On the 8th of December six of us dared to enter the infamous ‘pot’. Familiar to some, new to others, the chamber still filled us with dread. Relief that we were here voluntarily washed over us as we learned about how and when the chamber is used.
For context, a hyperbaric chamber (a.k.a. the pot) is where a diver goes when he/she has the dreaded DCI, to be recompressed and hopefully sent home in one piece. The chamber is a cylindrical space, just tall enough to stand in, with 8 chairs. For a dry dive, it simulates a dive without actually going anywhere and without any water involved, but your body reacts to pressure the same way as if you were on a dive.
Following the lecture and safety briefing, we changed into scrubs and wiped off our makeup (who knew that powdered makeup can explode when under pressure…?!). We took our seats in the chamber and were sealed in. As the pressure dropped, we needed to equalise almost continually as we ‘descended’ to 40m within a few minutes.
We remained at 40m for 10 mins which seemed to whizz by as we laughed hysterically at our squeaky voices and gasped at how the air appeared thicker (kindly demonstrated by a parachuting stick man). We were given a simple 6-question quiz to do, which few of us managed to complete. Was this because we were rushed or because we took so long to complete simple addition? Did we really find it difficult to think of a U.S. state beginning with M and draw a rectangle or were we just caught up in excited debate about whether a rectangle is really just a square? Regardless, I swear I wasn’t narced. I’m always this giggly. I don’t even care about the states in America. I can do maths, I just mistook the minus for a plus…
Whether or not we were narced, the point remains that on a dive it won’t be obvious. You won’t be falling over drunkenly or trying to kiss the fish. But you may be that bit slower, find simple decisions require a little more attention and find that bit of kelp a little more interesting than usual. Being aware of how these subtle changes manifest in you and your buddy could be the difference between life and death, were an emergency to occur. A dry dive is also a great way to familiarise yourself with the chamber should you ever need to go, hopefully making a stressful situation slightly less daunting.
So why not give the chamber a go? Find out how your body and mind feel at 40m and how your buddies react too. It could save your life. It’s also a fun thing to do on a rainy day.
A big thanks to the professional and friendly experts at Whipps Cross dive chamber!