to begin her scuba diving journey. Amanda was a volunteer for Project Baseline for over a year as the communications lead during Baseline Explorer missions. Now she manages communication between Project Baseline and the public and works as the content and marketing manager for GUE. Amanda holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, with an emphasis in Strategic Communications from the University of Nevada, Reno.


Kenzie Potter Stephens is a production artist for InDepth as well as part of the GUE marketing team. She earned her BS degree in Industrial Engineering and Marketing at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany, which assists her in using her multicultural upbringing to foster international growth within the community. In addition to her activities as a yoga teacher and an underwater rugby trainer, she has completed her GUE Tech 1 and Cave 1 training and is on her way to becoming a GUE instructor. Not letting any grass grow under her feet, she has also taken on a second major in biochemistry in order to create a deeper understanding of our planet’s unique ecosystems as well as the effect of diving on human physiology.

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