Saturday, September 03, 2005

How deep is deep enough?

“What is the deepest that you have dived to?” This question comes up from time to time in my classes. Of course, I give a carefully qualified and truthful answer. The point really is, how deep is deep enough.

Open water divers should not be diving to deeper than 60 feet (20 meters) unless they are diving with a professional. With additional training (for example advanced open water) the diver could venture to 100 feet (30 meters). The absolute depth limit for recreational diving specified by most training organizations is 130 feet (40 meters).

Someone once said that there is nothing in the water that is worth to die for. His point is very well taken. So many times, we hear of divers who are injured or worse, due to deep dives that lead to complications. Often there is an equipment malfunction or a diver error that leads to tragedy.

On the other hand, there are divers who are very experienced, trained and equipped who venture to depths well below the recreational limit of 130 feet (40 meters). These divers are in a very different category than the divers that I train and the type of diving that I do. For the purposes of this post, let’s exclude these divers from my comments below.

The depth of a specific dive should be carefully considered based on the individual’s health, experience, training and of course the prevailing conditions. Some of the factors that should be taken into account are:
  • How well can you see at depth? (colors appear different at depth)

  • What will your bottom time be to explore? (the deeper you are the shorter the bottom time)

  • What are the conditions like? (current, marine animals, possible entanglements)
An article on DAN’s website cautions related to deciding on how deep to dive, “As with many things in life, one must balance the risks against the benefits and make a decision. However, it is essential to have a real understanding and appreciation of the risks.”

The DAN article goes on to caution:
It becomes obvious that there is no safe depth limit that applies to all divers all of the time. A diver’s ability to cope with depth depends on a number of highly variable factors. The depth of the onset of the effects of the exotic cocktail of elevated pressures of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen, coupled with the sensory deprivation and stress associated with diving, are not always predictable. A dive to 80 feet in cold, dirty water can be far more hazardous than a dive to twice the depth in warm, clear waters. Factors such as visibility, water temperature and diver experience and preparedness greatly affect a diver’s comfort and safety, rather than depth alone.
There is no single answer to the question of how deep is deep enough. However, in recreational diving, one should always dive to well within your training and ability while taking the prevailing conditions into account.

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