USS Macaw at Midway Atoll - photo taken by NOAA Diver Robert Schwemmer

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) Biologist; Bill Goodwin, Lauri MacLaughlin, NOAA Corps Officer Kelsey Jeffers and FKNMS Maritime Heritage Coordinator Brenda Altmeier collect data and photographs as part of the Coral Reef Resilience Program (FRRP). The FRRP is a collaborative effort to develop resilience based management strategies for evaluating stresses on Florida’s reefs. 
FRRP Lauri MacLaughlin  Photo: Brenda Altmeier
FRRP Lauri MacLaughlin, Kelsey Jeffers,  Photo: Brenda Altmeier

                         FRRP Lauri MacLaughlin  Photo: Brenda Altmeier 

FKNMS takes the Catlin Seaview Survey to Florida Keys shipwreck on Pickles Reef. FKNMS Biologist Bill Goodwin, NOAA Corps Officer Kelsey Jeffers and FKNMS Maritime Heritage Coordinator Brenda Altmeier collect images and GPS data from the historic site. The images will be stitched together to create a panorama that will be made available for Google Oceans. Although there have been a number of historic shipwrecks lost on Pickles Reef the cargo from one in particular has captured the attention of resource managers and visitors for years. As many as 50 barrels are located on the site among the steel shipwreck features. The barrels once contained cement. After being submerged over 100 years the cement has taken the shape of the long since deteriorated wooden barrel.  The site is currently being investigated by the Maritime Archaeological and Historical Society under an FKNMS permit. The wreck is located 3.5 miles off of Key Largo in the upper Florida Keys and has been a popular dive, snorkel and fishing location. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Panama City Holds NOAA Diver Training Course

The NOAA Diving Program held its winter dive training in Panama City, Florida in January. The training was conducted with support and cooperation from Florida State University, Coast Guard Station Panama City, and the Panama City Department of Parks and Recreation. Twenty-nine NOAA divers and divemasters were trained to support the various ships and scientific programs that need divers to conduct underwater operations.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

US Department of Transportation Renews Permit 9791 through 2018

Important news for owners of PST Cylinders

Released on: 1/29/2015
(DNW) – The US Department of Transportation yesterday renewed the PST cylinder permit 9791 through the year 2018. Many industry members had been concerned about this permit expiring due to the large number of PST cylinders currently in use in the dive industry.
According to officials with PSI-PCI, who spoke directly with the Associate Director at USDOT, the permit has been renewed. Had the permit not been renewed, all cylinders marked with that specific permit number would no longer have been authorized for use and would have needed to be immediately removed from service. The USDOT action today eliminated that situation.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center Diver names Team Member of the Month

Team Member of the Month (NMFS): Jeremiah Blondeau, a senior research associate with the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami, consistently demonstrates excellence in his work, customer service, innovation, and efficiency. As a member of the NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center’s reef research unit, Jeremiah completes hundreds of scuba dives  each year, in addition to managing the sampling design and data management for the reef fish visual census program.  As this multi-agency program grew, the workload became very complex, expensive, tedious, and time consuming.  Jeremiah designed and implemented a web-based data entry program that exponentially increased the quantity and quality of the data processed for the census. During summer 2014, nearly 5,000 samples were entered into the data system and quality checked in a fraction of the previous time required. He also integrated new coral monitoring data and processing requirements into the new-online data entry program as well as developed and implemented a regional site tracking map that allows all partner agencies to track sampling progress and avoid duplication.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Using AED's On Wet or Metal Surfaces

Attached you will find two articles detailing the safety of using an AED on both wet and on metal surfaces.  Electricity always takes the path of least resistance which, in this case, is between the electrodes (pads).  Consider that these tests were done with the extreme circumstance, such as lying IN water with no insulation, and still it was determined to be safe.  Most of the time, we are wearing some kind of insulation (shoes, wet suit, etc.) and as such are safer than the tests conducted.  I hope this helps to ease some of your concerns regarding the use AEDs with diving operations, and even more so, I hope you never have to actually use it!
Dive safe,

CDR Joel Dulaigh, NP, USPHS
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Department of Commerce
NOAA Diving Medical Officer
7600 Sand Point Way NE, Bldg 8
Seattle, WA  98115

Monday, May 5, 2014

NDC Earth Day Clean-up 2014

Every day is Earth Day at NOAA, but this year local NOAA divers gathered to commemorate Earth Day by participating in the Western Regional Center’s Restoration Day on 24 April 2014. Divers from the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Diving Center, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Office of Ocean and Atmospheric Research removed 75 lbs. of trash from Lake Washington. Trash included various pipes, a tire, glass bottles and aluminum cans, and an endless amount of, oddly enough, fully intact clay pigeons. 

Nick Jeremiah, NOAA Diving Center; Dan Langis, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory; LT Justin Keesee, NOAA Diving Center; Todd Bennett, Northwest Fisheries Science Center; CDR Joel Dulaigh, NOAA Diving Center; Nicola VerPlank, NOAA Office of Ocean and Atmospheric Research and  CAPT Mark Pickett, NOAA Diving Center

Saturday, May 3, 2014

What the heck is a 90 durometer O-ring?

Take a minute and think about how many o-rings are keeping your standard SEP scuba setup from leaking. Would you believe the answer is something like 16 different O-rings? You can readily see at least one O-ring but the others are hidden between dynamic and static connections.
The point is that the dive equipment we need to survive underwater uses o-rings and a lot of them. The one that we really need to pay attention to is the one that you can see on the bottle valve where your first stage regulator attaches. 
On most standard scuba bottles, that o-ring is a 70 durometer O-ring. The “70 durometer” rating is a designation of the hardness and hence the sealing potential of the rubber. That means that the o-ring is soft enough to fill uneven surfaces or small cracks but not soft enough to blow out when low pressure is applied to the joint. 
If you ever use a HP, or high pressure, scuba bottle with over 3000 psi (usually 3442 psi or higher) that same joint should have a harder rubber 90 durometer O-ring to handle the increased pressure. 
Using a 70 durometer O-ring instead of a 90 durometer O-ring in a high pressure scuba bottle is asking for trouble. If the softer O-ring burst it will take less than three minutes for the air in your 80 cu. ft. bottle to fully discharge. 
In short, always check your scuba bottle valve O-ring for wear prior to attaching the first stage regulator. Replace the O-ring if necessary with the appropriate 70 or 90 durometer O-rings available at your local dive shop.

Posted by Jim Bostick, Equipment Specialist, NOAA Diving Center

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Emma Hickerson inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame

                            Photo credit: Ed Kelly Photography 

On March 29, 2014, our own Emma Hickerson, Research Coordinator for the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame.
Emma has held the position of Research Coordinator of NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) since 1997. During this time she has contributed to over 40 scientific publications relating to the marine environment. Emma has served as the Unit Diving Supervisor for NOAA’s FGBNMS dive unit since 2005, and has supervised over 5000 dives during more than 155 sanctuary research cruises. She has coordinated and led research utilizing SCUBA, remotely operated vehicles, and manned submersibles.  

Please read more about Emma -

Emma collecting DWH oil spill response samples
                                                           Photo courtesy of GP Schmahl, FGBNMS

Emma Hickerson, GP Schmahl, Dan Basta and Tom Moore securing SPMD's as part of oil spill response
Photo taken by Marissa Nuttall

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

DUSA Notes

NOAA Diving Safety Program Survival Guide – from Steve Urick
Introduction: Changes are constantly taking places within the NOAA Diving Safety Program (NDSP) and the NOAA diving community and this newsletter is a great opportunity for me to share those changes with you and also for you to submit questions, communicate information and share lessons learned in the field. These articles are intended for NOAA Divers although the information may be relevant to non-divers. If you have questions or corrections to the articles please bring them to my attention at So let’s get started.
Update 1 - As you may know AEDs are powered by two batteries. One is a Lithium ion battery 'Pack' and the other a simple 9v battery. These batteries can be removed from the AED by pressing on the orange button on the side of the AED.  To check the expiration date on the pack search the pack for the date - it will be listed for example: 2016/12 or year/month, the 9v is connected to the pack and easily removed for service. If either battery is expired the AED will give off a warning 'Chirping' sound and the green power up button will flash red when activated (per Defib Tech). Check your units for expiration dates and as always (divers only) contact Lisa of the Standardized Equipment Program and she will replace expired parts.
Please be aware that the AED pads issued with your NDP AED unit have an expiration date of every two years.  During DUSA inspections on some units we have found AEDs with expired pads making them unauthorized for use until these pads are replaced. Please take the time to inspect your AED pads for an expiration date and if needed have them replaced.  The pads are available now at no charge through the Standardized Equipment Program (divers only) by contacting Lisa Glover at 206-526-6446 or email. Please take the time to inspect your pads.  The necessary inspection shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
Update 2 – Low and High Pressure flasks other than (scuba and K-cylinders) are to be inspected in accordance with OSHA which references to Association of Diving Contractors International (ADCI). ADCI requirements boils down to each cylinder or flask shall be internally/externally inspected on an annual basis and either hydrostatically or Non-destructive tested every 5 years.  There are additional requirements listed on the DUSA Checklist found on the NDP website under the Forms section. If during a DUSA inspection these cylinders are out of date the cylinder will be unauthorized for use until maintenance is performed.
Update 3 – I have also created a BLOG for interaction between you and the NDSP.  The blog became available in February and will eventually be linked to the NDP webpage. All divers should have received an ‘all divers’ email with the blog site address.  I believe this will be the appropriate forum for you to remain informed of the DUSA progress, updates and to ask and answer questions.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

After 27 years with NOAA, Diving Center Manager Doug Schleiger is leaving NOAA, and the west coast, for Washington D.C. where he will take over as manager of the Smithsonian's Scientific Diving Program. We wish him success and thank him for his hard work with the NOAA Diving Center.

Monday, September 30, 2013

NDC congratulates the graduates of the September, 2013 NOAA Working Diver and Divemaster classes held in Seattle, WA.

Graduates from the Working Diver class include - ENS Rosemary Abbitt, NOAA Ship Rainier; ENS Karen Poremba, Cameron Carter, NOS/FOB; ENS David Wang, OMAO/CPC; ENS Felicia Drummond, OMAO/MOCP; ENS Benjamin VanDine, NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson; ENS Abigail Kernan-Schloss, NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson; ENS Laura Dwyer, NOAA Ship Oregon II; ENS Hollis Johnson, NOAA Ship Pisces; ENS Jessica Senzer, NOAA Ship Ronald H Brown; Scott Stich, Snohomish County Sheriff's Dept; Alex Helphrey, City of Everett PD, Daniel Dusevoir, Snohomish County Sheriffs Dept; Michael Hillstrom, NOAA Ship Ferdinand Hassler.

Graduates from the Divermaster class include - LT Charlene Felkey, NMS of American Samoa; Dennis Montgomery, Snohomish County Sheriffs Dept; Douglas Jones, BOEM; William Hoffman, BOEM; Allix Slagle, NOAA Ship Rainier; ENS Sean Luis, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer; LT Rachel Kotkowski, OAR/AMOL;  ENS Elizabeth Chase, NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson; Max Sudnovsky, NMFS/Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

NOAA Staff Provide Training to University of Hawaii Divers

Photos are courtesy of NMFS Pacific Island Regional Office
and Jeff Kuwabara of the University of Hawaii Marine Option Program.  
NOAA Fisheries’ Pacific Island Regional Office (PIRO) held its third annual Marine Underwater Techniques Training course this year, in partnership and supported by PIRO's Marine Education and Training Program.  Six of the most qualified undergraduate students from the University of Hawaii's Marine Option Program were selected and received training in advanced underwater mapping techniques.  The purpose of the training is to demonstrate current technologies being incorporated into NOAA's Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Program and PIRO's Habitat Conservation Division, as well as to build capacity within the region by training future marine scientists.

The course consisted of three weeks of both classroom work and boat-based diving, with instructors and students logging more than 100 dives over the duration of the course.  Techniques demonstrated and practiced began simply with the use of underwater photography and surface-towed Global Positioning System (GPS) units.  Students later linked photos to their GPS track in a Geographic Information System using the ArcGIS software package and Google Earth.  As the course progressed, instructors increased the complexity of the students’ tasks, and their training included the use of Diver Propulsion Vehicles in conjunction with GPS photo linking, and AquaMap, an underwater mapping system.  AquaMap enables divers to collect data underwater with a hand held unit that has sub-meter precision, much like GPS technology is able to accomplish on the surface.  Instructors demonstrated other technologies such as underwater messaging devices that are similar to text messaging on a cell phone, and dive trackers, which enable navigation to a sonar-based transducer up to 2,000 feet away.  Students were also given a presentation on NOAA's mixed gas closed-circuit rebreathers by Brian Hauk and Jason Leonard from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

 All photos are courtesy of NMFS Pacific Island Regional Office and Jeff Kuwabara of the University of Hawaii Marine Option Program.  

'Vulneror Non Vincor'

Wounded Vets Rebuild Coral Reefs at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

August 13, 2013
A combat-wounded veteran cares for corals and tests new dive prosthetics in an underwater coral nursery.
A combat-wounded veteran cares for corals and tests new dive prosthetics in an underwater coral nursery.

Vulneror non Vincor, the Latin motto of the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge , means "I am wounded, not conquered." The maxim is also applicable to coral reefs, which have declined worldwide in recent decades, but benefit from science and conservation efforts. To help bolster coral populations in NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, volunteer divers with the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge and the youth group SCUBAnauts recently joined scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory in reef restoration efforts.
Participating veterans included amputees, double amputees, the recipient of a double lung transplant, and those with traumatic brain injuries. Some are outfitted with special waterproof prosthetics that allow them to dive. The veterans, their SCUBAnaut dive partners, and Mote scientists transplanted 600 Staghorn corals on Keys' reefs. At the same time, the veterans were testing new prosthetic devices for swimming and diving.
One wounded warrior said after the dive, "Life is not over. There's a future if you want it.  Sometimes all people need is a nudge. We are still an active part of society, and we can be hired to do any job put in front of us." 
This restoration event was supported by NOAA and The Nature Conservancy's Community-Based Restoration Program, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, private donors, Fury Watersports in Key West, and Mote and its Protect Our Reefs license plate program.

Originially posted by National Ocean Service

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sunnto recalls limited batch of high pressure hoses

A limited batch of the high pressure rubber hoses used with Suunto air integrated dive computers, dive computer combos and analog combos has unfortunately been identified to have defective hose material which may impact the durability of the hose.
This defect may cause the high pressure rubber hose to leak or rupture leading to loss of breathing gas at higher than anticipated rate which may result in severe injury or death.
Diver safety is of highest importance to Suunto. Suunto announces a limited quantity safety recall of high pressure rubber hoses as identified below.
Identification of the affected high pressure rubber hoses:
·         Black rubber outer covering on hose
·         Marked with text 5000 PSIG PRESSURE TESTED – MADE IN USA
·         Hose diameter approximately 12,5 mm (1/2 inch) and length approximately 84 cm (33 inch)
·         Manufacturing batch code 1812 printed

This recall applies only to the specific 1812 batch of the high pressure rubber hoses. Other high pressure rubber hoses are not impacted and need not to be replaced.
The following products using this high pressure rubber hose may be affected:Cobra, Cobra 3, SM-36 pressure gauge and gauge combos, as well as Vyper and Zoop when purchased as combo products.

To date, there have been no known injuries related to this issue. It is mandatory that all affected products are returned for a hose change.
Suunto apologizes for the inconvenience, and instructs all customers who have purchased a product using the above-mentioned high pressure rubber hose after 11/2012 to investigate their product immediately. If the high-pressure rubber hose in your product has the identification details listed above, diving is prohibited. Return the product immediately to your nearest Suunto Dive authorized dealer for a hose change free of charge.
Return instructions for affected products (hoses with production lot code “1812”)
1. Bring your product to the nearest Suunto Dive authorized dealer or Suunto Authorized Service Center for a hose change.
2. In the US and EU you can also use the Suunto Online Service Request to get your product picked up and delivered for the hose change.
Customer support contact details can be found at the Suunto Support site.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

National Ocean Service Safety Pro Award

Brian HaukCongratulations to Brian Hauk from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Mr. Hauk has provided leadership, strong seamanship skills and marine knowledge while emphasizing safety in leading the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in field work and advanced diving operations.

NOAA has recently increased its capacity to conduct advanced diving to study resources beyond the reach of conventional SCUBA using mixed gas closed-circuit rebreathers. Mr. Hauk has embraced this new technology and leads by example in safety practices. He has taken proactive steps in significantly increasing the safety of operations by installing checklists, giving advanced dive briefs and leading emergency drills and rescue scenarios.

Mr. Hauk is one of a few Technical/Closed Circuit Rebreather Divemasters in NOS and works to follow all NOAA dive regulations. He has had no incidents under his supervision and is working with partner organizations for scientific diving reciprocity. Furthermore, he has taken the lead in working with the rebreather manufacture in organizing maintenance schedules and improving diving safety.

Friday, August 9, 2013


From July to August 2013, a team of scientists aboard the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer are exploring deep-sea habitats and marine life off the coast of Massachusetts, along the Northeast U.S. Canyons and at Mytilus Seamount. The expedition marks the first time NOAA’s new 6,000 meter remotely operated vehicle (ROV), Deep Discoverer and the Seirios camera sled will be used in a full telepresence-enabled ocean exploration with NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. The exploration is broadcast live usually from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT. Scientists and audiences onshore can watch real-time video footage from deepwater areas in important, yet largely unknown, U.S. waters.

Monday, June 17, 2013

New Discoveries Tie Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to Johnston Atoll

Jacks (Uraspis helvola) over deep algal
bed at Johnston Atoll. Credit: Greg McFall/NOAA
Members of a research expedition to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument returned with specimens of new species of deep-water algae from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), and the first recorded specimens of black coral from Johnston Atoll. They also saw and photographed more than 20 species of fishes never before recorded from the NWHI, and 15 species of fishes never before recorded at Johnston Atoll.

The team visited Nihoa, Mokumanamana, French Frigate Shoals and Laysan Island in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and then Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, approximately 860 miles (1,390 km) west of Honolulu. Johnston is regarded as a key "stepping stone" for a number of central and south Pacific marine species to colonize the NWHI. The findings represent a significant increase in the known biodiversity of Hawaiian coral reefs, and provides insights into how Johnston Atoll contributes to the diversity of our reefs in Hawai'i.

The team spent 26 days aboard the NOAA ship Hiʻialakai conducting research dives on deep coral reefs below 200 feet in the NWHI and Johnston Atoll. Scientists collected samples of fish, corals, other invertebrates and algae for population genetics analysis; surveyed deep coral reefs and associated reef fish communities; searched for invasive alien species of coral and algae; and conducted archaeological surveys of the Howland, a late 1800s whaling ship that wrecked at Johnston Atoll.

This expedition marked NOAA's first full deployment of closed-circuit rebreathers on a research cruise. Rebreathers recycle the gases that divers breathe, removing carbon dioxide and actively managing oxygen levels, allowing for extended dive times and more efficient decompression at depths not accessible using conventional SCUBA.
NOAA rebreather divers Daniel Wagner and Randy Kosaki 
conduct coral, algae, and fish surveys at 200 feet at Laysan Island in 
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Credit: Greg McFall/NOAA
The scientific team included researchers from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries' Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, the University of Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology, and the Bernice P. Bishop Museum.

Watch video clips from the expedition.
To see more photos, click here.