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Advanced Scientific Diving Workshop brings 300 foot depth closer to reality
This story entered on 17th Mar, 2006 01:13:41 PM PST

NOAA and the Smithsonian supported a scientific meeting in Washington, DC February 23-24, which concluded that there is a national need for scientific divers to perform research at depths beyond the 190-feet limits imposed by compressed air scuba. "Scuba diving conducted by scientists is an invaluable research tool; a trained eye underwater provides research value and flexibility that unmanned systems often do not", said the Smithsonian Institution's Michael Lang. With a large number of marine ecosystems located in depths of up to 400-feet deep-or, too deep for conventional scuba diving and too shallow to make deep submersible work cost efficient; exciting research on deep water corals or ecosystem assessments on National Marine Sanctuaries, for example, might not be possible without the added capability to dive to 300 feet.

In response to this need, NOAA and the Smithsonian Institution invited fifty diving experts representing academia, the U.S. Navy, commercial diving companies, and international experts to describe techniques used to dive to 300 feet and beyond. Open-circuit trimix and closed-circuit mixed-gas rebreathers are currently being used in the scientific community and their use can readily be extended to deeper depths.

However, mixed-gas surface-supplied techniques, including diving from a bell or deep saturation system, as described by commercial and U.S. Navy representatives are not currently used by the scientific community. NOAA representatives believe the information from this workshop can be used to develop procedures for safe scientific diving to 300 feet. This will allow NOAA supported scientists to extend the accomplishment of NOAA's mission by making first-hand observations, taking fine measurements, and conducting exact sampling at deeper depths. The workshop was supported by NOAA's Undersea Research Program, the Smithsonian Institution, NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program and the American Academy of Underwater Sciences.

Contact information
Name: Gene Smith
Tel: (301) 713-2427


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Updated: March 23, 2006