Hyperbaric Chamber Orientation Dives
The USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber offers divers opportunities to dive in the hyperbaric chamber. Dives can be arranged for depths up to 165 fsw. These dives allow divers to Experience the Chamber Environment, Observe Gas Laws at Work, and Feel the Effects of Nitrogen Narcosis.
Medicals - A dive in the chamber creates the
same conditions that makes divers susceptible to air embolisms, decompression
sickness, and nitrogen narcosis in an in-water dive. A current diving physical
(done within one year of the dive) is required for all participants who
wish to dive in the chamber. A copy of a current Standard Diver Medical
Exam (RSTC, NAUI, PADI, SSI, etc.), a letter from a physician stating the
participant is fit to dive, or a completed Clearance
for Hyperbaric Exposure (Adobe PDF file) is acceptable. Anyone who arrives at
the chamber without medical approval will not be permitted to dive.
Waiver - All participants must read, complete,
and sign a Waiver, Release and Indemnity Agreement
(Adobe PDF file) prior to diving in the chamber. Extra copies of this form are available
at the chamber.
Diving Prior To and After the 165 fsw Dive
- A dive in the chamber builds up nitrogen in the body just like a normal
dive. The decompression protocol used for the dive assumes that the participants
are clear of residual nitrogen. For this reason divers are asked not to
dive 24 hours prior to the chamber dive.
Following a 165 fsw dive the participants will have a residual nitrogen
load. Because of the depth of the dive we assign a Repetitive Group Designator
of "Z" to the Chamber "divers." Divers are asked not to dive for 24 hours
following the chamber dive to 165 fsw, preferably 24 hours. Also, divers
are asked not plan to travel to altitude for at least 24 hours following
the chamber dives (aircraft, mountain passes, altitude chambers, etc.)
Clothing - Since the chamber environment has
a higher concentration of oxygen molecules than air at sea level we have
special requirements for the clothes worn in the chamber. Street shoes
are not worn, and all clothing worn in the chamber should be no more than
20% synthetic and preferably 100% cotton (to prevent static electrical
sparks). During the descent, the air in the chamber gets quite hot (sometimes
over 110oF) and during ascent it can get somewhat cold inside
(< 40oF). It is recommended that you dress with the ability
to layer clothes (shorts and T-shirt for descent; sweatshirt and sweatpants
to add on ascent; and thick cotton socks). Remember all clothes worn in
the chamber should be a close to 100% cotton as possible.
Number of Divers - During decompression divers
are placed on oxygen at 10 fsw. There are only nine oxygen masks available,
so only eight divers (plus our tender) can dive in the chamber at a time.
More than one dive will need to be run if your group has more than eight
people who are diving.
Time Requirement - Plan to be at the chamber
for at least two hours for a single dive. The dive itself will last anywhere
from 45 - 70 minutes depending on the bottom time (12 or 15 minutes). The
rest of the time is taken up by chamber setup, orientation, and collection
of paperwork. If more than one dive is required by your group, plan for
another hour or so for each additional dive.
Dive Computers & Depth Gauges - Participants
are welcome to take their depth gauges or dive computers along on the dive.
Make sure that any depth gauges, watches, or computers are rated to depths
greater than 165 fsw. Some dive computers should not be exposed to a high
pressure air environment. There will be water baths available for those
Cost - The cost of the dive to 165 fsw is $20
per person. If paying by check, the check should be made out to the Catalina