Top Tech Stories of 2021
We’d like to kick off the new year with a selection of 11 hand-curated stories from our deepening well of content, call it, InDepth’s Top Tech Stories of 2021,” representing some of the most read, and what we feel are important stories from the last year.
Header image: the wreck of the Chrisoula K in the Red Sea. Photo by Julian Mühlenhaus
January marks our third full year of publishing InDepth and I’d like to think we are starting to get the hang of it! We hope you agree! Over the last year, we published 108 stories covering a wide range of topics of interest and importance to the global self-contained diving community. As we’ve said from the beginning, our goal is to be a community magazine. If you have a story that you think needs to be told or one that you’d like to tell, please reach out to us.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, our readers, for your continuing interest and support, and also thank our many contributors, whose work and labors of love are represented here and elsewhere in InDepth.
In addition, I would like to thank our courageous sponsors who make the blog possible. Special thanks to DAN Europe, Dive Rite, Divesoft, Extreme Exposure, Fourth Element, Halcyon, Shearwater Research, The Dirty Dozen, and Fathom Dive Systems, which began its sponsorship with this issue. Please join us in supporting these depth full brands!
We’d like to kick off the new year with a selection of 11 hand-curated stories from our deepening well of content, call it, InDepth’s Top Tech Stories of 2021,” representing some of the most read, and what we feel are important stories from the last year. In addition, find our free downloadable open circuit and closed circuit Annotated Tekkie posters. Take them to a digital printer or reach out to one of our sponsors for a printed copy. We have some exciting stories planned for 2022, so watch this space.
We would appreciate it if you would take a moment to complete our annual ReaderSurvey as well. It will help us to deliver better content to your inbox. Our thanks in advance for your help.
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How deep are the deepest cave dives today compared to those 30 years ago, when technical diving was just getting started? We team up with deep diving pioneer Nuno Gomes to review the history of deep cave diving, discuss the issues involved, and identify the people who are giving our underwater envelope a hard shove.
While you’re there, don’t forget to check out our tribute to the community’s incomparable deep cave diver: Celebrating Sheck Exley
In March 2021, the Rebreather Training Council (RTC) launched a new rebreather safety initiative recommending the use of mouthpiece retaining straps to prevent drowning in the event of loss of consciousness. In this package of stories, science writer Reilly Fogarty, along with Andrew Fock and Paul Haynes explore the value and efficacy of straps and make the case for their use.
Is it possible to make a viable career as a tech diving instructor? How about if you have instructor trainer credentials to boot, err fin? Here Darcy Kieran, principal of Scubanomics, dives into the economics of being a dive instructor based on the results of our joint global instructor survey. How much money did you say you hoped to make?
Is it a secret algorithm developed by the WKPP to get you out of the water faster sans DCI, or an unsubstantiated decompression speculation promoted by Kool-Aid swilling quacks and charlatans? British tech instructor/instructor evaluator Rich Walker divulges the arcane mysteries behind GUE’s ratio decompression protocols in this two part series. And don’t forget those standard gases!
What causes individuals and organizations to drift from acceptable standards and behavior? Is it an aberration or something to expect, and what can we do about it? Human Factors coach Gareth Lock takes us for a deep dive into human biases, our tendency to deviate, and what that means for human performance.
The tech community tends to equate exploration with surveying virgin cave passage and/or discovering a shipwreck that was heretofore out of reach or out of mind. Here Rolex NATGEO Explorer of the Year, Brian Skerry, discusses his three-year project exploring the arcane life and culture of whales, and exactly what it took to bring home the data.
I know, I know, this is an über-geek story, with math no less, but it’s important. There are two new models that are vying to replace the legacy REPEX method (OTUs) used today for predicting pulmonary oxygen toxicity during diving. Here Reilly Fogarty applies these models to predict and compare the risk results on two BIG tech dives: The SS Brandenberg (199m/625 ft), Tuscany, Italy and Weeki Wachee Springs (124m/404 ft), Florida.
Also, you don’t want to miss instructor trainer and medicolegal death investigator Andrea Zaferes’ deep dive into the physiology and process of drowning, the number one cause of diver fatalities: The Causes, Physiology, and Process of Drowning
World-recognized decompression physiologist and cave explorer David Doolette explains the new evidence-based findings on “deep stops,” and shares how and why he sets his own gradient factors. His recommendations may give you pause to stop, shallower, and longer.
According to DAN’s 2019 Annual Diving Report, breath-hold diving fatalities accounted for nearly a third, or 52 of the 162 recreational scuba deaths in 2017, and four times the number of tech diving fatalities that year. Is freediving actually more dangerous than tech diving? PFI instructor trainer Ted Harty explains what’s happening and what’s required to improve freediving safety in this best read story from 2020.
New information released in 2020 called into question the validity of former Egyptian Army Colonel and instructor trainer Ahmed Gabr’s 2014 Guinness World Record scuba dive to 332 m/1,090 ft in the Red Sea. Did he actually complete the dive? We report on what it all may mean in this two article series.
Wreck explorer and filmmaker Dimitris Fifis dives into the nature and motivation of record setting in diving following the recent deaths of two divers attempting to break world depth records. See: Opinion: Don’t Break That Record
11. Finally, the MOST FUN Story of 2021 (excluding the mermaids): Brits Brew Beer Booty
What do you get when you combine the Brit’s proclivity for shipwreck exploration with their strong affinity for beer? A tasty sunken treasure hunt that yielded 126-year old reconstituted British beer. GUE Scotland’s Andy Pilley recounts the tale.
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!
by Michael Menduno, Amanda White and Kenzie Potter
Holiday images by Jason Brown, BARDO CREATIVE
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.
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.
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.
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 and Frontmount Rebreathers
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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