Just 45 days into 2012, and I’m at hour 82 spent underwater for the year – and its not getting any easier. I’ve discussed the myriad of physical problems faced with diving here previously. Given that we’re still in the thick of winter (though be it a mild one), the environmental factors alone can wreak havoc on your body.
Put aside the diving maladies – decompression sickness (and illness) – and let’s look at the persistent, though more chronic issues we face as working divers:
1. dry/cracked skin – diving hotwater suits is severely dehydrating. Couple this with breathing dry compressed gas, sweating from working hard, immersion in saltwater, and irregular hydration breaks due to being underwater for lengthy blocks of time – day after day after day, your skin isn’t looking so good.
2. fungus – I’ll be frankly honest and open that fungus of every sort is my worst nightmare. I’m in a wetsuit everyday. It never dries out 100%, and is never thoroughly cleaned. After being in a wetsuit for 8 hours, I drive home, and take a shower, so I’m still wet. Never drying out thoroughly, and being exposed to fungal breeding grounds constantly is a recipe for disaster – skin, nails, and other cracks and crevasses are less than appealing.
3. soft nails – this comes from being wet, and the fungus problem. I routinely lose toenails. Yes, this is nasty, and I’m sorry to offend any readers, but its a fact of the life aquatic. I’ve literally felt my big toenail break away mid-dive (painfully) on more than one occasion. Three months and it comes back and the cycle repeats itself. ugghh.
4. heightened sensitivity to light and noise – the upside to increased sensory perception has been discussed here, and it lends itself exceedingly well to functioning here on land. But the down side is how overwhelming any crowded spaces can be – makes me want to crawl right back into the black hole that I spend most of the week in.
5. loss of core strength – in the water, I can move mountains. It’s taken years to find that new center of gravity, and work with tremendous composure. Out of the water, where gravity sets in more deeply, I often have trouble simply holding myself together. The core muscles used for posture are weekend by not being used for such lengthy amounts of time. This muscle loss has been documented in astronauts, who like divers, spend most of the work day in a weightless state.
I could go on, but you get the point. There is plenty to celebrate and appreciate, but it all comes with a price. My question is always on the extent to which we are adaptable – just physically, let alone the radical physiological changes we endure while diving. Equipment and technology improvements can curb the issues, but not solve the issues. The life aquatic may require an approach we have yet considered.