Portal:Underwater diving

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Portal:Underwater diving

Geldkis Blinder, Oudekraal, South Africa
Topic definition

Underwater diving can be described as all of the following:

  • A human activity – intentional, purposive, conscious and subjectively meaningful sequence of actions. Underwater diving is practiced as part of an occupation, or for recreation, where the practitioner submerges below the surface of the water or other liquid for a period which may range between seconds to the order of a day at a time, either exposed to the ambient pressure or isolated by a pressure resistant suit, to interact with the underwater environment for pleasure, competitive sport, or as a means to reach a work site for profit or in the pursuit of knowledge, and may use no equipment at all, or a wide range of equipment which may include breathing apparatus, environmental protective clothing, aids to vision, communication, propulsion, maneuverability, buoyancy and safety equipment, and tools for the task at hand.
Portal scope

The scope of this portal includes the technology supporting diving activities, the physiological and medical aspects of diving, the skills and procedures of diving and the training and registration of divers, underwater activities which are to some degree dependent on diving, economical, commercial, safety, and legal aspects of diving, biographical information on notable divers, inventors and manufacturers of diving related equipment and researchers into aspects of diving.

Introduction to underwater diving
 Two divers wearing lightweight demand helmets stand back-to-back on an underwater platform holding on to the railings. The photo also shows the support vessel above the surface in the background.
Surface-supplied divers riding a stage to the underwater workplace


Underwater diving, as a human activity, is the practice of descending below the water's surface to interact with the environment.

Immersion in water and exposure to high ambient pressure have physiological effects that limit the depths and duration possible in ambient pressure diving. Humans are not physiologically and anatomically well adapted to the environmental conditions of diving, and various equipment has been developed to extend the depth and duration of human dives, and allow different types of work to be done.


In ambient pressure diving, the diver is directly exposed to the pressure of the surrounding water. The ambient pressure diver may dive on breath-hold, or use breathing apparatus for scuba diving or surface-supplied diving, and the saturation diving technique reduces the risk of decompression sickness (DCS) after long-duration deep dives. Atmospheric diving suits (ADS) may be used to isolate the diver from high ambient pressure. Crewed submersibles can extend depth range, and remotely controlled or robotic machines can reduce risk to humans.


The environment exposes the diver to a wide range of hazards, and though the risks are largely controlled by appropriate diving skills, training, types of equipment and breathing gases used depending on the mode, depth and purpose of diving, it remains a relatively dangerous activity.

Diving activities are restricted to maximum depths of about 40 metres (130 ft) for recreational scuba diving, 530 metres (1,740 ft) for commercial saturation diving, and 610 metres (2,000 ft) wearing atmospheric suits. Diving is also restricted to conditions which are not excessively hazardous, though the level of risk acceptable can vary.


Recreational diving (sometimes called sport diving or subaquatics) is a popular leisure activity. Technical diving is a form of recreational diving under especially challenging conditions. Professional diving (commercial diving, diving for research purposes, or for financial gain) involve working underwater. Public safety diving is the underwater work done by law enforcement, fire rescue, and underwater search and recovery dive teams. Military diving includes combat diving, clearance diving and ships husbandry.

Deep sea diving is underwater diving, usually with surface supplied equipment, and often refers to the use of standard diving dress with the traditional copper helmet. Hard hat diving is any form of diving with a helmet, including the standard copper helmet, and other forms of free-flow and lightweight demand helmets.

The history of breath-hold diving goes back at least to classical times, and there is evidence of prehistoric hunting and gathering of seafoods that may have involved underwater swimming. Technical advances allowing the provision of breathing gas to a diver underwater at ambient pressure are recent, and self-contained breathing systems developed at an accelerated rate following the Second World War. Read more...

Diving mode articles

Randomly selected diving mode article

Surface-supplied diver at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California

Surface-supplied diving is diving using equipment supplied with breathing gas using a diver's umbilical from the surface, either from the shore or from a diving support vessel, sometimes indirectly via a diving bell. This is different from scuba diving, where the diver's breathing equipment is completely self-contained and there is no link to the surface. The primary advantages of conventional surface supplied diving are lower risk of drowning and considerably larger breathing gas supply than scuba, allowing longer working periods and safer decompression.

The copper helmeted free-flow standard diving dress is the version which made commercial diving a viable occupation, and although still used in some regions, this heavy equipment has been superseded by lighter free-flow helmets, and to a large extent, lightweight demand helmets, band masks and full-face diving masks. Breathing gases used include air, heliox, nitrox and trimix.

Saturation diving is a mode of surface supplied diving in which the divers live under pressure in a saturation system or underwater habitat and are decompressed only at the end of a tour of duty.

Airline, or hookah diving, and "compressor diving" are lower technology variants also using a breathing air supply from the surface. Read more...

Surface-supplied diver at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California

Surface-supplied diving is diving using equipment supplied with breathing gas using a diver's umbilical from the surface, either from the shore or from a diving support vessel, sometimes indirectly via a diving bell. This is different from scuba diving, where the diver's breathing equipment is completely self-contained and there is no link to the surface. The primary advantages of conventional surface supplied diving are lower risk of drowning and considerably larger breathing gas supply than scuba, allowing longer working periods and safer decompression.

The copper helmeted free-flow standard diving dress is the version which made commercial diving a viable occupation, and although still used in some regions, this heavy equipment has been superseded by lighter free-flow helmets, and to a large extent, lightweight demand helmets, band masks and full-face diving masks. Breathing gases used include air, heliox, nitrox and trimix.

Saturation diving is a mode of surface supplied diving in which the divers live under pressure in a saturation system or underwater habitat and are decompressed only at the end of a tour of duty.

Airline, or hookah diving, and "compressor diving" are lower technology variants also using a breathing air supply from the surface. Read more...

Diving and support equipment

Randomly selected diving or support equipment article

Sailors check breathing devices at sea.

A breathing gas is a mixture of gaseous chemical elements and compounds used for respiration. Air is the most common, and only natural, breathing gas. But other mixtures of gases, or pure gases, are also used in breathing equipment and enclosed habitats such as scuba equipment, surface supplied diving equipment, recompression chambers, submarines, space suits, spacecraft, medical life support and first aid equipment, high-altitude mountaineering and anaesthetic machines.

Oxygen is the essential component for any breathing gas, at a partial pressure of between roughly 0.16 and 1.60 bar at the ambient pressure. The oxygen is usually the only metabolically active component unless the gas is an anaesthetic mixture. Some of the oxygen in the breathing gas is consumed by the metabolic processes, and the inert components are unchanged, and serve mainly to dilute the oxygen to an appropriate concentration, and are therefore also known as diluent gases. Most breathing gases therefore are a mixture of oxygen and one or more inert gases. Other breathing gases have been developed to improve on the performance of ordinary air by reducing the risk of decompression sickness, reducing the duration of decompression stops, reducing nitrogen narcosis or allowing safer deep diving.

A safe breathing gas for hyperbaric use has three essential features:

  • it must contain sufficient oxygen to support life, consciousness and work rate of the breather.
  • it must not contain harmful gases. Carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are common poisons which may contaminate breathing gases. There are many other possibilities.
  • it must not become toxic when being breathed at high pressure such as when underwater. Oxygen and nitrogen are examples of gases that become toxic under pressure.

The techniques used to fill diving cylinders with gases other than air are called gas blending.

Breathing gases for use at ambient pressures below normal atmospheric pressure are usually air enriched with oxygen to provide sufficient oxygen to maintain life and consciousness, or to allow higher levels of exertion than would be possible using air. It is common to provide the additional oxygen as a pure gas added to the breathing air at inhalation, or though a life-support system. Read more...

Diving procedure articles

Randomly selected diving procedure article

Buddy breathing is a rescue technique used in scuba diving "out of gas" emergencies, when two divers share one demand valve, alternately breathing from it. Techniques have been developed for buddy breathing from both twin-hose and single hose regulators, but to a large extent it has been superseded by safer and more reliable techniques using additional equipment, such as the use of a bailout cylinder or breathing through a secondary demand valve on the rescuer's regulator.

Running out of breathing gas most commonly happens as a result of poor gas management. It can also happen due to unforeseen exertion or breathing equipment failure. Equipment failure resulting in the loss of all gas could be caused by failure of a pressure retaining component such as an O-ring or hose in the regulator or, in cold conditions, a freezing of water in the regulator resulting in a free flow from the demand valve. Read more...

Diving science

Randomly selected diving science article

Cold shock response is the physiological response of organisms to sudden cold, especially cold water.

In humans, cold shock response is perhaps the most common cause of death from immersion in very cold water, such as by falling through thin ice. The immediate shock of the cold causes involuntary inhalation, which if underwater can result in drowning. The cold water can also cause heart attack due to vasoconstriction; the heart has to work harder to pump the same volume of blood throughout the body. For people with heart disease, this additional workload can cause the heart to go into arrest. Inhalation of water (and thus drowning) may result from hyperventilation. Some people are much better able to survive swimming in very cold water due to body or mental conditioning.

Hypothermia from exposure to cold water is not as sudden as is often believed. A person who survives the initial minute of trauma (after falling into icy water), can survive for at least thirty minutes provided they don't drown. However, the ability to perform useful work (for example to save oneself) declines substantially after ten minutes (as the body protectively cuts off blood flow to "non-essential" muscles). Read more...

Occupational diving articles

Randomly selected occupational diving article

US Navy 050505-N-3093M-001 A member of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two (SDVT-2) climbs aboard one of the team's SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV) before launching from the back of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Philadelph.jpg

A frogman is someone who is trained in scuba diving or swimming underwater in a tactical capacity that includes police or military work. Such personnel are also known by the more formal names of combat diver, combatant diver, or combat swimmer. The word frogman first arose in the stage name The Fearless Frogman of Paul Boyton in the 1870s and later was claimed by John Spence, an enlisted member of the U.S. Navy, to have been applied to him while he was training in a green waterproof suit.

The term frogman is occasionally used to refer to a civilian scuba diver. Some sport diving clubs include the word Frogmen in their names. The preferred term by scuba users is diver, but the frogman epithet persists in informal usage by non-divers, especially in the media and often referring to professional scuba divers, such as in a police diving role.

In the U.S. military and intelligence community, divers trained in scuba or CCUBA who deploy for tactical assault missions are called "combat divers". This term is used to refer to the Navy SEALs, operatives of the CIA's Special Activities Division, elements of Marine Recon, Army Ranger Regimental Reconnaissance Company members, Army Special Forces divers, Air Force Pararescue, Air Force Combat Controllers, U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmers, United States Naval Search and Rescue Swimmers, United States Air Force Special Operations Weather Technicians, and the Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) units. In Britain, police divers have often been called "police frogmen".

Some countries' tactical diver organizations include a translation of the word frogman in their official names, e.g., Denmark's Frømandskorpset; others call themselves "combat divers" or similar. Others call themselves by indefinite names such as "special group 13" and "special operations unit".

Many nations and some irregular armed groups deploy or have deployed combat frogmen. Read more...

Recreational diving articles

Randomly selected recreational diving article

Aquathlon (also known as underwater wrestling) is an underwater sport where two competitors wearing masks and fins wrestle underwater in an attempt to remove a ribbon from each other's ankle band in order to win the bout. The "combat" takes place in a 5-metre (16 ft) square ring within a swimming pool, and is made up of three 30-second rounds, with a fourth round played in the event of a tie. The sport originated during the 1980s in the former USSR (now Russia) and was first played at international level in 1993. It was recognised by the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS) in 2008. Read more...

Diving hazards, incidents, safety and law articles

Randomly selected diving safety article

ISS impact risk.jpg

Risk management is the identification, evaluation, and prioritization of risks (defined in ISO 31000 as the effect of uncertainty on objectives) followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor, and control the probability or impact of unfortunate events or to maximize the realization of opportunities. Risk management’s objective is to assure uncertainty does not deflect the endeavor from the business goals.

Risks can come from various sources including uncertainty in financial markets, threats from project failures (at any phase in design, development, production, or sustainment life-cycles), legal liabilities, credit risk, accidents, natural causes and disasters, deliberate attack from an adversary, or events of uncertain or unpredictable root-cause. There are two types of events i.e. negative events can be classified as risks while positive events are classified as opportunities. Several risk management standards have been developed including the Project Management Institute, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, actuarial societies, and ISO standards. Methods, definitions and goals vary widely according to whether the risk management method is in the context of project management, security, engineering, industrial processes, financial portfolios, actuarial assessments, or public health and safety.

Strategies to manage threats (uncertainties with negative consequences) typically include avoiding the threat, reducing the negative effect or probability of the threat, transferring all or part of the threat to another party, and even retaining some or all of the potential or actual consequences of a particular threat, and the opposites for opportunities (uncertain future states with benefits).

Certain aspects of many of the risk management standards have come under criticism for having no measurable improvement on risk; whereas the confidence in estimates and decisions seem to increase. For example, one study found that one in six IT projects were "black swans" with gigantic overruns (cost overruns averaged 200%, and schedule overruns 70%). Read more...

Diving medicine, disorders and treatment articles

Randomly selected diving medicine article

Photograph of the cramped interior of a cylinder containing two benches

Decompression sickness (DCS; also known as divers' disease, the bends, aerobullosis, or caisson disease) describes a condition arising from dissolved gases coming out of solution into bubbles inside the body on depressurisation. DCS most commonly refers to problems arising from underwater diving decompression (i.e., during ascent), but may be experienced in other depressurisation events such as emerging from a caisson, flying in an unpressurised aircraft at altitude, and extravehicular activity from spacecraft. DCS and arterial gas embolism are collectively referred to as decompression illness.

Since bubbles can form in or migrate to any part of the body, DCS can produce many symptoms, and its effects may vary from joint pain and rashes to paralysis and death. Individual susceptibility can vary from day to day, and different individuals under the same conditions may be affected differently or not at all. The classification of types of DCS by its symptoms has evolved since its original description over a hundred years ago.

Risk of DCS caused by diving can be managed through proper decompression procedures and contracting it is now uncommon. Its potential severity has driven much research to prevent it and divers almost universally use dive tables or dive computers to limit their exposure and to control their ascent speed. If DCS is suspected, it is treated by hyperbaric oxygen therapy in a recompression chamber. If treated early, there is a significantly higher chance of successful recovery. Read more...

Underwater tools and weapons articles

Randomly selected underwater tools or weapon article

Gyrojet at National Firearms Museum (460776909).jpg

The Gyrojet is a family of unique firearms developed in the 1960s named for the method of gyroscopically stabilizing its projectiles. Rather than inert bullets, Gyrojets fire small rockets called Microjets which have little recoil and do not require a heavy barrel or chamber to resist the pressure of the combustion gases. Velocity on leaving the tube was very low, but increased to around 1,250 feet per second (380 m/s) at 30 feet (9.1 m). The result is a very lightweight weapon.

Long out of production, today they are a coveted collector's item with prices for even the most common model ranging above $1,000. They are, however, rarely fired; ammunition, when available at all, can cost over $100 per round. Read more...

History of diving articles

Randomly selected diving history article

The painting "An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768, showing a decompression experiment similar to the one performed by Robert Boyle.

Decompression in the context of diving derives from the reduction in ambient pressure experienced by the diver during the ascent at the end of a dive or hyperbaric exposure and refers to both the reduction in pressure and the process of allowing dissolved inert gases to be eliminated from the tissues during this reduction in pressure.

When a diver descends in the water column the ambient pressure rises. Breathing gas is supplied at the same pressure as the surrounding water, and some of this gas dissolves into the diver's blood and other tissues. Inert gas continues to be taken up until the gas dissolved in the diver is in a state of equilibrium with the breathing gas in the diver's lungs, (see: "Saturation diving"), or the diver moves up in the water column and reduces the ambient pressure of the breathing gas until the inert gases dissolved in the tissues are at a higher concentration than the equilibrium state, and start diffusing out again. Dissolved inert gases such as nitrogen or helium can form bubbles in the blood and tissues of the diver if the partial pressures of the dissolved gases in the diver gets too high when compared to the ambient pressure. These bubbles, and products of injury caused by the bubbles, can cause damage to tissues known as decompression sickness or the bends. The immediate goal of controlled decompression is to avoid development of symptoms of bubble formation in the tissues of the diver, and the long-term goal is to also avoid complications due to sub-clinical decompression injury.

The symptoms of decompression sickness are known to be caused by damage resulting from the formation and growth of bubbles of inert gas within the tissues and by blockage of arterial blood supply to tissues by gas bubbles and other emboli consequential to bubble formation and tissue damage. The precise mechanisms of bubble formation and the damage they cause has been the subject of medical research for a considerable time and several hypotheses have been advanced and tested. Tables and algorithms for predicting the outcome of decompression schedules for specified hyperbaric exposures have been proposed, tested, and used, and usually found to be of some use but not entirely reliable. Decompression remains a procedure with some risk, but this has been reduced and is generally considered to be acceptable for dives within the well-tested range of commercial, military and recreational diving.

The first recorded experimental work related to decompression was conducted by Robert Boyle, who subjected experimental animals to reduced ambient pressure by use of a primitive vacuum pump. In the earliest experiments the subjects died from asphyxiation, but in later experiments, signs of what was later to become known as decompression sickness were observed. Later, when technological advances allowed the use of pressurisation of mines and caissons to exclude water ingress, miners were observed to present symptoms of what would become known as caisson disease, the bends, and decompression sickness. Once it was recognized that the symptoms were caused by gas bubbles, and that recompression could relieve the symptoms, further work showed that it was possible to avoid symptoms by slow decompression, and subsequently various theoretical models have been derived to predict low-risk decompression profiles and treatment of decompression sickness. Read more...

Diving salvage operations articles

Randomly selected salvage operation article

Because Egypt had such valuable cargo, it was not long before salvage attempts began. However, the Egypt′s wreck was not found until 1930. She was found lying upright in a depth of 170 metres (560 ft), making the recovery very difficult with the technology of the time. Giovanni Quaglia from the Genoese company Società Ricuperi Marittimi (So.Ri.Ma.) was in charge of the operation and decided to use a diver in an armoured suit to direct the placing of explosives to blast through the ship to expose the strong room. The diver was then used to direct a grab which picked up the gold and silver. The salvage continued until 1935 by which time 98% of the contents of the strong room had been recovered. Read more...

Combat and clandestine frogman operations articles

Randomly selected frogman operations article

Operation Thunderhead was a highly classified combat mission conducted by U.S. Navy SEAL Team One and Underwater Demolition Team 11 (UDT-11) in 1972. The mission was conducted off the coast of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War to rescue two U.S. airmen said to be escaping from a prisoner of war prison in Hanoi. The prisoners, including Air Force Colonel John A. Dramesi were planning to steal a boat and travel down the Red River to the Gulf of Tonkin.

Lieutenant Melvin Spence Dry was killed on the mission. He was the last SEAL lost during the Vietnam War. His father, retired Navy Captain Melvin H. Dry, spent the rest of his life trying to learn the circumstances surrounding his son's death. The details, however, were long shrouded in secrecy. Read more...

Diver training, registration and certification articles

Randomly selected diver training, registration, certification or standards article

The International Association for Handicapped Divers (or "IAHD") is a non-profit organization with its headquarters in Middenmeer, the Netherlands. The organization was established in 1993, with the aim to promote, develop and conduct programs for the training in scuba diving of people with a disability. From 1993 to date (2008) IAHD have educated and certified over 5500 divers and dive professionals worldwide. As the IAHD is a non-profit foundation, all the people on the board are volunteers. There are also volunteers in regions around the world.

Physical exercise helps people improve their health both physically and mentally. A person with a disability gets these benefits as well as increased social activity by taking up an activity like scuba diving. Being involved with such activities may even result in giving a person with a disability a renewed interest in life and provide positive and lasting benefits.

The risks in training a disabled person in diving are no higher than for able bodied people. Instructors may have to alter some of the techniques and some equipment may also need changing to meet the individual's need. In some cases extra pool or open water training may be needed. In some extreme cases even individual lessons may be needed. IAHD believes that people with a disability should be in a regular class at some point in their training. Read more...

Diving related organisations articles

Randomly selected organisation article

The National Speleological Society (NSS) is an organization formed in 1941 to advance the exploration, conservation, study, and understanding of caves in the United States. Originally headquartered in Washington D.C., its current offices are in Huntsville, Alabama. The organization engages in the research and scientific study, restoration, exploration, and protection of caves. It has more than 10,000 members in more than 250 grottos. Read more...

Diving related publications articles

Randomly selected diving publication article

The Last Dive: A Father and Son's Fatal Descent into the Ocean's Depths (2000) is a non-fiction book written by diver Bernie Chowdhury and published by HarperCollins. It documents the fatal dive of Chris Rouse, Sr. and Chris "Chrissy" Rouse, Jr., a father-son team who perished off the New Jersey coast in 1992. The author is a dive expert and was a friend of the Rouses.

The divers were exploring a German U-boat in 230 feet (70 m) of water off the coast of New Jersey. Although experienced in using technical diving gas mixtures such as "trimix" (adding helium gas to the nitrogen and oxygen found in air), they were diving on just compressed air. The pair had set out to retrieve the captain's log book from the so-called U-Who to "fulfill their dream of diving into fame."

Chowdhury is a technical diver who, according to writer Neal Matthews' review of Robert Kurson's book Shadow Divers (2004), "was among the first to adapt cave-diving principles to deep-water wrecks". Also according to Matthews, "His book documents how the clashes of equipment philosophy between cave divers and wreck divers mirrored the clash of diving subcultures." Read more...

Diving related biographies

Randomly selected biography

Jarrod Michael Jablonski (born April 24, 1969) is a pioneering technical diver and record setting cave diver. Jablonski is one of the main architects behind the 'Doing It Right' (or DIR) system of diving. Read more...

Recreational dive sites

Randomly selected recreational dive site

Stoney Cove Diving.jpg

Stoney Cove is a large flooded quarry which is a popular inland scuba diving site, located between Stoney Stanton and Sapcote in Leicestershire, England. Read more...

Underwater diving lists

Randomly selected list

Divers Alert Network (DAN) is a group of not-for-profit organisations dedicated to improving diving safety for all divers. It was founded in Durham, North Carolina, USA in 1980 at Duke University providing 24/7 telephonic hotline diving medical assistance. Since then the organisation has expanded globally and now has independent regional organisations in North America, Europe, Japan, Asia-Pacific and Southern Africa.

DAN publishes research results on a wide range of matters relating to diving safety and medicine and diving accident analysis, including annual reports on decompression illness and diving fatalities. Most are freely available on the internet, many of these at the Rubicon Research Repository.

This list includes publications where one or more authors are staff or members of one of the DAN affiliates, where a large part of the data is from one of the DAN Databases. or where the research was funded by DAN. Read more...

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Randomly selected recognised article

Technical divers at a midwater decompression stop

The decompression of a diver is the reduction in ambient pressure experienced during ascent from depth. It is also the process of elimination of dissolved inert gases from the diver's body, which occurs during the ascent, during pauses in the ascent known as decompression stops, and after surfacing until the gas concentrations reach equilibrium. Divers breathing gas at ambient pressure need to ascend at a rate determined by their exposure to pressure and the breathing gas in use. A diver who only breathes gas at atmospheric pressure when free-diving or snorkelling will not usually need to decompress, Divers using an atmospheric diving suit do not need to decompress as they are never exposed to high ambient pressure.


When a diver descends in the water the hydrostatic pressure, and therefore the ambient pressure, rises. Because breathing gas is supplied at ambient pressure, some of this gas dissolves into the diver's blood and is transferred by the blood to other tissues. Inert gas such as nitrogen or helium continues to be taken up until the gas dissolved in the diver is in a state of equilibrium with the breathing gas in the diver's lungs, at which point the diver is saturated for that depth and breathing mixture, or the depth, and therefore the pressure, is changed. During ascent, the ambient pressure is reduced, and at some stage the inert gases dissolved in any given tissue will be at a higher concentration than the equilibrium state and start to diffuse out again. If the pressure reduction is sufficient, excess gas may form bubbles, which may lead to decompression sickness, a possibly debilitating or life-threatening condition. It is essential that divers manage their decompression to avoid excessive bubble formation and decompression sickness. A mismanaged decompression usually results from reducing the ambient pressure too quickly for the amount of gas in solution to be eliminated safely. These bubbles may block arterial blood supply to tissues or directly cause tissue damage. If the decompression is effective, the asymptomatic venous microbubbles present after most dives are eliminated from the diver's body in the alveolar capillary beds of the lungs. If they are not given enough time, or more bubbles are created than can be eliminated safely, the bubbles grow in size and number causing the symptoms and injuries of decompression sickness. The immediate goal of controlled decompression is to avoid development of symptoms of bubble formation in the tissues of the diver, and the long-term goal is to avoid complications due to sub-clinical decompression injury.


The mechanisms of bubble formation and the damage bubbles cause has been the subject of medical research for a considerable time and several hypotheses have been advanced and tested. Tables and algorithms for predicting the outcome of decompression schedules for specified hyperbaric exposures have been proposed, tested and used, and in many cases, superseded. Although constantly refined and generally considered acceptably reliable, the actual outcome for any individual diver remains slightly unpredictable. Although decompression retains some risk, this is now generally considered acceptable for dives within the well tested range of normal recreational and professional diving. Nevertheless, all currently popular decompression procedures advise a 'safety stop' additional to any stops required by the algorithm, usually of about three to five minutes at 3 to 6 metres (10 to 20 ft), even on an otherwise continuous no-stop ascent.


Decompression may be continuous or staged. A staged decompression is interrupted by decompression stops at calculated depth intervals, but the entire ascent is actually part of the decompression and the ascent rate is critical to harmless elimination of inert gas. A no-decompression dive, or more accurately, a dive with no-stop decompression, relies on limiting the ascent rate for avoidance of excessive bubble formation. The elapsed time at surface pressure immediately after a dive is also an important part of decompression and can be thought of as the last decompression stop of a dive. It can take up to 24 hours for the body to return to its normal atmospheric levels of inert gas saturation after a dive. When time is spent on the surface between dives this is known as the "surface interval" and is considered when calculating decompression requirements for the subsequent dive. Read more...

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The arterial pressure can be taken in man as rapidly, simply, and accurately as the temperature can be taken with the clinical thermometer.

— Leonard Erskine Hill

Hill, A. B.; Hill, B. (1968). "The life of Sir Leonard Erskine Hill FRS (1866-1952)". Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. 61 (3): 307–316. PMC 1902312Freely accessible. PMID 4868973. 

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