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Full face masks with rebreathers may be used by technical divers or commercial divers. They may contain communication equipment for diver-to-ship contact.
Be aware that full-face masks are more prone to leaks. So you will need certification and open-water training to use this specialized equipment.
Here are some tips for getting the best use out of full-face masks and rebreathers:
Commercial diving careers often involve adventure, world travel and challenging work in a high-risk environment. Commercial divers are the Navy Seals of the offshore industrial world, helping tap natural resources that maintain the U.S. economy. They also work as inspectors in lakes and other inland bodies of water.
Career opportunities are growing for commercial divers, with the expansion of U.S. gas exploration around the globe. These are not 9-to-5 jobs, but require a sense of dedication and singular focus to the rigors and demands of underwater job sites at offshore locations, from the frigid North Atlantic to the Red Sea.
Browse employment boards for commercial divers and you will find opportunities to tend undersea gas lines in the Middle East, repair ships in the United Kingdom, and work as a welder in the Gulf of Mexico.
Technical diving is a step beyond recreational diving that demands specialized training and skills. Technical diving also poses more risks and challenges for the scuba diver.
So what is technical diving? It often is defined as deep-water diving that requires decompression stops and special breathing mixes.
Technical dives are done at depths greater than 130 feet or in areas, such as caves, that have no direct access to the surface.
Technical divers have so-called controlled ascents after a dive, in order to make decompression stops along the way. The stops allow dissolved gases to be released gradually from the body and prevent decompression sickness, or the bends.
Technical dives often mandate special mixes of air in the scuba tanks. The deep diving often involved in technical dives requires that divers use lower levels of oxygen or a helium mixture to avoid dangerous health risks.
The standard air mixture for recreational scuba dives -- which is 21 percent oxygen -- can cause oxygen toxicity in deep-water technical dives. Symptoms include hallucinations, seizures and loss of consciousness.
In deep-water technical dives, divers may breathe such mixtures as trimix, heliox and heilair. The oxygen levels in air mixtures for technical dives may fall below 16 percent, which is not safe to breathe at the surface.
The first step for divers interested in technical diving is to seek special training and education. Contact established certification agencies like PADI, which will direct divers to instructors authorized to teach technical diving.
Who becomes a commercial diver? While the field is undeniably dominated by men, it is open to anyone with the stamina and skills to do the work.
Keep in mind that commercial diving requires the person to be in top physical shape. Candidates need to pass special physical exams. It is uncommon to see commercial divers over the age of 50, though many turn to jobs as instructors.
The most successful commercial divers have highly specialized skills.You are not being paid to dive but to complete a job underwater. Jobs are not just located undersea, but at dams, harbors, fish farms, even sewage treatment plants.
Wet welding is a growth area in scuba diving jobs. But you need to be certified as a diver as well as a welder, two highly specialized areas. You will need to have experience in using commercial diving equipment and be skilled in weld setup and preparation.
Divers need to have the training, skills and experience to undertake a technical dive safely. PADI offers a technical arm of training, as do many other certifying agencies. Technical diving demands durable dive equipment built for rigorous use. Look for a well-established scuba dealer that carries quality brands, offers manufacturers' warranties and can ship dive equipment worldwide.
The equipment commercial divers use differs substantially from recreational diving equipment. You cannot just walk into the local dive shop and find equipment for commercial diving.
On the other hand, online retailers and other outlets that carry a lot of inventory often have equipment for recreational, technical and commercial diving.
Professional divers need different equipment because they often are diving at greater depths for longer periods of time.
Commercial divers frequently use full-face masks and diving helmets. They may wear different suits, depending on the commercial diving job: standard wetsuits; drysuits for cold-water diving; or a hot-water suit that sends warm water from the surface around the diver.
Dives for extended periods may require a long hose, or umbilical, that links the diver to breathing gas at the surface. Umbilicals often contain hoses for other equipment, such as tools, electric power and communication devices.
Technical dives are not just deep-water dives. They are scuba dives where the diver does not have direct access to the surface. Cave diving, ice diving and wreck diving are examples of technical dives.
There is a shortage of ROV pilots in the commercial diving industry, as the vehicles have become more advanced and capable of handling a greater range of duties.
Academies that offer commercial diver training are beginning to offer more piloting courses for flying ROVs. Look for academies that will train pilots for every type of offshore weather condition and deep-sea travel.
Future pilots learn to maneuver around concrete and steel undersea structures, to explore shipwreck sites and to work on military operations.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|