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The Basics of Rebreather Diving

by Bruce Konefe
Aquanauts Technical Dive Centre

Interested in rebreather diving? Click here to book a couse or dive trip!

Bruce Konefe divign with an Inspiration rebreatherWhether you’re interested in diving deeper and longer or simply an underwater photographer looking for great shots, diving using a rebreather may be just what you need.

Once used principally by the military, rebreathers caught on with recreational divers in the early 90s. Ten years later, numerous manufacturers are producing recreational models and prices are falling across the board.

Rebreathers actually developed before the now-standard open0circuit equipment. In 16 th century England and France, full leather dive suits were used to depths of 60 feet and air was pumped down from the surface manually. The first scrubber was invented by Stephen Hale in 1726 and in 1879, Henry Fleuss, an English seaman, built the Mining-Rescue Rebreather for Siebe/Gorman to rescue mine workers that where trapped working underwater.

Rebreathers have come a long way since and are a lot more diver-friendly. Manufacturers now even color-code parts to make assembly mistake-proof.

Azimuth 36The basic rebreather has three main parts: a mouthpiece, breathing hose and a scrubber. The scrubber basically cleans out exhaled carbon dioxide and allows the gas to be rebreathed. Your body will metabolize the oxygen as you dive, so more oxygen (or a nitrox mixture) is added to the breathing bag from a small supply tank.

There are many advantages to using rebreathers. You can normally dive on just one small 4-liter cylinder as opposed to using standard air cylinders. Rebreathers also make less noise and produce few or no bubbles underwater. Marine life actually swims up to rebreather divers instead of fleeing. Those who enjoy photography will benefit from this as well as the extra from the rebreather’s buoyancy characteristics.

A normal scuba a diver will rise and sink as they inhale and exhale. However, there is no buoyancy change with a rebreather since the air is simply transferred from your lungs to the breathing bags on the rebreather. With a rebreather you are using nitrox mixtures, which alone will extend your bottom time.

Those who do technical trimix diving with rebreathers with also save a lot of money over open-circuit diving. The cost of helium on the average 60-meter trimix rebreather dive is about a quarter of that for an open circuit.

More and more manufacturers are now producing rebreathers for the recreational and technical market. Some of the biggest name brands include Drager (now under Aqua Lung), Azimuth, KISS and Inspiration. Dealerships for all of these are very easy to find, as are parts and training.

Costs are also within reach of the average diving enthusiast. Training usually last from 4-7 days and consists of classroom and pool sessions, plus a few days training on the boat. Most agencies only require nitrox certification beyond there normal open or advanced water training. When looking for an instructor, be sure to check the condition of their equipment as well as the instructor’s qualifications.

You can get dive sorb and tanks filled in most major dive areas. Like everything else, they get cheaper and easier to find as time goes on. Getting parts might have been tough, but with more divers discovering the benefits of rebreathers, the supply has become more plentiful.


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