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

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.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

DiveAlert Emergency Signaling Devices Recalled by Ideations Due to Drowning Hazard

-----------NEWS from CPSC-----------
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Office of Communications
4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814,
DiveAlert Emergency Signaling Devices Recalled by Ideations Due to Drowning Hazard

Recall Date: June 5, 2013
Recall Number: 13-207

DiveAlert Emergency Signaling Devices Recalled by Ideations Due to Drowning Hazard

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Consumers should stop using this product unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

Recall Summary

Name of Product: DiveAlert and DiveAlert PLUS signaling devices

Hazard: The signaling device can malfunction when used and restrict the diverÿÿ™s air flow, posing a drowning hazard.

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled DiveAlert signaling devices and return them to an authorized DiveAlert dealer or to DiveAlert for a free repair. The repair consists of replacing the defective female coupling.

Consumer Contact:  DiveAlert, at (800) 275-4332 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, by email at or online at and click on Recall for more information

Recall Details

Units: About 2,500

Description:  This recall involves DiveAlert and DiveAlert PLUS scuba dive signaling devices with model numbers DA2, DP2 or DV2. The signaling device is attached to the divÿÿâÿ™s buoyancy compensator device (BCD) power inflator/alternate regulator system by a chrome-plated brass coupling and is used to activate a loud surface horn or an underwater percussion noise to alert others in the event of a diverÿÿ™s emergency. The devices are also used in non-emergencies to get the attention of the pickup boat or other divers. The DA2 is black with an orange button, the DP2 is black with a gray knob and red button and has DiveAlert PLUS printed on it, and the DV2 is black and red. They can be used with Aqualung AirSource, Oceanic Air XS, Aeris Air Link and Mares Air Control regulator/inflators. Only these signaling devices without any stamped writing on the couplinÿÿ€™s collar are included in this recall.

Incidents/Injuries: None reported

Sold at: Dive equipment stores nationwide from July 2009 through May 2013 for between $70 and $90.

Manufacturer: Ideations DiveAlert, of Seattle, Wash.
Manufactured in: United States

Photos are available at

Oceanic Issues a Quality Notice on the DVT Plunger found in Regulator First Stages

Monday, June 3, 2013

National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa Conducts Dive Safety Drill

Marine Patrol responds to divers in distress.
On May 23, 2013 a Dive Safety Drill was conducted in Pago Pago Harbor in American Samoa. Coordinated by the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, this preparedness drill was designed to evaluate the response capabilities of area search and rescue and health care providers, in the event that an actual SCUBA diving emergency occurs. On the days prior to the drill, important skills for first responders, including first aid, CPR, and O2 administration, were reviewed and practiced. Over 50 participants from the local community participated in the training with instructors from the NOAA Dive Center, Cardinal Point Captains, the National Park of American Samoaand EMS. The intent was to enhance awareness, safety, and communications of marine and emergency professionals through the planned exercise to meet three primary goals: 1) Demonstrate human and technological capabilities, integrating across programs for the common goal of protecting human life and coastal natural resources; 2)  Develop individual skills in program management, coordination, contingency planning, emergency response, health and safety; and 3)  Build relationships across the public and private sector that foster long-term collaboration to protect the environment.

Marine Patrol conducts initial assessment of diving injuries.
The drill was very successful and is the starting point for more safety drills in the future. All participants included: American Samoa Community College, American Samoa Department of Commerce, American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency,Cardinal Point Captains, Coral Reef Advisory Group, Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, Department of Public Safety - Marine Patrol and Fire Department, Emergency Medical Service, Industrial Gases, LBJ Tropical Medical Center, National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, National Park of American Samoa, NOAA Dive Center, NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Office, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Office of Homeland security, Pago Marine Charters, and United States Coast Guard and Auxiliary. For more information, contact
EMS transports divers.
Diver enters hyperbaric chamber at LBJ Tropical Medical Center.

Significance: This drill was a terrific learning experience for every participant and is a tremendous step forward in operational response cooperation for the territory.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Reminder on Depth Limitations for Newly Certified NOAA Divers

Depth limitations for newly certified diver are outlined in section 3.3.1 of both the NOAA Working Diver Standards and Safety Manual and the NOAA Scientific Diver Standards and Safety Manual.  Essentially, all new divers are given letters certifying them to 130 fsw.  However, the language used in Section 3.3.1 of both manuals states: 

Initial Limitation.  Although the nominal depth to which NOAA divers are certified is 130 fsw, all newly certified NOAA divers shall be limited to a maximum depth of 60 fsw until approved to dive deeper by the UDS.   

The NOAA Diving Control and Safety Board want to make certain all UDSs and NOAA divers are aware of and are adhering to this restriction.  The newly certified divers experience in diving to such depths may be very limited and it is the responsibility of the UDSs to assure they are confident with the comfort level and ability of the diver at depths greater than 60 fsw prior to allowing the diver to conduct working or scientific dives at these depths.  The UDS will need to assess the experience and abilities of the diver to determine the appropriate course of action needed to attain this confidence.  An appropriate course of action may involve training dives deeper than 60 fsw where the UDS can improve and assess the diver's skill and comfort level at depth.  Again, each diver's needs will be different and we are relying on the UDS to make the assessment and take the appropriate actions.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Aqua Lung Recalls Buoyancy Compensators Due to Drowning Hazard

Aqua Lung Recalls Buoyancy Compensators Due to Drowning Hazard

Consumers should stop using this product unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

Recall date: March 21, 2013

Recall number: 13-146

Name of product: Aqua Lung buoyancy compensators with SureLock II weight pocket handles

Hazard: The rubber handles can detach as divers are trying to remove the weight pockets to rise to the surface in an emergency. This poses a drowning hazard.

Remedy: Consumers should stop using the recalled buoyancy compensators and return the two weight pockets to an authorized Aqua Lung dealer to receive a free inspection and free replacement for recalled weight pocket handles.

Consumer Contact: Aqua Lung; toll-free at (855) 355-7170 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday or online and click on Recall Notice for more information.

Units: About 110,000

Photos are available at:

Description: This recall involves all Aqua Lung buoyancy compensators with SureLock II rubber handles attached to weight pockets, including the following models: Axiom, Axiom i3, Balance, Black Diamond, Dimension, Libra, Lotus, Pearl, Pearl i3, Pro LT, Pro QD, Pro QDi3 and Zuma buoyancy compensators. The SureLock II handles are gray rubber and measure about 2 inches tall by 4 inches wide.   The buoyancy compensator's model name is embroidered on the inside back pad or the weight pocket's right lobe. "SureLock" is molded into the back of the weight pocket.

Incidents/Injuries: Aqua Lung is aware of 236 reports of handles detaching from the weight pockets.  There are no reported injuries.

Sold at: Sporting goods and scuba diving stores nationwide from September 2008 through September 2012 for between $460 and $700 for the buoyancy compensator with the weight pockets.

Importer: Aqua Lung America, of Vista, Calif.

Manufactured in: China and MexicoAqua Lung Recalls Buoyancy Compensators Due to Drowning Hazard