7 months ago

AD 2016 Q2

As we pointed out in the spring 2013 edition of the Alert Diver, even being a dive buddy has potential legal implications. So, to bump this up a notch, what about the diver training organisations themselves? Where do they stand? How do they relate to South African law? Are they all considered the same under our legal system in spite of the differences in organisational structures and training programmes? How does this affect their respective instructors and trainee divers from a legal perspective? These are not exactly simple questions. It is certainly true that the respective training organisations differ in a number of ways. However, this does not imply that there are necessarily differential legal implications for each of them. In fact, under South African law, the legal principles are common in all matters. Therefore, if you suffer a loss and you (or your estate in the case of a fatality) wish to recover damages, the legal principles would be applied commonly; whether you are driving or diving. Although not a frequent occurrence, there have been quite a number of law suits associated with diving injuries and damages in South Africa. This is not surprising, as the occurrence of law suits is really a function of “numbers”. As training increases, so do the chances of injuries and, with it, the chances of legal recourse. So, it remains wise to insure yourself, your equipment or your business in a proper and effective way. But before getting back to the potential differences amongst the training agencies, let’s first explore the foundational legal principles on which any civil claim would be adjudicated: inherent risk, negligence and duty to take care.


DIVE SLATE BELL ISLAND MINE Neal Pollock examines expedition diver Steve Lewis using 3-D ultrasound. Jill Heinerth swims down a mine tunnel, documenting artifacts. Cas Dobbin photographs the SS Saganaga. JILL HEINERTH CAS DOBBIN JILL HEINERTH Pollock tells me about research that was done on commercial divers in the 1960s and 1970s, when many occupational divers were experiencing dysbaric osteonecrosis. This condition involves lesions of dead tissue in long bones such as the humerus (upper arm) and femur (thigh). An extensive monitoring program of North Sea divers led to changes in diving protocols that resulted in a reduction in the frequency of cases. Three factors were identified as important risk factors at the time: a history of repeated dives below 165 feet, a history of DCS and a pattern of diving profiles that could be considered experimental. That sounds much like technical diving today, which is the reason Pollock started this study. We tech divers are an odd lot, participating in an edgy aquatic experiment with our bodies over time. The battery of tests, which lasts for two hours after each dive, includes collection of blood for microparticle analysis (cell fragments in the blood that could show signs of decompression stress), collection of DNA samples for epigenetic study (analysis of how stress factors can reprogram gene expression) and testing of lung function. The tests also include questionnaires about our dives. Were we comfortable? Were we using active or passive heating? Was our exertion level high or low? For me, the questions bring insight and revelations about my personal diving protocols. I have always assumed that a warm and cozy diver would be a safe diver, yet my active heating efforts could be promoting increased ongassing of inert gas during the deepest portions of my dives. As I chill during decompression, relatively still in the cold meltwater, I might not be offgassing as effectively as I thought. Or perhaps my additional exertion when taking photographs means added decompression stress. Diving with me is like walking a dog. I swim laps around my subjects to get a shot, shifting my vertical position in the water column while panting and handling heavy camera gear. I suppose it’s no surprise that my hardest photo and video dives netted the highest bubble scores. One might ask how Pollock’s research could ever result in valid conclusions if every dive is such an uncontrolled mess of variables. It might be tough to publish, but the value of his mission goes far beyond a published article in a scientific journal. His most important work may be to reveal to the diving community that even if we feel great and follow what we believe to be a conservative algorithm, we may still face risks now or later in life. His questions and careful observations create a framework for education and discussions in the technical diving community. We really don’t know a lot about our experimental technical dives, but if we can push for more research in this field, we should be able to improve our understanding and safety in the future. I’ve emerged from the heart of Bell Island with an indelible image in my mind. My downward-facing heart-valve mermaid is strong, but I don’t want to see her navigating a field of bubbling blood again. I know I need to make some changes that can reduce my decompression stress. I’m going to re-evaluate how or whether I choose to use active heating on cold-water dives. I’m going to add more light exercise to my decompression hangs and lengthen my last decompression stop. I hope that with more of this cutting-edge research we’ll acquire better data to enlighten our community and usher in a set of safer protocols. INTO THE MURKY DEPTHS The chocolate-brown water yields to a wispy veil of vaporous white. A dive light casts a warm glow in the distance, and I emerge into clear water that reveals a 17-foot-high tunnel with squared-off walls. A pair of rusting metal pipes covered in gelatinous silt lures us deeper down the shaft, and a hulk of gears and wheels takes form in the dark room ahead of us. We find a large pump system and a junction of broken pipes and gear. Cas Dobbin, an engineer in the oil and gas industry, looks around at the equipment, noting the broken valves and severed connections. He files away 18 | SPRING 2016

the information for later, trying to create a picture of how steam pipes and dewatering equipment allowed this mine to function. We note a caricature and name on the wall. Apparently James Bennett had an idle moment while working in the mines and painted his own pipe-smoking visage on the wall in lamp black. I photograph our targets and begin the inventory of the abandoned mine that was vacated so quickly that nobody bothered to take stock before allowing it to flood. Around another corner, a small white cross on the wall gives us pause. A miner died here, perhaps from a rock fall or from being run over by an ore cart that plunged down the slope on the tracks below us, now buried under silt. The first phase of our project concludes; we remove the safety tanks from the mine and sum up our successes. We’ve laid the essential guidelines that will be necessary for future visiting divers. We have begun the enormous task of documenting the submerged industrial artifacts and will now begin to share our findings with the world. The tiny community of Bell Island will once again become widely known. The descendants of the miners generously recount the folklore of the region, welcoming a new wave of curious visitors to explore the mines and wrecks, diving through time to touch the face of history. AD LEARN MORE For more information, visit Newfoundland or BILL HARRIGAN 7 nights + 5 dive days Scuba Club Cozumel All meals + Unlimited shore diving from $944 Hotel Cozumel + Dive Paradise All-Inclusive from $952 Sunscape Sabor All-Inclusive from $1,017 Cozumel Palace + Aqua Safari All-Inclusive from $1,307 Allegro Cozumel Pro Dive Mexico All-Inclusive from $1,396 Occidental Grand Cozumel Pro Dive Mexico All-Inclusive from $1,654 Fiesta Americana Dive House All-Inclusive from $2,528 800-328-2288 Rates are per person, double occupancy, include 7 night stay, 5 days, at least 1-tank boat dives, roundtrip airport transfers, hotel taxes and service charges and are subject to availability and standard terms and conditions. CSOT#2111993-40 • WSOT#603254369 • FSOT#38781 ALERTDIVER.COM | 19

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