We often get asked by our customers why we do not use an onboard compressor. This is a valid question. Our divers often watch us move all the used tanks across several other boats. So, logistically it would make sense to fill them onboard. It would also make life a lot easier for our boat boys and us instructors and divemasters.

There are two fundamental reasons to this decision.

1. Noise Pollution on Coral Reefs

Because water is much denser than air, sound travels much more efficiently through it. In fact it travels about 4 times as fast and can also cover much greater distances. In a sense water acts as an amplifier for sound. Natural sounds on a reef are actually needed. Smaller fish feeding make a distinct sound, which guides and attracts larger predators into the area. General reef sounds help all types of species find their way back to the reef. Many fish species communicate with each other using their bladders, teeth and fins. These are relatively quiet pops, knocks, chirps and grunts as described in this article.

Furthermore, an international research team has discovered that coral larvae use natural reef sounds to navigate to a save place to settle. These are tiny animals and this process has been filmed. You can see it in the video below.

An increase in anthropogenic noise in our ocean dramatically reduces the effectiveness for marine animals to communicate and navigate, which can lead to permanent behavioural changes. This is an effect similar to feeding fish, which changes fish behaviour. Instead of feeding on algae that grows over coral, they get used to feeding on the surface. Algae growth can then get out of hand and suffocate corals, which can lead to total destruction of a reef. So anthropogenic noise can be just as damaging to our reefs.

This rise in the volume of sound within the oceans is harmful to many marine animals. Not only do increases in noise reduce the distances over which animals can communicate, but it can also cause them to change their behaviour. There is little research done on this topic still. Some research teams concluding that the type of noise and even the type of engine can make a difference.

So while boat engines are also much louder and anthropogenic, they are more sporadic. A compressor is a constant loud noise that even divers can feel underwater. The constant nature of compressor noise can literally drown out all communication attempts by marine organisms. Research shows that anthropogenic noise can even damage fish by bursting ears and cause organ failure.

To sustain our coral reefs we therefore believe it better to reduce noise as much as possible.

2. Pure Air Certification

In order to obtain a pure air certification, a dive operation has to have the right equipment, professionally trained staff and a compressing process that allows for best possible results. Not just anyone should connect a tank to a compressor and fill it. Furthermore, our two Bauer compressors are huge and there is no room for such equipment on dive boats. They operate with a multi stage filtering and air purification process so advanced that even NASA use Bauer compressors to compress breathing gases for astronauts.

Onboard compressors are cruder filtration systems. Running these compressors on the water exposes the cylinders and compressor to far salt corrosion. It is not the best solution to store tanks and compressors on a boat.

Breathing pure air on dives has to do with safety for the diver and it is not something we take lightly.

3ish.. It’s a work out!

Moving the tanks across the boats or up the beach is quite a work out for all of us staff and it keeps us in great shape and being efficient together makes us bond even more as a team!

So often our lovely divers want to help out and as much as we would like your help, insurance just won’t cover you if something happens. This is why you can simply relax on the sun deck to the soothing sounds of tanks clanking..

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Why We Do Not Use An Onboard Compressor

In Conclusion

So there you have it. These are the primary reasons as to why we do not use an onboard compressor at Sairee Cottage Diving. Even if we tire out some days from lugging 120 tanks across 7 boats at the pier, it feels good knowing that we are protecting the reef and our divers. We always recommend that you look for the pure air certification no matter where your diving adventure takes you.

About the Author

Lionel quit his job in 2013 and bought a one way ticket to Asia. The plan was to travel for 3 months, then find work and live in London as an expat. On my travels I fell in love with diving and I am currently a Scuba Diving Instructor on a tiny island in Thailand. Occasionally I share parts of my story on my travel blog over at two green backpacks.

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