- Nov. 24 2009 - Deep
Dive Chamber DRDC, Toronto -
I had the great privilege of being allowed into the deep sea
dive chamber which is used by the Canadian Armed Forces for diver
training and dive table research purposes. This was the first
time that a TV crew had ever been allowed to film inside the
chamber while it was pressurized.
- The chamber enables the divers to simulate
the conditions found at deep depths. There is a dry side and
wet side to the chamber and each can be controlled separately.
My dive was in the dry side and it was brought down to the equivalent
of 45 meters depth (about 150 feet). The chamber is capable of
going down to an incredible 1700 meters (5577 feet) depth while
unmanned. In order to be allowed inside, I had to be subjected
to several days of medical testing beforehand including eyesight
& hearing tests, blood & urine tests, a full physical
exam, lung capacity tests, an ECG, and a chest X-ray.
- Of course, since we were in a dry chamber
and not under water, the dive was unlike an SCUBA dive that I
had ever been on before. We had to wear special anti-static,
fireproof clothes due to the increased risk of fire in a higher
partial pressure of oxygen environment. Once the pressurization
began, I immediately had to begin equalizing the pressure on
my ears and due to the increased gas pressure, the air inside
heated up to 45 degrees C (113 F).
- Once "on the bottom" we had
just under 20 minutes there before coming back up. One strange
phenomenon is the high pitched "sucking on helium"
voice that you get due to the increased air density and effects
of pressure on the vocal chords. It is hilarious on its own,
but add to that the effects of nitrogen narcosis and laughing
becomes totally contagious. At these depths, the normally inert
nitrogen in our air becomes a narcotic and was acting on my body
like the equivalent of about 3 dry martinis on an empty stomach.
This impairment could be fatal if you were under water and had
to perform critical tasks.
- On the way back up, as the gas expanded,
the temperature dropped to around the freezing point and the
moisture in the air condensed into thick fog inside the chamber
and we had to stop at 9 meters (30 feet) to decompress. We waited
there for 16 minutes while breathing pure oxygen. This allows
most of the nitrogen that has built up in our body tissues to
slowly dissipate, preventing the painful and sometimes deadly
decompression sickness "The Bends"
- After the dive, They performed a doppler
scan of my blood to see if I had any residual gas bubbles in
my blood, and even though there were nitrogen bubbles in it,
I did not get sick. Nevertheless, I was still put on 24 hour
"bends watch" just in case I developed any symptoms.