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The 5 Arguments About Rebreathers I Hear From Non-Rebreather Divers: Part 2

The 5 Arguments About Rebreathers I Hear From Non-Rebreather Divers: Part 2

Welcome back, if you're just reading for the first time, this is the continuation of our article from last week.

In Part 1 we addressed the two arguments...

  • I've been doing these dives on open circuit for years

  • It's too much work

In Part 2 I’ll address the final three:

  • Too complicated

  • They're dangerous

  • It's too expensive

“Rebreathers are too complicated”

If you’re an adult living in a developed country chances are you’ve driven a car. You get in the car, you turn the key, and you go. Once in a while you’ll bring the car in for service. If you’re like most people driving a car you don’t do this yourself.

You probably don’t know the intricacies of valve timing, engine compression ratios, brake pad engineering, tire rubber chemical composition and tread layout, electronic control unit programming or how to do a myriad of repairs that are possible.

Capt Andy Favata diving his rebreather on the U-853

You are a user. You are not a technician or engineer.

Now lets look at rebreathers. Yes, it’s true, rebreathers have more pieces than their open circuit counterparts. But what does this mean to a user? Does this make it too complicated for a layperson that doesn’t have an engineering degree from MIT? Not even close.

A rebreather diver has to build and break down their units on a regular basis. They are not engineers or inventors. They are, for lack of a better phrase, simply following instructions. Thankfully modern rebreathers are built with the end user in mind. Simplicity in assembly is a major focus of rebreather design.

For example, I teach on and use a rEvo rebreather. For the purpose of our exercise lets look at our build up. Now for this example I’m deliberately skipping safety checks to illustrate a point, DISCLAIMER: DO NOT USE THIS AS A BUILD PROCESS! If you do please drive to your nearest rEvo Instructor and give them your rebreather. Proceeds of sale will go to the charity of your choice.

That said…

In normal build-ups we can break it down to 5 main installed pieces with four o-ring sealing surfaces for the breathing loop itself (6 if you include the two tanks)

Shammies, Scrubbers, Cover, Tanks, Loop Hose.

  • If you can roll up a hand towel, you already have the skill to put a shammy in the rebreather.

  • If you can place items in a shopping basket, you’ve got what it takes to install the scrubbers.

  • Have you ever closed a cookie tin? You may just be a scrubber cover engineer!

  • Know how to attach a regulator to a SCUBA tank? Lets hope so at this point.

  • Can you screw in a light bulb? Boom! You’re a savant at those hose attachments.

People who have never actually built a rebreather seem to have it in their heads that we’re assembling a jet engine but it’s just not the case. Now obviously there’s more to it throughout our build. I’ve skipped over a series of critical, but easy to perform, equipment safety checks designed to catch any problems. This brings us right into the next argument I hear (like how I did that there? I know I’m impressed also)…

“Rebreathers are too dangerous”

"17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back!”…26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt." (Gen 19:17, 26)

Someone tells you to do something that is potentially life saving you should listen right? It couldn’t be any more cut and dry. Do it or something bad happens.

Glad we’re on the same page here.

Without going into a 60-page dissertation about psychology, statistics and possible scenarios it’s apparent that the two major causes of diver accidents are medical events and/or human error. As an instructor we can’t control unforeseen medical issues. All we can say is live a healthy lifestyle and get checked out by your Doctor. Either way it's not specific to diving a rebreather.