Opening remarks: Responsibility

Andrea DoriaRecently, I posted on YouTube some old video I shot inside the Andrea Doria, from 1991. More than one person commented to me that they were surprised I was diving solo? At that time in my diving career, like my diving peers, I was spending a lot of time on the Doria. Many of those dives were spent exploring new areas of the wreck, which meant many elements of the dive plan were subject to change with little notice. Obstructions, equipment failure, loose debris, zero visibility, and unexpected opportunity were all common.

Solo diving made far more sense in that we could travel light, have a small footprint, and push as far as we were comfortable, as opposed to as far as someone else was comfortable. For most of these dives a buddy was considered to be a liability, not an asset, simply due to the environment. We focused on being self reliant, and that made Solo diving possible. It made deep diving possible.

More than one of the diving fatalities on the Doria, had a buddy who failed to affect the eventual outcome. So, just having a buddy is not an effective survival tool because the buddy is unreliable. The answer to a serious problem can't be unreliable.

This past week, I was diving from a JC Miami Exploration Feb 6 2013private boat off Miami. We were looking at a couple of new sites, and using open circuit Trimix. The other dive team was comprised of a pair of deep divers who had never been diving together as a buddy team. This was not the deepest dive for either diver, but it was still a serious dive for them. They are both experienced, inspired guys, and excited about this particular dive to an unknown site.

So, these guys are getting suited up and talking over their dive plan, and it comes to talking about supplying gas to the other diver, in an emergency? It was like, "This is my long hose, but if you have to take a regulator, blah blah blah", kind of stuff. This was their training and they were doing what they were trained to do, but I was amazed at how unrealistic this was, and I was kind of amused by it all. I was not worried about either of these guys, but  they were looking at their dive differently than I would have.

Deep diving is different than recreational diving. Deep divers have increased responsibility, but that does not mean that recreational divers are without responsibility? The degree of responsibility is directly proportional to the depth, and/or seriousness of the dive.

If you are diving Trimix then you are making deep decompression dives, and unless you are in training I should be able to assume that you have done this before? This means you understand what could go wrong, and you have a plan for every eventuality. You have the experience, you have the education, and you have the equipment to make the dive. If not, then you have no business in the water.

Regardless of your training, if you are diving in the 200 foot neighborhood, then you need to be self reliant. I am understating this because you need more than that. You need to have a driven determination to be self reliant. You need to have done your homework, and developed the knowledge, skills, and humility to make the dive. You need to have a personal survival plan for every eventuality, which does not involve some unknown dive buddy who may or may not be around in your time of need.

[youtube=]I teach Trimix, and I train divers to share air and buddy breathe, but these are not practical skills. These are confidence building skills like using the blackout mask. These are also exercises to prove to divers that they never want to involve a buddy in a gas supply emergency other than passing off a bottle, so they need to be diligent about being self reliant.

If I am on a deep open circuit wreck dive (where I am not instructing students) I am not even using a long hose on my bottom gas. I am willing to help any diver manage a problem, buddy or not, however supplying gas to another diver, especially on the bottom, is unnecessary and incredibly dangerous for both parties.  My secondary regulator is there for me, not you! If you try to take it from me, I will fight you for it, and I will win. That is my plan. There is no reason in the world for a deep diver to need gas from me on the bottom, much less jump me. Breathe your own damn gas, any gas, even the wrong gas, and return to the surface as quickly and safely as possible. I will help you if I can, but is it fair for one diver to expect another to save him/her, as part of the plan?

I like to dive with others, especially if I am hunting. I am seldom diving solo these days. However, I am always self reliant, and I have a plan for anything that can happen. I expect the same from anyone with whom I am diving.If you need me as part of your emergency planning, then you are diving with the wrong guy. We all need to be responsible for ourselves. The deeper we go, the truer this becomes.

John Chatterton on the Captain Dan 2012

Diving has been pretty good to me. Diving, shipwrecks, and history have been an integral part of my life. I love training divers, and taking new training myself. However, I am a professional diver, and only a part time instructor/student. This is my first blog, and it is entirely my opinion. If this has any purpose, it is simply to share my thoughts and philosophy on diving.


John Chatterton