As marine biologists, we love being underwater. But as much as we don’t like to admit it, there are some limitations associated with being underwater. People will often ask me, ‘how long does a tank last?’ A simple answer is ‘about an hour’ but in reality there are many factors that determine how long a standard single scuba tank will last. The two greatest influences on air consumption are: how relaxed you are and how deep you are. However the reality is, eventually you will need to come up and change your tank.

Another major limitation underwater is communication. Firstly, you need to be able to get your buddy’s attention. There are various methods for divers to do so including tapping a metal object on your tank and once you have their attention, communication is generally limited do a few basic hand signals. Some experienced dive guides may have a large vocabulary of underwater signals for an impressive range of animals. However, simplicity always works best and nothing beats a simple index finger point in the direction of something of interest. Nevertheless, messages anything more complicated than the basic ‘are you okay?’ hand signal are often misunderstood.

When it comes to recording data underwater, most scientists will simply use the old fashioned pencil and (waterproof) paper combination. To record detailed information such as fish or coral diversity and abundance, many scientific divers will have a short-hand code as an efficient language for recording of their data. In recent years, photo and video surveying has also been a popular method for recording underwater information. Of course, all of these data still needs to be processed and interpreted. Indeed this is yet another factor limiting the amount of time us scientists are able to spend underwater.

To assist scientists in recording information and communicating underwater, divers from Coral Reef CPR have been using Ocean Technology System (OTS) full faced masks. With this setup, the diving regulator is built into the mask which enables divers to talk. Audio is instantly transmitted using an OTS underwater Buddy Phone. Using this setup, divers can communicate seamlessly, even if they are out of sight which increases the safety of the dive. Scientists can record observations and listen back for a detailed analysis of their findings during each dive. Other advantages of this mask for scientific divers is the elimination of jaw fatigue issues and when entering the water while holding camera, transect tape and other scientific equipment, the full face mask is less likely to dislodge from the divers face than a regular mask. 

 One of the biggest advantages of this system is the ability to record audio for videos and present findings in real time underwater situations. As an underwater videographer for Ocean Imaging, I have been working with scientists to present research findings in an engaging and digestible format. When a diver speaks to you through your device screen from underwater, there is an instant level of ‘wow value’. This attention grabbing format of delivering messages has proven to be a powerful way to communicate scientific findings. Below is an example of Coral Reef CPR Scientist Georgia Coward using OTS Full Face mask and Buddy Phone technology to explain the situation of a recent mass bleaching event in the Maldives.

 Communicating research is one of the most important components to the work of scientists. In today’s modern age of global change and networking, all individuals have a vested interest in keeping in touch with the latest scientific research. Thanks to advances in technology and the internet, people from around the world can also be on the front-line of discovery. Scientists have never been so equipped to share their latest findings and reach large audiences around the world.


Coral Reef CPR scientists explain the state of coral bleaching in the Maldives in April 2016 using full face mask technology

communicating change: In your face underwater science

stefan andrews