Played on the Pelagian DCCCR, words by Andy Campbell
It’s the silence as the descent begins and the surface recedes, the silence, I didn’t expect that, I had read and talked to people about diving on closed circuit rebreathers but I couldn’t remember anyone really pointing this out… Diving is always a peaceful respite from the chaos of the surface, “me time” even when shared with others and I have always appreciated the lack of ringing phones or emails but the noise I never really appreciated how noisy we all are on open circuit scuba and now diving in silence I do.
On each subsequent dive with the Pelagian DCCCR (Diver Controlled Closed Circuit Rebreather) this has not changed, the silence the switch from open circuit scuba (OC) to the Pelagian brings is almost mesmerising and I know that even after all those dives on OC that these and future dives on the Pelagian are and will always be that little bit more special to me for this reason.
The Pelagian DCCCR from Rebreather Lab seemed to be the natural choice when Big Blue Tech looked into the CCR world, I had seen them dived before and being manufactured a 2 hour ride from Koh Tao it would help immensely with logistics, training and maintenance but still not an easy choice to make. It wasn’t just about the location and logistics, whilst undergoing my initial tech training and instructor training the dive centre also used the Pelagian DCCCR and like most open circuit divers I looked on with growing curiosity. Any form of CCR demands respect and for good reason they have a reputation that precedes them… Expensive, complicated, overly technical and yes “dangerous” with the obvious risks as you will see on any brief Google search. So my first question was the obvious one, “is it all worth it?” and as I encountered more and more CCR divers the answer was always a reassuring “Yes”.
Now this is not the blog where I will go into all of the intricacies and differences between a Diver Controlled CCR or Electronically Controlled CCR (nor could I), the crux of this blog is to reflect on my initial question now that I’m now in a better position to answer it for myself. So is it worth it? Quite simply “Yes, Yes and thrice Yes”… The training is tough, it should be with plenty of dark humour, a seven day course (Now available at Big Blue Tech) with quite literally a lot of up’s and down’s, the learning curve is steep almost cliff like but yes it’s all worth it, for the silence, for the enhanced marine experience (yes the marine life comes closer) and for the new understanding of diving each CCR diver will gain.
On the Pelagian DCCCR I can only speak positively, during our initial search for a CCR the options were numerous with computer controlled units as well as the Pelagian in the mix. We looked at several different angles and different solutions raised different concerns, one of mine was could you effectively manage this whilst being able to actually enjoy the diving experience? Or would you spend the entire dive constantly checking and rechecking the PO2, gauges and loop volume. In the end it couldn’t be simpler and in later blogs I will explain more with added input from Rebreather Lab about operating the Pelagian but it’s not over bearing and as with air, depth and time checks soon just becomes part of your diving routine with the simplest of adjustments to maintain the set point (PO2).
It’s mechanical, no software… still reassuring in a world of updates, no voting logic (bit like the UK and US to be honest) and yes you’re responsible for your own safety. Preparing the Pelagian for diving is of course more complex than a traditional scuba unit but with time becomes intuitive with check list’s that are easy to follow and the reassurance that once completed and all the boxes ticked you are ready to go.
Buoyancy, well after thousands of dives on open circuit scuba configurations and the pursuit of “perfect” buoyancy the CCCR kind of breaks your heart and then teases you before finally embracing you… No it’s not quite the same and during the initial training you wonder if something in your head is broken, you get moments of surreal stillness and then the up’s and down’s as you try to exhale to descend or inhale to ascend but it comes and just as with open circuit scuba will now see me on a tireless and immensely rewarding journey in search of perfect buoyancy (dive one on advanced open water, yea right, lol).