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Pascal Bernabe breaks a scuba record – 330 meters below the Mediterranean!
August 27, 2008 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Three summers ago, Pascal Bernabe strapped on a scuba tank, stepped off a boat and descended 330 meters into the Mediterranean. This is his account of the dive.

Definitions of some terms used herein:

High Pressure Nervous Syndrome

Trimix

Decompression
posted by jason's_planet (35 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow... I hadn't heard about this, thanks. What was the previous record?
posted by Pantengliopoli at 12:21 PM on August 27, 2008


Neat writeup. My favorite line:

"As far as I am concerned, things are not improving with depth."
posted by inigo2 at 12:22 PM on August 27, 2008


KNEW THIS WAS A ONE WAY TICKET BUT YOU KNOW I HAD TO COME.

LOVE YOU WIFE
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:27 PM on August 27, 2008 [11 favorites]


What was the previous record?

318 meters, by Nuno Gomez of South Africa.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:28 PM on August 27, 2008


Having nearly killed myself in a diving accident, reading this fills me with a weird mix of blind terror and interest. Thanks!
posted by aramaic at 12:29 PM on August 27, 2008


At 130 feet on regular air off Catalina, looking for dozens of angel sharks that were supposedly down there, I got stoned out of my mind with nitrogen narcosis. It was awesome. The bubbles were so, so pretty. And I never, ever, EVER want to do it again.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:37 PM on August 27, 2008


I am in continuous amazement of how different I am from certain people. Some folks go out looking for sharks. That just does not compute.
posted by fusinski at 12:43 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, the bubbles, Cool Papa Bell, that was exactly my experience getting narced while bouncing to 120 feet below The Cathedral in Anilao, Batangas. "Oooh I never noticed how nice the bubbles are! Pretty bubbles! Play with the bubbles! Hey everything's getting brighter! Hey where'd everyone go? I'm at the surface! Well gee, my power inflator is stuck in ON!"

I got a headache later on but to this day I wonder why I didn't die of a massive embolism.
posted by brownpau at 12:49 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


brownpau:
I got a headache later on but to this day I wonder why I didn't die of a massive embolism.

Usually because PADI tables are calculated with a gigantic amount of wiggle room, precisely because of incidents like yours. :)
posted by xthlc at 12:51 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


We typically rank nitrogen narcosis incidents by martinis, as in "I had a two-martini narc at 130 feet." It can be amusing, but also very dangerous. At depth, oxygen can be toxic, hence the mixes.

1100 feet. Sweet Jesus. I've done hundreds of dives, and will always consider 170 feet to be extremely deep. The listing of the gas mixes alone is crazy.
posted by VicNebulous at 1:00 PM on August 27, 2008


I got a headache later on but to this day I wonder why I didn't die of a massive embolism.

No chamber ride after that? Glad you didn't get hit! Scary, rocketing from 120 fsw.
posted by VicNebulous at 1:31 PM on August 27, 2008


Some folks go out looking for sharks. That just does not compute.

Angel sharks are harmless. They're like a bat ray's cousin.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:33 PM on August 27, 2008


Could someone convert liters into cu.ft for me? My tool is giving me .7 cu.ft, which can't be right. I'm alternately fascinated by these accounts, and horrified, as I know that the published reports seem like they're 50/50 in "did it, no big deal" versus "well, I recovered (that last guy's) corpse, time to get back up". As a diver, I always feel the pressure building as they go down, and release as they come up.

I've only narced once (it's too damn cold below 50' up in Wisconsin), and it wasn't so obvious or enjoyable, I just signalled my tank pressure backwards. Bah! I want shiny bubbles!
posted by Kyol at 1:39 PM on August 27, 2008


Could someone convert liters into cu.ft for me? My tool is giving me .7 cu.ft, which can't be right.

The Great Google knows: 1 liter in cubic feet: 1 liter = 0.0353146667 cubic feet.
posted by skynxnex at 1:54 PM on August 27, 2008


Ah, the bubbles, Cool Papa Bell, that was exactly my experience getting narced while bouncing to 120 feet below The Cathedral in Anilao, Batangas. "Oooh I never noticed how nice the bubbles are! Pretty bubbles! Play with the bubbles! Hey everything's getting brighter! Hey where'd everyone go? I'm at the surface! Well gee, my power inflator is stuck in ON!"

I got a headache later on but to this day I wonder why I didn't die of a massive embolism.


My Dad has been diving for about 40 years. He said that a rule of thumb back in the sixties was that on your first tank, you can go as deep as you want as long as you want and come back up without a safety stop. Supposedly you don't absorb enough nitrogen off of the first tank to screw you up. I don't know if that is true or not, but that may explain why you didn't become paralyzed or dead.
posted by Mr_Zero at 2:10 PM on August 27, 2008


The Great Google knows: 1 liter in cubic feet: 1 liter = 0.0353146667 cubic feet.

Yeah, and a usual 80cu.ft aluminum @ 3000psi is something like 2300l (judging from quick googling), so there's still something disjointed here. I'm not entirely sure which, if any, notation is being dropped, to be honest. (2300l @ 1bar?) We take shortcuts in description too much for granted within our local spheres of influence, heh. Like 80cu.ft, which only describes the volume, not the pressure, although it is generally assumed to be 3000psi.

Unk, I've been dry too long, I'm losing the bare "in case you find yourself out in metric-land, here are the conversions" training you get in PADI these days.
posted by Kyol at 2:17 PM on August 27, 2008


Stupid question but how come the tremendous water pressure at 1100 ft didn't blow into all of his nasal, air, lung, and ear cavities? I can tell from the sound of it that his ear breached, but why didn't the water continue on through the Eustachian tubes? I can't imagine a little muscle here or there would stand up to 100 psi or more.
posted by crapmatic at 2:36 PM on August 27, 2008


Because all of his air spaces were at roughly the same pressure - he's not breathing 1atm air at 1100 feet, he's breathing at ~11atm (er, am I circumnavigating these conversions properly? It doesn't feel like it.) Which also means he blows through compressed air at a tremendous rate.
posted by Kyol at 2:45 PM on August 27, 2008


i think it's an increase of 1 atm every 10 meters, which would mean 33 atmospheres of pressure at max depth. totally insane.
posted by snofoam at 2:58 PM on August 27, 2008


That explanation just dawned on me as I pulled up this thread to check replies. Glad to see I was correct. Holy smokes, 33 atm... that's like 500 psi. So if he held his breath, hypothetically, he could ascend to sea level, open his mouth to blow up a bike tire, and the tire would explode!
posted by crapmatic at 3:17 PM on August 27, 2008


But since 1996, during explorations of submerged caves and assisting Pipin and the late Audrey Ferreras, I have dived about fifteen times between -150 and -174 meters, often under difficult conditions and with tasks to be carried out like exploring, unrolling rope, filming and assisting. This has procured me with a certain psychological comfort at these depths

FTFY. *shudder*

This whole story was gripping in a most unpleasant way.

I am passing the -100m mark without paying too much attention to it

I hardly note the presence of the -300 meters label which should raise my attention.


I've dived in difficult conditions before but never, never want to go anywhere near this deep. An extra 20 minutes, you almost always want. An extra 8 hours? No thanks.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:54 PM on August 27, 2008


That's a lot of air. Some more of Bernabe in kit.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 4:01 PM on August 27, 2008


My depth record is 80 feet on a single breath and without fins. My single-breath dive record is 4+ minutes. Both were five years ago when I was still a kid. (I'm 43 now.)

Now that I am concerned with passing out for holding my breath too long, I have begun to learn scuba. Up until now, holding my breath was fine.


And here I am swimming with an 8 1/2 foot hammerhead last month. While I love the loving dolphins, I am honestly, intently into being able to be around sharks. There is no rule except you be cool and maybe they will.
posted by humannaire at 5:00 PM on August 27, 2008


Also, excellent post, jason's_planet.
posted by humannaire at 5:01 PM on August 27, 2008


I got pressed down to 190 in a strange contraption over the summer, where a group of us sat in about eight feet of water in the bottom of a steel tank while the air pressure above the water was raised until we were at the pressure equivalent of 190.

A definite buzz. Not impairing, but very noticeable.

Here I am, getting ready to go to work.
posted by atchafalaya at 5:53 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Very cool, and does nothing to help my fear of drowning.
posted by Ky at 6:43 PM on August 27, 2008


on a very nice day in 1964, i was called by the chicago fire department to help as a diver at a drowning that took place at an eight year old girl's birthday party at navy pier. the little girl had fallen off the pier and not resurfaced. after gearing up, i got into the water and found her almost immediately at about 30 feet with her hair caught in the x-bracing of the pier's substructure. i cut her hair loose and she fell into my arms and i held her close as if dancing. it was an overpowering moment for me and i was crying and couldn't focus on my depth guage. blinking hard several times, i was finally able to read it just as my feet hit the bottom at 90 feet. i made a very slow ascent, which had nothing to do with decompression. i was exhausted, emotionally and physically. the firemen had to drag me by rope to the shallow entrance of the pier where i handed over what looked like a large doll in a party dress. sonofabitch i wish i hadn't thought of this cuz i ain't gonna sleep tonight.
posted by kitchenrat at 8:19 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


My Dad has been diving for about 40 years. He said that a rule of thumb back in the sixties was that on your first tank, you can go as deep as you want as long as you want and come back up without a safety stop. Supposedly you don't absorb enough nitrogen off of the first tank to screw you up. I don't know if that is true or not...

So, so, sooooo not true.

I mean, I suppose you could say, "My usual rate of descent, my usual activity level, equals the depth and time that will allow me to avoid getting narc'd and avoid the bends." That might work for you. Most of the time.

But it's a lot like saying, "Hey, if I only have my usual number of beers over the usual amount of time, I can drive home safely and not plow into a bus full of kids."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:23 PM on August 27, 2008


Great post, great thread, thanks all. Several times I thought "Jesus this should get sidebarred". I spent half an hour wandering off in various directions on the web, starting here. That to me is the sign of quality.
posted by intermod at 9:05 PM on August 27, 2008


I'm really in it to make pictures like this, which you cannot do at 330 meters. This particular one was taken at about 10 meters...

You know, my diving cannot be called the same sport as what Pascal Bernabe is doing. It's like driving a formula 1 car and then claiming a golf cart can go forward too.

I'm happy with my golf cart, and wish him all the luck...
posted by DreamerFi at 11:25 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just reading that made me feel claustrophobic and suffocated! Also, I've never before thought about eating and drinking underwater while diving (or vomiting for that matter).
Here's John Benett's 308 meter account It's really scary how sick and disoriented Benett got on the ascent, and makes Bernable's dive seem all the more impressive (i.e. in terms of preparation and the fact that he was able to do it with minimal problems).
posted by bluefly at 4:50 AM on August 28, 2008


Oops, John Benett's account
posted by bluefly at 4:51 AM on August 28, 2008


Here I am, getting ready to go to work.

Oh jeez. Which geek aquatique amongst us fails to "oooh" and "aaah"?
posted by humannaire at 5:52 PM on August 29, 2008


Here I am at work.
posted by humannaire at 6:07 PM on August 29, 2008


Several times I thought "Jesus this should get sidebarred". I spent half an hour wandering off in various directions on the web, starting here.

Why, thank you!

I think that having inspired you to look into things that otherwise would have been completely unknown to you, to learn things that you didn't know before, is a much greater reward for me than just having a post on the sidebar.

I like it when my posts do that for people. Thanks!

And thanks, as always, to everyone who contributed to, shared, complimented and favorited this little post of mine. Thanks!
posted by jason's_planet at 2:31 PM on August 30, 2008


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