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Benefits of diving with Nitrox

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Diving with nitrox has advantages in general. For all divers of course, but also as an underwater photographer you have advantages. A number of them are really a good side effect for extensive shooting at depth. 

Let me first give you a rundown of the benefits of nitrox in general. Below that list you can read what we, as underwater image makers can benefit from and here and there I help dispel a myth. 

Nitrox is a combination of the words Nitrogen and Oxygen. In this blog I will not go into the substantive side of Nitrox. You need training/specialty to dive with Nitrox. If you want to dive with Nitrox you can ask your diving instructor. Don't have an instructor yet and are you looking for one? Then look at www.noordan.nl when you live in the Netherlands or www.padi.com

It is a short course that you can do without diving. Most of it is theory with a little bit of practice. You don't have to get into the water. 

The advantages below are advantages when you compare the dives on Nitrox with the same dives with regular compressed air. 

Benefits of diving with Nitrox

MAIN BENEFITS OF DIVING WITH NITROX FOR PHOTOGRAPHY

Longer Dive Time

In other words, no decompression limit. 
No decompression limit (NDL) is the time you can dive at depth without being required to decompress. The length of your no-stop time is determined by the amount of nitrogen you absorb. By breathing Nitrox instead of compressed air, you absorb less nitrogen in the same time and you can stay at that depth for longer. 

Mythe: 
“With Nitrox I can dive longer.” Unfortunately. It's not that easy.
If you exhale your tank of compressed air in a certain amount of time, your tank of nitrox will deflate just as quickly at the same depth. You still inhale and exhale the same volume of gas. So you can dive longer at depth, because with nitrox it takes longer before you reach your decompression limit. The amount/volume of gas in your bottle remains the same, so you no longer have air, only your decompression limit changes.

Useful for underwater photography because:
You can stay longer at a certain depth. An example: During a dive in Sweden we came across this sea ferry at 30 meters. I would have liked to have stayed there a little longer to try out some more photo techniques.
Helaas liepen we al snel tegen onze nultijd aan en moesten we naar boven.

Comparison 

Compressed air (21% oxygen)

Depth 30 meter

No deco limit - 20 minutes

Nitrox EANx32
(32% oxygen) 

Depth 30 meter

No deco limit - 30 minutes

With EANx32 I would therefore have 10 minutes extra at depth. Ten minutes of extra photography time underwater. As a “topside photographer” you don't think ten minutes is much, but as a diver you know that every minute underwater is precious.

In this example, I'm not mentioning Nitrox EONx36 (36% oxygen) at all. Because with 36% oxygen I would not have come across these soaps at 30 meters. With this oxygen mixture you can only dive to 28 meters. 

Benefits of diving with Nitrox

Less nitrogen load with Nitrox

The oxygen/nitrogen ratio between ordinary compressed air and nitrox is different. If you dive with compressed air, you have a ratio of 21/79 oxygen/nitrogen. 
If you dive with EANx32, you have a ratio of 32/68 oxygen/nitrogen. 

As you can see, with an oxygen mixture of 32% (EANx32) you breathe in 68% nitrogen, instead of 79%. So your body has to process 11% less nitrogen, because you breathe in less nitrogen. 

Unless! You dive towards your no-deco limit.
You inhale less nitrogen due to a different percentage of oxygen. But if you do this for a longer period of time, the saturation is the same. Although your body takes longer to absorb the nitrogen, in the end just as much as with a higher percentage of nitrogen in a shorter time. 

For shooting this does not matter that much. It's just nice if you make several dives in a row, your body has to process less nitrogen. 
You may feel less fatigued, stay sharp longer, and be more focused when shooting underwater.

CONS OF NITROX

A disadvantage of diving with Nitrox: 

Depending on the percentage of oxygen with which you dive, you are also bound to a maximum depth. An example: 

You dive with 32% nitrox. (EANx32) Your maximum depth is 34 meters. 

If you dive with 36% (EANx36), your maximum depth is 29 meters. 

You cannot dive deeper than that given depth. If you do, you run the risk of CNS: oxygen poisoning of the central nervous system. (Central Nerve System)  

So is diving with Nitrox dangerous?

All in perspective. Scuba diving is not necessarily a dangerous sport. Underwater photography is not necessarily dangerous. Similarly, diving with Nitrox is not necessarily dangerous. There are risks attached to all branches of underwater sports. With the right training and the right mindset, diving is not dangerous. Diving with Nitrox is also not dangerous with the right training and mentality.

FINAL CONCLUSION, DIVING WITH NITROX 

As long as you don't do very deep dives or need a lot of time at depth for an extensive photo session, you will be fine with normal compressed air. But…. the benefits are there for a reason. So for long dives, deep dives, many dives (over a longer period of time) or intensive dives you can certainly take advantage of enriched air! 

I find it very nice to have energy left after diving and to feel fitter. And then put on the diving suit again and dive underwater with my underwater camera!

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