I must confess, I fully intended to get this post about training up before we saturated, but throughout a busy and exhausting week, it just didn’t happen. So, here it is now, brief little chat about our week of training in the keys. Each day started with a morning of briefings and shore-work followed by an afternoon of practicals and skills tests, and finished up with some good beers and great BBQ cooked up by our friends from the NEDU running surface support (thanks Sully! Pot us down some burgers!)
We are diving with a modified Hogarthian setup with double 100s to make the most of our time. For those who don’t dive, this setup is two tanks, each 1.25 times the size of a regular scuba tank connected with a manifold and mounted on a steel backplate. Fully assembled the rig weighs 125 lbs dry (~60 kg) so it takes a little practice to get used to the extra gear and weight. In addition to getting used to new gear, during training we spent quite a bit of time running and setting navigation lines and practicing emergency drills. We practice with the lines because during a normal dive, if you find yourself lost, low on air, or in an emergency situation, a controlled assent is usually your safest option. When saturated, the surface is no longer an option and small issues like getting a bit turned around (ask any scientific diver and they’ll tell you how easily it happens when you’re focused on collecting your data) can turn into serious situations. To minimize this risk we run excursion lines to all our primary research sites and cave-reels out from the primary sites. In addition, we run shut-down drills to practice isolating cylinders and switching gas in the event of a breakdown anywhere in the rigs. By the end of the week we were doing all of our training without masks to make sure we’re on our a game.
So, now that you have a brief rundown of our training, we get to spend the next 7 days in the habitat, which is already shaping up to be quite a surreal experience. From here on out I’ll do my best to keep up and try to post about life underwater in the next few days. In the mean time, feel free to try and catch us on the live webcam here (http://www.ustream.tv/aquariusreefbase) – the feed turns on and off intermittently and switches from interior to exterior cameras, so if its not on when you visit you can always check back.