>Then, just when everything was going perfectly, I heard some bubbling. I removed my second stage from my mouth and held it with the mouthpiece facing downward. To my dismay, I saw bubbles coming out — my regulator was leaking. We were almost at our safety stop, so I put the regulator back in my mouth and double-checked that my buddy was within reach in case something unexpected happened. Thinking about it, I realized I hadn't had my regulator serviced since last summer, so I resolved to drop it off at the dive shop later in the week. Better safe than sorry when it comes to having gas to breathe.
>While studying the air-supply problems, I soon identified a common error: failure to watch the submersible pressure gauge (SPG) while test-breathing the regulator. Here is an excerpt from one of the incident reports:
The group went out with four divers and two guides. The drop-in was a back roll, and I dropped in first. Prior to entry I checked all my gear and tested my regulator and inflator. I then dumped the air from my BCD [buoyancy control device] and moved into position. The deckhand checked all my equipment and made sure my tank valve was opened. I rolled in and dropped down 6-10 feet and took my first breath: nothing. Now I was underwater, slightly negatively buoyant, with no air for breathing or inflation. I kicked for all I had and was able to reach the boat and grab ahold of the swim deck. The deckhand was then able to reach over and turn my air back on.
While diving in Florida, I noticed that upon each inhalation the needle of my SPG fluctuated. It dipped down with each breath before returning to the correct pressure reading for my tank. I continued diving while keeping a close eye on the gauge, and upon reaching a depth of approximately 55 feet it suddenly became very difficult for me to breathe. I looked at my SPG mid-breath and saw the needle drop to 0 psi, and it did not readily move back up. I felt like there was no more air available to me even though I knew there was at least 1,200 psi in my tank. I signaled "out of air" to my buddy and used her alternate regulator. We made a controlled ascent to the surface, and I was not injured. Upon inspecting my gear I realized that instead of turning on my tank all the way and then half a turn back, I had turned it all the way off and half a turn on. Upon descending below 33 feet I experienced inadequate air-pressure delivery from my tank to my regulator because the tank was barely on and could not continue to deliver the same volume of air at the increased ambient pressure.
>Buoyancy problems, although not reported to DAN as frequently as gas-supply problems, may still be common. Most are easily avoided by following these three simple tips:
- Always test your power inflator before you enter the water. If it is going to stick, then this is when it is most likely to do so.
- Always check that you can orally inflate your BCD before entering the water in case you need to do so in an emergency.
- Look at your weight-removal system. If you are using unfamiliar equipment, make sure you know how to drop your weights, if needed. If you are shore diving on a calm day, consider a quick weight drop while floating on the surface in 4 feet of water.
>For more tips and incidents reports, or to report a diving incident, visit DAN.org/diving-incidents.
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>© Alert Diver — Q2 Spring 2016