Thursday, August 11, 2011

Surface Supply Class

In most of the exhibits at Georgia Aquarium the divers do not dive with traditional scuba equipment. Instead, the staff and volunteers use a system of scuba diving called surface supply.

Intern Sophie and Dive Ops Staff Jonathan
prepare the aircart
In a surface supply dive, the air cylinders are rigged to a cart that stays out of the water nearby the exhibit. The air is fed from the cylinder through the cart to an umbilical cord that provides the diver with air. Surface supply diving is unusual because the tender, or person in charge of operating the cart, is responsible for monitoring the air, not the diver who is in the water. Therefore, the tender has to be attentive and prepared to switch cylinders when the diver gets low on air. In case there is an equipment malfunction or the tender makes a mistake, the diver carries an emergency supply of air in a small cylinder on their back.
Interns Sophie and Kelsey test the
communications of the mask

Communication is an essential component of surface supply diving. The tender and the diver must be able to communicate at all times, therefore the diver wears a full face mask that allows for verbal communication underwater to the tender at the surface.

Ron Barbieri instructs the students
Recently, some of our biologists, staff from dive immersion and dive operations, volunteer divers, and interns participated in another one of the scheduled surface supply classes. They learned a great deal about the differences between surface supply diving and traditional scuba diving.

DIP staffer Scott practices the correct coiling

The class lasted two days and incorporated class room sessions with training dives in the Ocean Voyager exhibit. To make the training even more fun the instructors incorporated a coiling race, where the divers had to practice coiling the 200-foot-long umbilical hose, and a back flip competition.

Final checks before getting into the water
Prior to the surface supply class, the divers were restricted to diving only in the Beluga and the Ocean Voyager exhibits. Now that they have received the proper training it will open up a wider variety of exhibits for them to dive in, including the two walls of fish, the Georgia Explorer gallery, and the penguin and sea otter exhibits. As they improve upon their surface supply diving skills, such as buoyancy and overall comfort underwater, they can work their way up to dive more advanced exhibits such as the barrier reef in the Tropical Diver gallery.


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