Updated: Mar 13, 2020
London Diving Chamber Manager, Bill, running the show during our 50m 'dive'.
Guilhem, Thanos, Howard, Leo, Adam and myself signed up to experience a 50m Dry Dive at the London Diving Chamber on Thursday evening last week. Upon arrival, we were issued with a medical form and a set of navy blue scrubs; straight away I felt like I was an extra in Grey’s Anatomy and could suddenly perform CPR or brain surgery, upon request.
A great guy called Bill (chamber manager) and his colleague, Laura, welcomed us warmly, happily answering all our questions and showing us around. You could tell they took pride in their work.
Our briefing took place in a very small side room. So small, it was hard to ignore two things in particular: one, the cheesy waft emanating from six pairs of socked feet, in close proximity to one another and the assortment of male and female genitalia on the shelves. Bill apologised profusely for the latter: they had yet to pack away their catheter insertion training models from earlier on in the day. An interesting start.
Our briefing complete, we were each given a test to do - (a comparison to the one to be done at 50m) and led into the chamber: a white lozenge, fitted with red plastic benches. Seating is tight and you are knee to knee.
We were all issued noise cancelling headphones, which together with the unholy noise of the decomp chamber, made me feel a little like TC on Magnum, about to man a chopper. Almost immediately, my ears began to equalise and I began to think: surely I’m blowing too much. A covert look around and I realised everyone is in the same boat: you pretty much just hold your nose and blow almost continually - and this was only at 6m !
Leo’s ears really struggled to equalise and after two false starts, had to concede defeat and exit the chamber.
As the pressure increased, I felt hot and light-headed - I also found it incredibly hard to breathe. At that moment, Vickie - our support companion in the chamber - said: keep calm and just keep breathing. I leaned into the experience and suddenly, it was all okay!
Most of us were narked by the time we hit 50m: all sounding like Mickey Mouse, which in itself was hysterical. We were only at that “depth” for about 12 minutes, when we replicated the test we did during our briefing. Adam was remarkably unaffected - the rest of us had googly eyes and giggled like school kids - acing the second test and getting a better score “under the influence!”
On our way up we had two stops - at 9m & 6m on 100% O2 - this was my least favourite part of the experience. It was absolutely freezing: my whole body shook and my teeth chattered. We had to stay here for 23 minutes. The whole time I hankered after the blankets I’d seen piled up outside, in readiness for the morning treatments.
It was a phenomenal experience and one I would - if the opportunity presents itself - recommend everyone try. We all emerged grinning from ear to ear in our Grey’s Anatomy scrubs, having thoroughly revelled in the experience. Thank you so much to Howard for organising and for the fabulous Vickie who looked after and kept us entertained throughout our dry dive experience!