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May 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Was This a Million Dollar Scam?

an investment opportunity for the gullible

from the May, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In Thunderball and Die Another Day, James Bond dived with a mouthpiece fed by what looked like a little CO2 cartridge, but they were movies. Some time ago, the Internet carried stories of a device a diver could hold in his mouth that would enable breathing underwater without the aid of a tank.

It resembled a regulator mouthpiece with bicycle handlebar grips attached at both sides. It was called Triton and was initially a mocked-up design concept of a college student.

Triton

In August 2014, Undercurrent published a piece entitled "There's Something Fishy About This Dive Gear," pointing out that the device made no sense. However, American dive magazines pretty much ignored it -- why alienate a potential advertiser? -- and through mid-March of this year, the developers had raised nearly $900,000 from website crowd funding via Indiegogo. Regardless, just a few days ago we again warned our readers to stay away. But, was Undercurrent's appraisal wrong? Is this device about to revolutionize the dive market?

A little history. Years ago, the UK's Diver Magazine investigated the claims of an Israeli inventor who had come up with a device that could release and collect oxygen dissolved in the water, rather like the gills of a fish, and provide enough oxygen to sustain a human being under water. Professor Emeritus Felix Weinberg (University of London) countered the claim, saying that the electrical power needed would require the diver to be tethered to a small power station.

Nonetheless, the Triton project was created and has captured the imagination (or is it the gullibility?) of more than 1400 people, who poured money into their Indiegogo crowd funding site. Presumably, they were not the Undercurrent readers we had warned.

"With Triton, there's no heavy equipment, complicated safety procedures or training. It's easy to use, and no longer than a snorkel," Triton founders Saeed Khademi and Jeabyun Yeon claimed on their Indiegogo page. "Gently bite into the mouthpiece, breathe normally, and enjoy a sense of underwater freedom unavailable until now. Just imagine exploring gin-clear waters, alongside tropical fish, without bulky equipment or having to surface for air."

Saeed Khademi (also known as Reza) is Iranian, lives in Sweden and worked for Warner Music. Jeabyun Yeon is a young design student at the Samsung Art & Design Institute and lives in Seoul, South Korea. Since neither looks to have the chops to create such a device, we tried to contact both, but neither responded.

Represented by pictures looking suspiciously identical to the student's design concept, the artificial gills were claimed to be made with a microporous hollow fiber, which are lined with tiny holes that allow oxygen collected to pass through. The website claims that users can dive for 45 minutes at fifteen feet. Time would be limited because the device, as claimed, has a micro compressor powered by a micro battery, claimed to be 30 times smaller than anything currently available -- wouldn't Apple love that -- and able to be charged a thousand times faster. James Bond? No, more like Star Trek!

For an average person, it would need to pass more than seven gallons of seawater per minute to provide sufficient oxygen for each single breath. It would need to process more than 30 times that amount to allow a typical adult to breathe for one minute at the surface.

Their short video provided "evidence" that they have a working prototype, but it showed a person swimming with it for the time that you or I could do an unchallenging breath-hold dive. According to physicists, there is far too little dissolved gas in water to allow the principle to work in any real way. Furthermore, what happens to the poisonous carbon dioxide exhaled?

On April 4, it was reported by the British Daily Mail, the International Business Times and CNBC that Triton would refund nearly $900,000 raised in crowd funding through Indiegogo.

Undaunted, the principals of Triton have relaunched with an equally implausible explanation of how the Triton Gills might work, now using a small cylinder of liquid oxygen with refills of this rocket fuel to be available via the Internet. At the time of writing they have already had more than $250,000 re-invested!

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