This week in Lembeh we have had many divers using Enriched Air (Nitrox) throughout their stay. This always causes discussion between those diving ‘only’ on air. Why should you use Nitrox?
Here we will discuss the added benefits of using this enriched air instead of standard air we all learn using. Enriched Air (EAN/Nitrox) is a different blend of the 2 most common gases in our atmosphere. The air we breathe is composed of roughly 21% Oxygen and 79% Nitrogen and as such this is what we are breathing when we are scuba diving. As we all know, you can’t stay down deep forever and this is primarily due to the effect nitrogen has on the body. It is the level of nitrogen in your body which determines how much no stop/deco time you have on each dive. Nitrogen is an inert gas that our body has no use for. this means that on the surface we breathe in and out, inhaling and exhaling this excess nitrogen and it causes no problems. However, breathing this gas at depth can cause issues as we absorb it into our body tissues. If you have decompression sickness, in layman’s terms it is because you have absorbed too much nitrogen and didn’t release it before ascending. We know we can help avoid these problems by never pushing or overstaying our limits, by making safety stops and ascending slowly. There is one other influence we can have on this and that is by diving with Nitrox.
Nitrox diving is generally based at a level reffered to as Nitrox 32%. What this means is that instead of the usual balance of air at 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen, the air is enriched with oxygen and is actually 32% oxygen and only 68% nitrogen. This increase in oxygen and subsequent decrease in nitrogen has some huge effects on our bodies and therefore our dive. The biggest difference, and the one most people use nitrox for, is that their no stop/deco times have been extended and they can stay deeper for longer. The less nitrogen we have in the air we breathe, the less nitrogen our body tissues are absorbing and therefore the longer we can stay at any given depth. This is particularly emphasised on repetitive dives with nitrox giving you much more generous repetitive dive times with shorter surface intervals. The difference is amplified over multiple days diving and as such makes your no fly time a bit safer as well. In fact, many divers choose nitrox on their final day to give them a better no fly time.
Another benefit of using nitrox is the health benefits. Often, people who have suffered from decompression sickness in the past still want to dive. To do this safely then they can only dive using enriched air. These health benefits are also seen by all other divers too. While not scientifically proven, those who dive on nitrox say they don’t suffer from as much fatigue after diving, have more energy in the evenings and avoid headaches that other divers may get after repetitive dives. It is not hard to imagine using nitrox is the cause of this more energetic feeling as your body is getting more oxygen than it usually gets.
A third benefit of using enriched air is very common in Lembeh and that is due to the amount of photographers we have. Many serious photographers don’t want to ascend until they get the shot they want and a lot of them have to leave their subject before they run out of deco time. While diving on nitrox might not improve your photography skills, it certainly gives you that extra bit of time to get the money shot!
While there are many benefits of using enriched air there is one that some people seem to believe. Using nitrox WILL NOT extend your dive time. Changing the gas in your tank has no affect on how long you an make your tank of air last. If on average you make a 45 minute dive, changing to nitrox does not extend this to 60 minutes. It only extends your deco time, not your bottom time!
Overall, being an enriched air diver has many benefits and is available for all your dives with us in Lembeh. If you are not certified to dve with nitrox then our resident instructors can help you become a PADI Enriched Air Diver. Contact us for details!