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The Apocaliptrip 2023 – DCS & VGE in CCR diving

Published: May 16, 2023 - 13:40
Updated: July 23, 2023 - 02:10
The Apocaliptrip 2023 – DCS & VGE in CCR diving

In 2020, DAN Europe participated in a research expedition in the Red Sea, which was organized by JJ-CCR and Red Sea Explorers.

The primary focus of the expedition was deep diving on lesser-known wrecks located in the Gulf of Suez, situated to the north of the Red Sea. DAN collaborated with the project to contribute additional insights to the existing knowledge about post-dive bubbles, specifically vascular gas embolism (VGE)(Venous gas emboli are bubbles that can appear in the blood after a dive due to decompression. These bubbles, which are detectable using ultrasound imaging, can cause injury to the inner ear and other organs if present in large numbers), and decompression sickness (DCS) in closed-circuit rebreather (CCR) diving.

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The original 2020 expedition faced an unfortunate disruption due to the global outbreak of COVID-19, which caused significant chaos worldwide. As a result, the expedition had to be cut short. This unexpected turn of events led Olga Martinelli, the videographer from DAN, to dub the expedition with the name ‘Apocaliptrip’, reflecting the impact of the alarming pandemic on their plans.

coral reef in egypt

Faisal Khalaf, the founder of Red Sea Explorers, emphasized the gravity of the situation by stating, “In 2020, half the boat had to leave Egypt in evacuation planes. So, the research stopped.” This statement underscores the severity of the circumstances they faced, as the need for evacuation highlighted the challenges posed by the pandemic and its disruptive effect on their research activities.

diver on boat

After a significant pause due to the pandemic, the project recently resumed its activities last month, with the intention of building upon the progress made before the global health crisis. The team was eager to get back on track and continue their research efforts. To that end, they organized a series of 10 full days dedicated to deep diving on known wrecks, specifically focusing on the health aspect of the study.

In the original 2020 expedition, echocardiography was employed as the primary method to measure the VGE in the divers. However, in the resumed project, DAN Europe expanded its approach by going a step further. They began collecting DNA and urine samples from the divers to investigate if extensive decompression profiles have any other unknown effects on the human body. This additional data collection aimed to uncover potential factors and impacts beyond the previously studied VGE.

During the course of the 2023 project, an intriguing observation was made. As the expedition progressed, it was noted that the divers exhibited fewer bubbles in their blood, suggesting that decompression appeared to be more efficient. However, it is important to note that these findings’ full results and conclusions are still pending.

On a positive note, the main takeaway from the expedition was that each diver who participated left the project with an increased understanding of DCS(Decompression Sickness is a condition that can occur when divers ascend too quickly from deep dives. It is caused by the formation of gas bubbles in the body due to rapid changes in pressure. Symptoms of DCS include joint pain, skin rashes, and paralysis. In severe cases, it can be fatal if not treated immediately) and VGE This highlights the project’s educational value, as it provided divers with first-hand knowledge and experiences related to these aspects of diving. Ultimately, each diver must take personal responsibility for their well-being, as they are the ones who best understand how they feel after a dive. This underscored the importance of self-awareness and individual judgment when it comes to post-dive assessments and decisions regarding diving practices.

dan medical research
Spit samples from divers – Apocaliptrip 2023 photo: Olga Martinelli

On the other hand, Red Sea Explorers are eager to partake in such projects that aim to improve the parameters of diving. They focus on Red Sea exploration to find new potential dive sites as well as familiarise themselves with the existing ones. Their liveaboards are equipped for all forms of diving both open-circuit and closed-circuit diving, with all necessary equipment onboard. The friendly staff and eager divers are always keen to welcome visitors onboard their ships.

Photos: Olga Martinelli



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Tags: dan, dcs, vge

About author

Jasmine Mifsud
Jasmine Mifsud, who hails from Malta, has an incredible interest in the water surrounding the small island. Her passion for the sea is not surprising, since as a little girl, her biggest dream was to explore the oceans. This ambition created its own pathway as every decision she ever made led her to become an influential woman who decided to create a life for herself instead of living in someone else’s shoes. As time flew by, she became more adventurous and curious about our blue planet. She specialized in environmental sciences and took a tangent route into maritime archaeology, which she considers to be one of her best decisions to date. Throughout her journey, she has built friendships with some of the most inspiring divers globally, all of whom share unique experiences and stories worth listening to. As a young woman in the industry, her journey has only just begun.
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