Virginia Mason

Date Reviewed:April, 2001
Location:Smack downtown Seattle
Access:Shore dive
Site Description:Stark metal chamber
Main Attraction:Getting fed

Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, this is one of the easiest dives you can every do. It is the only 60 fsw dive in the Seattle area that does not require much of any thermal protection (or scuba gear, for that matter!). One of the unique characteristics of this dive is that you can actually eat and talk at depth. Also, by getting to breath pure oxygen (EAN100?), there is not much chance of narcosis (although, that may be a minus in this case). However, despite these unique benefits, this dive really sucks. Vis is never more than 8 feet, unless you look out one of the tiny little ports. There is not much marine life at this site, unless you order fish and chips or sushi while in the chamber. Also, although I like maximizing bottom times, 6 hours does seem a bit excessive. All this can be yours for +$5000, unless your insurance company is willing to pick it up.

Seriously, I recently had the "opportunity" to go on a chamber ride. I went diving with my brother one morning at Sunrise (awesome dive!) and went bowling that night. I threw 11 games and my thumb was a little numb the next morning, which is not unusually. However, the numbness did not go away over the next few days. I called DAN (of which I am a member) and they sent me to Virginia Mason for evaluation. Because the doctor at Virginia Mason could not rule out DCS, they sent me on a Level 6 (60 fsw for two hours, 30 fsw for 4 hours) ride. As it turns out, the ride did not effect my symptoms at all, so DCS was eliminated as a potential cause.

Many thanks to DAN and the staff at Virginia Mason. The staff at Virginia Mason is truly awesome - they are friendly, informative, and fun. Many thanks to Laura for enduring the six hour ride with me in the chamber that day and helping make the time pass fairly quickly (I hope you get to go see those Manatees someday!).

Some observations/facts on diving in a chamber:

  1. Under pressure, your voice sounds very different - quite a bit higher. Laura stated that she sounds like a cartoon character at deeper depths.
  2. I did not note anything usual (positive or negative) when breathing 100% oxygen.
  3. I had a black eye from playing volleyball two days prior. Breathing oxygen under pressure for hours has a very positive effect on healing my eye. It healed up very fast after the ride.
  4. The "big" chamber (there are two of them, linked together) was build around 1970 and was used for experimentation with animals (yikes!). They would take a pig to depth on oxygen, replace it's blood with saline, and the animal would continue to live while under pressure. After the experiment, the staff would either have bacon and eggs or BTLs.
  5. This is the only medical re-compression chamber in Seattle.
  6. If you ever have any symptoms of DCS - do not wait. The sooner it is treated, the better the chance of recovery.
  7. Bowling is apparently more dangerous than diving.

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