CCR Aware

I attended a PADI Member Forum here in the Galapagos a couple days ago. As we all know, rebreathers are a hot and trendy subject worldwide. When RF3.0 came to subject I was invited to make a short summary of the forum. Looking back at it I remembered the RoSPA CCR Aware video created to reach the international diving community. 

RoSPA is a registered charity and has been at the heart of accident prevention in the UK and around the world for almost 100 years. The RoSPA CCR Aware film gives divers and those new to rebreathers a solid awareness of the key safety factors for diving with rebreathers. 

I hope this video helps more people make informed choices about diving rebreathers. Please feel free to share it from their YouTube Channel.



From RF3.0: Managing Rebreather Accidents

During Rebreather Forum 3.0 I had the opportunity to ask a question to the accidents panel. I don’t think the proceedings are out yet but it was something like this:

Is there a quick “checklist for dummies” of some sort that could be used in case of a rebreather accident in case it happens in a remote and un-prepared location like the one I’m in?

Answer was no, there isn’t.

On the other hand, Martin Parker — the managing director of Ambient Pressure Diving, posted a worksheet in August. Hopefully DAN will also come out with something in the upcoming months.

For now, the APD worksheet (which is very unit specific) is available from AP’s website.

The Rebreather Forum 3: Consensus, Findings and Recommendations can be found here.


Closing Remarks

If you are a rebreather diver I wish you had the most boring time of your life reading this. That tells us you know all there is to know for safe rebreather diving in the Galapagos Islands.

That also means you probably need to stop reading this blog and commit to a rebreather trip here. We have one in 2013.

If you are not a rebreather diver I hope the basic ideas expressed here make sense. 

Common sense. 

If you ever become a rebreather diver please remember them; they could save your life more than once. If you are in the region maybe learning in the Galapagos is a good option. We have rebreather courses available.

I hope this series of posts help future divers make the right choices about what to do and what to avoid. 

In the meantime, dive safe.
Jorge A. Mahauad


TEN: Do OUR way

We all have different units and checklists, procedures change from rebreather to rebreather and no one will tell you how or when to do your stuff. On the other hand, we do require that you participate and do OUR way in the following aspects:

You have to have a checklist of your unit available at the place where you assembly your rebreather. At some point before EVERY dive, pre-breathe the unit and participate in a panga ABC cross check before entering the water. Once in the water you need to participate in a bubble check and team member count.


NINE: Mind vertical currents

When the current hits a wall or bottom feature, an ascending or descending current is usually formed. This is particularly true in some of the dive sites at Wolf Island. In open circuit you usually compensate for these automatically. Open circuit diving gives you the ability to breathe in or out harder to compensate and this provides time to adjust. This is just not true with Closed Circuit and vertical currents are an issue.


EIGHT: Log your gas

Whatever unit you are bringing to the Islands will need some sort of EAN mix if not pure oxygen. As a rebreather diver you know you must analyze your gas before using it. Please go one step forward, log your gas.

In Galapagos Rebreathers we thrive to provide with the best of everything and medical oxygen is one of our biggest challenges. Appropriately filled and drained certified medical grade oxygen can only be obtained in Ecuador Mainland. We do analyze and measure the pressure of all gases prior to delivering them to our customers. This is just our own check and quality management practice. 

In any case, you are responsible for analyzing and testing your own gases prior to any dive. Make your competency as a rebreather diver and your good practices visible by completing the adequate paperwork by filling in the Nitrox Log on the boat and labeling your cylinder contents.

We do have several oxygen clean booster pumps available for rent in what I call a “self-catering” mode. It’s very simple, you rent Oxygen and a Booster from us and run your own fills. Please note that a Gas Blender Certification or equivalent is required in order to access the self-catering mode. We can also provide the training if needed.


SEVEN: Avoid Fumes

A simple one for today. Very important though. 

Diesel engine fumes are nasty for rebreathers. 

Make sure your unit is well protected from them when the boat navigates from one island to another, especially in the longer transits to the northern islands and back.



The Galapagos Islands are an Oceanic archipelago 600 miles / 1000 kilometers away from the nearest piece of continental land. In addition, the archipelago is subject to 7 ocean currents that change in intensity throughout the year. These currents combine with the chaotic whimsical sea bottom creating all sorts of currents and countercurrents than can often defy logic. Dives are made drifting with current and drifts going in the opposite direction as originally planned is something that does happen.

The main source of surface supervision comes from tender operators who follow bubbles; hence the rebreather paradox. When diving on a rebreather in the Galapagos Islands you have to be ready to change the plan and maybe even abort the dive if the current takes you the wrong way.  Sometimes an aborted dive can just be the best possible outcome, don’t lose your chance for the best available.

Since there are no bubbles to follow you need a surface marker as soon as you start ascent. A Diver Surface Marker Buoy is something we deploy on every dive here. You will need a readily accessible, easy to use DSMB attached to a reel or spool and a backup. I highly recommend the longer ones since surface conditions can be choppy and 3 – 5 foot / 1 – 1.5 meters are very common.

Once in the surface a pneumatic audible device comes in very handy, make sure you have one. In addition, having some sort of communication device to call for assistance is reasuring. I think the Nautilus Lifeline is a good option, we are dealers for them.


FIVE: Bring Spares

Really? Do we have to stress that one?.

Experience says YES.

It might be a rebreather bunny that lives in travel cases and suitcases or that Mr. Murphy is a TSA agent, I’m not quite sure yet. I do know that one of them loves to ruin sensors, hand tight connections, o-rings, corrugated hoses and all sorts of yummy stuff.

The extended range of rebreather consumables and replacement parts makes it impossible for us to provide with a full inventory. Special requests made with anticipation can be arranged but as a general thumbs rule you will need to bring your own consumables, spares and special tools.


FOUR: Bring Experience

How many times have you heard that your extensive open circuit experience does not make a big difference and could even be a handicap for you when rebreather diving? Probably many and this is not an exception.

Diving a rebreather in the Galapagos Islands is not something I would recommend to a novice rebreather diver. Stressing surface conditions, quick negative descents, strong horizontal currents, camera task loading, vertical currents, a very remote oceanic location and why not peer pressure for performing can be something that could, at least, take a lot of the enjoyment you probably seek out of your experience. 

If you are a novice rebreather diver thinking of coming to the Galapagos think twice. You can probably gain valuable rebreather diving experience in less stressing and cheaper locations near home before you come here with a rebreather. If you are an experienced rebreather diver that has been off the loop for a while, also think twice.

Our rebreather diving liability release form tries to bring your experience forward in a rather interactive document you will need to really read while you fill up. This is our way of saying your experience really counts. Please don’t come here un-experienced. 


THREE: Bring a Medical

In order to obtain service from us, every rebreather diver needs to provide a medical examination signed by a physician within a year prior to the end date of the trip. This is our way of making sure you are fit (both mentally and physically) to dive a high tech life support system in complex environmental conditions.


TWO: Have off-board bailout gas

You probably know the action in the Galapagos dive sites is usually deeper than 60 feet / 18 meters. As a rebreather diver you should know that below this depth an off-board bailout cylinder is required by almost every existing training agency. 

As you might know, we tend to have strong currents here and a sling cylinder often increases drag. This makes maneuvering the already heavier and bulkier rig (in comparison to a single back mounted cylinder) significantly more challenging underwater. 

Picture this: As current tries to rip the loop out of your mouth you experience the barnacles you hold to remain in place start breaking. With one hand holding your expensive camera, you only have another one to prevent your loop from exiting your mouth (and therefore inevitably flooding the unit) and to crawl forward to a place where you can hide from it. 

The availability of bailout gas is a critical factor in such a situation; your bailout plan should not only include making it to the surface slow enough not to compromise your safety and therefore the overall trip, but also heavy breathing during that ascent. A minimum of 40cft / 5.7 liters of gas are required for a diver with an average SAC to perform such task.

In Galapagos Rebreathers we have 40 cft / 5.7 liter cylinders with DIN / YOKE convertible valves available for rent. This size of cylinder minimizes the drag when appropriately side-mounted on your rig. If renting a bailout cylinder is too expensive for you, maybe you should reconsider diving on a rebreather. Or you can use a standard 80 cft / 12 liter cylinder readily available from your dive operator. In any case, whatever you do please have off-board bailout gas available with you in every dive.


ONE: No Solo Diving

That’s an easy one I’m sure. On the other hand, being the only CCR diver in a trip of Open Circuit divers IS diving solo. Generally on every dive but particularly as a trip progresses, nitrogen starts to build up. 

In that scenario you will find your “buddies” can’t make the same dive profiles as you do and are in completely different gas loading schedules. 

People can argue as long as you maintain a profile that respects the OC “handicaps” you can still respond to an emergency and that’s true. On the other hand, what if YOU need help? 

A second important reason is knowledge. It is very unlikely to have an Open Circuit Diver who is knowledgeable enough on rebreather diving to perform (and cross-check with you) pre dive safety procedures and in water checks. In the event of a rebreather related rescue scenario having a closed circuit trained buddy does make a big difference

One of the reasons why Galapagos Rebreathers exists is to provide appropriate rebreather travel opportunities to the Galapagos. Being in a group of CCR divers here provides several benefits; of course one of them is the inherent rebreather safety that comes from a closed circuit oriented operation.

But this is not the only reason. 

Sharing the trip with other CCR divers will allow appropriate rebreather profiles, maximizing enjoyment. A huge factor for diving rebreathers here is that sharks, particularly hammer-heads, seem to get closer and allow longer, more natural interactions when they encounter silent divers. Truth is you can’t have this if there are another 15 open circuit divers in the water at the same time. It’s just too noisy.


10 recommended practices for safe rebreather diving in the Galapagos Islands

"These posts originate from lessons learned during the development of rebreather travel in the Galapagos, and through studying other's experiences. "

by Jorge A. Mahauad

Galapagos Rebreathers is a firm that has pioneered in developing rebreather diving in the Galapagos since 2010.  Over almost two years, we have successfully supported over 5 different rebreather friendly live-aboard trips and one major film project with a total of 10 rebreather divers who have performed over 300 hours of completely safe, professionally supported and rebreather supervised diving. 

We work in affiliation with the most renowned rebreather diving professionals and instructor trainers in their regions. Before we started this, rebreather travel to this world class destination was nearly impossible. There was also no repository for the lessons learned about the particular conditions that could make diving in such a special destination safer. I’m glad to say this is no longer true.

At this time, Galapagos Rebreathers is the only firm actively offering rebreather support for people who want rebreather travel opportunities to the Galapagos Islands and I am the only active CCR professional in the region. Sharing knowledge about the lessons learned and particularities of diving rebreathers in Galapagos might be counterproductive from a commercial standpoint but is cumbersome in the face of preventing accidents. 

For those who know me, you probably know I am someone with a positive and corrective approach. With this in mind, I have developed a series of posts to be published in this blog during the next few days. These posts come from lessons learned either by me and my companions while developing rebreather travel in the destination or from the study of what others have experienced here. 

You are welcome to follow this series of posts by using this tag. First post will be posted tomorrow. Stay tuned.