My name is Simon...
It seems I am the only male member of Nitroheads Anonymous. I have a signal for letting my buddy know that I am more than a little narked, though fortunately I have never had to abort a dive because of it.
Was Jill Wright's Deep Breath (December 2000) a blatant dig at the male species of divers, drivers and lovers? Did someone from the male species do Jill wrong?
Either way, I would advise Jill to rethink her plans for dealing with a narked diver. If your buddy is suffering badly from narcosis, giving him a reel won't help.
His mind is in a spin already, so having to work a reel as well is only going to confuse and possibly cause more distress.
Has Jill heard of "task loading"? It doesn't sound like it. Does she know the extreme result of narcosis, by which I mean beyond the hallucinations - unconsciousness, or even death?
Instead of getting worked up about trying to reach the bell she saw on a virgin wreck, she should have focused on her buddy. Bring him up to a level where narcosis is no longer a problem. Help him to relax. Remove all mental pressure.
You might find that you can then get back onto the wreck with your buddy feeling a little better. Had she done this, she might not have had to suffer the ignominy of watching the second pair of divers show off the bell.
Surely completing a deep dive safely on a virgin wreck and reaching the surface without incident is reward in itself. We have all had to go through the arguments about which dive association is better/safer than another. Let's not start off the new year with claims about which sex dives better than the other.
We're all into this sport for the same reasons, so let's get on with it and help to make 2001's diving better and safer than ever.
Simon Greenwood, St Newlyn East, Cornwall
I read Jill Wright's No Men in Nitroheads Anonymous and was slightly disturbed by her claim that blokes don't admit to it when they have been narked at 30m or any other depths. Surely this isn't true, is it?
I was narked at 30m in Malta at a dive site called Crocodile Rock last summer. Being a very new diver with only 15 hours under my belt,I didn't realise until I was told afterwards by my instructor. Diving should be fun, not a competition. If people don't admit to being narked, they will probably not admit it to themselves.
Piers Boileau Goad, Monkton Combe, Avon
Respect for my father's grave
I was interested to read your open letter to Chris Smith (First In, December 2000). But why is it necessary to dive on my father's grave?
Other next-of-kin and survivors of naval wartime tragedies feel as affronted and upset as I do to discover that the final resting places of loved ones are being invaded without our knowledge and consent and, in some cases, stripped, apparently by commercial or souvenir-hunters.
One of the most compelling eye-witness accounts I have received was from a diver who told me: "You look into the holds and see human remains. I realised that what we were doing was sacrilegious. It really isn't right.
"The fact that you see human bones makes it feel like a grave. They are such moving memorials that they should not be disturbed. I felt disquiet over what was going on."
Having sailed with and worked with divers on humanitarian projects, I am aware that there is a small minority who find it unacceptable to dive on war or maritime graves. I can see no justification for diving on my father's final resting place.
Shirley Ward, Newton Abbot, Devon
Governments guilty of double standards?
Having been accused of being blatantly uninformed, a dinosaur, a vandal and possessing the mentality of a football thug - oh, and being a thief of the worst kind, a Northern one (Off-Gassing, December), I wish to state a few facts.
There is a vociferous minority in the archaeological community who know how to work the system and have a number of avenues by which to influence the Government.
They have not been slow to use the war-grave issue to their advantage.
I and several colleagues purchased wrecks in the '70s for commercial salvage. The Government was keen to take our money without considering the casualty issue.
We informed the local receivers of wreck each time we landed something. They got fed up in the end. Now local divers explore our wrecks, and I wouldn't object if they recovered any souvenirs that technically belonged to me.
After the war, the Government contracted salvage companies to recover valuable cargoes, which they did with 10 ton grabs and explosives. Some of the tales make your fictional Rambo Wrecker look like Mary Poppins.
The Government desecrated shipping casualties that incurred human loss on a mega scale, for money, HMS Edinburgh being one of many. What do the MPs who have taken up this issue have to say about this?
All around our coastline lie merchant wrecks which suffered casualties. Most have been dispersed by the Government, using up to 500 depth charges on one wreck. But let's pretend that never happened and pick on one guy who found a porthole.
My beef is not with considerate divers and I do not condone interfering with genuine historical sites. I also sympathise with relatives of the brave lost ones, but ask them to consider who the real desecrators were, and will be again if the financial reward is big enough.
My beef is with our phoney, double-standard, political dictators.
In future, when you're paying your archaeological wreck-guide fees for overseeing your day out on a wreck you have received permission to dive, remember that it was your gentle apathy that brought it about.
Don't blame people like me, blame your MPs.
Pete Fergus, Hull
Paying off debts
I was very pleased to read in your December issue that an improved deal had been effected between BSAC and BSAC Japan and that an upfront tranche of £300,000 had been paid into the club's accounts (BSAC Opts for Cash Upfront).
I was not pleased, however, to read that the club proposes to use these moneys on "services investment" rather than paying off its debts. I believe it has a moral duty to reimburse its debtors immediately, whatever arrangements they might have made.
This includes those who lent the club cash out of their own pockets when it nearly went under.
Jill Myers, Harrogate
The Ellyatt Effect
The Mark Ellyatt Effect (November 2000) is to distance would-be divers from the sport, rather than encouraging them.
As an Advanced Diver with 21 years' experience, I feel most would-be divers like to be able to identify with the environment and their immediate goals, not feel there is such a mountain to climb that they will probably never get there or, indeed, might not want to get there.
Most divers enjoy underwater life, and don't have to prove anything to themselves or others. Development must come in manageable stages, and to suggest that Ellyatt's tales of daring are so much more attractive is sheer folly, as is his impression that he is a representative of the sport. He is a representative only of himself.
Would he get as much enjoyment from his diving if he couldn't impress his audience with such wondrous stories? I would enjoy them all the more if I weren't made to feel inadequate because I wasn't there - I wouldn't want to be.
The arrogance with which he condemns those diving doctors who are prepared continually to dig him out of his self-inflicted incident pit is a measure of the man. But at least he is giving them that much-needed experience he believes they need. If I were him, I would be very nice to them, as I have a sneaking suspicion they will be enjoying each other's company again soon.
Don't kid yourself that you are fulfilling every diver's dream, and do the sport a favour - keep away from trainees! Leave it to those who better understand their immediate needs.
Chris Hudd, Ilfracombe, Devon
Unhappy with treatment
Dr Hamilton makes some comments about me in Off-Gassing (Diving Doc Refutes Bend Charge, January). I would like to return the compliment. From the outset I offered to pay towards my "free for everyone else" chamber treatment. As soon as the chamber released a story to the local press with names and personal details to teach me a lesson, I withdrew my offer.
After surfacing from a lengthy dive off Jersey, I was hypothermic from a 180 minute deco in a flooded drysuit. I was lethargic and once in the boat felt as if my life was draining into my feet.
I lay down with feet raised and tried to take in warm liquids. An hour later we arrived back. Feeling better, I didn't help myself by climbing a ladder and refuelling the boat, and had to sit down to recover. We sought help from a nearby medical practice, where fluids were administered, my blood pressure taken several times and oxymeters placed on my fingertips.
After one BP measurement the nurse left the room. After 20 minutes I felt pins-and-needles in my arm. Removing the blanket, I found the BP cuff still inflated, removed it and called the nurse. The fingers on which the oxymeter was placed felt uncomfortable, so I kept removing it but the nurse kept replacing it.
I was sent to a larger hospital for monitoring for a few more hours. Back home I experienced very bad pain from bicep to elbow. I went back to the hospital but it was around two hours before a diving doctor arrived. Oxygen was provided after some persuasion but via an (I believe) inappropriate constant-flow device.
I went into the recompression chamber and my arm quickly felt better. Back in hospital for observation during the night I felt pain in the fingers on which the oxymeter had been placed.
In the morning when I left hospital that pain was building. That afternoon, the diving doctor at the chamber said this was not connected with the previous episode and I was not re-treated.
My conclusions: patients with post-diving symptoms should not have BP cuffs left inflated on their arms or oxymeters placed on fingertips for longer than necessary. Oxygen should be provided without delay, using an "on-demand" regulator.
Patients should be able to insist that doctors with diving knowledge are present, use their own relevant training and experience to advise non diving-doctors, and wait no more than 10-20 minutes after arriving at hospital before phoning for specialist advice from DDRC or DAN.
Mark Ellyatt, Jersey
Protect the painting
Nigel Eaton's editorial in the December issue spoke of respect for wrecks around our coast and the multi-organisational approach to obtain the co-operation of the diving community.
Since Stanegarth was sunk in association with Diver at Stoney Cove in June, it has been visited by many divers. I am sure we all enjoy it, whatever our level of training. I have only seen it treated with respect, but there has been considerable damage to paintwork and timber caused by divers carving their initials or slogans on it.
Out of sight to many divers is the painting on the engine-room bulkhead, presumably painted by a crew-member in the tugboat's operational life.
I am concerned that it remains unprotected from damage by vandals and the underwater environment. Industrial archaeologists will agree that this little piece of history should not be put at risk. Stanegarth could still be restored and will endure all manner of structural abuse, because it was over-engineered. That little piece of artwork might not be so enduring.
Less seriously, who chose to paint the wording red on the plaque commemorating the Stanegarth's sinking?
It illustrates clearly that red is the first colour to be lost at depth and therefore is not readable in ambient light at 18m, where it now rests.
Howard Sherman, Clifford's Mesne, Glos
Margaret Baldwin of Stoney Cove replies: We appreciate such supportive comments and hope they will encourage divers not to damage Stanegarth or any other features we place in Stoney Cove. It is a sad fact that the underwater vandal is still an active member of our community, the state of the Wessex helicopter being testament to that.
As for the Stanegarth painting, are there any industrial archaeologists around with ideas as to how it could be preserved? We acknowledge the comment about the red on the plaque, but it does show up beautifully in torchlight!
The facts about artificial legs
In answer to Hilton Jones' question, prosthetic limbs definitely float (Do Waterproof Limbs Float or Sink?, Off-Gassing, December). Very useful on holiday, as you can float on your back with your buoyant limb under your neck, snoozing in the hotel pool.
I lost my leg when I was 19 and have been diving for 25 years. In the early days of wetsuits, I needed a special leg which was waterproof and had a solid ankle. I found it difficult to get the artificial limb into the wetsuit.
My first drysuit was a 7mm Neoprene suit with entry through a back zip. It is extremely difficult to get your artificial limb into these suits as the foot doesn't bend - imagine trying to put on a drysuit with an ankle locked at 90¡ to your leg.
The other problem was weight. I needed 6lb of lead just to make it neutrally buoyant. In the end I used an old leg and left it permanently in the suit. This made diving easier but by the time I had walked round, say, St Abbs harbour carrying all the gear plus 6lb of lead strapped to my leg, I was too tired to go diving.
The next suit, a membrane, was a godsend. It is thin and flexible and zips across the chest.
I can use my everyday walking leg to go diving because it is extremely easy to get an artificial leg in and out of these suits, and I need only 1lb of lead. I can't use a fin because the ankle is locked at 90¡, but at least the diving isn't a challenge any more. I can enjoy it just like anyone else.
Good work with the mag.
Steve Bramwell, Johnstone, Scotland
Bent in Mauritius
While diving in Mauritius recently I experienced a minor bend, which was diagnosed only when I had flown home.
My buddy and I were very confused by the symptoms, as they occurred 12 hours after a normal multi-level dive to 20m. Symptoms continued for a further 12 hours, resulting in severe vomiting and aching knees.
I rang the local chamber and to my horror was told that I needed a referral from a GP before I could be seen. We went to the local hospital, where I was seen by two GPs. They insisted on giving me drugs for the vomiting and pain, thinking it was a virus.
Finally, after much persuasion, they contacted the hyperbaric GP, who saw me the following morning. I was due to fly the day after, so his advice was vital. I was given aspirin and told I was not bent and could fly home. I thought the advice was sound.
Still with sore knees and a stomach like a washing machine, I flew home. I was given a note to hand to the cabin crew to administer oxygen if I needed it. This was given back to me, as they did not know what it meant!
Back in the UK, my GP advised me to get a second opinion from a chamber. I contacted Capital Hyperbaric Centre in London, which was brilliant. Within 40 minutes of my call I had seen a hyperbaric GP and was booked for the chamber the next morning.
I had a six-hour stint, followed by a further three hours the next day.
Shocked? I couldn't believe it The chamber had diagnosed a hit - I had flown home with bubbles in my knees! If I had not sought treatment and had gone diving again, I could have been in a lot more trouble.
This has bought home how easy it can be to get a hit, especially for a very small and thin female who got too chilly on a dive.
As a PADI Rescue diver, I thought I knew how to identify the signs of DCI, but this underlines that we are not all textbook cases.
For anyone thinking of diving in Mauritius, there is not a lot to see and the diving practices leave a lot to be desired, especially the diagnosis of DCI!
Rebecca Coomber, Surrey