Rebreathers, an advanced kind of scuba-diving gear, let divers stay underwater for hours, silently, like the ”fish men” that Jacques Cousteau envisioned at the dawn of the age of underwater exploration. So we jumped at the chance to review an innovative new rebreather. And then we had to wait almost a year before we could actually publish the review (”Winner: Poseidon Discovery,” in this issue).
Our story starts in March of last year, when we contacted Karl Shreeves, the all-around tech guy at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Shreeves eagerly agreed to review the new rebreather, the Discovery Mark VI from Poseidon Diving Systems of Västra Frölunda, Sweden. It’s one of the few rebreathers available to recreational divers.
There was just one problem. The gear, still being developed, wouldn’t be available until June. Then July. Then August.
”Best guess now is Septemberish,” Shreeves wrote us in June. Were we still interested? Of course we were. Rebreathers are the state of the art in scuba gear. They use microelectronics and other technologies to scrub a diver’s exhalations of carbon dioxide while capturing and reusing the oxygen, mixing it with precisely the right amount of nitrogen or other diluent gases.
Shreeves and Poseidon finally got together in October at a trade show in Las Vegas—barely. Poseidon had given Shreeves’s number to Bill Stone, the American engineer and explorer who originally developed the Discovery and was coordinating the October test dive. But the day before the dive, Stone lost Shreeves’s number before getting a chance to tell him where and when the dive would take place.
Fortunately, no one nowadays can stay missing for long. Stone logged into the social network site LinkedIn, found Shreeves’s page, found Shreeves’s wife’s page, and contacted her. ”I don’t know what he would have done a few years ago,” Shreeves says.
Just as Stone’s anxiety was relieved, Shreeves’s was to begin. The test dive was to be held in Henderson, Nev. Shreeves had two hours to get to Henderson—43 kilometers away—set up the equipment, do the test dive, and get back to Las Vegas for another commitment.
It all came off—the photo above shows Shreeves in the pool during his dive—because it took mere minutes to ready the Discovery for the dive. ”I’ve used an awful lot of different rigs,” he says. ”It never takes less than an hour.” That alone, he adds, makes the Discovery revolutionary. The key, as Shreeves explains in his review, is its builtâ¿¿in expert-system software—yet another application that didn’t exist a few years ago.