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by Dominic Robinson
Header image—Does the sun ever set on the BSAC empire? All photos courtesy of the British Sub Aqua Club.
Since our creation in 1953, members of the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) have been enthusiastic adopters of new diving equipment and procedures. Combined with our strong expeditionary and project focus, this has resulted in us being some of the first technical divers to visit iconic wrecks such as the HMS Prince of Wales/Repulse, HMS Victoria and RMS Egypt.
As a largely amateur organisation largely based on local clubs in the UK, individual BSAC technical divers can find it difficult to find others who share their passion. To address this, BSAC Technical centrally organises events such as technical try dives and training courses, all coordinated using our Facebook page. Until the pandemic we also organised a number of annual expeditions to places such as the world-famous wrecks off Malin Head, Donegal, which were very popular.
We have also seen technical diving becoming increasingly common in individual branches, leading to divers on the same boat and site using single cylinders, twinsets, sidemount, and CCRs. Some branches are fortunate enough to have very strong cadres of technical divers, and an excellent example is the Plymouth Sound Branch. In 2020, the club organised approximately 20 dives in the 60-80 meter/196-261 feet range mainly from their club RIBs and were also some of the very first divers to visit HMS Victory (1744) which lies in 78 metres of water in the middle of the English Channel.
BSAC Tech Webinars
BSAC is producing a series of webinars, many of which are of interest to Technical Divers. Non-members can access them by following the BSAC Technical Group Facebook page where they are advertised. Here are some of their recorded webinars:
Coming April 14 at 19:30 GMT:
The Relevance Of WWII Oxygen Experiments To Today’s Rebreather Divers by Paul Haynes. Driven by wartime operational requirements following a series of diving accidents–some of which were fatal–in the early 1940s, the UK Royal Navy undertook an extensive program of manned oxygen toxicity diving experiments to determine ‘safe’ oxygen exposure limits. Eight decades later, these experiments still stand today as the defining work in oxygen toxicity in humans. The presentation examines the key findings of these experiments and their relevance for today’s nitrox/rebreather diver. Anyone wanting to watch this talk needs to email email@example.com. All you need to do is send the email saying you want to attend, and you’ll receive the link on the day.
To support our branches in their technical diving, BSAC has long published Safe Diving guidance and created training, including some of the first CCR courses in Europe. In the last few years, we have been an important part of the highly successful worldwide collaboration to develop international standards (ISO) for rebreather training including the welcome inclusion of trimix on the earliest decompression course. Even before final publication, we are revising our own courses so that they will be compliant at the earliest possible opportunity and have already successfully trialed them.
As a broad church, BSAC Technical is proud to provide a forum for debates to improve Technical Diving, so we were particularly pleased to support Paul Haynes’ recent article and webinar on Mouthpiece Retaining Straps (MRS). Last year, BSAC also led the way by providing detailed information on the importance of managing gas density and were the first training agency to release gas density look-up tables which are now being built into our procedures.
In summary, BSAC Technical is a group of passionate divers who have come together to improve procedures and assist others to achieve technical skills; but mainly we want to do as much technical diving as possible! As the world situation improves, we’re very much looking forward to getting back into the water again.
Dominic Robinson is a former Army officer and military helicopter pilot. He now manages the Joint Service Sub Aqua Diving Centre (JSSADC) based in Plymouth, which delivers recreational and technical diving training to members of the UK Armed Forces. An Advanced Mixed Gas (80m) CCR Instructor and Instructor Trainer, he is the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) Technical Chief Examiner.
RTC Launches New Rebreather Safety Initiative
Header image: Rebreather diver wearing their MRS. Photo courtesy of rEVO.
In January 2021, the Rebreather Training Council (RTC) began developing several new safety initiatives in addition to its ongoing work on the advancement and development of rebreather training standards. RTC launched the first of these rebreather safety initiatives in March in an effort to reduce rebreather fatalities.
Specifically, the initiative has been designed to educate and inform divers about the advantages of using mouthpiece retaining straps (MRS). The RTC now recommends the use of an MRS when diving a rebreather. It further recommends that rebreather divers be taught about the advantages of an MRS during their training, and that vendors supply them with their rebreathers (as is required according to the European rebreather standard EN14143).
It is widely acknowledged that the use of rebreathers increases the probability of exposure to an inappropriate breathing gas, which can lead to a Loss of Consciousness (LoC). As sport rebreather diving community leaders, the RTC and its members believe the specific risk of water aspiration following LoC underwater must be proactively mitigated. An MRS is an easy-to-use, easy-to-fit device that prevents the mouthpiece from being lost in the event of (LoC), and can therefore minimize the risk of immediate drowning.
According to Mark Caney, President of the RTC, “There is good evidence that Mouthpiece Retaining Straps have meaningful safety benefits, so we hope that all rebreather divers will take time to learn how these simple devices are deployed and embrace their use whenever practical.” He was joined by RTC vice chair Paul Toomer, “I have been using an MRS on my rebreather for some time now and I’m really happy to see such a great safety initiative being released into the mainstream,” he said.
The RTC’s desire is that all divers, instructors, and manufacturers will embrace this initiative as we continue to strive to make our sport ever safer. For a detailed explanation of the use and safety advantages of MRS, see MOUTHPIECE RETAINING STRAP SAFETY GUIDANCE NOTICE posted on the RTC website.
InDepth: Can Mouthpiece Retaining Straps Improve Rebreather Diving Safety?
—Where do Agencies and Manufactures Stand on Mouthpiece Restraining Straps?
—A Mouthpiece Restraining Strap Just Might Save Your Life
—We surveyed CCR divers from around the world on MRS: Here are the results.
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