TEKDiveUSA 2014, If You Missed It

by Lauren Kieren:
TEKDive USA Friday night BBQ

Hundreds of dive enthusiasts took a weekend out of the water to take part in a groundbreaking Technical Diving Conference on May 17-18, 2014 in Miami, Florida. If you missed the event, continue reading for a recap of the weekend’s highlights.

This two day conference was composed of three elements: an exhibition, a conference, and a gala awards ceremony dinner. Participants were able to meet the true dive explorers of today, pioneering dive medical professionals, outstanding dive educators, award winning photographers/videographers, equipment manufacturers, leading dive industry professionals, and more!

It all kicked off on Friday night with a barbeque dinner allowing attendees, exhibitors, and presenters the opportunity to network, rub shoulders, and get to know one another at this casual event.

We were able to spend the evening catching up with old friends, making new ones, and talking TEKDiveUSA all evening. What more could we ask for?

Waking up after an exciting night at the kickoff barbeque wasn’t easy, but knowing we were heading to some great presentations gave us the right motivation to crawl out of bed early Saturday morning.

Upon arrival at the conference center, we quickly realized what our biggest problem was going to be. We were not going to be able to attend all of the fantastic presentations being offered! We decided to divide and conquer, and try to hit as many presentations as we could. Here is a recap of some of the presentations we attended…

Cave Explorer Panel – The organizers of TEKDiveUSA put Lamar Hires, Phil Short, Josh Thornton, Andy Pitkin, Brett Hemphill, Jill Heinerth, and Brian Kakuk (all world renowned cave explorers) together to see what would happen… They did not battle it out, but there were some great discussions about what drives this diverse group to explore; how they prep for diving in remote locations with limited options, what factors they consider during an exploration dive, what extra precautions are required of this type of diving and what fuels their motivation? For some it was the desire to conduct scientific research, for others it was the desire go where no man (or woman) has gone before. For one honest individual… It was for purely “selfish” reasons – to be the first one there! We appreciated their honesty and the good laugh to start our day.

Phantom Cave Team – Deep in the desert of West Texas lays Phantom Springs Cave. A group of enthusiastic divers from varying backgrounds came together to conduct research dives, document, explore and survey this cave. This team was able to map out over 8,000 feet of the cave and due to their determination and desire for exploration; discover the deepest underwater cave system in the United States.

This presentation covered the history of the cave, challenging logistics with diving in a remote location, challenging dive conditions (silt, numerous ascent/descents, diving in zero visibility, extreme depths, equipment failures, etc.), the sediment traps installed to study water quality, and more. This group even reserved some time to mention Phantom Cave’s resident endangered pupfish… Presenters made sure to warn us NOT to step on the pupfish!

Developments in CCR Functional Safety – Kevin Juergensen (Juergensen Marine), Leon Scamahorn (Inner Space Systems), Bruce Partridge (Shearwater Research), Paul Raymaekers (rEvo), and Martin Parker (Ambient Pressure), led by moderator Randy Thornton (CCRExplorers & Dive Addicts), sat down for a panel style discussion on improvements in rebreather functional safety over the past 20 years. The discussion was informative, entertaining, and even a bit heated at times, and gave listeners a unique insight into the minds of some of the greatest rebreather designers on the planet.

DCS in Remote Locations – Technical diving expeditions are taking participants into increasingly remote locations. Formulating a plan for management of decompression sickness (DCS) in such locations can be very challenging. In particular, evacuating a diver for recompression therapy can be costly, difficult, and a potentially hazardous undertaking. In this presentation, Dr. Simon Mitchell defined “mild DCS,” and gave his thoughts on alternative methods for treatment in remote locations. He also discussed methods behind in water recompression treatments and their benefits in remote locations.

Is Helium Your Friend? – Aside from the clear benefits of helium, other differences are less well understood. It is thought that faster uptake of helium than nitrogen into the body during bounce dives results in a greater decompression obligation. Switching to air or nitrox during ascent is thought to accelerate decompression but also to risk inner-ear decompression sickness. If DCS occurs, the typical symptoms following helium-based diving are thought to be different from nitrox diving. Is any of this true? Dr. David Doolette, Research Physiologist for the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU), presented his findings and ongoing research regarding the use of helium in based breathing gasses in bounce decompression dives. This informative presentation answered many questions we’ve had relating to trimix decompression schedules, and also spurred several new questions that will only be answered with time and more research.

Mars: The Discovery of the Century – Following a life-long search, Richard Lundgren and his team discovered the shipwreck of “Mars the Magnificent,” in May of 2011. Richard delivered a presentation on the recently discovered shipwreck that was lost in battle in 1564, almost 450 years ago! Mars was a Swedish unrated warship of three deck levels and was discovered in 75m of water in the Baltic Sea between the Swedish islands of Oland and Gotland. Experts regard Mars as the missing link, as the wreck presents a unique opportunity in understanding warship design and naval battle tactic developments. The presentation took us back to the brutal naval battle of 1564, followed by guided tour of the wreck site of Mars the Magnificent, a truly extraordinary time capsule. Richard shared the ground breaking research, exploration, survey, photography, and 3D modeling techniques developed throughout this project. For more info, please visit https://www.oceandiscovery.org.

Rescue of an Unconscious Diver at Depth – Dr. Simon Mitchell presented his findings while working with the Diving Committee of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society on some of the most debated topics regarding in water rescue techniques. He was able to definitively answer some of the most common questions regarding rescuing unconscious divers from depth including:

  • Should you try to replace the regulator?
  • Should you wait until a seizure is finished before ascending?
  • What procedures should be used for a rebreather diver?
  • Should you try to complete any decompression obligations before surfacing the diver?
  • Should you try to administer in water rescue breaths? And More…

For a complete description of the findings of this research, please visit The Rubicon Foundation webpage.

Myths and Misconceptions of Thermal Stress and Physiology – Diving is carried out in a tremendous range of environments and conditions. Proper preparation can make a polar diver more comfortable than a tropical diver. Dr. Pollock discussed thermal stress, thermal protection, and implications for diving health.

Why Divers Do Stupid Things – How can very smart people often make such stupid mistakes? Leading technical diving Instructor Trainer Mark Powell answered this question in an informative, very entertaining and controversial talk. He was able to explain why smart people can make such stupid mistakes and why you are at risk of making the very same mistakes while diving. Mark has a unique way of presenting informative topics to make you think about issues in a slightly different way.

Members of RTC

Members of the RTC join for a group photo at TEKDiveUSA.2014

Believe it or not… We were able to get some “work” done over the weekend at TEKDiveUSA. On Sunday morning, May 18, 2014 – the first face-to-face meeting of the newly formed Rebreather Training Council (RTC) took place.

The members of the RTC are training organizations that offer courses in the use of rebreathers. The RTC aims to promote safety and standardization in the field of rebreather training, and the group intends to work closely with the Rebreather Education and Safety Association (RESA) to achieve these goals.

Conclusion – Overall, the conference was a huge success, extremely educational, and a lot of fun to attend. The entire weekend was an excellent opportunity for divers to further educate themselves on some of the most important topics regarding technical diving today, as well as rub shoulders with some of the industry’s top professionals and leading experts. We had a great time and we’re looking forward to TEKDiveUSA.2016!

TDI HQ crew

The TDI World HQ staff reminding everyone why we all got into diving in the first place… It’s supposed to be FUN! From left to right: Sean Harrison, Jon Kieren, Lauren Kieren, Cris Merz, and Darren Pace

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