Rebreather Testing for the United States Antarctic Scientific Diving Program
There are a number of areas of Antarctic research by scientists from the United States where rebreather technology (which unlike normal SCUBA diving releases few if any air bubbles) would be valuable tools. These include but are not limited to behavioral studies (because noise from bubbles released by standard SCUBA alters the behavior of many marine organisms), studies of communities on the underside of sea ice (because the bubbles disrupt the communities while or before they are sampled), and studies of highly stratified lake communities (because the bubbles cause mixing and because lighter line could be used to tether a diver to the surface which would probably also cause less water column disruption). The latter scientific advantage of less mixing in highly stratified (not naturally mixed) lakes is also a significant environmental advantage of rebreathers. However, for safety reasons, no US science projects will be approved for the use of rebreathers until they are tested by the US Antarctic Program (USAP). This award provides funds for the USAP Scientific Diving Officer to conduct such tests in conjunction with other diving professionals experienced in polar diving in general and specifically with rebreather technology in non-polar environments. A team of six scientific diving professionals will evaluate seven or more commercial rebreather models that are being most commonly used in non-polar scientific diving. This will be done through holes drilled or melted in sea ice at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. A limited number of test dives of the best performing models will subsequently be made in stratified lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys.
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