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Surviving an Uncontrolled Ascent

What do you do when your power inflator sticks open at depth, you’re unable to disconnect it, and unable to reach your right post to shut it down because of an overinflated wing? That’s the question tech diver Maureen Roberts found herself grappling with as she began accelerating towards the surface 26 m/120 f above.



By Maureen Roberts
Header image courtesy of Julian Mühlenhaus

On Saturday, September 11, 2021, I was on a shore diving trip with friends in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California, when I experienced a runaway power inflator and an uncontrolled ascent to the surface on a technical dive.  

I finished my Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) Technical Diver 1 course in December 2019, but didn’t dive much during the first part of the pandemic.  Now vaccinated, I was diving again, but I still only had 18 tech dives.  I took the GUE DPV Diver 1 course in May 2021, and had 20 scooter dives by the time of the trip.  

Photo by Keith Chu

We planned to do tech dives using diver propulsion vehicles (DPVs) at Point Lobos in a team of three. Our first dive would be a scooter run out to Montana, max depth of 46 m/150 ft, and the 2nd dive to Beto’s reef, max depth of 36 m/120 ft. We discussed the need to avoid surfacing at the deeper parts of the dive if we became separated, due to surface currents in that area. The plan was to scooter back to shallower depths and the protection of the cove before surfacing.  

We exited the water in high spirits after the first dive. We had some lunch and then got ready for the second dive.  On the second dive, I was Diver #3, and Diver #1 was navigating. We planned for an average depth of 30 m/100 ft and a maximum depth 46 m/120 ft and decompression on 100% oxygen (O2).  

The first part of the dive was uneventful and picturesque.  We were treated to about 15 m/50 ft visibility and a lot of different marine life than we usually see in southern California (SoCal). I was happy to see so many varieties of starfish, which have become rare in SoCal.  As we reached the farthest point out on our dive, 29 minutes runtime, I fell about 3 m/10 ft behind Divers #1 and 2, who were wing on wing.  I had just looked at my dive computer, and I saw our depth at 46 m/120 ft, and a deco time of one minute.  

I was adjusting buoyancy, and added a little gas to my wing. When I pressed the inflator, it gave a wimpy puff, almost like I’d pressurized my regs and then turned them off during a pre-dive check, and puffed the last little bit of gas into the wing.  I added a puff of gas to my drysuit to alleviate some squeeze, then returned to the wing inflator, thinking, “Hmm.”  As I pressed it, the button stuck down and my wing began to rapidly inflate.  

It All Looks Up To Me

For a few seconds, I tried to unstick the inflator button, but it didn’t budge. I reached for my right valve with my right hand (dropping the scooter handle) and my butt dump with my left hand. I felt myself rising and I realized I could not reach the right post because my wing was so full. My wing’s overpressurization relief valve (OPV) started to dump and bubbles began to obscure my vision. The other divers were now about 6 m/20 ft away, and I was rising above them. I screamed to them through my regulator, but we were all wearing hoods in the cold water, and that plus the hum of their scooters drowned me out.  

The gas in my drysuit was expanding as I ascended, and I went to a more vertical position of about 45 degrees and vented my drysuit while I tried to disconnect the inflator hose. I wasn’t able to disconnect it. My hands were cold and I was wearing dry gloves with thick undergloves.  At that point, I had risen about 6-9 m/20-30 ft, and I was accelerating. I had gone from “What is happening?” to “I will handle this,” to “Oh my God, I’m going to the surface!” in just a few seconds. I reached back again, trying to get to the right post, but my wing was very full, it was impossible to turn the valve, and I was starting to feel squeezed by the wing.  

As my drysuit inflated, I even tried to claw open the neck seal to flood it, but I couldn’t get my fingers underneath my hood. I had a brief moment of wondering if this was going to be how I die, but my brain was constantly telling me to try something else as each thing didn’t work.

My vision was now completely obscured by bubbles from the wing’s OPV, so I could not tell if my teammates saw what was happening. I suspected they had not. Then it became very bright, and I was on the surface. The entire ascent lasted only 90 seconds.

My wing was still massively inflated, squeezing me and dumping out the OPV. I couldn’t reach the right valve on the surface, either. I tried again to get the inflator hose disconnected, but I couldn’t. Simultaneously, I was trying to get my bearings toward the shore. I had surfaced at the exact farthest point of our dive. The thought of the currents we had discussed crossed my mind. I squirmed around trying to get the right post shut off, while I studied the shoreline to make sure I knew where I was. I wanted to try to descend again, but I couldn’t get the wing to stop inflating. I switched to my 100% O2 and clipped off my primary regulator. 

After a few minutes of struggling, I was finally able to simultaneously dump the wing and roll the post off by degrees until it was off. Then I was thankful to dump some of the gas from my wing and relieve the squeeze it was putting on my chest. I was surprised to find I still had 2000 psi/138 bar in my double 100s/12 liter. I had about 2500 psi/172 bar when my ascent began.  

At that point, more than five minutes had elapsed, and I was not sure whether to descend or not. I looked at my computer, noted the 93% surface gradient, and that it said rapid ascent and missed deco stop. I realized that I had more of a rapid ascent than missed deco, and given that and the length of time already on the surface, I decided not to descend. I kept taking a mental inventory of myself and looking for anything wrong, but I felt physically okay, just a bit shaken up. I told myself, “You are okay” a few times.  I wanted to be out of the water, though.

I started to scooter toward the entry point, and for a while I couldn’t tell if I was making progress. I didn’t want to have to be rescued. I decided to scooter until my batteries died, and if I didn’t make it in, then I would go to Plan B. I have a personal locator beacon (PLB) on my harness. I hoped I wouldn’t need it. I should have inflated my diver surface marker buoy (DSMB), but I honestly didn’t think of it. At that point, I didn’t want to summon anyone from shore, yet. But it could have helped my teammates see me if they were on the surface, even though the ocean was relatively flat.

Finally, I could see that I was making progress to shore, despite whatever surface current there was. I felt relief and wondered what my teammates were doing. Had they already exited ahead of me? I didn’t think so, because I didn’t see any commotion on shore. I assumed if they got out without me, the people on shore would have looked like they were looking for someone in the water.

Toward the exit, there was thick kelp on the surface and I made the mistake of heading into it rather than taking a circuitous route. I stopped and had to disentangle myself a couple of times, and then I finally decided to descend to about 1.5 m/5 ft to get through. I was aware of the need not to struggle or exert myself. 

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The Aftermath

Once I got through the kelp and onto the exit ramp, I saw some of my friends there, hanging out after their dives. One of them, not initially realizing there was a problem, came to help me with my deco bottle and DPV. I slowly removed my fins and started to walk out, wondering how to explain myself.  I said, “I’m not okay, I had a rapid ascent, can you bring the O2 to me, and can someone look for the other divers?”  

Photo by Jennifer Kim

I sat on a bench and someone brought my O2, which I breathed on and off as I described what happened. Someone else brought me some water, and I drank that and tried to be calm. I was now very anxious to see my teammates. I knew that being together, they were probably fine, but I just wanted to see them. Some of my friends went to look for them over the cliffs, and some awkwardly wandered around, loading their cars or checking gear. A couple of people asked if I was experiencing any physical symptoms. I said no. 

Suddenly, I was all by myself on the bench with my O2 and some water, and I felt very alone and just drained. I wished someone would sit next to me and maybe just put a hand on my arm. I kept thinking how, if that had occurred later in the dive or on the first dive, I could have been badly bent or killed. I wondered if I would ever dive again. I kept remembering the exact moment that I realized I was going to the surface, and the fear that I felt, and how I screamed for my teammates but they did not hear me.

After what seemed like a long time, someone said they had spotted the other divers and they were coming in. I could see the ramp and watched my two teammates get out and walk to their cars to gear down. I wondered if they were mad at me. Once they were free of their tanks, they came over and I explained what happened. I was so relieved to see them.

They had looked back, seen that I was missing, and searched for me underwater for 15 minutes, concerned my scooter may have died and I was kicking back to shore, or that I had become lost, or worse. They incurred a deco obligation during the search, and then surfaced closer to shore than I had. Underwater, they had debated whether to surface earlier or to keep looking underwater. Although it seemed like it took me a long time to get squared away and get out of the water, I had already gotten out when they came to the surface.

At that point, I still felt fine, so I continued to breathe my O2 on and off, and my teammates loaded my gear into the car for me. Once we were ready to leave, I called Divers Alert Network (DAN) and told them my story. The startling reality of what I’d just experienced became evident when the DAN volunteer asked me how long since I surfaced and I said “about 20 minutes.” I then noted that my dive computer said 1 hour 33 minutes!  DAN recommended I monitor myself for symptoms but did not recommend I be evaluated at the ER since I felt fine and hadn’t officially missed deco, just had a rapid ascent.

Later, we examined my gear. With the regs pressurized, it was very difficult to disconnect the low pressure (LP) inflator hose, even on land with dry hands. We removed the inflator and the LP hose and replaced both with a new one. 

I had a long talk with my teammates and I called my instructor/mentor. I couldn’t decide whether to dive the following day or not. My teammate, Diver #1, told me to sleep on it. The next morning I decided to do the dive we had planned originally, a 52 m/170 ft tech dive to Twin Peaks. We decided to go in a team of two, starting the dive with another team of three. We agreed we would take things slowly.  

The dive felt fine. I knew once I was in the water that it was the right decision to get back on the proverbial horse. We had a pleasant dive and then I called it a day, waiting in the sun while the others did a second dive.  

Figuring Out What Went Wrong

When we arrived home, I took my malfunctioning inflator to the dive shop to examine it and see if we could determine what went wrong. They serviced my inflator, but it still leaked when we hooked it up to a new hose and tank. I had previously been told, “Don’t service LP inflators, just discard them.” I had ignored that good advice and serviced the LP inflator about 30 dives prior to the incident. It seemed to work fine, until it didn’t. 

After each dive day, I soak my gear in hot water in the bathtub overnight. The LP inflator was about four years old. The hose was about five years old. It just wasn’t a style that was easy to remove when pressurized. I never realized that some LP inflator hoses are easier to remove than others.  Now I have a new, easier-to-remove LP inflator hose and a new power inflator.  

My teammates and I talked about the events of this dive many times over the following days. I will be more diligent in not falling behind when scootering, and if I need the others to slow down for me, I will ask them to.

Photo by Jennifer Kim

Diver #1 and I subsequently went on a skills dive together to practice runaway inflator management. We found that consistently dumping from the butt dump while kicking down, we could arrest the ascent and stabilize in the face of a stuck inflator. Once stabilized, we were able to easily shut the right post off and switch to our backup regulator. Once the right post had been purged, the LP inflator hose was easy to disconnect. I tried a different strategy of going vertical and dumping gas from the corrugated hose while trying to disconnect the LP inflator (rather than using the butt dump and shutting off the right post) but found that I ascended more quickly using that method. I was glad that we practiced the stuck wing inflator because I hadn’t practiced it before. Now I feel confident that I could manage a stuck inflator.

Roberts dive profile

At the time of my incident, I wasn’t as committed to dumping from the OPV as I should have been. Once the OPV started to auto-dump, I didn’t continue to dump it myself. That may have made a difference and given me the ability to dump enough gas to reach the right post.  

We are always told “Stop, breathe, think, act,” but in this case, I didn’t have time to do that. It was “act, act, act, oh no I’m at the surface.”  A lot of the things I did were automatic and I didn’t even think about them.  Some folks have asked me if I could have cut my wing with my knife, or scootered straight down, or kinked off the LP inflator hose. I didn’t have time to think of those things; besides, I had dropped my scooter handle as soon as I tried to reach the right post.

I plan to remember this dive by checking the dates on all my gear every year on September 11. I’m going to start replacing LP inflators annually, and hoses every 3 years.  

I think perhaps the most pragmatic take on the incident was from my T1 teammate (who was not present). When I told him the story, he said “Replace both the inflator and the hose. You’ll be fine, it’s just an incident. Shit happens.” 

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Dive Deeper:

The Human Diver: The Debrief 

Diver Alert Network: Diving Incident Reporting System

DAN South Africa: One mistake and you are dead – isn’t how accidents normally happen!

Alert A Behind The Scenes Look Into The Making of “Close Calls” 

Forty-four year old Maureen Roberts is an emergency veterinarian based in Pasadena, California and has been diving since 2015. She received her GUE Tech 1 certification in 2019 and her DPV 1 in 2021. She says she likes black jelly beans.


Twenty-five Years in the Pursuit of Excellence – The Evolution and Future of GUE

Founder and president Jarrod Jablonski describes his more than a quarter of a century long quest to promote excellence in technical diving.




by Jarrod Jablonski. Images courtesy of J. Jablonski and GUE unless noted.

The most difficult challenges we confront in our lives are the most formative and are instrumental in shaping the person we become. When I founded Global Underwater Explorers (GUE), the younger version of myself could not have foreseen all the challenges I would face, but equally true is that he would not have known the joy, the cherished relationships, the sense of purpose, the rich adventures, the humbling expressions of appreciation from those impacted, or the satisfaction of seeing the organization evolve and reshape our industry. Many kindred souls and extraordinary events have shaped these last 25 years, and an annotated chronology of GUE is included in this issue of InDEPTH. This timeline, however, will fail to capture the heart behind the creation of GUE, it will miss the passionate determination currently directing GUE, or the committed dedication ready to guide the next 25 years.

Photo courtesy of Kirill Egorov

I don’t remember a time that I was not in, around, and under the water. Having learned to swim before I could walk, my mother helped infuse a deep connection to the aquatic world. I was scuba certified in South Florida with my father, and promptly took all our gear to North Florida where I became a dive instructor at the University of Florida. It was then that I began my infatuation with cave diving. I was in the perfect place for it, and my insatiable curiosity was multiplied while exploring new environments. I found myself with a strong desire to visit unique and hard-to-reach places, be they far inside a cave or deep within the ocean. 

My enthusiasm for learning was pressed into service as an educator, and I became enamored with sharing these special environments. Along with this desire to share the beauty and uniqueness of underwater caves was a focused wish to assist people in acquiring the skills I could see they needed to support their personal diving goals. It could be said that these early experiences were the seeds that would germinate, grow, mature, and bloom into the organizing principles for GUE.

Brent Scarabin, Jarrod and George “Trey” Irvine getting ready to dive.
Jarrod with his Halcyon PVR-BASC prototype.
George Irvine and Jarrod conducting the original DIR workshop.

The Pre-GUE Years

Before jumping into the formational days of GUE, allow me to help you visualize the environment that was the incubator for the idea that became GUE’s reality. By the mid-1990s, I was deeply involved in a variety of exploration activities and had been striving to refine my own teaching capacity alongside this growing obsession for exploratory diving. While teaching my open water students, I was in the habit of practicing to refine my own trim and buoyancy, noticing that the students quickly progressed and were mostly able to copy my position in the water. Rather than jump immediately into the skills that were prescribed, I started to take more time to refine their comfort and general competency. This subtle shift made a world of difference in the training outcomes, creating impressive divers with only slightly more time and a shift in focus. In fact, the local dive boats would often stare in disbelief when told these divers were freshly certified, saying they looked better than most open water instructors! 

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By this point in my career, I could see the problems I was confronting were more systemic and less individualistic. In retrospect, it seemed obvious that key principles had been missing in both my recreational and technical education, not to mention the instructor training I received. The lack of basic skill refinement seemed to occur at all levels of training, from the beginner to the advanced diver. Core skills like buoyancy or in-water control were mainly left for divers to figure out on their own and almost nobody had a meaningful emphasis on efficient movement in the water. It was nearly unheard of to fail people in scuba diving, and even delaying certification for people with weak skills was very unusual. This remains all too common to this day, but I believe GUE has shifted the focus in important ways, encouraging people to think of certification more as a process and less as a right granted to them because they paid for training. 

L2R: Jarrod Todd Kincaid and Rickard Lundgren plotting their 1999 Britannic expedition.

The weakness in skill refinement during dive training was further amplified by little-to-no training in how to handle problems when they developed while diving, as they always do. In those days, even technical/cave training had very little in the way of realistic training in problem resolution. The rare practice of failures was deeply disconnected from reality. For example, there was almost no realistic scenario training for things like a failed regulator or light. What little practice there was wasn’t integrated into the actual dive and seemed largely useless in preparing for real problems. I began testing some of my students with mock equipment failures, and I was shocked at how poorly even the best students performed. They were able to quickly develop the needed skills, but seeing how badly most handled their first attempts left me troubled about the response of most certified divers should they experience problems while diving, as they inevitably would. 

Diving Fatalities

Meanwhile, I was surrounded by a continual progression of diving fatalities, and most appeared entirely preventable. The loss of dear friends and close associates had a deep impact on my view of dive training and especially on the procedures being emphasized at that time within the community. The industry, in those early days, was wholly focused on deep air and solo diving. However, alarmingly lacking were clear bottle marking or gas switching protocols. It seemed to me to be no coincidence that diver after diver lost their lives simply because they breathed the wrong bottle at depth. Many others died mysteriously during solo dives or while deep diving with air. 

One of the more impactful fatalities was Bob McGuire, who was a drill sergeant, friend, and occasional dive buddy. He was normally very careful and focused. One day a small problem with one regulator caused him to switch regulators before getting in the water. He was using a system that used color-coded regulators to identify the gas breathed. When switching the broken regulator, he either did not remember or did not have an appropriately colored regulator. This small mistake cost him his life. I clearly remember turning that one around in my head quite a bit. Something that trivial should not result in the loss of a life. 

Also disturbing was the double fatality of good friends, Chris and Chrissy Rouse, who lost their lives while diving a German U-boat in 70 m/230 ft of water off the coast of New Jersey. I remember, as if the conversation with Chris were yesterday, asking him not to use air and even offering to support the cost as a counter to his argument about the cost of helium. And the tragedies continued: The loss of one of my closest friends Sherwood Schille, the death of my friend Steve Berman who lived next to me and with whom I had dived hundreds of times, the shock of losing pioneering explorer Sheck Exley, the regular stream of tech divers, and the half dozen body recoveries I made over only a couple years, which not only saddened me greatly, but also made me angry. Clearly, a radically different approach was needed.

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Learning to Explore

Meanwhile, my own exploration activities were expanding rapidly. Our teams were seeking every opportunity to grow their capability while reducing unnecessary risk. To that end, we ceased deep air diving and instituted a series of common protocols with standardized equipment configurations, both of which showed great promise in expanding safety, efficiency, and comfort. We got a lot of things wrong and experienced enough near misses to keep us sharp and in search of continual improvement. 

Casey McKinlay and Jarrod with stages and Gavin scooters in Wakulla Springs. Photo courtesy of David Rhea

But we looked carefully at every aspect of our diving, seeking ways to advance safety, efficiency, and all-around competency while focusing plenty of attention into the uncommon practice of large-scale, team diving, utilizing setup dives, safety divers, and inwater support. We developed diver propulsion vehicle (DPV) towing techniques, which is something that had not been done previously. We mostly ignored and then rewrote CNS oxygen toxicity calculations, developed novel strategies for calculating decompression time, and created and refined standard procedures for everything from bottle switching to equipment configurations. Many of these developments arose from simple necessity. There were no available decompression programs and no decompression tables available for the dives we were doing. Commonly used calculations designed to reduce the risk of oxygen toxicity were useless to our teams, because even our more casual dives were 10, 20, or even 30 times the allowable limit. The industry today takes most of this for granted, but in the early days of technical diving, we had very few tools, save a deep motivation to go where no one had gone before.

All in a dive of diving for the WKPP.

Many of these adventures included friends in the Woodville Karst Plain Project (WKPP), where I refined policies within the team and most directly with longtime dive buddy George Irvine. This “Doing it Right” (DIR) approach sought to create a more expansive system than Hogarthian diving, which itself had been born in the early years of the WKPP and was named after William Hogarth Main, a friend and frequent dive buddy of the time. By this point, I had been writing about and expanding upon Hogarthian diving for many years. More and more of the ideas we wanted to develop were not Bill Main’s priorities and lumping them into his namesake became impractical, especially given all the debate within the community over what was and was not Hogarthian. 

A similar move from DIR occurred some years later when GUE stepped away from the circular debates that sought to explain DIR and embraced a GUE configuration with standard protocols, something entirely within our scope to define.

These accumulating events reached critical mass in 1998. I had experienced strong resistance to any form of standardization, even having been asked to join a special meeting of the board of directors (BOD) for a prominent cave diving agency. Their intention was to discourage me from using any form of standard configuration, claiming that students should be allowed to do whatever they “felt’ was best. It was disconcerting for me, as a young instructor, to be challenged by pioneers in the sport; nevertheless, I couldn’t agree with the edict that someone who was doing something for the first time should be tasked with determining how it should be done. 

This sort of discussion was common, but the final straw occurred when I was approached by the head of a technical diving agency, an organization for which I had taught for many years. I was informed that he considered it a violation of standards not to teach air to a depth of at least 57 m/190 ft. This same individual told me that I had to stop using MOD bottle markings and fall in line with the other practices endorsed by his agency. Push had finally come to shove, and I set out to legitimize the training methods and dive protocols that had been incubating in my mind and refined with our teams over the previous decade. Years of trial and many errors while operating in dynamic and challenging environments were helping us to identify what practices were most successful in support of excellence, safety, and enjoyment.

Forming GUE

Forming GUE as a non-profit company was intended to neutralize the profit motivations that appeared to plague other agencies. We hoped to remove the incentive to train—and certify—the greatest number of divers as quickly as possible because it seemed at odds with ensuring comfortable and capable divers. The absence of a profit motive complemented the aspirational plans that longtime friend Todd Kincaid and I had dreamed of. We imagined a global organization that would facilitate the efforts of underwater explorers while supporting scientific research and conservation initiatives. 

I hoped to create an agency that placed most of the revenue in the hands of fully engaged and enthusiastic instructors, allowing them the chance to earn a good living and become professionals who might stay within the industry over many years. Of course, that required forgoing the personal benefit of ownership and reduced the revenue available to the agency, braking its growth and complicating expansion plans. This not only slowed growth but provided huge challenges in developing a proper support network while creating the agency I envisioned. There were years of stressful days and nights because of the need to forgo compensation and the deep dependance upon generous volunteers who had to fit GUE into their busy lives. If it were not for these individuals and our loyal members, we would likely never have been successful. Volunteer support and GUE membership have been and remain critical to the growing success of our agency. If you are now or have ever been a volunteer or GUE member, your contribution is a significant part of our success, and we thank you. 

Photo courtesy of Kirill Egorov

The challenges of the early years gave way to steady progress—always slower than desired, with ups and downs, but progress, nonetheless. Some challenges were not obvious at the outset. For example, many regions around the world were very poorly developed in technical diving. Agencies intent on growth seemed to ignore that problem, choosing whoever was available, and regardless of their experience in the discipline, they would soon be teaching. 

This decision to promote people with limited experience became especially problematic when it came to Instructor Trainers. People with almost no experience in something like trimix diving were qualifying trimix instructors. Watching this play out in agency after agency, and on continent after continent, was a troubling affair. Conversely, it took many years for GUE to develop and train people of appropriate experience, especially when looking to critical roles, including high-level tech and instructor trainers. At the same time, GUE’s efforts shaped the industry in no small fashion as agencies began to model their programs after GUE’s training protocols. Initially, having insisted that nobody would take something like Fundamentals, every agency followed suit in developing their own version of these programs, usually taught by divers that had followed GUE training. 

This evolving trend wasn’t without complexity but was largely a positive outcome. Agencies soon focused on fundamental skills, incorporated some form of problem-resolution training, adhered to GUE bottle and gas switching protocols, reduced insistence on deep air, and started talking more about developing skilled divers, among other changes. This evolution was significant when compared to the days of arguing about why a person could not learn to use trimix until they were good while diving deep on air. 

To be sure, a good share of these changes was more about maintaining business relevance than making substantive improvements. The changes themselves were often more style than substance, lacking objective performance standards and the appropriate retraining of instructors. Despite these weaknesses, they remain positive developments. Talking about something is an important first step and, in all cases, it makes room for strong instructors in any given agency to practice what is being preached. In fact, these evolving trends have allowed GUE to now push further in the effort to create skilled and experienced divers, enhancing our ability to run progressively more elaborate projects with increasingly more sophisticated outcomes. 

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The Future of GUE

The coming decades of GUE’s future appear very bright. Slow but steady growth has now placed the organization in a position to make wise investments, ensuring a vibrant and integrated approach. Meanwhile, evolving technology and a broad global base place GUE in a unique and formidable position. Key structural and personnel adjustments complement a growing range of virtual tools, enabling our diverse communities and representatives to collaborate and advance projects in a way that, prior to now, was not possible. Strong local communities can be easily connected with coordinated global missions; these activities include ever-more- sophisticated underwater initiatives as well as structural changes within the GUE ecosystem. One such forward-thinking project leverages AI-enabled, adaptive learning platforms to enhance both the quality and efficiency of GUE education. Most agencies, including GUE, have been using some form of online training for years, but GUE is taking big steps to reinvent the quality and efficiency of this form of training. This is not to replace, but rather to extend and augment inwater and in-person learning outcomes. Related tools further improve the fluidity, allowing GUE to seamlessly connect previously distant communities, enabling technology, training, and passion to notably expand our ability to realize our broad, global mission.

Photo courtesy of Kirill Egorov

Meanwhile, GUE and its range of global communities are utilizing evolving technologies to significantly expand the quality and scope of their project initiatives. Comparing the impressive capability of current GUE communities with those of our early years shows a radical and important shift, allowing results equal or even well beyond those possible when compared even with well-funded commercial projects. Coupled with GUE training and procedural support, these ongoing augmentations place our communities at the forefront of underwater research and conservation. This situation will only expand and be further enriched with the use of evolving technology and closely linked communities. Recent and planned expansions to our training programs present a host of important tools that will continue being refined in the years to come. Efforts to expand and improve upon the support provided to GUE projects with technology, people, and resources are now coming online and will undoubtedly be an important part of our evolving future.

The coming decades will undoubtedly present challenges. But I have no doubt that together we will not only overcome those obstacles but we will continue to thrive. I believe that GUE’s trajectory remains overwhelmingly positive, for we are an organization that is continually evolving—driven by a spirit of adventure, encouraged by your heartwarming stories, and inspired by the satisfaction of overcoming complex problems. Twenty-five years ago, when I took the path less traveled, the vision I had for GUE was admittedly ambitious. The reality, however, has exceeded anything I could have imagined. I know that GUE will never reach a point when it is complete but that it will be an exciting lifelong journey, one that, for me, will define a life well lived. I look forward our mutual ongoing “Quest for Excellence.”

See Listings Below For Additional Resources On GUE And GUE Diving!

Jarrod is an avid explorer, researcher, author, and instructor who teaches and dives in oceans and caves around the world. Trained as a geologist, Jarrod is the founder and president of GUE and CEO of Halcyon and Extreme Exposure while remaining active in conservation, exploration, and filming projects worldwide. His explorations regularly place him in the most remote locations in the world, including numerous world record cave dives with total immersions near 30 hours. Jarrod is also an author with dozens of publications, including three books.

A Few GUE Fundamentals

Similar to military, commercial and public safety divers, Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) is a standards-based diving community, with specific protocols, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and tools. Here are selected InDEPTH stories on some of the key aspects of GUE diving, including a four-part series on the history and development of GUE decompression procedures by founder and president Jarod Jablonski.

Anatomy of a Fundamentals Class

GUE Instructor Examiner Guy Shockey explains the thought and details that goes into GUE’s most popular course, Fundamentals, aka “Fundies,” which has been taken by numerous industry luminaries. Why all the fanfare? Shockey characterizes the magic as “simple things done precisely!

Back to Fundamentals: An Introduction to GUE’s Most Popular Diving Course

Instructor evaluator Rich Walker attempts to answer the question, “why is Fundamentals GUE’s most popular diving course?” Along the way, he clarifies some of the myths and misconceptions about GUE training. Hint: there is no Kool-Aid. 

The GUE Pre-dive Sequence

As you’d expect, Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) has a standardized approach to prepare your equipment for the dive, and its own pre-dive checklist: the GUE EDGE. Here explorer and filmmaker Dimitris Fifis preps you to take the plunge, GUE-style.

The Flexibility of Standard Operating Procedures

Instructor trainer Guy Shockey discusses the purpose, value, and yes, flexibility of standard operating procedures, or SOPs, in diving. Sound like an oxymoron? Shockey explains how SOPs can help offload some of our internal processing and situational awareness, so we can focus on the important part of the dive—having FUN!

Standard Gases: The Simplicity of Everyone Singing the Same Song

Like the military and commercial diving communities before them, Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) uses standardized breathing mixtures for various depth ranges and for decompression. Here British wrecker and instructor evaluator Rich Walker gets lyrical and presents the reasoning behind standard mixes and their advantages, compared with a “best mix” approach. Don’t worry, you won’t need your hymnal, though Walker may have you singing some blues.

Rules of Thumb: The Mysteries of Ratio Deco Revealed

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 first of a two part series.

The Thought Process Behind GUE’s CCR Configuration

Global Underwater Explorers 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!

GUE and the Future of Open Circuit Tech Diving

Though they were late to the party, Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) is leaning forward on rebreathers, and members are following suit. So what’s to become of their open circuit-based TECH 2 course? InDepth’s Ashley Stewart has the deets.

Project Divers Are We

Diving projects, or expeditions—think Bill Stone’s Wakulla Springs 1987 project, or the original explorations of the Woodville Karst Plain’s Project (WKPP)—helped give birth to technical diving, and today continue as an important focal point and organizing principle for communities like Global Underwater Explorers (GUE). The organization this year unveiled a new Project Diver program, intended to elevate “community-led project dives to an entirely new level of sophistication.” Here, authors Guy Shockey and Francesco Cameli discuss the power of projects and take us behind the scenes of the new program

Decompression, Deep Stops and the Pursuit of Precision in a Complex World In this first of a four-part series, Global Underwater Explorers’ (GUE) founder and president Jarrod Jablonski explores the historical development of GUE decompression protocols, with a focus on technical diving and the evolving trends in decompression research.

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