5 Interesting Scuba Related Facts You Probably Don’t Know

There are a lot of facts to learn about scuba. Most of them I find fascinating; some of them are self explanatory; a few of them are even obvious. But what I really love is learning something that makes me go, “Huh, that’s interesting.”

So in an effort to spread the intriguing knowledge of mankind across the globe (or, more realistically, tell a few enjoyable bits of knowledge to the people who read this post) and not sound too pretentious in doing so, I give you…

Five Interesting Scuba Related Facts

Fact #1

A mask may be the first piece of equipment a scuba diver purchases. And even if you’ve never worn one, I bet you knew that when placed on a persons face, it provides a pocket of air in front of the eyes.

But did you know that that air actually helps correct a light refraction error that would be caused by water’s direct contact with the eye ball? Because, when in direct contact with each other, light passed through water is poorly focused by the eye. The mask actually corrects this error – mostly. Objects still look about 33% larger due to the flatness on the mask’s lens, but at least you can see them.

Fact #2

By definition, altitude diving is underwater diving when the surface is 300 meters (1,000 feet) above sea level. It requires a special certification to learn about the dive procedures, planning and techniques adjusted for altitude.

But did you know the highest dive sight is Lago Lincancabur in Chile? Located at an astonishing 5,916 meters (19,409 feet) above sea level, Lake Lincancabur is one of the world’s highest elevation lakes and was first dived in 1982.

Fact #3

Wetsuits were invented in the early 1950’s and became popular through the first two wetsuit manufacturing companies, O’Neil and Body Glove. The foam neoprene they’re made from is a highly durable, very buoyant, insulating material. Many people believe that wetsuits work by trapping a thin layer of water between itself and the body of the wearer, causing the water to easily warm and remain there, which in turn warms the body.

But did you know wetsuits actually work because the neoprene contains small, enclosed bubbles of Nitrogen gas which is a poor conductor of heat? These small bubbles greatly reduce the transfer of heat from the body (and the thin layer of trapped water) to the outside, colder water which keeps the wearer warmer, longer. So the thin layer of water explanation isn’t wrong, it’s just not the entire truth.

Fact #4

Nitrogen narcosis is an effect on the brain which occurs in divers who go below 100 feet of sea water. This effect causes the person to feel “drunk”, impairing motor functions and decision making abilities.

But did you know helium reduces the effects of nitrogen narcosis? The amount of helium used depends on the depth of the dive which in turn effects decompression stops, but this is what technical divers are trained for and why they use trimix – a combination of oxygen, nitrogen and helium. Trimix gives the diver a clearer head and better memory of the dive, because who wants to dive a wreck that few people have seen and not be able to remember it?

Fact #5

Decompression sickness, or “the bends”, occurs when nitrogen bubbles form in the bloodstream and tissues of a diver who ascends too fast, moving quickly from high pressure outside of the body to low pressure outside of the body. This can cause headaches, fatigue, pain the joints, trouble breathing, shock or even death.

But did you know decompression sickness was first witnessed in 1841 among people working in caissons. While in a caisson, a person’s body is under high pressure (just like a diver at depth) so if they ascend too fast, they will feel the same effects as a diver who does the same. And because the people suffering from these events would bend over in pain, the name stuck.