All the diving at Signy base
at the time I was there was done using unlined close-fitting
wetsuits, long john and then a top with integral hood, boots
were similar and hands were enclosed in mittens. With your
mask tucked into the top part of your hood, the only exposed
flesh was cheeks and lips - and I recall seeing some very blue
lips while underwater on dives!
There was a collection of wetsuits
on base, most of which had been made to fit the professional
divers and then left behind to be used by others when their
tour was done. These guys in the picture are both professional
divers and they have the luxury of 10mm wetsuits that were made
to fit them. I amongst others was a marine biologist, but not
a professionally trained diver (I had never dived before I went
to Antarctica) and so had to make do with a 6.5mm wetsuit and
4mm vest underneath it. getting in and out of these wetsuits
was a 2-man job, but the close fit meant that there was minimal
flushing of water and maximum insulation value.
The problem with such thick wetsuits
though was that they were very buoyant requiring extra weights
to stay down and more attention to buoyancy if your dive-profile
varied up and down much during the dive.
On the other hand, the cold water
was it's own safety device in that you couldn't really stay
down for much beyond 30 mins at depths below 10m as you got
cold. The neoprene compressed of course the deeper you went
and so you got colder quicker! It was the cold that usually
brought you back out of the water. The most I remember was a
fishing dive using small hand nets at around 3-7m, when I stayed
down for about 50mins and felt like a block of ice when I came
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