Diving with a buddy

During your Open Water course you are conditioned to dive with a buddy, and a part of the training is doing a buddy check. There are many benefits to a buddy check, but a quick once over of your buddy who does the same to you is not enough. A decent buddy check covering all of the elements of BWARF ensures you and your buddy are ready, have air, have no dangly bits and have all the required items (a mask is not part of a check but try and dive without one and see how little you see).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo_XsP1PbDs&w=540]

You both have octos. It’s important to test yours, but equally important is that you test your buddy’s – after all there is a good chance it’s you that will need it in an emergency. Equally important is that you know where everything is on your buddy’s gear. It is unlikely that everyone knows just how to ditch their buddy’s weights if they have an integrated weight system.

Often you will be allocated a buddy on the boat, on the way to the dive site, and you have no idea what kind of gear they are using or even what it looks like. Try and make sure you buddy is next to you on the boat. Once in the water find them on the surface first, and descend together; looking for a total stranger at depth can be a little difficult.

Agree beforehand what the plan is when the first one of you reach the stipulated low on air pressure. Decide who is going to lead, discuss who will navigate, what your dive time will be, your dive profile and so on.

Few people realise just how enjoyable diving is when you have the same buddy dive after dive. Clare and I have done close to 100 dives together and we are so set in our ways that we know exactly what the other is thinking , planning and how each of us will react in a given set of circumstances. For example, when we found a horsefish at Long Beach, I displayed an animated action of a horse being ridden. Clare understood what I was doing but the other six divers in our group thought I was a lunatic.

Know your buddy, plan your dive and dive your plan.

Newsletter: Sodwana, out of air & boat dives

Hi everyone

I hope you are all well and happy to see January coming to a close. It seems like yesterday we were thinking of Christmas, yet here we are planning Easter.

Recent stuff

We have had odd weather patterns all over the world, somewhere somehow they are connected and we could say we are fortunate not to have floods and other major disasters but the southeaster has stirred our waters up a lot and diving has not been business as usual. We have had a few exceptional days but far fewer than we need.

Tami in good form
Tami in good form

This past weekend we managed only one launch and cancelled the second. The plan to dive a new pinnacle off North Paw did not pan out as the water was green there, we then moved the dive to the recently discovered Cape Matapan wreck in Table Bay. The current was quite strong, the water was 6 degrees at 26 metres and the visibility was 10-12 metres. An out of air diver at 26 metres shortened the dive somewhat but we all had a good dive.

Sea cucumbers and friends on the Cape Matapan
Sea cucumbers and friends on the Cape Matapan

False Bay has flattened nicely and I had two good dives at Long Beach yesterday (15 degrees celcius) and today looks as good.

Sodwana

The Sodwana trip is set and we have 9 confirmed so far. There is room for 20 divers and as many non diving partners as you like so think about it and start deciding. With 20 people we will have two boats and one will do deep sites for the Advanced and deep junkies and the other will cover Open Water divers. We managed to book flights today, Cape Town to Durban return for about R1200 per person, car rental at around R400 a day so sharing of cars as we did on the last trip makes it much cheaper.

Being so close to Easter means that as the Easter bookings start filling up the airlines will bump the next or previous days prices so book flights as soon as possible if you are planning on coming. I have made a provisional booking for accommodation in Sodwana but will need details from everyone as to the type of accommodation you require. I have attached details again in case you have queries, we need only pay a 10% deposit this month and the balance at the end of March so it is affordable. The critical issue is flights, booking early is a sure fire way to a good deal, but the last minute prices will be 4 times higher.

You need to arrive in Durban by 2pm at the very latest on the 16th April, and to leave Durban not before 3pm on the 20th, otherwise we will be too rushed getting back to the airport.

This weekend

I have booked two launches for Saturday, the first being a deep dive as the Deep specialty students need to go to 35 – 40 metres. The second boat load will be for Open Water divers with a maximum depth of 18 metres. At this point the weather is favorable for False Bay but we could end up in the Atlantic if the abovementioned odd weather patterns step in…

Sunday will be a pool day as I have three students for the pool, if you want to join us and play with your gear and buoyancy (in a far corner) just shout.

Some of you are on this newsletter only and I don’t have cell numbers, please send me your number if you want to be on the sms list as that is the only way to reach everyone on a busy dive day.

Lastly, the same old MPA permit rant… Pleeeeeeeeezzzzze get yours at a post office near you.

Regards

Learn to Dive Today logoTony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog
Diving is addictive!

<strong><a href=”https://www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/small-colour-e1284626229322.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-486″ title=”Learn to Dive Today logo” src=”https://www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/small-colour-e1284626229322.jpg” alt=”Learn to Dive Today logo” width=”73″ height=”67″ /></a>Tony Lindeque</strong>
076 817 1099
<a href=”http://www.learntodivetoday.co.za” target=”_blank”>www.learntodivetoday.co.za</a>
<a href=”https://www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog” target=”_self”>www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog</a>
<em>Diving is addictive!</em>

Dive sites: SS Cape Matapan

Desirous of doing a deep dive for three students busy with their Advanced course, Tony, the students, Tami, Goot and I set off on Saturday 22 January, bright and early from Oceana Powerboat Club near the Waterfront. The southeaster was strong, and the boat ride was a hoot – sitting on the plushy bench at the back of the boat, I was soundly drenched by the freezing waves as we hurtled down the coast. I had forgotten to eat any ginger snaps for seasickness, but the wind on my face and the splashing waves made the boat ride a pleasure, and even when we stopped, rocking, I think the wind helped a lot with nausea.

Tony (back to camera) doing deep skills with students
Tony (back to camera) doing deep skills with students

Our planned destination was North Paw, to explore a part of the site that hasn’t been mapped yet. Unfortunately when we got there the surface conditions were atrocious and it was decided to move further towards the shore to see if the sea was calmer there. An investigation of the rocks at the north end of Camps Bay beach revealed flatter seas, but visibility of not more than two metres. Personally, I will accept cold water, or poor visibility, but not both.

Mark doing his deep skills
Mark doing his deep skills

We were heading back to OPBC for breakfast, but as we passed the section of coast opposite Cape Town Stadium it was decided to dive the SS Cape Matapan, located thereabouts. The surface conditions were still pretty rubbish, but when Mauro got in to check the props of the boat after a small barney with a rock, he came back reporting that the props were fine and the visibility was stunning.

Warty pleurobranch with exposed gill
Warty pleurobranch with exposed gill

The Cape Matapan was a steam-powered fishing trawler that sank after a collision with another ship in dense fog in 1960. The location of the wreck was not known (apart from the information that it is about 30 minutes from Table Bay harbour under slow speed) until last year, when some False Bay Underwater Club veterans searched for it and located it off the Atlantic seaboard.

Flat ocean bottom around the wreck
Flat ocean bottom around the wreck

The wreck is very broken up on a flat bottom. I loved being within view of the Sea Point promenade, and then sinking beneath the waves to see what’s there. Goot compared it to the moon, and he was right – the visibility was good (15 metres or so) and we could see for ages around us. Nothing except the ship’s boiler stands up from the ocean floor.

Wreckage of the Cape Matapan
Wreckage of the Cape Matapan

There was a very strong current down there, the sort that you don’t want to even try to fight against, so we drifted with it. We didn’t get to the boiler (events intervened while most of us still had lots of air – boo!) but we saw bits of metal plating and twisted wreckage here and there as we motored along. Tami and I were delighted with an entire field of golden sea cucumbers sticking up from the sand (of which there isn’t much). We didn’t see any fish, but the ocean floor was echinoderm paradise. It was a beautiful dive.

Golden sea cucumbers near the Cape Matapan
Golden sea cucumbers near the Cape Matapan

The dive site is on the edge of the shipping lane serving the harbour in Cape Town, so we all had SMBs (didn’t get time to deploy those!) and Grant was on high alert when we surfaced. Seeing giant container ships in the distance reminded me that if we were to get in the path of one of them, with a draught of 10 metres or more, we’d be toast. We didn’t want to get separated as a group, either, because of the current.

Brittle stars and sea cucumbers next to a block of cheese (coraline algae on a rock!)
Brittle stars and sea cucumbers next to a block of cheese (coraline algae on a rock!)

Tony was doing his first Cape Town drysuit dive, trying it out. His initial report is good, and you’ll hear more from him on the subject. Here’s a dodgy photo of him in his snug getup. I was particularly jealous of the body-shaped sleeping bag/drysuit pyjamas (neither of those being the correct technical term) that one wears underneath. His had fetching purple stripes down the sides.

Drysuited Tony
Drysuited Tony

Dive date: 22 January 2011

Air temperature: 25 degrees

Water temperature: 7 degrees

Maximum depth: 24.4 metres

Visibility: 15 metres

Dive duration: 20 minutes

Urchins and sea cucumber
Urchins and sea cucumber

A near miss at 26 metres

Diving accidents are rare, yet in almost every case stupidity features highly and Saturday’s dive was no exception. We were a group of seven. Three were former students with various qualifications (minimum Advanced), all having done between 20 and 100 dives. All regular divers with me, they were just tagging along for a fun dive. I had three students doing a deep dive for their Advanced diver qualification. All three had completed most of the dives for this course and deep was one of the last dives. I had assessed all three during previous dives and did not anticipate any problems. Cecil, very capable, excellent dive skills and safety concious; Mark, very capable, good dive skills and Diver X, also capable and on two previous deep dives had displayed good watermanship.

So what went wrong?

We descended in a strong current, staying reasonably close together and doing a nice safe slow descent. (I am not a fan of dropping like a brick.) I paused at 20 metres to make sure there were no signs of stress from anyone. Tami was a little slow in getting down but her buddy was watching and of all the group Tami rates high up on the best of the rest list so I was not concerned. The visibility was good, 10 – 12 metres and I could see from everyone’s bubbles that they were all breathing in a relaxed manner.

We dropped to the bottom, and I handed slates to the three Advanced students, slates with a few questions, a bit of maths, and a simple puzzle. This task is a good indication of nitrogen narcosis and a diver’s state. Some of the questions on these slates are ‘”How much air do you have?” and “What is your depth and who is your buddy?”

I time this exercise, so I check my dive computer during the process. This tells me if the depth answer is right, and at the end of the exercise I ask each diver to signal their air supply. Diver X got most of the answers wrong, and more to the point his air pressure answer was 10 bar. I asked him to look at his gauge as everyone else had close to 200 bar. He indicated he did not understand his gauge so I looked at his gauge and it was ZERO.

He then turned and swam away from me towards Cecil, pointing at Cecil’s body. Having someone point at your torso tends to make a person look down to see what he is pointing at. At this point I had caught him up and started to turn him around. He then spat out his regulator and at this Cecil realised there was some problem and perfectly executed the raised arms so his octo was in clear view.

I shoved my regulator in Diver X’s mouth and looked at his eyes – he had no idea of what was going on. I then gathered the group and we started to ascend with Diver X on my octo. At one point I had to bang him on the chest to get him to understand he should hold onto my BCD as he refused to do so and twice drifted off and lost the regulator. We did a short safety stop and ascended. He did not orally inflate his BCD on the surface so I did it for him.

I am extremely grateful to Grant for racing the boat over and getting us out of the water quickly, as we surfaced far from the buoy line (owing to the howling current) and the unexpectedly rapid ascent (and the fact that my hands were occupied holding onto Diver X) meant that we hadn’t deployed our SMBs. The dive site we were at, the wreck of the  SS Cape Matapan, is very close to the shipping lane into Table Bay harbour and very exposed. The southeaster was strong and the sea was choppy with fairly large waves making divers on the surface without SMBs very hard to spot.

What do we learn from an incident like this?

  1. Check, check, check your gear. I doubt Diver X checked his equipment before the dive. Second, he did not do a proper buddy check.
  2. Keep your skills sharp. Diver X has forgotten many of the skills he was taught when he did his Open Water course. Refreshers exist for a reason.
  3. Be fit to dive. Get enough sleep and don’t party the night before a dive – SPECIALLY a deep one, where there is no room for error. DON’T come diving if you’re hung over or stoned.
  4. Be alert before and during the dive. Check your pressure gauge before you stow your gear on the boat, when you kit up before rolling into the water, again when you get to the bottom, and frequently during the dive.

And, if you require a dive buddy with exceptional skills, then Cecil is your man.

I know you will all blame nitrogen narcosis for this incident, but on the way up I stopped at 15 metres, again at 10 metres, and again at 5 metres, and there was no change in Diver X’s behaviour. I had to descend from 2 metres back down to the group doing their safety stop and get them all together so we could surface as a group as we were diving on the edge of a shipping lane (I was concerned that we had possibly drifted into the shipping lane in the current) and I had not surfaced with a SMB as I could not release my grip on this diver to deploy the SMB.

What most people don’t realise is that when you don’t take dive safety seriously you almost always put others at risk. I had five other people with me, their safety being my responsibility. We risked surfacing in a shipping lane, without an SMB in less than perfect surface conditions (to put it mildly). All in all other people were put at risk due to the casual disregard for safety by one diver. Don’t dive stoned, hung over or when not serious: not with me and not with anyone else.

I’m left with one cylinder half filled with sea water, one salt-filled pillar valve, and one first stage and two second stages requiring complete rebuilds or servicing. And hopefully some thoughtful divers who all learned something today.

What it takes to be a Divemaster

Many divers dream of becoming a Divemaster or a Open Water scuba instructor. In reality it is a “dream job” as it is made up of 99% good stuff and only 1% of the bad. (More on this shortly.)

The Divemaster role requires hard work
The Divemaster role requires hard work

Sadly not everyone can be a Divemaster. Not because its difficult (it’s not – learning to be a Divemaster is easy and fun with the right mindset, and we can all learn something new if we want it) but something else needs to be there first, an intangible skill or demeanour for want of a better word.

There are lots of good Divemasters, people who scored 90% plus on all the exams, scored highly on their skill sets and have the right gear and proper diving habits. But there are fewer really exceptional Divemasters, who performed as well as the rest while in training but have that elusive ability to be exceptional Divemasters. These are people who you would be happy to trust in any situation. It is only in an emergency situation that this ability in a person shines through.

You need to be calm and authoritative to be a Divemaster
You need to be calm and authoritative to be a Divemaster

Being exceptionally good in the water is not all that is required. An active Divemaster will know the dive site, have exceptional buoyancy, keep divers together and ensure you all see the hidden beauty of the dive site. But will they cope when two people run out of air at the same time, or when half the group gets lost, or two people panic when their masks flood (90% of regular divers have not removed their masks since their Open Water course)? Will they make the right decision if the conditions are unsafe, or will they dive anyway because they need the money? What will they do if you see a shark and some of the group panic and some just freeze?

There is a lot more to being a Divemaster than completing the course. It is only once you have done the course and started working as a Divemaster that you start to learn, and only the right people stick it out. You need to have the ability to feel ”that was a good dive” despite a dive where things happen like an O ring pops on the boat, a regulator free flows, a diver loses a weight belt, someone gets lost , someone runs out of air and yanks your regulator out your mouth dislodging your teeth, the visiblity is lousy and the water is cold, the boat leaks and the weather sucks… Is this you? Yes? Then become a Divemaster and it will change your life… Diving is a way of life.

Solo diving

There has raged a heated debate for a long time on the merits and dangers of solo diving. Solo diving is the as the title suggests, diving alone, no buddy, no surface support (if boat diving) and most likely no one waiting on the beach.

Off on my own in Sodwana (don't worry - my Clare took this before she caught up with me!)
Off on my own in Sodwana (don't worry - my Clare took this before she caught up with me!)

Very little solo diving takes place in a resort environment, primarily because they want a full boat before they launch. It’s not a common practice, most resort environments have heavy boat traffic as there are often many operators diving the same dive sites, these skippers look for a buoy close to a boat (the boats follow a surface buoy towed by the dive master), and skippers don’t really want divers scattered all over the ocean as it is hard to keep track of them. If the resort you are diving with has an anchored boat it is easier to do a solo dive especially if you loose the group as there is seldom a dive master thats going to come looking for you. You may be lucky to find a skipper that will drop you off separately from the group, but it is rare.

Cape Town is a little different. It is often a case where someone on the boat is doing a mapping project, or some research or looking for a specific feature underwater so solo diving happens. The skipper and sometimes other members of the group know you are down there but not where.

If you want to maximise the number of photos you get on a dive or get some good video footage then solo diving makes this easier. Not having a buddy means you do not need to check up on them, you do not need to periodically look for them and you wont have them yanking on your fin to show you something cool just as you are about to get that ”shot”. By the same token there is then no one looking for you, checking up on you and no one for you to signal ”out of air” for example.

If you are going to go solo diving start small, somewhere where the beach is close, the weather is good and someone knows where you are, how long you plan to dive and what your route will be. It is for some an intimidating experience and your comfort level takes a while to increase.

Once you decide to try solo diving be brutally honest with yourself: do you trust yourself, your equipment and your ability to think rationally in a stressful situation? If not, don’t try it.

If you are okay with all of these aspects make sure you have the right gear. Split your weights over a weight belt and integrated weights. You’ll need a knife, a compass, a dive computer, decent gloves, a hoodie and all the rest to ensure you don’t get cold, tired, uncomfortable or lost. Be sure you know when to turn the dive if you are swimming out somewhere and returning to the same spot. Ensure you plan and monitor your air consumption, checking more often because just knowing you are ”good on air” won’t help you if you have a leak on your first stage that no one tells you about… There is no one there remember. (If you think you have a leak, you can roll onto your back and look up and between breaths you will be able to see if you do.)

Plan your dive and dive your plan.

Bookshelf: Deep Descent

Deep Descent: Adventure and Death Diving the Andrea Doria – Kevin F. McMurray

Deep Descent
Deep Descent

I really don’t know if I can recommend this book in good conscience. I devoured it over the space of a day and a half, but it gave me nightmares for several nights running, and when I started thinking about it during the two dives I did just after I finished it, I almost panicked – twice – even though I was in four metres of water at Long Beach.

The Andrea Doria was a magnificent Italian cruise liner that sank in 1956 after a collision with another ship in the north Atlantic. The ship itself was enormous, a work of art, and outfitted with great attention to detail. It lies at over 70 metres depth, an 18 hour boat ride from the North American coast (and thus hours from the nearest decompression chamber). The wreck is subject to howling currents, and as you can guess, the water is freezing. All that said, it’s become a sort of Mount Everest to a particular breed of deep wreck diver, even though the factors listed all place it squarely outside the domain of recreational scuba diving.

McMurray describes the sinking of the ship, but his main focus in the book is the diving that has gone on in the decades since the ship sank. The Andrea Doria attracts a particular kind of diver that I am reluctant to characterise (because I will be rude – but I will probably give in after a few more paragraphs), and there have been fifteen diver fatalities on the wreck. McMurray (a diver himself who has dived the Doria several times) describes the circumstances of several of the deaths, and the other characters involved, in some detail.

As the ship lies in international waters, many of the divers – if not all – who visit her are keen to loot the ship of its china, crockery, fittings, and whatever else they can find. This activity was a contributing factor in the deaths of many of them. I was astounded at the chutzpah with which many of the divers penetrated the wreck – all the guidelines we learned in our Wreck Specialty course were flouted with aplomb. Owing to the depth, it’s very dark down there. The interior of the wreck is collapsing, and as it is a modern ship there is a maze of cables and numerous other hazards to entangle the unwary. In general those who died penetrating the wreck got lost (none of them used reels) or trapped in cables inside.

The depth of the wreck necessitates incredibly complex gear configurations, and in more than one case the diver’s gear arrangement meant that he died inside the wreck. A multitude of clips, pony bottles (two different gas mixes for decompression, plus double tanks on one’s back) and a bewildering array of hoses put all but the most experienced divers under pressure. During a moment of stress, accidentally breathing at depth from your cylinder of pure oxygen (for use at the final, shallow decompression stop) will most likely be fatal owing to oxygen toxicity.

Another danger of a dive like the Doria is decompression sickness – because of the depth, but also because the cold water increases the risk of DCS. The actual bottom time in most cases was half an hour or less, and the depth necessitated extensive decompression on the way up. Divers clipped themselves to the anchor line – the currents and remote location of the dive site meant that getting lost at sea carried with it a significant chance of a lonely death. Inexperienced or unprepared divers who shoot to the surface in such circumstances – whether through a failure to control buoyancy, or (more commonly) either a malfunction in their gas setup, an out of air situation, or panic, are likely to suffer an air embolism and die as their lungs explode. Paralysis is the other option.

I was thoroughly freaked out by this book, but peversely enjoyed it a lot – literally could not put it down. If I’d read it before I started diving, I don’t know if I’d have taken up the sport. The point is, though (and I wouldn’t have known two years ago that this isn’t “normal” diving), that the divers who do dives like the Doria – whether on air (can you imagine the nitrogen narcosis at 70 metres?) or on trimix (where a proportion of the nitrogen in ordinary air is replaced by helium) – are fringe operators, lunatics looking for something that recreational scuba cannot and should not provide. There are individuals who are careful, methodical and motivated by things other than proving a point – whether to themselves or their communities – but they seem to be few and far between. This branch of diving is rightly spurned by mainstream scuba diving magazines and operators.

The sport I do is safe, fun, and non-competitive, characterised by a spirit of co-operation. The diving these wreck cowboys engage in is dangerous, motivated by the wrong things (collecting china so that you can one-up the other divers? I think not!) and characterised in many cases by a competitive spirit, aggression, and a LOT of machismo. There is no place for that kind of carelessness or for any element of competition in recreational scuba diving.

You can get the book here if you’re in South Africa, and here on Amazon.com. If you want to read it on your Kindle, go here. There’s tons more information on the subject on this website, including some pictures that show just how dark and murky it is down there.

(As an aside, there’s a Seinfeld episode called “The Andrea Doria”. The script can be read here.)

Out of air!

Out of air emergencies should not happen. Diving safely includes being sure that you have checked everything yourself, doing a buddy check and diving within your own personal limits. Always avoid making too many changes to your gear configuration and don’t test more than one new item at a time unless you are in shallow, confined water.

Most incidents are a culmination of several small mishaps and would most likely not have occurred had just one error being omitted. The other issue to be aware of is trusting your training and avoid thinking you know better. Here’s why…

I was diving in Mozambique, did a backward roll, and a negative entry (that’s when you don’t hang around on the surface with an inflated BCD, but start your descent immediately). Now, doing negative entries is not ideal, but the surface current was strong, we were diving a small reef and I wanted to get down quickly. So after the roll I finned down head first as fast as I could, without a buddy… Mistakes number one and two.

At 18 meters I found breathing to be difficult. Having just over-exerted myself I stopped to catch my breath but found as I reached the end of my breath my regulator stopped giving me air. Slow breaths were okay but it would not deliver what I needed. I instinctively looked at my pressure gauge, plenty of air in the cylinder but the needle dropped off as I took a deep breath.

“AHA my cylinder is not all the way open,” I thought so I reached up to try and check. It felt open, but convinced I was not doing it properly I took my kit off, held it in front of me and checked. The cylinder was all the way open, and now suddenly I was not getting air at all. I swam to the surface, slowing at about 8 metres to grab a few breaths from a buddy pair descending slowly.

On the surface I signaled the boat and whilst remaining in the water had the top man change my regulators – mistake number three. Straight back down to 18 metres I went, breathing normally and as soon as I turned face down to scan the sea for the group I ran out of air again. Back to the surface as fast as possible! A CESA from 18 metres is relatively difficult once you are stressed and short of breath from over exertion.

On the second descent logic was telling me the problem had to be my cylinder, but arguing with myself I dismissed this as I had serviced my cylinder less than three months prior to this and felt it could not possibly be at fault.

Back in camp I stripped my pillar valve and found it to be blocked with rust and sand. How could this be?

After investigating it turns out the cylinder was dropped from a vehicle a few weeks before this by the compressor operator. The pillar valve was damaged, so they drained it in a hurry, causing condensation, dropped it again in the sand, rinsed it with the water used for cooling cylinders whilst filling (salty water), emptied the water out, replaced the pillar valve with a used one, without a snorkel (a small pipe that runs from the bottom of the pillar valve into the cylinder). I got it back full of air unaware of the incident. The salty water inside rusted the cylinder, the absence of a snorkel meant that every time I was pointed head down the scales inside slowly drifted into the pillar valve until it was totally blocked.

It is not unusual for a little spot of rust to develop in a cylinder. It’s not ideal but it won’t kill you. However a snorkel ensures the pillar valve is supplied with clean air and the scales are kept out – in my situation in Mozambique, the scales would have settled around the top of the snorkel where it attaches to the pillar valve, instead of blocking the valve completely. The other end of the snorkel would have been a bit further into the cylinder, drawing clean air. When I took my cylinders to Orca Industries recently for their annual maintenance, I was very impressed that they insisted on checking each one for snorkels, and fitting them if they were absent.