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Phuket Diving: Re-breather revolution

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Diving: Re-breather revolution | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The pool is silent. Three divers, but not a sound. Then, right before our ascent, we flip the switch on our regulators to open-circuit. There is a roar of bubbles that destroys the silence – it’s inappropriate. Yet in reality, up until my recreational re-breather “Try Dive”, a cacophony of bubbles ballooning in my face was all I had known.

Almost every diver in Phuket, indeed the world, took their first precious underwater breath on what is technically known as an open-circuit configuration (what you most likely think of when you think of scuba diving equipment).

Even catchy slogan, such as “Take only pictures, leave only bubbles”, was derived from the bubble blowing on an open-circuit system, which expels “used” air out into the environment. But for years, tech-divers have one-upped the recreational crowd with re-breathers, often through necessity, with “Take only pictures, leave no sign….”

Silently going on deeper, longer dives was the draw and is still the draw for using a re-breather. They have been an essential tool for many tech-divers in exploring and discovering previously unknown parts of the underwater world. And this year, that same opportunity for exploration has come to the forefront of the recreational diving scene.

The Poseidon MKVI, known as the “world’s first re-breather for recreational divers”, and the launch of PADI’s first recreational re-breather dive course are opening up entirely new aspects of dive sites. The simplicity of the system allows nearly any recreational diver to make the plunge into the re-breather world.

Admittedly, in the pool session of the “Try Dive” run by re-breather instructor Kevin Black from Kiwidiver there wasn’t much to explore: blue tiles, clear water, four walls… and yet it was exciting.

A re-breather triples your dive time. In many ways it’s like having a nitrox blender on your back, perfecting the oxygen content in the air you are breathing at any given depth. It is this efficiency that allows for longer, deeper dives.

Diving at Shark Point for a second time, there will no doubt be an array of stunning new moments. However, the path that you take, and the sea fan with the sea horse hidden nearby, will most likely be the same.

The re-breather is assisting recreational divers down different paths – same dive sites, different dives.

“An example is Koh Doc Mai. You can go off the northern end of Koh Doc Mai where there are several pinnacles at 30 and 40 meters that are fantastic to explore. There is a huge amount of marine life on them and no one ever goes there, because we can’t on an open-circuit system,” Kevin explained.

A chance to dive sites that have as yet been mostly inaccessible to recreational divers isn’t the whole package though – remember the silence?

“There is no intrusion on the marine life. So they tend to go along with their business and you can get right up close as they are not scared of you,” explained Kevin after the pool session.

“We miss 90 per cent of the marine life because it’s hiding from the noise, and until you dive on a re-breather and hear how noisy open-circuit divers are – you just can’t understand it,” he added.

The most elegant example can be seen in the footage of two of the greatest divers of our century, the world-renowned Jacques Cousteau and the first “modern” underwater photographer, Hans Hass.

Both have excellent footage (for their time) of sharks. However, Cousteau, who was diving on an open-circuit system, depicts an animal that appears nervous, while Hass’ footage, silently captured while diving on a re-breather, is able to embody the calm beauty of one of the ocean’s most enigmatic creatures.

How does a re-breather work?
In an open-circuit system, the air that is exhaled at a shallow depth has only used up about a quarter of the oxygen; the remaining oxygen, along with nitrogen and carbon dioxide, is bubbled out into the abyss. Because none of the inert gases (nitrogen and carbon dioxide) are used and only a fraction of the necessary oxygen is used, it is estimated that 95 per cent of exhaled breath from an open-circuit system is wasted.

A re-breather is a closed system, so the air exhaled is kept in the system.Used air runs through a hose to the bottom of a “scrubber”, which, with the little heat and moisture from a divers breath, causes a chemical reaction that absorbs the dangerous carbon dioxide and leaves clean air ready to be re-breathed. If such a cycle continued with no input, the air would eventually be devoid of oxygen, so the recreational re-breather will mix either compressed air or pure oxygen from two small cylinders on your back into the mix in order to create the optimal air for breathing at a given depth.

The history of re-breathers is rife with horror stories, many derived from divers not packing their scrubbers properly, causing “carbon dioxide hits”, where carbon dioxide rich air is breathed in by a diver, to devastating ends.

Now, however, with the Poseidon MKVI, all scrubbers are pre-packed, and ready to go. In addition to this safety precaution, a computer analyzes and mixes the pure oxygen and compressed air to eliminate human error.

If there are any issues with the blend, there are a variety of display warnings as well as an audible alarm and a vibrating mouth piece to ensure a diver is aware of the situation. Because the dives are no-decompression recreational dives, a diver with an issue will simply need to flip the switch on their mouth piece to use the open-circuit and start a safe ascent.

This is part three of a four-part series on PADI’s new specialty diving certifications.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Business

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg

May Taylor

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Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | The Thaiger

Thai Residents reports that on Sunday, Bloomberg published an article on the world’s best pension systems, using information gathered from the 2019 Melbourne Mercer Global Pensions Index.

The survey looked at the pension systems of 37 countries with metrics including employee rights, savings, the number of homeowners, growth of assets, and growth of the economy. The purpose of the analysis was to determine what was needed to improve state pension systems and to gauge the level of confidence citizens had in their state pension system.

The Netherlands and Denmark were found to have the world’s best state pensions, with Australia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, and Chile next. Out of all 37 countries, Thailand finished last, with what the report described as an extremely ineffective and ambiguous system.

“Thailand was in the bottom slot and should introduce a minimum level of mandatory retirement savings and increase support for the poorest.”

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | News by The Thaiger

Photo: WorkpointNews

Thai Residents states that only those employed within the government system in Thailand are eligible for a pension based on salary. For most Thai citizens, pension amounts vary from 600 baht to 1,000 baht a month, depending on the recipient’s age.

A report carried out by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) advises Thai citizens to have at least 4 million baht saved by the time they retire, but Thai Residents reports that 60% of Thai retirees have less than 1 million baht in savings, with one in three citizens who have reached retirement age are forced to continue working in order to survive.

SOURCE: thairesidents.com

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Bangkok

Tax on salt content being considered

Greeley Pulitzer

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Tax on salt content being considered | The Thaiger

The Excise Department is considering imposing a tax on the salt content of food to encourage food producers to reduce the sodium content of snacks, instant noodles and seasoning cubes.

The director of the Office of Tax Planning said that the department is discussing a limit on the amount of sodium food can contain, in line with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is 2,000 milligrams of salt per day.

In reality, Thai people consume an average of 1,000 milligrams per meal, making their daily intake well above WHO guidelines, according to the director.

He said any tax imposed would be at a level which would encourage food producers to reduce the sodium in their processed food without being punitive, adding that the proposal isn’t intended to generate more tax revenue, but to help protect the health of consumers. Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fish sauce, soy sauce and salt would not be taxed.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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News

Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces

Greeley Pulitzer

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Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces | The Thaiger

People living in 22 Thai provinces are being warned to prepare for shortages of drinking water during the upcoming dry season, due to start on November 1st.

The warning was issued by the National Water Resources Office, citing low levels in reservoirs, which are the main sources for tap water production waterworks in 22 provinces.

Areas at risk identified by the office are in northern, north-eastern, eastern and southern provinces.

Measures have been adopted by agencies charged with dealing with water shortages. including dredging water channels to allow greater volumes of water to flow into reservoirs, drilling underground wells, enlarging storage ponds and the purchase of water to supply to those in urgent need.

The Royal Irrigation Department has announced that people should use water sparingly.

There are currently about 6 billion cubic metres of usable water in reservoirs in the affected provinces, with 5 billion cubic metres reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic metres for use in agriculture.

This means farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin may not be able to grow a second crop of rice this year.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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