|150 Meter Deep Air Record Set
|Source: The Philippine Diver
|Author: John Bennet
?It?s madness? some will say, ?suicide!? others will shout, ?why?? others will ask.
Its advocates will say that it is logistically easier, much cheaper and, if trained correctly, can be done safely.
Deep air is one of the most controversial topics in modern diving. Debates on it normally degenerate into petty
name-calling and finger pointing. Neither does any good to either the industry or the individuals who do the finger
On the 27th July, Mark Andrews PADI, TDI and PSA Instructor dived to 156m/511 ft on air.
He did what was said to be impossible.
Marks initial training in deep air was carried out by one of the legends of our sport; the controversial Hal Watts.
Hal Watts is a Guinness book of records deep air diver, and founder of the PSA (Professional Scuba Association).
PSA, is one of the oldest professional training agencies. They are also the only one with a 100% safety record
(they have never had a fatality in training).
PSA specialize in deep air training. PSA Instructors had previously trained six deep air record holders. Mark is the
Mark decided on the record attempt after starting PSA training in the UK.
Mark and I had done several very deep air dives before; initially he had asked me if I would go for the record with
him. I decided against the record attempt for personal reasons. He then asked if I would be his deep support on
trimix, I agreed to this and said that I would also do the warm up dives with him.
Having dove with Mark I truly believed that if anyone could do it he could. I also wanted to test my own personal
limits. We both agreed that such a dive would be foolish without a support team. Chuck agreed to work with Mark
on the support team and also said that Mark would get any help that Capt'n Gregg's and he could give. The date
Mark returned to the UK where he concentrated on preparing for the dive.
His training included hard fitness workouts daily. No chemicals, such as alcohol, lots of water and anti-toxins would
be his set diet. Some where along the way, the idea that eating ice cream after deep dives can help you off
gassing was born.
He regularly dove to depths of 107m/321 ft in the cold, dark waters of the UK. these dives would help him with the
He arrived back in Puerto Galera on July 12 for the final stage of his training. I arrived back from Hawaii a couple of
days later and we started diving the following day.
Mark wanted to do six final very deep air dives before the attempt. We made seven; three of these dives were
below 122m/400 ft. All were made on air.
Many of Mark's techniques were new to me. They were very different to conventional thinking. He employed very
fast descents and equally fast ascents. His theory was to try to stay ahead of both the nitrogen and oxygen
The dive was delayed due to bad weather for three days, hence the extra warm up dive.
The plan was surprisingly simple, but would require exact timing. We would use the decompression platform that we
had used on our series of mixed gas dives. Chuck and I would descend two minutes before Mark and wait for him on
the bottom. Daran and Axel would wait at depths between 76m/250 ft and 91m/300 ft.
Nobby Beinlich (another of the owners of Capt?n Greggs) and John Bertenshaw would be at 40m/130 ft. Lucy
Burton and Dave Peterson (another owner of Capt?n Greggs) would again help out by acting as medical cover.
For the divers taking part in the support team it took a lot of courage, likewise for Chuck, Nobby and Dave Peterson
the owners of Capt?n Gregg?s to let the dive take place. Their attitude was ?he?s going to do it, it?s better done
somewhere where there is a team able and willing to look after him?.
On the day. Chuck and I descended as planned. Mark started his decent with Daran. They stayed together until his
speed of decent took him slowly away from Daran. Daran then hovered and waited.
At this time Chuck and I were at 156m/511 ft. The plan called for Mark to come down on my descent line. Chuck
would wait on a separate line and cross over to help if needed.
I saw Mark coming about two minutes after we arrived at depth. The first I saw was his wrist mounted torch
shining downwards. I could clearly see his silhouette, he was locked tightly into his normal descent position, one leg
forward, the other bent backward to keep his position stable. One of his arms, his right, was holding the decent
line, the other holding his inflator. As he reached me, I reached out, and took hold of his BCD (wings). I did this for
two reasons: the first to arrest his descent, if required (it wasn?t), the second to get close enough to get
eye-to-eye contact and to let him know we were there if he was having problems.
His eyes where staring straight at my head mounted light, he did not appear to be able to see me ? he later told be
that all he could see at that point was my head light and that appeared to be the size of a pin head.
I lightly touched his thumb, it was on his inflator; this was meant as a prompt for him to inflate. He did, and slowly
as his wings filled he drifted away from me and Chuck, upwards towards Axel and Daran.
What happened next will be discussed for years to come: the finger pointers will point and the theories will be
many. I will stick to the facts; this is what I, and the team of divers that were there, saw.
Axel was the first to see Mark at 91m/300 ft; he was traveling fast, faster that his bubbles (This is normal for his
technique of ascent). He literally ran into Axel. Axel states that at this time his eyes where still not truly focused,
but he appeared in full control and gave a clear OK sign. Axel let him go up towards Daran. He hit Daran seconds
later at 76m/250 ft. Daran said that his eyes where totally focused, he was trying to dump air while disconnecting
his inflater hose. His BCD wings where totally full, both over pressure valves on his wings had jammed shut and
neither where venting air. The air two inflaters had also jammed on. With the speed of his ascent; Boyles law and
the large bore inflator jammed on he could not dump air quick enough.
Daran managed to hang on until 40m/130 ft before he released him. At this point he had let go of the line and, while
dumping air was trying to remove his BCD wings. The wings burst at 20m/67 ft; one can only guess the speed of his
ascent at this time, but it was enough to propel him to the surface even after the wings exploded.
When he hit the surface, he later told me, he could not believe he was alive. He instantly realised that he had to
get back down to depth. He had to carry out an immediate omitted decompression schedule. Lucy was the first of
the support team to get to him. He grabbed her alternate air source and said ?get me back down?.
His BCD wings were now useless so he shed them and headed down to six meters where Daran grabbed him and
took him to 18m/60 where he began his decompression schedule.
Chuck and I first saw him at 18m/60 ft. We where both surprised to see him with out his gear. I realised that
something had gone wrong but didn't know what. The team explained what happened by slate. There was nothing
Chuck and I could do but wait. The rest of the decompression was a chore. Daran was focussed totally on
watching Mark, I have never seen a more focused diver; in the next two hours he was never further than one
meter from Mark, his eyes never left him. It was a tense time for all.
When the schedule was finished Daran and Mark inched their way to the surface, where Mark went on oxygen for
He had a bad headache and felt seasick, but was otherwise ok.
When he arrived back in the UK he under went a full medical at DDRC (Diving diseases and research centre).
Amazingly he suffered nothing more than bruised lungs and a slightly damaged inner ear.