Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket lifestyle: Diving without water

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Divers take water for granted, be it mucky water, cold water, beautiful Phuket water or even pool water. We presume there will be water when we dive. So my last dive, a “dry” dive at 18 meters in a sub-aquatic safety services (SSS) recompression chamber, was a novelty.

Recompression chambers, also known as hyperbaric chambers, have been used to treat a variety of ailments since the 1600s. By the 1930s the US Navy was successfully using hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) to treat deep-sea divers for decompression illnesses (DCI).

DCI, or “the bends”, is a key ingredient to most dive horror stories. There is the mental image of a diver panicking and bolting for the surface. As they rise, the pressure from the water above slackens and nitrogen bubbles in their blood and tissue begins to rapidly expand. On the surface the diver, in extreme pain, has skin that crackles to the touch and the fatty tissue around their hips and stomach starts to “marble”.

In reality very few DCI cases are anything like this. Often symptoms of DCI are so minor that they are ignored for days and are easily treated in a recompression chamber. Why in some cases certain individuals suffer from DCI and others don’t, despite both of them having followed the dive plan and having “good dives”, is unclear to scientists.

Luckily, DCI is rare enough that in a sport with millions of participants, not every dive professional has had experience dealing with it. So as part of the Sea Bees professional training program their students visit Patrick Schindler, SSS Hyperbaric Chamber Operations Manager, on site for a lecture on DCI symptoms and to experience a short dive in the chamber.

After being momentarily befuddled by our all-cotton fisherman pants (synthetic fabrics, which could possibly create a spark from static electric charge, are a fire risk under pressure), three “dive buddies” and I pile into the chamber with a SSS Recompression Chamber Network Assistant.

Once into the main room of the chamber the door behind us was securely shut. It’s cramped quarters for five guys, but once situated on the two beds the assistant flicks a switch and gives the go-ahead to start the dive.

Immediately there is an uncomfortable pressure on our ears. The depth gauge’s needle hovers at six feet. We’re constantly having to equalize, despite our slow descent.

Coupled with the pressure in ours ears is the heat. The little chamber feels like a sauna. It isn’t a stifling heat, but it’s uncomfortable. The heat isn’t from our bodies, but from the active air molecules being packed more densely as we descend.

We pause our descent and the air in the chamber is flushed, cooling the room and thankfully sweeping a little body odor out with it.

With the chamber air feeling fresher, we make our final descent to 18 meters.

Bottom time: a sheet is dragged across the inside of the chamber door as a screen and the projector outside starts playing the World War Two submarine film, U-571, to enhance the ambiance.

Snacks and cookies, are passed through the medical lock, which is also used to pass paperwork to the patients.

About 15 minutes into the movie, it’s time to start our ascent. It’s a much shorter dive than the four-hour dives that most patients receive as part of their treatment.

Back on the surface and slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to breath 100 per cent oxygen like a patient, I tried to figure out if this were the sort of dive I could log in my book or not.

If you have general questions about scuba diving or freediving in the Greater Phuket region, you can contact me at anytime at

— Isaac Stone Simonelli


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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

Follow Thaiger by email:

Insurgency4 mins ago

Volunteer ranger killed in grenade attack by suspected insurgents

Best of19 mins ago

Top 5 Spas in Koh Samui

Thailand27 mins ago

Hemp ice cream hits the Thai market

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Chon Buri1 hour ago

Chon Buri sets local order, restaurants in malls to only offer food for delivery

Thailand1 hour ago

Samut Prakan man dies in fire, possibly self-inflicted

Thailand2 hours ago

Royal Thai Police say bitterleaf can’t cure Covid

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

Tuesday Covid Update: 18,901 new cases, provincial totals

Thailand3 hours ago

Air Asia technician arrested for allegedly stealing electronics

Pattaya3 hours ago

“Pattaya Move On” reopening likely to be postponed as Covid cases surge

Thailand3 hours ago

3 metre long python caught near family’s house in Phuket

Thailand5 hours ago

Government says not to buy Favipiravir/Avigan online, says it might be fake

Phuket5 hours ago

Phuket bans alcohol sales at restaurants, issues order amid rise of Covid cases

Best of5 hours ago

Top 5 Mexican restaurants in Pattaya

Thailand5 hours ago

Good Morning Thailand | New restrictions, new Red Line train in Bangkok, Covid latest

Thailand5 hours ago

Ministry of Public Health says Pfizer vaccine will be allocated correctly, others disagree

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism5 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8