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How Deep Can You SCUBA Dive?

   November 12th, 2019   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

How Deep Can You SCUBA Dive?

SCUBA diving is an adventurous sport that allows you to dive deep down underwater and see amazing things such as sunken ships, underwater mountain ranges, or deep holes containing the most curious creatures. Nevertheless, just how deep can you SCUBA dive? The short answer for recreational diving is 130 feet, but your experience level, training, and type of diving will cause this to vary. *We highly recommend that you receive the proper certification/training before diving in. Find a local dive shop near you for more information!*

How deep can you dive? The first thing we should discuss when thinking about diving depths is physiology and physics. How does the body handle the pressure at depth?

Diving Physiology

The depth you can SCUBA dive is not necessarily influenced directly by diving physiology. Our bodies were not meant to be underwater, but our bodies will also not be “crushed” by the effects of diving because pressure has no effect on water. However, our circulatory and renal systems and fluid balance are affected by the hydrostatic pressure of SCUBA diving against our internal hydrostatic pressure of the blood. For this reason, blood is usually sent to your heart and brain, and one reason why it is important to keep your core warm while you dive. Fluid loss can also occur due to diving physiology. Do you get the urge to pee when you get in the water? This is something known as immersion diuresis which is caused by the body detecting an increase in blood pressure leading to the need to urinate.

While diving affects our bodies physiologically, these systems are not necessarily what limits how deep you can dive. Decompression sickness, air consumption, and nitrogen narcosis are the main influencers of how deep you can SCUBA dive.

Diving Physics

how deep can you scuba dive

Recreational Dive Planner – Imperial and Metric

How deep you can SCUBA dive is largely dependent on physics. The main reason we can only go to certain depths while SCUBA diving is due to nitrogen (and other gases) absorption. As we descend underwater, the pressure increases by one atmosphere every 33 feet. With the increase in pressure, the partial pressures of the gases we breathe while SCUBA diving also increase. The gases end up being stored in our tissues where they sit until the ascent from the dive when they have the chance to escape due to the decrease in pressure. The exception is oxygen, which although it is absorbed, it can be used by our bodies for metabolism.

However, nitrogen absorption can be a problem because our bodies do not use it and our tissues can only store so much before an increased risk of decompression sickness develops. The recreational dive tables were developed to help divers understand how long they can stay at certain depths and how deep they can go. As long as divers stay well within the limits of recreational diving, the chances of decompression sickness are significantly reduced.

how deep can you scuba dive

Recreational Dive Planner – Imperial and Metric

One way to decrease nitrogen absorption is by removing some of the nitrogen from the gas in the tank. By removing nitrogen, we add oxygen to get what we call enriched air. With enriched air, oxygen toxicity becomes a concern because as the partial pressure of oxygen increases at depth, oxygen becomes toxic and may lead to convulsions. For this reason, each different blend of enriched air has maximum operating depth, limiting how deep a diver can go. Proper training should be taken before attempting to dive into enriched air.

Air Consumption

How deep you can SCUBA dive will also depend on your personal air consumption and how many tanks you are using. The deeper you dive, the faster you will breathe through your air. As you descend, the volume decreases and the density increases in the air you breathe and in your lungs. Thus, each breath you take at depth contains more air particles than a breath taken at the surface, which means you will consume more air. Better air consumption comes with experience and overall fitness.

Recreational Diving

With recreational diving, the answer to the question “how deep can you SCUBA dive?” is 130 feet. Proper certification is highly recommended for those depths of SCUBA diving. As a basic open water SCUBA diver, the limit for how deep can you dive is 60 feet. If you wish to dive a little deeper, advanced open water certification will teach you more about diving beyond 60 feet. For SCUBA diving beyond 100 feet, the deep diver specialty course is highly recommended to learn about how deep diving affects your body and how to properly prepare for an ascent from depth. Diving deep can lead to narcosis, which is like being intoxicated underwater. While not dangerous itself, if not recognized or corrected, nitrogen narcosis can lead to diver error.

Technical Diving

How deep can you SCUBA dive takes on new meaning when you get into the world of technical diving. The average depth for technical divers is 130-330 feet, depending on the dive site and other conditions that may affect the dive. Technical divers enjoy the exploration of deep wrecks or other structures found very deep underwater. Do not attempt these depths without proper certification from a local agency.

Technical diving includes numerous tanks including ones on the diver and ones staged on the ascent line. Additionally, the use of different gas mixes in technical diving allows for deep diving. With different gas mixtures, the effects of narcosis and decompression sickness are minimized. However, helium used in technical diving can add the risk of high-pressure nervous syndrome which can lead to dizziness, muscle twitching, and fatigue. This syndrome can be reduced by breathing from mixed gases and descending slower but is still one of the limitations of how deep you can SCUBA dive. If you want to explore how deep you can SCUBA dive, technical diving may be for you!

How Deep Was the Deepest Dive Ever Made?

In 2014, an Egyptian man dove to a depth of 1009 feet and 4 inches, setting a new record in the Guinness World Record for the deepest ever-recorded dive. This dive took 12 minutes to get down, but 15 hours to ascend in order to properly decompress.

On a side note, the deepest ever-recorded free dive (no SCUBA gear) was to 702 feet!

Candace is an avid scuba diver and freelance writer with a PhD in Biomedicine. She has been diving since 2002 and is currently a PADI IDC Staff Instructor. When she is not instructing, she enjoys writing about scuba and volunteering at the local aquarium where she dives with the sharks!

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