With surface-based scuba diving, there are limits to how long and how deep divers can go before they need to return to the surface. Due to breathing gases at a certain depth, divers absorb inert gases in their tissues. If divers stay too long, they can ascend only at a much slower rate without suffering any ill effects.
"The benefit of saturation diving is that no matter how long a diver stays at a certain depth, his tissues can only absorb so much gas," says Thomas Potts, director of Aquarius Reef Base. The tissues become saturated, he says, like a sponge in a bucket of water.
Aquanauts working at Aquarius become saturated to that depth, and decompress only once at the end of the mission, which takes roughly 15 hours, Potts says. This means divers can venture out about 10 times longer every day compared with surface-based dives, he says. "And since they only need to decompress one time, they greatly reduce the risk of decompression sickness (the bends) because they aren't requiring their body to go from the surface, to depth, and back again multiple times per day."
November 28, 2013 12:00 AM PST
Photo by: Mission 31
| Caption by: Anne Dujmovic
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