No Bubbles, No Buoyancy and Doing ‘The Inverted Cockroach’

Jenny Lord diving with a rebreather.

Many years ago when I was a newly qualified instructor I had the chance to do an ‘intro’ on a rebreather. A rebreather is type of breathing apparatus that recycles the air you breathe out. It essentially takes the exhaled air, removes the carbon dioxide, adds a bit of oxygen and lets you breathe it again, hence the name. They’re great bits of kit and I’d loved the idea of them for years. When I finally got chance to try one I jumped at it and being the naïve, over confident young lady I was, thought they’d be easy.

Oh, how wrong I was!

As with most intros, first came the skills. It seemed simple enough, just close the valve to stop any water getting in, take the mouthpiece out of your mouth, put it back in and open up again. I’d practised it on land, no problem.
Kneeling underwater facing my instructor I found myself thinking “this’ll be simple”. What’s that old saying about pride coming before a fall?
My instructor signals for me to start the skill. I close the valve, take the mouthpiece out, and smile to show how easy this all was for me.
Then I put it back in….
And can’t open it…..
I’m feeling around for the bit that’s supposed to move, but will it?
Not this time…..
Not when I really need some air. ….
I start frantically feeling the valve, have I held it in the wrong place? Still it won’t open. Luckily we’re kneeling in about a metre of water, so all I have to do to breathe is stand up. Which I do. Much to the derision of my friends who’re stood on shore waiting for their turn. My poor instructor shows me again how straightforward it is to open the valve. We try again and this time, to my relief, I manage it. All skills complete, we go on to the dive.

Whilst we were having our briefing we’d discovered that most of the people taking the intros that day were local instructors, with the exception of one open water diver. He was so new to diving, he’d only finished his open water course that morning. Once again, idiotic me thought I’d be the one finning gracefully along, while he’d be struggling in the shallows. Oh, how arrogant could I have been! As we set off, I glance across at Mr Newly-Qualified to see him gliding along, in perfect ‘trim’ (a beautiful flat horizontal position).

At least, that’s what I saw for the one second I had, before I promptly nose-dived into the sand.

Ok, I’ve seen students do this before, no problem, just add a bit of air to my wing. I start to rise up when suddenly I hear a noise; the computer has told the unit to put some more oxygen in the system.
The added gas means I start to rise up, and before I know it, I’m at the surface. Damnit.
Dump air from the wing, and back down I go. Oops, too much, I’m back with my nose in the sand again.
This repeated for almost the entire dive, with my poor instructor desperately trying to help me stabilise. Along the way, I mixed it up with some dead cockroach impressions when I somehow managed to roll onto my back and was only corrected by my instructor grabbing me and spinning me back over. Luckily for me, only three of my friends were in the water with me at the time (as well as a few on the surface to witness my frequent surfacings), and only one of them had a camera.

Despite being sworn to secrecy, it didn’t stop everyone else somehow knowing about it and doing various impressions later that evening.
I figured maybe rebreathers weren’t for me. Little did I know…

More about the ‘rematch’ in my next blog.

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