Friday, February 04, 2005

Red tide may affect Floridas manatee population Southwest Florida's Information Leader

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Large fossil graveyard discovered in Central Florida

Large fossil graveyard discovered in Central Florida

Friday, January 28, 2005

Gas Blending Charts for: NITROX,TRIMIX,HELIOX

Thursday, January 27, 2005


“A Dive to Remember”
By: Scott Fraser

Dive, camp, relax. Enjoy one of north Florida’s most pristine attractions. This 1st magnitude spring pumps 76 million gallons of water from the aquifer daily. By 1st magnitude I’m talking about the amount of water dispersed form the spring in a 24 hour period. A 3rd magnitude is 6.6 million gallons or less, a 2nd magnitude is 6.5 to 64.5 million gallons of water. A 1st magnitude is over 64 million gallons of water per day. Did I mention that Alexander springs pumps 76 million gallons of water per day………………I think I did.

The Alexander Springs Wilderness now contains a total of 7,941 acres and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. All of the wilderness is in the state of Florida.Public land becomes wilderness through legislation passed by the United States Congress in the form of public laws. For the Alexander Springs Wilderness, this process began in 1984 when 7,700 acres were designated by Public Law 98-430.The Alexander Springs Wilderness is part of the 106 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of wild lands contributes significantly to the ecological, economic, and social health of our country. Wilderness provides clean air and water, a shelter for endangered species, sacred places for indigenous peoples, a living laboratory for research, and a classroom for exploring personal values while experiencing risk, reward, and self-reliance. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. In an age of "...increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization," you play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the regulations listed below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Alexander Springs Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

The landscape is that of a fairytale. You are literally surrounded by the Ocala national forest on all sides by many miles. Good luck trying to get cell phone reception, but you should leave the phone at home and enjoy nature. When you enter the park you have to pay to enter. The fee is $5.00 for divers. Camping costs are very cheap as well. The amenities have just been refurbished. A brand new shower facility, snack bar, and general store are available. But back to the scenery, at first glance it looks as though a giant blue pool is just sitting smack in the middle of the forest (because it is) the sight is breathtaking. If you have never seen a spring before you will be amazed.

Although the trek from your vehicle to the dive site can be tiresome (about 200 yards) picnic tables await, the perfect place to don your gear. When geared up progress to the stairs closest to the woods. The other stairs are for swimmers. Once you hit the water you may find it to be a little chilly, 72 degrees to be exact. Florida springs maintain a constant temperature of 72 degrees year round. It may not sound cold, but once completely immersed in it you will change your mind. Once in, put your fins on and swim toward the middle of the spring until waist deep. Set your computer (if available) place your regulator in your mouth, deflate your BC, and swim along the bottom (about 4 feet) until you hit the opening if the spring.

It will appear out of nowhere, it’s like looking down the side of a perfectly carved mountain. Descend down a limestone slope that resembles a sand dune you would see at the beach. On either side of the spring is a world of underwater exploration awaiting. A cave entrance intrigues the most curious of divers. Enter the passage way of the cave: To the right of the entrance 10 feet in is a limestone wall that stops you immediately, but with a light you can peer into the depth of the aquifer. To the left of the passageway a cave opens up allowing a 40 foot exploration. I’m not telling you it is safe to go inside, by all means please do not. At 40 feet the limestone closes together so you cannot go any further, but while inside you can sit in the small room and observe (with a flashlight) the small caves and openings leading to the dark Florida aquifer. Outside, to the left of the 1st cave entrance is a small cavern which allows only a body length entrance. If you shine your light into the opening you can see 2 cave passageways which are too small to enter but continue into the darkness as far as your light can reach.

On the other side of the dune the outflow of the spring is massive. You can swim through a tight passage at 20 feet and come out on the top of a limestone shelf at around 8 feet. If you swim into the outflow of the spring at 20 feet you can grip the limestone on either side and hold on while pulling yourself down. Let go and you are blasted like a rocket through the spring. Be sure to hold on to your mask, as it may very well be ripped from your face.
The shallow surroundings of the spring are great for snorkeling too. You can see: gators, and all sorts of small fresh water life, or just float along and relax. Alexander springs boasts a wonderful and fulfilling dive experience. I highly recommend a visit to the Ocala national forest to view the beauty of one of Florida’s best kept secretes, Alexander Springs.
contact info: 10863 E highway 40 silver springs Fl 34488 (352)-669-3522

Sewage and landfill diving

A really “CRAPPY” job. Or is it???? By: Scott Fraser

Mary Jordan (Washington Post)
Mexico City -- Carlos Barrios Orta squeezed himself into his rubber diving suit, pulled on an 18-pound helmet that made him look like an astronaut, then lowered himself into the sewer. He disappeared into the filthy water, which looked like some cauldron of rancid beef stew, until the only sign of him was air bubbles breaking the surface.
In the darkness of the sewer, Barrios could see nothing. He doesn't bother to carry a light, because it would be of no use in the thick waters. He inched forward in his bright red suit, an airtight model that sealed away the disease all around him, feeling his way with his rubber gloves, listening in the darkness"I've got it!" Barrios said as he pushed away bottles, plastic bags and other junk he could not identify by touch. At least there were no human bodies today, like the two he found floating by recently.
He'd been underwater 10 minutes, and Barrios said his body had adjusted to the cold about 24 feet deep in the 60-degree water. "I'm comfortable. It's great. I feel the adrenaline."
Barrios was pumped up. No office, no pencils, no spreadsheets, no routine. He did that for 24 years. He said he's had more fun as a "wastewater diver" than he did in a quarter century of totaling up stacks of numbers. And he's proud that he's providing a service for his city, which has few resources for a more modern sewage system and must rely on divers to keep the aging equipment humming.

When thirty-six-year-old Tim Nelson got a call from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this spring, he already knew it was serious. It's always serious. As a hazmat (hazardous materials)-trained scuba diver, Nelson makes a living plunging into heavily polluted rivers, where he has, for example, swum through raw sewage and pulp-mill effluent to check on leaking pipes.(Christian DiBanetto)

Nothing in the diving industry: (commercial, scuba) has disrupted my curiosity more than landfill and sewage diving. You need a commercial diving education to even begin to attempt this dangerous and odd form of diving. There are commercial diving schools up and down the eastern seaboard from New Jersey to Florida. They offer courses in HAZMAT diving, underwater welding and a host of other extremely dangerous careers including nuclear waste diving. Yep I said it, Nuclear waste diving. Here is an excerpt from Stroud commercial diving academy: Nuclear power facilities all over the world have items in the water, which must receive maintenance. Some items may require a simple dive of a few hours duration or the project may span over several months or more. Divers receive RADWORKER Training at levels I & II as well as General Employee Training and Access Training prior to admission to these types of projects. Our school offers elective training in Nuclear Diving. We have training aids and mock-up devices that present the nuclear environment scenario and all dives and topside training is done to those standards.
Check out the website. The money made by commercial divers is pretty good. Its piece work so you are basically working as a sub contracted diver. The physical affects on your body can be very extreme. If you are a saturation diver( a diver who is saturated with gas so he can stay at great depths for extended periods of time including weeks. The decompression from these dives can take a month and destroy your brain. A saturation diver can only work for around 3 years until they have to stop or sustain serious brain damage.
I recently came in contact with a guy who works in solid waste management for the state of Florida. We got to talking and he informed me of a group of commercial divers known as METHANE DIVERS. He described them as land fill divers. I was like HMMMMMMMMM. What in the hell are you talking about. He explained this to me: When it rains all of the water seeps through the land fills putrid and disgusting mountains of toxic waste. The water is collected in a pool under the land fill and piped out to different water treatment plants. When debris gets caught in one of the passage ways (pipes) it can cause the waste water to back up and possibly flood the sewer system. This means organic chemical toxic waste flooding our streets. MMMMMMMMM…yummy. To keep this from happening the (landfill diver) is lowered into the disease, chemical, fecal waste, putrid waters of the land fill free debris from pipes to ensure proper flow. Land fill divers describe the experience as being put into a dry suit and dumped in a hot tub. The visibility is obviously zero. You have to go on feel alone. Hope to God a hypodermic needle doesn’t stick you, or a dead body doesn’t hit you in the face.(BELOW), Diver ready to enter a 100-ft. leachate shaft to clean out debris . This is where you take a step back and realize that the things you don’t think about are being done everyday. I’ll bet you never thought that a job existed for landfill divers. It does. The salary is around $3,500-4,000 a month. Not bad. I’d do it but I can’t afford the commercial diving training of $10,000. I Hope your eyes are opened and you realize that diving doesn’t just mean beautiful reefs in the Florida keys. Some times a dive can be down right nasty.

why buoyancy is so important

BY: Scott Fraser

In your open water scuba course you learned the importance of buoyancy: the fin pivot, manually inflating your BCD via your breath etc. To call this thing buoyancy a skill that could save your dive……..buoyancy could be just more than that. It is THE skill that will save your dive and quite possibly your life. To master buoyancy is to master the art of diving. Without buoyancy you are not enjoying diving. Cave divers rely on proper buoyancy techniques to keep silt from running a muck and reducing there visibility to zero. Wreck divers are the same caliber, buoyancy is used to keep them from becoming entangled in the many obstructions i.e.: cables, wires, concrete, that lie below and above the diver. In my opinion if you want to become a better diver and advance in the diving field, buoyancy is the most important skill you can attain. Safety is also a factor, but I put skills and safety on two different plains, If you are not a safe diver you have no business diving in the first place. After becoming a safety conscious diver, skills are next. Buoyancy is that next step.

I, just like many divers struggled with the art of buoyancy. At first you are so encompassed with your surroundings that you don’t even think of where you are positioned in the water. Then BOOM, you hit the bottom. How in the hell did that happen???? Your buoyancy wasn’t under control. Now it comes into play. How do I avoid the constant up and down while diving??

First and foremost, don’t over weight. Some underwater hunters (spear fishermen, lobster divers) etc. will tell you that overweighting is necessary to be able to sit on the bottom and not be pushed by the current so you can get an accurate shot, or position yourself on the reef to catch that big lobster. Not true. Over weighting can cause many problems: your ascent to the surface can become quite cumbersome if over weighted. After a dive, exerted, and tired, imagine having to kick to the surface from 120ft. over weighted. This can cause severe stress and over exertion. You stop at the suggested 15 ft for your safety stop (decompression). The safety stop is 3 minutes. Usually a DECO stop would be nice a relaxing, calming experience. NOT IF YOU ARE OVER WEIGHTED!!!! You spend three minutes kicking, not floating, and hoping you don’t drop below your decompression mark. Over weighting is a big mistake many divers make. Just don’t do it. Become accustomed to the amount of weight you need and go with it.
DIVE, DIVE, DIVE!! Keep at it. Just like anything practice makes………. Well not perfect. If you ever feel you are a perfect diver, then stop diving. Once complacent with diving you end up dead!!!!

Second. Always consider your lungs as a BCD. Your lungs inflate with every breath, pulling you upward. If you breathe in and tap your power inflator you could ascend twice as high as intended. Tap your inflator while breathing out. You will ascend, breathe in, stop and wait. If your breath caused you to float up then you are good. You want to control your buoyancy with your breathing. In, out, in out. You float up and down with every breath. Practice this skill and you will be OK. It’s your responsibility as a conscious, education driven diver to research, practice, and perform skills underwater. Take these tips and apply them to your dive, but never stop educating yourself on the sport of scuba diving. You will learn more and more everyday if you apply yourself.

cave divers die in tragic accident

By: Scott Fraser

Known as the Mt. Everest of cave diving, Eagles nest (aka) Lost sink in Hernando County Florida sits nestled 4 miles into the forest near the famous Weeki Wacchee river. These nearly inaccessible and gorgeous landscapes make this destination look picture perfect. When you reach the site after trekking through miles of wooded terrain you are greeted with the words of wisdom “CAVE DIVING IN THIS AREA IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS EVEN LIFE THREATNING!!!! DO NOT DIVE UNLESS YOU ARE A CERTIFIED CAVE DIVER”. These signs exist for a reason, but people choose to ignore them every day. Sheck Exley was the inventor of the accident report. Sitting examples of divers who ignored basic cave diving training or who hadn’t been trained at all. He compiled research (rescue and recovery) and created an accident report reminding divers of what not to do. 6-12-04 would have been an interesting report.

Two highly trained cave divers perished in Eagles Nest and nobody can fathom what caused this horrible blow to the dive community. Two divers entered Eagles nest around noon on Saturday June 12th, 2004 with high powered scooters and a lot of experience under their belts. They descended into the Florida aquifer to explore the beauty of the cave system that awaited them. For those of you that don’t know Eagles nest it is an extremely technical dive. Not just because of the over head environment, the lack of a cavern setting of the bone chilling water temperature, the extreme depth requires decompression stops well beyond the realm of recreational diving, and most Florida cave diving. It is said that for every one hour of technical diving three hours of planning should be accomplished. Redundancy is key, (IN A CAVE WHERE THE ONLY ESCAPE IS THROUGH A LIMESTONE ROOF) basically without backup planning and gear you are approaching this sport with less than a level head!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cave divers realize the possibility of mechanical error, that’s why three computers, three lights, and massive amounts of decompression gas and redundant equipment are carried with the diver. As not to complicate the dive some divers choose to use stage bottles to decompress. Bottles can be tied to the deco line and left at the decompression depth, hoping the bottles are not tampered with by an over anxious cavern, or open water diver, who doesn’t understand why the tanks are left dangling, tied to a line. In my amateur opinion “your gear is only useful when in your possession. If you get lost, your stage bottles are irrelevant.

The two divers entered the cave via the pond using high powered scooters to navigate and quickly find passage ways through the tunnels. Guide lines (reels) are deployed to always maintain a constant relationship with the surface. One of the diver’s bodies was found suspended in the area of the system known as John’s pocket.

A friend of the divers and also a certified cave diver said he could only speculate about the causes of drowning but he said one of the divers may have veered away from the guide line to see if the narrow part of Johns pocket( a tunnel in Eagles nest system) was uncharted. “its very tempting to say, let me just look around the corner, its very possible burdened with four tanks and a scooter the diver kicked up silt and lost his guide line. From all appearances it looked as if one of the divers was on his way out of the cave, but his air supply ran dry, probably in a frantic search trying to locate his lost friend. He just ran out of gas.

Once the divers didn’t surface rescue was called. Cave rescue isn’t like calling an ambulance to respond to a traffic accident. The people who perform cave rescue are men and women just like you and me. At home having a good time with friends and family, the phone rings???? A missing diver report is given. All other activities are now squashed. You gather your gear, tanks regulator etc. and try to put yourself into a mind set of rescue and possibly body recovery. All has to come into focus very quickly. It is obvious that the rescue team called consists of fully certified cave divers. DUH…. Now here is where it gets interesting: In a sport like scuba diving where less than 1% of the worlds population participates, the sport of cave diving has 100 times less participants than general scuba diving, of the already miniscule amount of cave divers imagine the small amount that are able to successfully perform a search and recovery mission into a cave. These people are with out a doubt, heroes. The cave diving community is a very small tight knit group of people, chances are the rescuing party personally knows the lost diver. This can play on your emotions as you look for your lost, possibly dead friend. One of the divers in the search party actually got bent on the dive. Getting bent or ‘the bends’ is a process where nitrogen builds up in your blood stream, if not slowly released (by surfacing very slowly) the nitrogen bubbles act like carbonation in a can of soda and spew into your blood stream causing your blood to turn to foam and/or your joints to get nitrogen trapped inside them and hurt so much you ball up in the fetal position. You bend your elbows and knees toward your body, hence the name “the bends”. The bent rescue diver was airlifted to Shands hospital in Gainesville. He survived the accident.

This shows the dangers of not only cave diving but scuba diving itself. Two experienced cave divers chose to brave the depths of the deepest darkest crevices of the earth. The price?? Their lives. The lesson is to let us all learn from the actions of pioneers before us. This dive will never be forgotten. No one knows what caused the fatal dive, one can only speculate. I will continue to research and study this underwater phenomenon we know as cave diving, to one day possibly make the sport of diving that much safer, and make the diving community that much closer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Nitrox diving. How and why

NITROX ”Why Dive”??
By: Scott Fraser

As a diver I’m sure you have heard of the term NITROX. Maybe your local dive shop was trying to push it as a specialty course, maybe you read about it in a scuba publication, or maybe you saw a NITROX sticker on a divers tank and thought, what in the hell is NITROX, Well I’ll tell you.

Basic air (what you breathe) consists of 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen (O2). Basically NITROX increases the amount of oxygen in your breathing gas. If you get your scuba tank filled with a 36% NITROX mix you are now breathing 36% oxygen and 64% nitrogen.(Tanks are never to be filled with NITROX unless labeled NITROX ONLY, plus a NITROX course should be taken in order to educate yourself on the principles and physics of mixed gas diving) This NITROX babble is necessary why????, its not. Most divers are satisfied with diving simple air. Why the NITROX you ask, NITROX greatly extends your bottom time on a dive, also it decreases your no decompression limits (NDL). On the other hand it does put limits on the depth you can attain. It increases your bottom time by allowing your tissues to absorb less nitrogen by breathing a higher concentration of oxygen (O2), basically offsetting the horrible monster known as the bends. We all know about the bends, right?? Too much nitrogen absorbed can cause bubbles in your body’s tissues and blood stream. The effect is like that of a can of soda shaken violently and then suddenly opened. Without proper dispelling of the nitrogen it can form nitrogen bubbles in your body’s tissues and blood, turning your blood into foam. It can also cause nitrogen bubbles to become trapped in your joints causing severe pain. You curl into the fetal position and scream. The curling of elbows and knees into the fetal position is where the name the bends comes from. You bend inward. OUCH!!!!
When breathing a gas such as NITROX less nitrogen is absorbed allowing more bottom time on a dive and less, if any decompression. Also the deeper you go the more nitrogen your body absorbs, therefore breathing a higher concentration of oxygen (O2) you are absorbing less nitrogen therefore your bottom time is extended, making NITROX a good option for recreational scuba diving.

NITROX IS NOT A DEEP DIVING GAS. As I discussed before NITROX is an excellent alternative to air, staying within the recreational diving limits (0 ft- 130 ft). Let’s discuss a term that is horrible to divers: OXYGEN TOXICITY. Oxygen toxicity is caused by too much oxygen in your body. Yes, oxygen is a poison to the human body. Too much of anything can kill you right???? Moderation is the key to any human activity. Too much oxygen can block the needed flow of nitrogen to your blood. I know I spoke of nitrogen earlier as a deadly gas, but remember the air we breathe is made up of 79% nitrogen. So nitrogen being deadly at depth while diving, we still need it to survive. Too much oxygen consumed, blocking nitrogen, can cause a diver to take an (O2 oxygen hit). This is where the toxic amounts of absorbed oxygen cause a diver to become unconscious
and convulse uncontrollably. The diver takes a hit and passes out. Its not the oxygen that kills the diver, but the passing out causes the regulator to be spit from the divers mouth, causing a sudden intake of water into the lungs, resulting in drowning. It’s the excessive amount of oxygen absorbed that causes the diver to pass out. The diver looses consiousness which causes the regulator (breathing devise) to escape from his mouth. Without a regulator supplying your air you are sucking in water. When unconscious you aren’t aware of what’s going on, you begin to breathe water. YOU DROWN!!

I hate to bring up the ugly statistics of diving but I have to. Anything, when not used properly can be deadly. You have to learn to drive a car, hold a knife, start a fire, ETC. When used correctly, NITROX can be the best thing that ever happened to your scuba diving adventure.

Now on to the technical aspects of NITROX, Oh don’t worry, ill touch on the fun of NITROX as well. I just had to produce the facts before the fun. Its what I do (facts).
Although NITROX is not a deep diving gas (as before mentioned) it is a excellent decompression gas. When divers make descents to great depths (200 ft- beyond) They use a gas known as trimix. Trimix is a mixture of helium, oxygen, and nitrogen. I will not get into the explanation of trimix diving. That’s another article on its own. The decompression methods used by deep trimix divers requires off gassing of nitrogen just like recreational diving. Deep divers use stage bottles which contain gasses to decompress on, the reason they do this is to release nitrogen bubbles from the blood stream. The most popular decompression gas is NITROX. These dives carry a bottle of NITROX On there ascent from the deep they stop at certain depths to allow nitrogen to be released from their tissues and blood stream. To help the off gassing they switch tanks and breathe a NITROX mixture. This high concentration of oxygen, inhaled, allows the diver to surface faster, allowing nitrogen to leave the blood stream, avoiding the BENDS. The diver breathes the oxygen enriched air (NITROX), pushing nitrogen from the blood allowing a safe return to the surface. I will get into decompression theory and trimix diving in a later issue. These are just some of the realities associated with NITROX diving, or should I say “technical diving. These procedures are not applied to recreational (no decompression diving). A recreational NITROX diving certification does not include decompression of any magnitude. I’m just giving you the facts of all aspects of NITROX!!

NITROX for a recreational diver means: longer bottom time, less of a fatigued feeling at the end of a dive, no decompression on a dive that air requires, less chance of decompression sickness (the bends). Here are some examples from recreational dive tables comparing air to NITROX as far as bottom time and length of a dive (you paid for the dive, might as well stay under as long as you can).

If you love to dive and would like to make your experience last longer, consider NITROX diving. Its good for recreational diving, it is a must in technical diving and it becoming more common place in the diving community all together. Contact your local dive shop or CFPSI (below) and find out about a NITROX certification. IT COULD SAVE YOUR DIVE!!

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