Talk Tech To Me
In January of 1993, a few days before the annual Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) show, the fledgling, newly named “technical diving” community assembled in Orlando, Florida under the Tek.93 conference banner for the very first time.
Though there had been cave diving conferences, and assemblies of wreck divers at dive shows like “Beneath The Sea,” or “Our World Underwater,” this was the first event that brought cave, wreck, and
deep reef divers together to discuss the art & practice of technical diving. Professionals from the commercial, military, scientific, and search and rescue diving communities, many of who were already proficient with mixed gas, rebreathers, portable hyperbaric chambers and other diving technologies, were also in attendance.
Organized by my now-defunct magazine, aquaCORPS: The Journal for Technical Diving (1990-1996), the two-day conclave came at a critical time for the newly emerging technical diving community. During the preceding summer dive season there had been seven high profile tech diving fatalities in the U.S., including two on the Andrea Doria and one at Ginnie Springs and Alachua Sink in South Florida. There were also decompression injuries on the Doria and the unidentified, “U-Who” (U869) German submarine (see table). In addition, in October of 1992, a well-known father and son team perished after a disastrous deep air dive on the U-Who bringing the death count to nine.
How to improve your technical diving safety and performance
Not surprising there was serious concern that unless the so-called tech community got its act together fast and was able to reduce the number of fatalities, the U.S. government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would step in and shut technical diving down. Worse, sport diving would lose its exemption from OSHA regulations, which could dramatically curtail recreational diving.
Sponsored by Dive Rite Manufacturing, National Draeger and aquaCORPS, Tek.93 brought together nearly 600 explorers, engineers, scientists, vendors and would-be tekkies from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, U.K., Europe, and Australia, to discuss and learn more about technical diving. Workshops included mixed gas technology, decompression management, closed circuit technology, scooters, full-face masks and communications, one-atmosphere diving systems, and hyperbaric evaluation and treatment.
One of the major focuses of the conference was improving diving safety and a full afternoon was spent in heated discussions on this topic during two joint sessions. Fortunately, tekkies received no-nonsense recommendations from the commercial diving community, which is regulated by OSHA, and from the military diving community— the only community at the time with in-depth knowledge of rebreather technology.
Thirty-one vendors exhibited their wares at Tek.93. The International Association of Nitrox Divers (IAND), which was originally focused on nitrox diving before adding technical to its name, and American Nitrox Divers International (ANDI), along with various cave diving associations were the only technical-related diving training agencies at the time. The following year Bret Gilliam and Mitch Skaggs founded Technical Diving International (TDI), which would grow to become the largest technical training agency in the world.
Tek.93, and subsequent Tek conferences, including EuroTek and AsiaTek helped solidify the community and spurred needed dialogue, which eventually led to the development of improved training and the emergence of operational standards. As a result, fatality rates gradually decreased as the tech diving community grew, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Here, in this 1993 video, “Talk Tek To Me,” is what some of the leading tekkies and vendors in attendance at Tek.93 had to say:
Video Part 1
Video Part 2
Reporter and technologist Michael Menduno is the founder of aquaCORPS Journal and the Tek Conferences, and writes about diving and diving technology for a variety of publications.