Daily Log Report for
14 May 1997

Submitted by Richard Pyle

The weather was perfect -- the best conditions so far during this expedition. The film crew had gone back to the south end of Palau to get more general reef-fish sequences (sharks, rays, turtles, etc.), so John, Pat, Lisa and I decided to make a mid-day dive at our "usual" spot at Augulpelu Reef. We had several tasks to complete. My mission was to take the video camera and get sequences for a local television station back in Hawaii (particularly of the deep ledge, and us collecting fishes). We also wanted to recover the trap I had placed in a cave two days ago. Finally, we wanted to send another bag full of rocks and rubble back to the surface for Pat & Lori to pick through (looking for interesting critters). The plan was for me to go down first, starting from the boat and descending directly (non-stop) to the terrace at 300 feet, where I would film the marine life while I waited for John to catch up with me. When he arrived, I would film him recovering the trap, then film him sending rocks to the surface with the lift-bag, then film him collecting fish. At some point we would trade-off and he would film me collect fish. Pat would come down with John, leave the nitrox bailout cylinder at 100 feet, then spend his bottom time collecting large oysters in a small cave at 200 feet.

The first part of the dive went like clockwork. I descended all the way from the surface to the terrace without stopping, filming all the while. I spent a good 10 minutes on the terrace filming an assortment of things, and then I saw John up at 200 feet, descending over the top of the upper drop. He came down and I filmed him the whole time, but he seemed to be coming awfully slowly. When he finally reached me and dropped off the trimix bailout cylinder and lift-bag apparatus, he indicated to me that the nitrogen in his trimix diluent supply was too high, so he was feeling rather severe narcosis. He opted to return to 220 feet and wait for me, leaving me with the bailout cylinder and the lift-bag apparatus so I could complete the mission. I left the bailout cylinder and swam over to the trap. Before recovering it, I looked around inside the cave and saw an assortment of interesting invertebrate life. After a few minutes I returned to the bailout trimix cylinder and lift-bag apparatus. I placed the camera on the reef and positioned it in such a way that I could film myself load the rocks and send them to the surface.

As soon as I placed the camera, I suddenly noticed strong breathing resistance. On the next breath, I absolutely could not inhale! I tried again, this time with much more force, but still to no avail. It was obvious that something was drastically wrong with the rig, so I switched to my open-circuit bailout, swam to the trimix bailout cylinder, gathered all my gear (except for the lift-bag apparatus), and started my ascent toward John (the adjacent photo shows the actual bailout event, as I swam over to the bailout trimix cylinder while the camera was still on). By the time I caught up with John at about 220 feet, he already knew what was going on (he even offered me his backup gas supply, but I declined because I had plenty. After settling down for a moment at 220 feet, I started filming John trying to collect fish up at 220 feet (as was the original plan). This may seem like strange behavior in the midst of a serious bailout situation, but the fact was that there was no need to panic, I needed to complete my deep decompression stop at about that depth anyway, so while we were sitting there, it seemed appropriate to make good use of the time.

We worked our way up to the nitrox bailout cylinder, where I started trying to figure out what had just happened. It was obvious that my breathing loop had flooded, but where? Then it struck me! There is a small drain cap at the bottom of the breathing loop (where the CO2 canister is housed) on the rebreather I am using. It was originally designed to allow us an easy way to dump condensation out of the rig at the end of a dive. Bill Stone, the rebreather designer, originally built it so that it was physically impossible to put the back shell on the rebreather without first closing this drain cap. Bill had asked me to pay particular attention to this feature, and let him know if it was possible to get the back shell back on without the cap in place. I didn't pay much attention to this request, figuring it would take a real moron to forget to put the cap back on in the real world. Well...guess who's the moron! Yes, I had forgotten to replace this cap, and the breathing loop eventually flooded, preventing my ability to breathe! When I realized this was the problem, I called John over and asked him to replace the cap. Once he did, it was an easy matter to flush the water out of the breathing loop, and I was able to complete the full decompression without even the slightest breathing resistance.(In fact, I plan to use the same CO2 absorbent canister again for tomorrow's dive, without re-packing).

A stupid, careless mistake on my part very nearly put me in a tight predicament. Overall, however, I am pleased, because it allowed me to test our bailout plan, under real-world conditions, alone (without help), and under heavy task loading (filming, recovering trap, dealing with a lift-bag of rocks, etc.). What amazed me the most was how incredibly easy the bailout procedure was, even under these conditions. I was never worried - not even for a moment. Neither was John -- without communicating, we both knew he should try to catch fish while I filmed - even though I was breathing from the bailout cylinder. All things, considered, I'm encouraged!

I spent the rest of the decompression cruising around with Lisa, looking at fish. It was extremely enjoyable, and when we returned to the boat, the weather was just as beautiful as we had left it. All in all, a wonderful day....until we got back to the pier, that is. Upon opening my underwater video housing, I found several tablespoons of seawater inside! Fortunately, the gods of underwater photography were smiling on me this day, because the brand-new, un-insured Sony digital camera was just fine - it had barely gotten wet. The housing itself was another story. Basically, I've spent the last 6 hours disassembling every component, checking for possible signs of leaks and cleaning out the seawater. Upon reviewing the tape taken today on that camera, the audio portion abruptly stopped about half-way through the bottom-time. Closer inspection suggested strongly that it was the external microphone that had flooded, so tomorrow Pat and I will try to replace it with a plug. Of course, we'll leak-test it before putting the camera inside!

During the ascent, John brought up with him a huge starfish. During the melee of my bailout, he accidentally set the starfish down and neglected to pick it up again. All this was visible on the video I took, so Pat (who had a successful dive collecting oysters with his home-built rebreather) went back this afternoon and did a bounce dive to 100 feet, where he found it and brought it back to the surface.

Tomorrow, the film crew wants to interview me and Jack Randall. If there is time afterward, we'll do another deep dive to recover the lift-bag apparatus where I left it on the terrace. Watch this space...

One last thing....Pat and Lori had a special message to send today:

Dive Number 1 of 1
Divers: Richard Pyle, John Earle, Pat Colin

Solid line indicates depth, dashes ("-") indicate
decompression ceilings, bar ("|") represents cleared to surface.
Max. Depth: 307 feet (93 meters) Time: 1:34 pm Duration: 2 hr, 27 min
Location: Augulpelu Reef; E side of reef; "D2" (07 16.41' N, 134 31.44' E).
Marine Life: I saw the usual fishes on the terrace at 300 feet (e.g., Chromis sp. 1 & Chromis sp. 2), and a tiny Bodianus that I have seen before with black and yellow longitudinal stripes, but was unable to collect. I also saw a longnose hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus), the new Bodianus, and the new Liopropoma with the yellow tail. In the cave I took video of an assortment of benthic marine invertebrates. On the ascent, John tried to collect the first new Cirrhilabrus wrasses, but got some damselfishes instead.
Remarks: I started the dive filming the entire descent until I reaced the terrace at 300 feet. John was a few minutes behind me and descended very slowly. He brought the trimix bailout cylinder, and indicated to me that he had too much nitrogen in his breathing loop, and was going back to shallower water. After I recovered the trap, I set the camera up to film myself collect a bag full of rocks and send it to the surface. Unfortunately, I had left the drain plug of my rebreather canister open, completely flooded the breathing loop, and had to abort on open circuit using the bailout cylinder. After arriving at the 60-foot decompression stop, I figured out the problem and had John replace the plug for me. I recovered the breathing loop and finished the dive in closed-circuit mode.

Disclaimer: Several aspects of the dive profile(s) illustrated above deviate from conventional wisdom regarding appropriate decompression procedures. The dives referred to on these web pages are of an experimental nature, and all persons involved with these dives are fully cognizant of the associated risks. The decompression practices followed on these dives are derived from published information, in conjunction with the many years of extensive experience of the divers involved. These practices have not been tested under controlled conditions, and may not work equally well for all divers. Kids, don't try this at home!!

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