The prototype of the “L’Air de la Mer” hoseless regulator, showing its patented triple bamboo oxygen separator units. (photo courtesy Marina DeLow)
In what is believed to be a scuba industry first, three Blacktip Island divemasters announced Thursday they have developed a working prototype of a hoseless regulator.
The device works by separating seawater’s oxygen atoms from the larger hydrogen atoms and salt molecules to create a constant supply of breathable air, the regulator’s creators said, and allowing its users to dive without the need of a scuba cylinder.
“A hoseless reg’s been an ongoing joke for years,” said divemaster Marina DeLow, one of the creators. “Then one night after the Ballyhoo closed, the physics of how to make it work just popped.
“We spent the next couple weeks working out the mechanics and building a working model,” DeLow said. “We used old second-stage regs, bamboo tubing and refrigerator water filters, mostly. It’s pretty technical.”
The team has tentatively dubbed the device the “L’Air de la Mer.”
“The Cousteau suits are all up in our business over the name,” co-creator Finn Kiick said. “But that’ll sort itself out. If not, well, you can’t buy advertising like that.”
Though the current prototype is limited in scope, its designers say they plan to produce freshwater versions, Nitrox versions, and a version suitable for technical diving.
“It’s rough looking, but it works,” said Gage Hoase, the team’s third member. “For now the L’AM’ll only convert water into pure O2, so we can’t go below 20 feet. But we got plans to rig one with an oxystat that’ll let you dial in whatever O2 percentage you need.
“On deeper tech dives you’ll be able to crank the O2 down as you descend, then turn it back up as you decompress,” Hoase said. “No more being weighed down with doubles and side mounts and pony bottles.”
The device is not without its skeptics.
“A bunch of drunk scuba bums cooked up The Holy Grail of scuba after a night at the bar, then got rat-faced again while they built the gizmo?” said local scuba enthusiast Barry Bottoms. “That’s not a breakthrough. That’s an accident waiting to happen.
“They say they have a specialty course in the works, too,” Bottoms said. “What’re they gonna call it, ‘Dumb-Ass Diver?’ ‘Dead Diver?’”
Local entrepreneurs, though, are eager to back the project.
“Assuming the L’AM tests to specs, we’re gonna handle the manufacturing and marketing,” said Piers ‘Doc’ Plank, owner of the island-based organic scuba outfitter Bamboo You. “Making this out of locally-sourced, renewable bamboo’ll be boon for the economy, too.
“This’ll be a top of the line reg, and eco-friendly, what with the bamboo O2 filters. This thing could sell better than our Nitrox snorkels.”