I have been pretty lucky the last few weeks and been both up hills and back underwater!
It is a fantastic time to experience the outdoors - nature is beginning it's transition from winter to spring. I can't wait for everything to begin to bloom and turn green again! I saw some snowdrops on my way into University this morning - yippee! Dartmoor is looking mysterious and wild, last time I was down snow and ice covered the highest points.
Getting back in diving after a winter break was awesome. I went to my old place of work, Vobster Quay. It was a great opportunity to dive with my good friend Josh, enabling us to test all our kit for all the diving ahead this year! I caught up with old friends in the UK dive scene. It was a little bit nippy - I will certainly be putting extra thermals on next time - I'll explain more in a bit. Josh and I plan to make a few trips around the South coast - I'm now really looking forward to the next season of diving. I desperately want to go to Lundy Island - fingers crossed for some good weather this year!
At the beginning of February I went to the DDRC Diving on the Edge - Scientific Diving conference. With talks by Dr Martin Sayer from the National Facility for Scientific Diving, Mark Powell (TDI) on his Britannic diving expedition, DDRC's very own Dr Christine Penny and representatives from the Sharks Trust, Ghost Fishing and the Marine Conservation Society it was an interesting day. One of the most thought provoking talks for all the divers was Gavin Anthony's talk on thermal protection.
I didn't know that diving wetsuits should be labelled with a HSE thermal insulation code from A to D, more to less thermal protection respectively. The 'thickness' of the suit has been up until now how I have determined the thermal protection (warmth) provided. However, in some cases a 5mm could be warmer than a 7mm depending on the material used - it is this A-D rating we should be looking at. Wetsuits not manufactured specifically for diving use do not require this rating to even be determined or printed on the label. Having learnt about this I know I will check in the future!
What was also interesting is that neither drysuits or undersuits require specific HSE thermal protection ratings. Both are all made from different materials by different manufacturers. Aside from word of mouth, comparison's are difficult to draw without a standard assessment method. On top of this, there are still significant questions surrounding the associated benefits and risks with battery powered heating systems. The link between DCI and thermal status is known, despite conflicting advice (Pollock 2015). The risk of DCI is higher in cold water for a variety of reasons, not just thermal regulation - however, it may play a significant role (Toner and Ball 2004, Pendergast et al. 2015) . I need to work on my own thermal protection! With more divers conducting deeper, longer technical dives in cold water, I agree; further investigation into the 'best practice' of thermal regulation is required.
Labs are going well, new rounds of experiments and investigations are beginning. The plants are growing and there's lots of exciting developments on the horizon. Now for a weekend of adventures!