March 8, 2016
Written by: Sophie Gaze
Dive Immersion Senior Divemaster
After lots of fun in the pool with absolutely no bubbles, the next step in our training was to practice with the rebreathers in deeper water. Fortunately, we have Atlanta’s very own ocean right here in our office, so we donned our Poseidon Se7en’s and entered Ocean Voyager Built by The Home Depot.
This was an experience we had all been looking forward to immensely. After all, this was going to be our permanent dive site in this new gear, and we couldn’t wait to see how the animals reacted to our stealthy silence! These dives were a lot of fun and hardly felt like work at all. We practiced our skills and our buoyancy and then were able to just swim around, enjoying the company of thousands of fishy coworkers. As if Ocean Voyager was not peaceful enough already on open circuit SCUBA, the rebreathers added an entirely new element to our downtown paradise.
The challenge came when it was time to practice in the equipment that we would wear for our field training later that month. We are fortunate that Ocean Voyager is a cozy 76°F, but we were about to dive into some much chillier environments: Lake Lanier at about 50°F and the Dive Georgia Quarry at about 47°F! In order to be somewhat comfortable in these temperatures, we would have to don a drysuit, adding another set of complications to our training.
Diving in a drysuit in Ocean Voyager is always uncomfortable, because it’s so hot both on the deck and in the water, and so cumbersome that it feels quite unnecessary. Diving in a drysuit with a rebreather in Ocean Voyager is downright awkward. It’s really difficult to control your buoyancy when you have three buoyancy devices: counterlungs from the rebreather, a buoyancy jacket and a drysuit. We were also diving with what’s called a side mount tank, which has an additional gas supply to use for bail out and to fill the drysuit with air. The side mount makes you feel crooked in the water because of the additional weight on one side of your body.
We had to make sure we could manage our buoyancy in Ocean Voyager, because it was imperative that we maintained good buoyancy in the field. Quarries and lakes have a silty bottom that, if disturbed, can turn your visibility from bad to worse - which isn’t exactly conducive to training in unfamiliar equipment!
We had a couple of 30-foot dives in Ocean Voyager habitat to get our bearings and acquaint ourselves with all the new equipment. Admittedly, some of us felt a bit overwhelmed, but we were still excited to dive some sites outside of our familiar Aquarium walls. The cold was going to be uncomfortable, but as divers, no matter what we’re feeling, as long as we’re underwater we are usually content. Little did we know, we were in for quite the adventure in the field and would come back with some really great stories!
Learn how you can participate in Georgia Aquarium's new Closed-Circuit Rebreather Dive Program today!