Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One SPG or Two or Practical Risk Management

. Technical diving is not a world of absolutes. We can only plan for and predict a relatively small subset of all the possible options. With the right combination of training (or skills) and equipment one attempts to accommodate all the probable risk scenario’s, so for me it is important that as a technical diver you understand the decisions you make. The Hogarthian equipment configuration was designed to solve a particular set of risks, and it does so quite successfully. However that is not to say that it is the only solution.
Take for example the decision made to have only one spg (pressure gauge) on the configuration. The argument goes that you are diving open manifold, so one spg will tell you the same thing as two. The risk that the Hogarthian diver is more worried about is an spg failure. In their world, spg’s have a tendancy to regularly fail resulting in a catastrophic loss of gas (which then requires isolation and termination of the dive). Now when I listen to this scenario I start to get uncomforrable. Yes, I understand the risk of an spg failure resulting in a catastrophic loss of gas, but I protect half my gas, so it is not really an issue for me. What worries me more is having to leave the dive with absolutely no idea how much gas I actually have. The Hogarthian diver argues that you are leaving the cave, so it does not matter. You were diving on thirds so you must have enough gas in both cylinders left. Which raises the question how ? How do I know I have enough gas ? To which they answer, it hardly matters because if you don’t what can you do ? You can not magically find more gas ?
It is at this time that I nod sagely and walk away… to my twin set with two spg’s. Every diver has a hierarchy of risks and for me, I can not rank the possibility of an spg above not knowing how much gas I have. Why ? Because I want to survive! I want options and when I know how much gas I have I have the ability to make better decisions. How I exit will depend on how much gas I have. Think about it. If you have 50 bar are you going to swim fast and so increase your breathing rate ? Or are you going to take the time to slow everything down and resort to controlled methodical swimming that focuses on getting the maximum distance for the minimum breathing ? I know I would! Now, if you don’t know, but think that somehow magically you have enough gas are you not just going to exit as normal without any mind to gas management and so face a much greater risk, finding out that your last breathe was the last you will ever take. Now your only option is to hold your breathe and see if you can make the distance. Not a chance I wish to take.
As a diver I want as many options underwater as I can get. I am not advocating that as a diver you should throw away the concepts behind a Hogartian configuration, just that you take the time to think about why it is set up the way it is. What risks are they mitiating ? Are they your risks ? Are they probable risks on the dive you are planning ? If yes, then you have no need to make changes. If no, well hopefully you now have a better idea how to make changes.