What Is Saturation Diving?

Saturation Diving
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One of the most popular topics of conversation among dive watch enthusiasts is saturation diving, and for good reason: many of the most interesting and technically advanced divers’ watches are specifically designed to suit the needs of professional saturation divers. However, participants in the discussions frequently lack a clear understanding of what exactly saturation diving is or how it differs from diving from the surface and ascending to the surface (as do scuba divers). 

In this article, we will define saturation diving and discuss how to become a saturation diver. Just keep reading.

What Is Saturation Diving?

Among the most sophisticated types of commercial diving is saturation diving. The diver returns to the surface to restore atmospheric pressure after a commercial dive, whether it be offshore or inland. The diver is required to return to the water several times during the course of many dives. In other words, this process takes a lot of time and resources. Because you only decompress once when SAT diving, it was developed to combat this wastage of time and resources. 

In a little pressurized chamber, you are submerged in the water as a saturation diver. In this compact topside chamber, the diver stays for 28 days. Divers do not need to decompress after each shift because it is pressurized to the same pressure as the environment used for underwater construction. An underwater diving bell is used to lower them.

Saturation diving runs on a 24-hour cycle, just like offshore diving. Normally, each team consists of two to three divers. The SAT chamber typically accommodates three to four teams. They alternate between shifts that last six to eight hours each. Depending on the demands of the job, they may inspect structures, install spool pieces, finish flange-ups, underwater weld and burn, perform nondestructive testing, carry out maintenance, and occasionally even get to explore the ocean floor.

History Of Saturation Diving

On December 22, 1938, Edgar End and Max Nohl completed the first anticipated saturation dive by spending 27 hours breathing air at 101 feet of sea water (FSW) (30.8 MSW) in Milwaukee’s County Emergency Hospital’s recompression chamber. After a five-hour decompression, Nohl experienced a mild episode of decompression sickness, which was managed with recompression. Albert R. Behnke proposed the idea of exposing people to high ambient pressures for a period of time sufficient for inert gases to saturate in their blood and tissues in 1942. In order to determine whether people could withstand prolonged exposure to different breathing gases and higher ambient pressures, the Genesis experiment was launched in 1957 at the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory. After saturating, the depth and gases breathed determine how long it takes for the body to decompress.

The breathing gas known as Trimix was created by Peter B. Bennett as a method of managing anxiety and high blood pressure In 1981, Bennett conducted the Atlantis III experiment at Duke University Medical Center. In this study, volunteers were slowly brought back to atmospheric pressure over the course of 31 days after being subjected to a pressure of 2250 fsw, which is equivalent to a depth of 686 m in seawater. This experiment set the first ever world record for depth-equivalent. Atlantis IV, one of the subjects in a later experiment, suffered from euphoric hallucinations and hypomania, which led to problems.

In What Way Does Saturation Diving Operate?

Over 300 feet (91 meters) of water covered The Kursk when it sank. The pressure of the water around a SCUBA diver when he descends to that depth is about ten times greater than at sea level. The gases that make up his lungs’ air, in particular nitrogen, dissolve into his blood and tissues at this pressure. He can stay at that depth for just a short while—less than five minutes—thanks to the gasses in his blood and tissue. If he stays down longer than that, he runs the risk of developing decompression sickness, also known as “the bends,” when he surfaces, and he’ll have to go through the decompression process to avoid getting sick. The Norwegian divers used a method called saturation diving because they were aware that they would need to stay longer at that depth and would consequently need to undergo decompression.

Saturation diving is based on the principle that the pressure of the dissolved gas in the blood and tissues is the same as that of the gas in the lungs. Basically, a diver goes down to a depth, perhaps 300 feet, and remains there until no more gas can dissolve in the tissues — the tissues are saturated with nitrogen. No matter how long the diver remains at that depth—for a minute, an hour, a day, or a week—once the saturation point has been reached, the time needed for decompression will remain the same. Divers who live and work in aquatic environments have applied this theory. It was used by the divers in the submersible oil rig in the movie “The Abyss.”

One idea that is being researched to prevent the need for saturation diving and decompression at great depths is liquid breathing, which was also shown in “The Abyss.” Instead of breathing gas, the diver breaths a non-compressible, liquid perfluorocarbon compound that contains oxygen. No gas phase comes into contact with the blood, and nitrogen is not used, so there is no risk of nitrogen bubbles forming. It was demonstrated in the 1960s that rats submerged in such a mixture could survive for up to 20 hours. A diver might be able to descend as deep as 3000 feet (914 m) by using liquid breathing. Research on liquid breathing is still ongoing, with a current focus on saving premature infants and people who have recently suffered acute lung injuries.

Applications For Saturation Diving

Because it allows the diver to maximize their time while lowering the risk of decompression sickness, saturation diving is used for bottom work in many deeper offshore areas. In shallower water, surface-oriented air diving is more prevalent. Underwater habitats are buildings in the water where people can live for long periods of time and carry out the majority of daily activities like working, relaxing, eating, grooming, and sleeping. The term “habitat” is used in this context to refer to the interior and immediate exterior of the structure, as well as its fixtures, but not the surrounding aquatic environment. The majority of early underwater habitats lacked regenerative systems for oxygen, water, food, electricity, and other resources. These resources can now, however, be delivered via pipelines or produced inside the habitat thanks to some new underwater habitats, which eliminate the need for physical transportation.

Worldwide, a variety of underwater habitats have been developed, constructed, and used since the early 1960s by both private individuals and governmental organizations. At least one underwater habitat has recently been developed for recreation and tourism, though they have primarily been used for research and exploration. The physiological mechanisms and constraints of breathing gases under pressure, aquanaut and astronaut training, and studies on marine ecosystems have all been the subject of research. A moon pool at the bottom of the building serves as a typical vertical entrance and exit to the exterior.

Individuals may be brought to the surface via a closed diving bell or a decompression chamber that is integrated into the habitat.

Saturation Diving

Saturation Diving Is It Risky?

The risk of both acute and long-term oxygen poisoning is very high when saturation diving. The storage breathing gas exposes the divers to a constant oxygen concentration for extended periods of time, on the order of a month at a time. As a result, the gas in the habitat must be maintained at a long-term tolerable partial pressure, typically around 0.4 bar, which is well tolerated and allows for significant accidental deviations without hypoxia.

There are hints of a long-term cumulative loss in lung function during saturation dives.

Athletes’ foot, otitis externa, and skin rashes commonly occur during and after saturation dives, making them problematic for saturation divers. The cause is most likely due to the elevated oxygen partial pressure, unusually high temperatures, and humidity in the lodging.

Dysbaric osteonecrosis is thought to be caused by decompression injury rather than living in saturation conditions.

Training for saturation divers is typically provided by commercial diving schools that are registered to do so and that have the necessary facilities and tools. A few organizations publish standards for saturation diver training, and there is some international recognition of equivalence. Before starting training, a diver must be certified as a bell diver and have completed a minimum number of dives and hours since certification.

Before making a decision, consider the nuances of the profession if you’re considering a career in saturation diving. While most prospective candidates find the income associated with saturation diving to be quite alluring, the daily expenses associated with the job can be very taxing.

What Is The Salary Range For Saturation Divers?

However, before attempting a dive into the deeper waters, the majority of saturation divers gain several years of intermediate experience. Once more, there is no shortcut to wealth. Prepare for long periods of time spent in a hyperbaric environment if you intend to make saturation diving a career.

Saturation divers typically make between $30,000 and $45,000 per month. This can amount to more than $180,000 per year. Depth pay, which can add an extra $1–4 per foot to a saturation diver’s pay, is a distinctive salary supplement. As a reminder, diving with air and mixed gases is eligible for depth pay.

While SAT diving, you’ll get paid a day rate and an hourly bonus. For instance, even though your SAT bonus is hourly, your on-deck day rate could be $650 per day. For instance, $792 is the total of your $650 daily rate plus $33.00 per hour multiplied by a 24-hour day. That works out to roughly $1,400 per day. Another benefit is known as a “double bubble,” which occurs when you dive deeper than usual. The breadth and depth of the project, along with your time as a diver, all affect how much money you make as a saturation diver. Due to the time and physical strain that they put on their bodies, saturation divers can also earn extra bonuses.

Your salary for saturation diving will primarily depend on the following factors. 

  • Your past experience
  • Your diving certification
  • The job’s environment
  • The depth of work
  • The dive methods 
  • The underwater equipment
  • The distance offshore
  • Any required overtime
  • Other specific job site factors

What Are The Prerequisites To Become A Saturation Diver?

You need to already be licensed as a professional commercial diver in order to become a saturation diver. It should be noted that saturation diving programs are extremely uncommon for those looking to advance their careers. Only two or three schools in the entire world actually provide the required training and credentials. 

However, you should meet all of the following requirements if you plan to pursue a career in saturation diving. 

  • A professional commercial diving certification from a reputable school
  • Years of professional diving experience (specifically, offshore diving) 
  • Experience with mixed-gas diving 

Speak with a representative for prospective students at your commercial diving school to find out more about the certification requirements for saturation diving. In order to learn more about the training and daily life on the job, you should also, if possible, seek out advice from the professionals themselves. 

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