So there is technology out there I’m sure you all have heard of called a Rebreather. Its a closed circuit form of Scuba that recycles your air allowing you longer air consumption time, longer no decompression limits, deeper dives and it emits no bubbles. While many people have heard of them they are not widely used and my people think of them only in terms of the Navy, or highly advanced technical divers and commercial divers.
However, last Tuesday for the monthly Eco Dive Club meeting we got to hear from Titan Dive Gear about their (might I say awesome) eCCR. This is an electronic closed circuit rebreather that is working to make the rebreather technology something that is more available to the general diver. I went into the meeting highly skeptical, I’ve heard horror stories about rebreathers, sometimes called a “widowmaker” because if your oxygen or carbon dioxide monitor fails you could easily pass out and drown before you realized that you were breathing a bad gas mix.
Titan however has created a rebreather that is not only really streamlined, but also rather redundant in terms of safety features and failsafes. They have created a system that relies on several components for safety, from multiple oxygen sensors (3), to a safer and easier to use carbon dioxide scrubber, more streamlined gear organization, easy to use buttons, and a large, deatiled and easy to read computer. There is also a second “heads up” display on the main air hoses to alert you if something is wrong as well.
The carbon dioxide scrubber is a solid state absorbent that is housed in a clear plastic container. This sounded better than the usual granular absorbent that takes extra time to make sure its well packed in the canister and disposed of properly after its used up. The solid absorbent is cylindrical and slides right into the canister, then can be tossed in your gear bag without having to worry about spillage. Having a clear outer canister is great because it allows easy visual checks for the o-ring seals, making sure the scrubber is in there, checking for any water, etc.
The unit itself weighs approximately 48lbs with the absorbent and cylinders filled. It is designed that you really should not need much additional weight unlike normal open circuit systems, and since you don’t drain your tanks due to the recycled air you don’t have to add weight to account for an empty tank. The 48lbs is about the same, if even less than a normal open circuit set up (and far less than a typical technical set up) which makes this product even more desirable.
Now for the good part. Using a rebreather not only extends your bottom time tenfold, but it allows you to get to depths you can never achieve on a single tank dive. Imagine cruising underwater at 200ft for several hours with little or no decompression requirements (sure in California that doesn’t seem so great…brrrrrrrrr! but think tropical…). Yup thats right. From what I understand (and I’m no expert) that because you are able to control your PO2 (oxygen partial pressure) you can keep the gas mix you are breathing at a lower partial pressure so that you don’t run into oxygen toxicity at depth. Also by keeping the PO2 lower you keep your nitrogen loading down which means you can stay deeper longer without added decompression requirements. Now to top it all off, theres the fact that you create no bubbles. So instead of being this loudly breathing bubble making oddity under the water you begin to blend in with the other quiet animals surrounding you, and they don’t scatter as you get close (some still will since we’re big and look threatening). The Titan Dive gear folks sold us with stunning images of a rebreather diver and dolphin together underwater and the dolphin is curiously examining the diver, not swimming away disturbed by our bubbles.
Basically I walked away from that meeting completely sold. My only problem is I don’t have the means for the $10,000.00 price tag that comes with the gear set up and training. My OWSI training is currently breaking the bank! I also feel that right now in my dive career this is not a toy I need, but is something I will keep my eye on, and hope that as technology improves and time passes it will be more readily available and cost less down the road! All in all, from my limited knowledge on rebreathers, the Titan model really looks like the winner, well designed and simple to use. If you want to learn more about this rebreather, visit their website: titandivegear.com.
(So anyone have $10,000.00 to donate to my cause? I promise a great write up on the wonders of diving rebreather!)