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February 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 33, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Rebreathers: What Every Scuba Diver Needs to Know

and know about the diver next to you using one

from the February, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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You may never intend to use a closed-circuit rebreather (CCR), but they are becoming surprisingly popular among sport divers. They provide long dive times with minimal gas consumption, while giving an optimum gas mix for changing depths, thereby reducing decompression stops or increasing no-stop times. The first thing you'll notice is that they have two cylinders that are only a quarter the size of a conventional scuba tank. While their bubblefree operation is often used as a selling point, the CCR diver is still very visible and must remain stationary to get close to skittish marine life -- the advantage that an underwater photographer craves.

CCR offer advantages with complications

Divers who spend $5000 or more on their rebreathers naturally want to use it, even if it's not entirely appropriate for their dive. It's rather like the Porsche owner who uses his car for domestic runs rather than for fast drives and country roads. And why not? People can spend their money how they like and get their pleasures in the way they want. However, there have been some high-profile fatalities with rebreathers over the years.

If you are an open-circuit recreational scuba diver who finds yourself alongside a CCR diver, there are a few things you should know to have a happy outcome to every dive. A CCR provides a closed breathing loop of which the user becomes a part.

After assembling his unit, a CCR diver runs twoway leak tests when preparing his unit for immediate use. If a CCR user appears to say, "That will do," it's not enough. A leak revealed (or ignored) can result in a flooded unit. A CCR diver must perfectly prepare his unit to stay alive. So be aware that CCR divers appear to fiddle with their equipment more than you do before a dive. If you see someone making repeated attempts with these tests and apparently not getting a satisfactory result, yet still going diving, point it out to a dive guide. After spending a lot on a dive trip, some people tend to go diving no matter what. Diving lawyer Rick Lesser calls it the "Sacramento syndrome," after divers who drive hours to California's Pacific Coast to go abalone diving and jump in no matter how dangerous the ocean conditions....

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