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Size Matters

Diminutive tekkie and self-proclaimed GUE Scotland interloper Alana Dempsey offers up deep wisdom gleaned from her unique vantage point.

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By Alana Dempsey
Header photo by Owen Flowers

I am known by many names; Titch, Tiny, Pip-squeak, Shorty, Little One. At a petite 5’2″ I am not quite your average tech diver, although I am by no means alone. Diving is not the easiest sport out there, (who doesn’t enjoy rough seas, heavy gear and questionable entry points!) so here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. 

Ask For Help

Alana’s teammates helping her get ready for a dive. Photo by Owen Flowers.

We are team divers right? Which means we always have a team to help us out. Don’t ever struggle alone, because you do not need to. Whether it’s needing help standing your twinset up, a helping hand scrambling down to the entry point, or help getting the top bolt snap of that stage up to your shoulder to clip it off on a bouncing boat, GUE divers are a helpful bunch. So if someone isn’t helping you, it might be because they haven’t realized you needed a hand – just ask!

Persevere

The age old “no such word as can’t” debate. On a serious note, don’t let anyone (including your own brain) tell you that you can’t do something if that is what you want to do. If your kit is just too heavy for you, can you build up your strength with some gym sessions? If you’re struggling with your valve drills, can you spend five minutes each night working on your shoulder mobility? You just can’t understand those gas calculations, but you have access to a wealth of instructors who will run over them with you or write you a few questions to practice. Essentially, what work can you put in to get yourself closer to your goals?

Seek Advice

Two heads are better than one. I’d suggest picking someone whose opinion you value and trust. They don’t need to have the answer straight away, but maybe between you it can be worked out. You would be surprised what conundrums some of our GUE instructors will have the answer to, owing to how many divers they’ve witnessed over the years. Alternatively, find someone whom you think might have experienced the same difficulty and ask them how they approached it. Look for a solution, not excuses.

Alana and teammate Marcus Rose doing a long house check. Photo by Owen Flowers.

Work Smarter Not Harder

Ah my favourite phrase. You may also have heard “hit the easy button.” GUE already covers this well with the ease of things like ratio deco and universal kit configuration. First thing: this is not about being lazy and getting someone else to do the work for you; it’s a similar concept to point 2, how can you help yourself? If it’s a bit of a walk to the entry point and you’re worried about the kit being heavy, could you carry your kit there, put it down, and then go back to put your suit on and pick up all your extras? If you’re knackered when you finish the dive and aren’t sure you can carry your constructed twinset back to the car, can you take off your regs, torch canister, and your weights, and come back for just the twinset, backplate, and wing? Maybe there’s nowhere at the dive site to easily set up your kit, and there’s no way you can hold up a twinset for your buddy to heft on their back; could you buy a small collapsible bench and take that with you?

I am sure everyone has their own tips and tricks; maybe you could share yours with us.

Additional Resources:

Tips and Tricks from Halcyon on how to Manage your dive equipment 

How a Small Backplate Can Make your Diving Better


Alana Dempsey is a forensic lab tech living in Glasgow and an English interloper into GUE Scotland. I started diving in 2011 with BSAC and am a BSAC instructor. I continue to teach new divers with the Sheffield University Sub-Aqua Club and believe getting the basics right from the start is a must. Wreck diving is my passion, especially wrecks with history, (e.g. WW1 wrecks at Scapa Flow) but I can also often be found nudibranch hunting in our local dive spots at Loch Long. Tech 1 diving range is probably my favorite, but I’m starting to look for my next challenge. I’ll be a support diver on the Kalliopi project in May 2021 and look forward to developing my project skills.

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Our Most Read Stories of 2020

Dive into our most read stories of 2020. Can cameras kill? What about those peculiar GUE rebreathers? Gradient factors anyone? Was it a world record dive? Find out.

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Header photo by Sean Romanowski

Greetings Tekkies,

This December marks the second full year of publishing InDepth, and what a crazy year it’s been. With the pandemic still raging throughout most of the world, it has been a most challenging year for the diving industry, as I’m sure you’re aware. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, our readers for your continuing interest and support, and also thank our thoughtful contributors who make the blog possible.

Over the last year, we published nearly 100 InDepth stories covering the latest developments in exploration, technology, training, conservation, diving science & medicine, image making and technical diving culture. We also added select translations into Chinese, Italian, and Spanish . In doing so, I believe that we have grown our coverage in terms of breadth, depth and sophistication. Call it, a geeky labor of love!

In addition, we’ve added some depth-full sponsors to the mix, that have made it possible to grow and sustain InDepth. Our special thanks to DAN Europe, Dive Rite, Divesoft, Fourth Element, Halcyon, The Human Diver, and Shearwater Research. May your brands continue to flourish! 

Similar to 2019, we celebrate the coming new year with our Most Read Stories from 2020/2019. If you like what you read, please SUBSCRIBE, it’s free! That will ensure you’ll get our latest stories and content delivered to your inbox. Here’s to a hopefully wet and most excellent 2021!

—Michael Menduno/M2


Photo by Natalie Gibb

1. Cameras Kill Cavers Again 

Cave explorer, photographer and instructor Natalie L Gibb wants to make “taking pictures” the sixth rule accident analysis. How can toting a camera underground get you into trouble? Take a breath, clip off your camera, and say cheese, Gibb will explain.

Photo by Ortwin Khan

2. The Thinking Behind GUEs Closed Circuit Rebreather Configuration 

GUE is known for taking its own holistic approach to gear configuration. Here GUE board member and Instructor Trainer Richard Lundgren explains the reasoning behind its unique closed-circuit rebreather configuration. It’s all about the gas!

Photo by Joakim Hjelm.

3. Gradient Factors in a Post Deep Stop World 

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).

Image courtesy of DeeperBlue.com.

4. Fact or Fiction: Revisiting the Guinness World Record Dive 

Newly released information calls into question the validity of former Egyptian Army Colonel and instructor trainer Ahmed Gabr’s 2014 world record scuba dive to 332 m/1,090 ft in the Red Sea. InDepth editor-in-chief Michael Menduno reports on what we’ve learned, why this information is coming out now, and what it all may mean.

Photo courtesy of Sea Shepherd.

5. Can We Save Our Planet? What About Ourselves? Interview With Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson.

Managing editor Amanda White poses the BIG questions to environmental activist Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the architect behind its strategy of aggressive non-violence. His answers may surprise you—and even bring you to tears. What motivates the 70-year Environmental Hero of the 20th Century to keep up the fight despite widespread ignorance, apathy and greed? Find out.

Photo by Derk Remmers.

6. Isobaric Counter Diffusion in the Real World 

Isobaric counterdiffusion is one of those geeky, esoteric subjects that some tech programs deem of minor relevance, while others regard it as a distinct operational concern. Divers Alert Network’s Reilly Fogarty examines the physiological underpinnings of ICD, some of the key research behind it, and discusses its application to tech diving.

Photo courtesy of Michal Guba.

7. Deepest Freshwater Flooded Abyss in the World 

The efforts to explore and map Hranice Abyss, located in Hranice (Přerov District) in the Czech Republic span more a century. Currently, the monstrous chasm is known to reach 384 m/1260 ft deep. Explorer and member of the Czech Speleological Society Michal Guba has the deets.

Photo by Rich Denmark.

8. Urination Management Considerations for Women Technical Divers

Tech diver and doctoral student, Payal Razdan, offers an in-depth review of the options available to women tech divers for handling the call of nature.

Photo by Kirill Egorov.

9. Situational Awareness and Decision Making In Diving

Situational awareness is critical to diving safety, right? But how much of your mental capacity should be devoted to situational monitoring, e.g., How deep am I? How much gas do I have? Where is my buddy? Where is my boat? More importantly, how does one develop that capacity? Here GUE Instructor Trainer Guy Shockey, who is also a human factors or non-technical skills instructor, explores the nature and importance of situational awareness, and what you can do to up your game.

10. Examining Early Technical Diving Deaths

The early days of technical diving were marred by an alarming number of fatalities that threatened the viability of this emerging form of diving. Here InDepth editor-in-chief Michael Menduno presents the original accident analyses of 44 incidents that resulted in 39 fatalities and 12 injuries, as reported in aquaCORPS Journal and technicalDIVER in the early to mid 1990s.

11. A Voice In The Wilderness

Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, along comes underground picture-maker SJ Alice Bennett, who is shedding new light on the dark, moody, twisting karst passageways that form what explorer Jill Heinerth calls “the veins of Mother Earth.” If you’re ready for a new perspective on the ‘doing of cave diving,’ switch on your primary and dive right in.


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