Perfect Buoyancy and the Elusive Bubble

By: Marc Tsagaris, CIEE Advanced Scuba Instructor and Facilities Manager

CIEE Research Station Bonaire’s AAUS scientific diving program strives to provide students with the skills required to safely and efficiently collect underwater data, while having minimal impact on the ecosystem. One way we achieve this is by teaching perfect buoyancy (read the “Underwater Relay Race” post from last month about our buoyancy field skills test).

Most scuba divers were only taught to establish neutral buoyancy using the BCD (buoyancy control device aka scuba vest) and proper weighting. The tools we teach are: BCD use and placement, proper weighting, trim weighting and how to move the position of the bubble within the BCD.

Imagine the diver as a pilot with his plane being the BCD. To make the plane fly level and straight, he must load it properly, moving both the weight and the lift to change the angle. When we talk about lift we are talking about the placement of the bubble within the BCD. When loading an airplane the pilot must ensure that the plane is evenly weighted for proper flight. Too much luggage towards one side of the plane and plane flies at an angle. The trick is to move the bubble around within the BCD in order to change the position of the lift. This change in lift point allows a diver to change their positioning in the water column to a head down, head up sideways and everything in between position.

Here at CIEE a research diver must master the use of the “elusive bubble” in order to work with the added weight of the measuring tools and cameras used to collect data. Possessing the ability to orient oneself in the perfect position to do our work is absolutely essential.

CIEE’s scientific dive program takes divers to a much higher level, creating AAUS scientific divers with the skill set to work safely underwater with minimal if any impact to our reefs.


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