I’m happy to announce an exciting new course option: Helitrox. Helitrox is a breathing gas with up to 20% helium. Since helium is virtually non-narcotic under pressure, adding it to our gas allows us to manage or nitrogen narcosis exposure.
I’m offering Helitrox certification as part of the Adv. Nitrox/Decompression Procedures program. I think Helitrox adds a vital, missing piece of the Adv. Nitrox/Deco Procedures course when taught in the Great Lakes. Adv. Nitrox/Deco Procedures trains you to conduct dives requiring staged decompression to a maximum depth of 150′ and use oxygen-rich mixtures as decompression gasses. But we were limited to using air or nitrox as bottom gas. However, using air in the Great Lakes at 150′ is not always a good choice. The cold water and limited visibility can exacerbate nitrogen narcosis even as “shallow” as 150′. With the addition of the Helitrox certification, we can add up to 20% helium to our bottom gas which gives us the equivalent narcotic dose as breathing air at 100′.
I am forming an Adv. Nitrox/Deco Procedures/Helitrox course for September. Contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) quickly if you’re interested or have questions.
Remember when Nitrogen Narcosis was called Martini’s Law? The theory goes that the narcotic effect of nitrogen is similar to consuming one martini for every 33 ft of depth. So if you dive to 33 ft., you feel as if you’d had one martini, 66 ft would be equivalent to two martinis, 99 ft, three martinis and so on. It sounds silly now, but it sounded reasonable when Lloyd Bridges said it on the television show Seahunt.
Our knowledge of Nitrogen Narcosis and its effect has grown a little since “Martini’s Law,” and one of the most profound advances was the realization that if we added helium to our breathing mix, we could limit the amount of nitrogen and hence manage our narcosis level. Mixed gas diving has been around for a long time in commercial applications, but it’s only gotten popular in recreational/technical diving in the last 10 years or so. There are myriad diving courses teaching the use of helium mixes in various forms (trimix, triox, heliox, heliair, helitrox, ad nauseum) for use at various depths.
I would like to pose a question: at what depth here in the Great Lakes do you need to start adding helium to the mix? Traditionally, the entry level technical diving courses have taught the use of air or nitrox to a depth of about 150′. Students not comfortable diving air to that depth either have to limit their depth, or take a more advanced course like Trimix Diver to be able to utilize helium-based mixes. Do you think there is value in adding a module to the entry level courses, like Adv. Nitrox/Deco, that would cover using limited helium-based mixes. Many organizations offer such courses, I’m just wondering how many people see the value in making “trimix lite” available at the Adv. Nitrox/Deco level, or do you feel breathing air to 150′ is fine and we should leave the helium alone until divers take the full Trimix Diver course?