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September 2021    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 47, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Understand Your Diving Computer

a Galapagos diving incident

from the September, 2021 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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I'm always amazed at divers who do not fully understand their computer displays. I've met plenty on dive trips - computer owners and even more renters - who have never before seen what happens when their computer runs out of no-deco-stop time. There's a disaster waiting, as this story demonstrates.

The dive guide told them to ignore their computers "because Suunto Zoops were overly conservative."

A young woman in her late thirties from California, an Open Water Diver (and Drysuit Diver) with about 40 dives, traveling by herself, went on her very first liveaboard trip in the Galapagos in July. She shared a cabin aboard the MY Aqua (formerly the Pinguino Explorer), an 80-foot steel-hulled vessel. She (we'll call her "Anna" - not her real name) booked through Blue Water Dive Travel, joining travelers who had booked through other agents. And, the first question arises: Should she have been accepted for booking on such an advanced diving trip, or can any certified diver join? (The story was initially told to Undercurrent by Laurie Holloway, Auburn, MA, her impromptu cabin mate, and we have researched comments from other divers aboard.)

Anna rented her dive equipment aboard the vessel, and since she was inexperienced, she and another diver opted to buddy up with one of the two dive guides. She was diving with nitrox, although she was not yet nitrox-certified.

By the third day of the week, the vessel had made it to the outer islands of Darwin and Wolf, about 150 miles from the main archipelago. It can be a rough trip that takes around 20 hours, and Anna had not slept well during the journey.

Strong currents, big swells, and cold water in the outer islands mean arduous diving. Out of range of a rescue helicopter, it's no place to have a diving accident. After arrival, the diver made a series of four long dives to 90 feet or so, beyond the 60-foot limit for an Open Water Diver certification and possibly invalidating her diving insurance....

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