I finally became old enough to go for a dry dive after having been visiting the Midlands Diving Chamber (MDC) for 3 years ! 😛
The Midlands Diving Chamber is a hyperbaric chamber offering NHS funded recompression to divers with Decompression Sickness (DCS) together with other Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). As a facility they also offer fit to dive medicals, a variety of hyperbaric and oxygen courses as well as dry dives.
A dry dive is just that, you go into the hyperbaric chamber, an air filled vessel, and go on a “dive” to the equivalent sea depths of either 40 or 50m. A dry dive is a great way to experience the effects of nitrogen narcosis in a safe, controlled environment with plenty of trained members of staff and no risk of drowning (which you would have in open water). A dry dive is a brilliant way to make you more aware of how you fare under the effects of nitrogen narcosis at depth.
So! To mark my turning of age and finally being able to go for a dry dive… I talked with the guys at MDC to see if I could take part in a dry dive! It just so happened that they had a group taking part in one close to my birthday, and they were a group of 7, meaning there was one seat spare…! It couldn’t have been more perfect if we had tried!
So the day of the dry dive arrived, I was nervous, and excited at the same time. The dive was scheduled for a Thursday, which is usually a long day for me, after finishing school at 5 I went straight to the dive chamber, and arrived, still in my business suit (required uniform for 6th form) and with my folders from school… I was tired but SO ready to have a brilliant evening! Unfortunately I had been given homework that day from biology, and it was due for our lesson the next day (luckily the dive wasn’t starting until 6), so I was given Mat’s desk in the chamber room to do my homework! I have to say, that that was probably the most bizarre place I have ever done my homework, sat at a desk with a hyperbaric chamber sat behind me!
Just before 6 I changed into some scrubs and filled in a self-declaration medical form. We had a dive briefing, took the obligatory picture of the group then headed into the chamber. Spike was our accompanying supervisor for this dive, and Robbie our chamber operator.
Before starting the dive I was very nervous about my ears, in December 2013 my brother and sister had had to bail from their dry dive because they had had trouble with their ears… However, during my dive no one in the group had any issues (including me!!) and we all made it down to 50m!
At the bottom I felt weird, I was quite light headed, and wasn’t sure if it was the pressure or just because it had been a long day and I was tired (upon returning to the surface I realised it was the former). After checking we were all ok at 50m we then all sang a song together which was funny as two things had happened with the increased pressure; everyone’s voices were much higher pitched and my voice felt like it was coming from 30cm away from where the rest of my body sat, it was so strange!
Spike started giving us instructions about a little game we could play to test our narcosis, but after having spent time with him across the 3 years I’ve been visiting the chamber, I could not control my laughter when he started speaking in a much higher pitched voice than usual! And just like that, the laughing commenced…! However I wasn’t the only one who had gone a little crazy, two of the divers started having a water fight and may others couldn’t help but laugh at them! Spike didn’t help me in the slightest when I started laughing… he then started laughing at me laughing at him!
After my partner and I eventually got to the end of the game (we didn’t do too badly, we came second out of the four groups, even with me laughing!) Spike handed me a clipboard with a brain test I immediately recognised… It was the very same test I had written as part of my CREST project a few years ago! And amid the laughter, I did my very best at my test, not only was I suffering quite badly from nitrogen narcosis, but i had just one minute to complete all the questions! So I sped through them, not thinking I’d done too badly, but I wouldn’t find out how I’d done until later…
After the maximum bottom time was reached the decompression began. The first section of decompression is done on air, but then we moved on over to O2 for the rest. We had our second deco at 6m with 23 minute stop. This enabled us to off gas the extra amounts of nitrogen we had taken up during our dive so as to avoid a case of decompression sickness. In order to be safe we did this 23 minute stop on 02 and to spend the time we redid the narcosis games we’d played at 50m. Not surprisingly the games were much easier! Spike also gave me a copy of my test to do again!
Although I thought I had found my questions much more easy at 6m than at 50m… I couldn’t have been more wrong! Spike marked my questions and ridiculously… I failed the test both at 50m and 6m! Some questions I got right at depth which I then got wrong at 6m and vice versa! Oops..!
At the end of our 6m deco we took off our O2 masks and then before we knew it, we were back at the surface, after spending just under 50mins in the chamber!
After the dive we had a debrief and then we slowly made our way home, what an evening! Certainly not one I’ll forget in a hurry! And on reflection – I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much before!
Post dive I’d like to say a really big thank you to Spike, Robbie and Mat for taking care of us during our dive, it was so much fun and such a laugh! Robbie and Mat were super for getting us down to depth and back safely and Spike looked after us brilliantly in the chamber… Thank you MDC… and until next time!!
Whilst I was doing some research about the dry dives I came across a previous diver’s video of his dive to 50m at MDC and the fun that they had… Not too dissimilar to our dive… however they didn’t have the two divers having water fight in theirs!