There is confusion about the options divers face today when it comes to what they should breathe, or so Paul Adams believes. He is keen, if ill-equipped, to set the record straight
ONCE UPON A TIME, all that scuba divers had to worry about was sticking a regulator in their mouths, a knife on their legs and getting wet. Nice and simple.
But, as with everything else nowadays, it had to get complicated. Unfortunately, there's nothing much we can do about this because of something called evolution, which was invented by a bloke called Darwin who lived in the north of Australia.
First it was dive tables. Then it was buoyancy compensators. Shortly after that we all had to learn how to use a bloody computer and dive with sausages in our pockets.
Now, as if air was not good enough, we're being told that if we undergo the appropriate technical training, we have a choice in what we can breathe under water. Whether or not this is a good thing, I'm not prepared to say. But there is a lot of misunderstanding about these new diving gases, so I thought it was about time someone cut through the confusion once and for all.
Compressed Air: This is for divers and was invented in the 1940s by Jacques Cousteau. It's just like normal air, except smaller, so it will fit into bottles.
Oxygen: This gas was invented in the 1970s by another French bloke called Jean-Michel Jarre. If you smell it, you might just detect a hint of garlic.
It can be extremely dangerous in its pure form, resulting in oxygen convulsions or "chronic oxygen toxicity". Michael Jackson breathes it a lot - need I say more.
Nitrox: A relatively new gas designed to be used by people diving in the hours of darkness. Nitrox has had all traces of cheese removed, to allow people to sleep soundly after a night dive with a minimal risk of bad dreams.
Trimix: A mixture of helium, oxygen and nitrogen used for deep diving. To make it, take equal quantities of oxygen and nitrogen, bung in a mixing bowl and stir. Gently fold in a dash of helium. If the helium keeps floating away, you can buy it ready-made at Tesco's.
Pick 'n' mix: This is a form of trimix where you get to choose your own gases. It is only for extremely advanced divers. Always pushing the envelope (well, he was a postman) my Uncle Stew once mixed carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. He didn't last very long, but his buddy assures me that when he died, he was laughing about it.
Botox: This is not a gas, so don't go into your dive shop and ask them to fill your tank with it. However, it can cause problems for divers, so it is worth mentioning here. Botox is formed from the mouldy, cheesy scrapings found between the tiles in fast-food outlets. Strange as it may seem, some people actually pay hundreds of pounds to have this stuff injected into their faces to induce paralysis of their facial muscles. Seems a bit severe, when watching an episode of Bargain Hunt will have exactly the same effect. What does this all have to do with diving, you may ask? It's quite simple. If you insist on having your face paralysed, make sure you stick your regulator in first, or next time you dive it will fall out and you'll drown.
Bollox: A breathing gas very popular with diving instructors, enabling them to talk convincingly about 30m viz when everyone else knows it was only 8m.
Heliox: Despite what many think, this is not a diving gas, it's what they put in party balloons to make them float. It stands to reason that you couldn't possibly dive on this extremely floaty gas, because you'd need to carry a steel girder with you to go down. Bear this in mind next time someone talks to you about breathing heliox - they might have been breathing something, but believe me, it wasn't heliox. The only known benefit of breathing heliox is that it makes you sound like Mickey Mouse, which is great for breaking the ice at parties.
Dreadlox: This form of enriched air is very popular in Jamaica. Side effects include narcosis while still above sea level, and a tremendous appetite. In fact many people have died while diving on dreadlox after eating their regulators. If you can get past the danger, this is also great for breaking the ice at parties.
Xerox: No good as a breathing gas but unsurpassed for making photocopies of your bottom at office parties.
Borox: A technical term for someone who craps on endlessly about gas mixes until you either fall asleep or pretend you've left the iron on at home and scarper. And on that note...