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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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July 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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How to Breathe Underwater

or, how to master the “dive deeper, breathe slower” approach

from the July, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Ever notice how some divers blow through their tank really fast, while others can stay down so long you figure that they must be hiding a set of gills under their wetsuit? What gives? And more importantly, what can we learn from divers who "sip" their air?

Air Consumption Above and Below Water

The typical diver, at rest, takes about 16 breaths per minute; that's about a cubic foot of air every three minutes, so he would use up an 80-cf tank in about four hours. However, no matter how leisurely a dive might appear, we are still working harder than at rest, so a leisurely dive would drain a 80-cf tank in approximately 80 minutes. However, this is still air consumption as measured at the surface. What happens when we dive, and start to breathe compressed air?

The deeper one goes, the denser the air one breathes; thus, the tank supplies more compressed air per breath. A typical diver will draw twice the air out of the tank at 33 feet than at the surface, three times more at 66 feet, etc. Therefore, a tank containing enough air for an 80-minute dive at the surface might last about 40 minutes at 33 feet, or 27 minutes at 66 feet....

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