Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Cave diving and cave damage

Cave divers used to be aware of the cave environment. Nowadays, because of the number of cave divers growing worldwide the increasing "traffic" damages the fragile cave systems. We, cave divers, and especially cave Instructors, must become ambassadors, showing a good example. Our technique, respectful cave awareness can be passed on to the next generations.

In the article we will talk about different things that can help reduce cave damage.
- Clean water
- Training and practice
- Know our motivations
- Visualize
- Proper equipment configuration

Clean water
Water is vital for humans and for animals, and plants. When we visit cave country and for the people living n the area, it is so important to minimize our impact with water. We have a tendency to use too much of this precious element, on our daily routines. The use of detergents and chemicals, herbicides and fertilizers, drains back into our aquifer. We have the choice to change our behavior for better water.

Green algae production 

Training and practice

Georges Gawinowski during CCR cave training 
We all remember that we must be trained in order to cave dive ; correct training means that we are aware of our techniques, behavior and practice the skills regularly.
The NSS/CDS issued awareness information brochures a while back to remind the essential tools that a cave diver must be aware of.
Buoyancy control and trim seem obvious but so many times we all see divers on their knees doing a primary tie or working on their equipment. This should not happen when one develops the proper way of doing. Repetition will help develop that patten. A cave diver should always be in trim and have a very low impact on the floor, walls and ceilings.
Practice reel techniques, buoyancy control and emergency skills will help the diver to reach that goal.
Proper Kick techniques.
There are different kick techniques. Even though the modified frog kick is one of the main kicks, remember what Tom Mount wrote in the NACD chapter of Safe cave diving about the 37 cave techniques, described by Sheck Exley, to be used in the cave environment. We should evaluate the environment, think and act accordingly. A good example is the pull and glide. It should be used only when it is needed or to practice this technique in places where it has been used before.

Know our motivations
This is such and important criteria to take into consideration. What do we really want or expect in a cave dive? Goal oriented dives may direct our thoughts and behaviors in a way that is not always favorable for the environment. We may push our limits physically and mentally to the point where our technique could start to fall apart. We may stage a cave and put tanks not at the right place only to favor our exploration and goals.
Good judgement is extremely important as it will dictate the way we cave dive.

Visualizing a dive is an important tool that cave divers should practice. Athletes in different sports are using it frequently, it seems to me that cave divers still have trouble to get used to the idea.
Visualization centers the thoughts on the present moment, on our real motivations and not on the things we think we want to accomplish.
It helps also to increase mastering a skill and to know the cave system a little better, by creating a picture in our head about the where and how to go, visualization helps to take our activity seriously. Keep the old NACD slogan "The Art Of Cave Diving" in mind!

Proper equipment configuration
WDT dive training cave diver at Peacock spring
It is a commun practice for  cave divers to use always the same gear configuration and I agree with it. It is helpful for muscular memory and to react positively during an emergency situation.
Sometimes we may have to adjust or change our equipment if the cave configuration changes. Let's adapt to circumstances and let's try not to close our mind.
It is especially true when we dive caves with:
- restrictions
- lower ceilings and wide tunnels
- restricted tunnels and high ceilings
- chimney
- silt
- Flow or no flow caves.

Sometimes back mounted is the way to do it, or Sidemount may be a better way, or a rebreather may be even better.

Let us be Ambassadors of our cave systems. Let us help to protect the fragile environment so the next generations will be able to enjoy them as we do. Let's not take the caves for granted, and bring consideration to protecting our waters and caves.
Georges Gawinowski

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

First Shearwater dive watch: The Teric.

First Shearwater dive watch  The Teric.

The Teric has all the features divers have come to love in our computers and more. It is our most compact unit, yet it is also our most feature rich unit. The Teric comes with AMOLED full color display that is very easy to read even in adverse conditions.

The Teric has 4 buttons. We've applied situationally adaptable logic to our menus and buttons making the Teric very intuitive. It is also very configurable. You can configure one of the 4 buttons to give you a single press access to different tools like compass, stopwatch, countdown timer, etc.

It is AI compatible and can monitor up to two pressure transmitters in two different tanks. It has Recreational, Gauge, OC Tech and CC/BO modes with up to 5 Trimix and nitrox gases. But it also has an all new Freediving mode with configurable sampling/ logging rates and improved ascent and descent indicators. There are haptic and audible alarms that can be disabled to prevent annoying other divers in the vicinity.

The Teric uses a wirelessly rechargeable battery and ships with a wireless inductive charger. Add to this the Shearwater Bluetooth communications protocol for downloading logs and updating firmware and you have a fully enclosed unit with reduced flooding risks since the user will never need to open it up to connect a cable or change a battery.

Like the NERD 2, the battery can be replaced at one of our authorized service centers. We expect battery life to be 5 years.
Finally, we've built it up with a robust hardware set with plenty of room for firmware improvements and new features.
You can order the Teric at Cave diver training 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Mental Preparation and self sufficiency Part 2

Georges Gawinowski mixed Gas dive - Marseille 1998
Georges Gawinowski mixed gas dive Marseille 1998
On our last article, we talked about how to increase safety and self-sufficiency for Technical diving. We noticed that lack of self-awareness could be an hidden cause in diving accidents and fatalities. Over 20 years of experience have brought light on the analysis of these issues ; we will discuss today about our responsibilities as divers and trainers to increase self sufficiency.

Awareness and Responsibility
The lack of awareness of the former student now certified diver, in matter of important constraints as part of the act of diving, disables him/her from facing responsibilities, Virtually remaining a student instead of becoming an autonomous diver who hides behind a quasi-ideal image of the training, of the instructor or of the supervision of the dive center. Neither the ones nor the others have the mission to take care of the diver’s obligations. Dive centers are not organized for such task, neither in their facility nor in the structure.
Of course, a large part of the certified divers do not agree. They are convinced they acquired enough independence that allows them to dive (under all circumstances?).They earned such specific certification, with so many dives posted in their logbook (often over evaluated data), with a good technique, an expertise and barely accepting few good advices. This experience would be acceptable if the diver would barely change his/her marks,
because when we dare new adventures under different circumstances (new diving profile, new training, new gear configuration, different diving conditions, etc…) we ought to know that we will go through this experience without being either more autonomous or more able to cope with the adaptation factor. Otherwise, showing our competence at that
specific moment of our diver’s life. Most divers when facing the choice of whether risking a dive or not, do not feel competent when they feel poorly prepared, or in the same time, want to take the risk of doing the dive either frustrated or influenced by others. It is important to notice that uncertain divers are a hazard for the dive buddy. We reach now the subject of risk assessment in which the factor (ratio of individual to circumstances) generates the essence of the risk and the level of what has been assessed as being risky. We have not evaluated the percentage of the population acting under an unconscious risky and hazardous behavior yet. This idea comes from what has been noticed on the field and among a group of reactions, by information from active people either professional divers or not. It seems that a majority of divers is directly concerned at different levels. If we had to simplify a reason of behaving this way we would find it in the innovative realm of this sport (technical evolutions, mentalities) but also from observing individual behaviors in their social environment, modeling their life by the choice or the decisions made.
The choice concerning the environment in diving would be whether to create superstructured- training that would take care of the non-autonomous divers, or to strengthen the already acquired training by leading the diver toward more independence. In a personal opinion, this last option is the reality of diving, it is not only such as we know it but also by its natural spirit of adventure, discoveries, and freedom which the human kind has been seeking for generations. We hardly conceive a reverse transformation in this natural evolution depriving the essence of this sport.

The path to self-sufficiency
We do not want to face this evidence without giving some solutions. For us the two points of education and being self-sufficient have to be taken into consideration. We insist on the fact that technical training is essential more than a simulation; it shows the diver (no longer a « student ») the reality of action in diving. Our educational status of instructor or trainer is here to bring the diver to a real time situation, not to « hold his/her hand » anymore. This training is built around the diving preparation and of course deals with the questions of stress management, risk assessment, awareness from which little by little grows the diver’s inner independence. Here, no miracle pill, no virtual image, no illusion, the diver faces with him/herself aware of his/her motivations and limits. Such techniques are calling for mental preparation especially when the need of making a decision comes about to help erase or reduce the gaps between “what we think it is”, and « what it is in fact ». We have paid a particular attention to this point that appears to be essential in the diver’s future direction whether in recreational or technical diving. These transition periods require a good perception of many factors depending on a whole of qualities to which we call on when training for diving. It is indeed important to be wary of projections and images that could prevent from learning the characteristic of technical diving, and from gauging the constraints and capabilities factors.

To a new education?
To be in favor of the « cutting loose» of their students is not a new mission for the instructors. It has always been one of the major goals of teaching. It is necessary to show how risky the practice of diving is. Notably leading the student to be independent trained with an improved good technique, and with the ability to gauge and decide in a performing way in order to easily and securely deal with his/her dives. It takes a long time to become autonomous; it is more a step based on practice than on theory. Only experienced and vigilant behavior will help reach this goal. When initiated from the first levels of training this evolution toward more independence will be durable, instead of fading after a while, as it has been noticed among some « poorly trained » divers. Our goal is to integrate all the tools available within technical diver education to ease the development of autonomous behavior.  Georges Gawinowski  and peers have been working on this behavior for years to find the best responses to increase self sufficiency and to encourage divers to log safe dives, and to practice emergency skills between certification levels. That is especially recommended for Expedition Trimix as students are only admitted to start this course once they completed the Essentials Diver, the CCR Trimix diver, with a minimum of 100 Trimix and mixed gas dives. Also, it is important to keep strong communication with the Instructor before the expedition. As during the three months time of preparation we will evaluate the progress of the candidate through conversation, questions, and Technical dives if possible that will get the student ready for such a challenging course.

Note: Trailer of Expedition Trimix By Lake Mead Technical divers 2014
©Georges Gawinowski, 2018 –
IANTD SE Training Director
NSS/CDS #369

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mental preparation and Self-sufficiency

Mental preparation 
Discussion about diving preparation and diver’s self-sufficiency
We have noticed that the lack of self-awareness in the matter and a poor stress and risks management are often hidden causes of scuba diving accidents and fatalities.
As the exigencies of the diver become stronger as for the choice of a diving school that would provide with adequate training for a specific type of diving and adapted to the diver personality, other exigencies are also considered when it comes to choosing diving gear which must comply with technical, comfort and estheticism criteria. We believe that the diver should be in the same way exigent in the preparation of his/her dives. Cave divers are pretty familiar with a well-detailed pre-dive preparation, technical diver agencies are pushing this way, but this is not always the case with recreational divers. “Safety is our concern”.    
The training trap
The real « trap » is not the training itself but rather the manner in which the fresh certified diver has been taught the main key points, and how well they were understood. In other words, is the diver capable of returning the essential learned? Although self-evaluation, calling into question and upgrades are essential values in the risky activity of diving, they are quickly forbidden once the training time is over.
A newly certified diver with his/her experience and habits is generally competent (satisfied of his/her competences). Cautious at first, then when everything goes well, little by little the diver becomes more confident and settles up into his/her own marks. Consequently the next dive will be similar to the previous one. This approach of diving will become a mirror of diving in the general sense until an unusual event makes the diver aware of another reality, surprising, worrying, hard, and sometimes tragic. Later the diver comes up with questions and answers about whether considering the idea of whether the responsibility in the preparation of the dives is missing or not.
Nevertheless, this is the right time to assess the risks and make the right choice. Of course this information is mentioned during the training courses and should be part of the usual techniques of diving. We believe that most of the instructors emphasize the necessity of taking the necessary time to understand all the teachings, to recall them, to regularly repeat the exercises and to do step by step practice. However, I believe only a few students follow these procedures after training is completed, for the only reason that it requires a personal involvement, a choice, a decision, a responsibility, though it involves the fact of being self-sufficient. Among the goals of a diver randomly sorted, prevails the envy of diving. Enjoying these too short moments underwater. Amidst the priorities, we also find some professional « mandatory issues »; then, at last, comes the demand for security. Those needs precede and sometimes harm the essential progression of the apprenticeship (training and experience) causing worrying unbalance.
 To be continued......
Georges Gawinowski
WDT dive
IANTD USA SE Training Director

Monday, February 05, 2018

Shearwater Newsletter

Issue with some NERD 2 Depth Sensors
What is the issue?
When miniaturizing the NERD 2 product, we changed to a smaller pressure sensor module. Unfortunately, some units are exhibiting shifts of up to 50 mbar under certain environmental conditions.
While the units are able to meet relative depth accuracy requirements as per EN 13319, Shearwater feels that absolute accuracy is important for PPO2 reporting and decompression calculations.

What is Shearwater doing about this?
Shearwater is redesigning the NERD 2 to use the pressure sensor with which we have more than 10 years of successful experience. Production and new sales will be suspended until improved parts are available. All existing NERD 2 customers are being offered the update to the new parts at no charge.

Can I continue to use my NERD 2?
This problem is variable in nature and some users will not be affected.  Determine if your NERD 2 is affected using the information below.
You may continue to use your NERD 2 if you are comfortable with the level of error in the absolute accuracy. However, we still recommend that all users return their NERD 2s to be reworked.

What should I do?
We expect the solution to be ready for the rework to begin in May. We felt it important to raise awareness before the solution was ready. Please contact Shearwater at if you have a NERD 2 and we will direct you to the nearest service center for rework.
We apologize for the frustration you are feeling.

Determining If your NERD 2 is affected
All NERD 2 units are factory calibrated when shipped from Shearwater. However, the problem with some NERD 2 pressure sensors is that they have been observed to drift in absolute accuracy under certain environmental conditions. The maximum reported drifts have been limited to about +/-50 mbar, which is about a 5% error at the typical sea-level pressure of 1013mbar. Another way to view this is that 1mbar = 1cm of water. So 50mbar is about 0.5m of water (1.5 ft).  This error has been found to be an offset that does not grow as pressure increases. Therefore, under most circumstances this error will not appear in depth readings, since depth is determined by subtracting the surface pressure reading from the current reading, thus subtracting out the common offset. However, absolute pressure accuracy is still desired for accuracy of PPO2 reporting and decompression calculations.
Not all units experience a shift to their absolute pressure accuracy. To determine if your NERD 2 has shifted, you will need to compare the “mbar now” displayed value to a known good reference pressure. The “mbar now” value can be viewed by pressing right button a few times. The reference pressure could be another dive computer, hiking watch, or could be the current report from a local weather station at the same altitude. If using another computer or watch, you will need to know the absolute accuracy of this product. If using a weather report and you are at an altitude above sea-level, be aware that often pressures are reported as if they were at sea-level. If this is the case you will need to convert that pressure to the actual pressure before using it as a reference.
Contact Shearwater if unsure.