A Turning Point In Dive Safety: The Nautilus Lifeline
Written by Michael Feld Sunday, 06 November 2011 15:10
At some point, all of us compare the things we take for granted today to the days before we had those things, relegated to some arcane methodology of accomplishing the same thing, and think about how much progress there's been in the world. How did we all live without cell phones? We laugh at how "quaint" things were even just a few years ago, when we had to actually pull out a paper road map to navigate from one place to another; despite that we haven't found the cure for cancer yet, medical treatment has come a long way since the days of bloodletting and leeches, hasn't it?
So it is with scuba diving as well. In fact, due to the conservative nature of scuba diving, its participants, and the organizations associated with it, it engenders more than its fair share of these sorts of comparisons, especially given that the overall trajectory of the sport is so compressed compared to the history of medical treatment, for instance, which goes back eons.
A few examples over time:
- Contemporary times - dive tables: the advent and widespread use of dive computers has rendered them largely unused. Many dive associations don't even teach them anymore.
- Last 20 years - Nitrox: training agencies that advocated its use were almost banned from DEMA Show as recently as 1991.
- 40-50 years ago: The J-valve is replaced by the submersible pressure gauge.
It's hard to imagine being branded as some sort of a rebel for using Nitrox these days, but it really was referred to as "voodoo gas" for a time. Now it's used worldwide, and seen as adding a margin of safety to the sport, rather than being something nefarious. Who knows how many cases of the bends have been prevented by the judicious and safe use of Nitrox? Countless hours of bottom time have been added as well.
It's hard to argue that the advent of the dive computer and SPG have each in their own way made diving a safer sport, and that their arrival signified turning points in the industry.
In 2011 we have yet another such turning point with the release of the Nautilus Lifeline. Remember when people used to get lost scuba diving? How about that movie Open Water? It may be jumping the gun just a bit as there hasn't been much consumer testing, but given the amount field testing done on this unit, I think it's even safe to say that the world of diving is going to see a seismic shift in safety with the arrival of the Nautilus Lifeline, and this is likely just the first step of many to come in the near future.
I remember my first big dive trip to Tahiti in October of 2003. On the boat they issued each of us a submersible EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon). The currents in the Tiputa Pass at Rangiroa are pretty wicked, so the EPIRB, they told us, would allow them to locate us if we got separated, "before you end up in Hawaii," as one divemaster put it. However, the units are notoriously unreliable, expensive and break easily; what's more, to use them it's necessary to have a base station receiver unit used in conjunction with the locator devices so they can be pinpointed.
To be fair, you need a base station with the Nautilus Lifeline as well. It's called a VHF radio. Pretty cool, right? Just about every boat on the water has one of those, and they all receive on the international hail and distress channel, 16. Seems so simple, it's hard to imagine why no one else did it first.
Features of the Nautilus Lifeline:
- Two-way VHF radio: pre-set to channel 8, but adjustable to any marine VHF channel.
- Hail and Distress: using DSC (Digital Selective Calling) and MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity number), it's basically like having a unique phone number for the radio in your Nautilus Lifeline that can be called directly. DSC is a an advanced digital form of VHS, and using it your identification and location can be transmitted to any modern VHF radio.
- GPS: we're all familiar with this these days; anyone with an iPhone has a locator in their handheld phone. So it is with the Nautilus Lifeline, which can transmit your latitude and longitude without you even having to communicate your position. How cool is THAT?
- Lifeline button (here's the best part): This sucker will actually broadcast your position and change the channel of the marine radios within range if necessary and alert them that you are in distress.
- It also sports a strobe beacon so that you can be seen at night.
- Rated to (wait for it... wait for it...): FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE FEET. You read that right.
In the words of the late Steve Jobs, it's "insanely great!"
What's even more difficult to fathom (pun intended), MSRP is a measly $299! Normally, I'd advise someone to get a regulator as their first piece of gear. I have to admit, I'm a little torn about whether I should keep doing that in favor of recommending the Nautilus Lifeline be the first.
Of course, they did just come out on the market and although I haven't had a chance to strap mine onto my BC as of yet, I'm betting that once these become widely distributed, we'll see a dramatic drop in dive fatalities from lost divers. I know this makes my mother happy. I called her tonight to tell her about all the cool stuff this gadget does, and I think the sigh of relief she let out could be heard for miles.
No diver should be without one of these, so put it on the Christmas list for any diver you love or tell anyone who loves you, that it's on your list as well. Bet you didn't know, Santa dives in the off season.