Diving is dangerous. We know that, so we get training to ensure we have the right skills, we carry alternate air sources, dive with a buddy, and so on to improve safety. For a while now we’ve been testing and selling the Nautilus Lifeline device, though I think it’s time to let everyone know exactly what these little guys can do.
Put simply, the Nautilus Lifeline (NL) is a small, affordable (AU$345 inc GST) marine VHF DSC radio in an underwater housing that is depth rated to 130m. You can use it to talk to a dive boat, your buddy who has another NL, organised shore based support, or any of the emergency maritime services that exist in Australia (e.g. Marine Resuce NSW). In addition to voice communications, the NL is equipped with a GPS and distress beacon system known as Digital Selective Calling (DSC). If activated, a DSC distress call with communicate your real-time coordinates to rescue services or a dive boat up to 12nm.
Now the obvious usage for the NL is when diving off boats. The ability to contact the boat in the event you are lost is unquestionably a life saver. What’s not obvious however is that the NL offers a significant layer of safety for shore based diving. Let’s consider the following shore dive scenarios:
- Sites with Current – whether you’re doing a planned drift dive, or diving at slack water when the current is not present, it’s quite possible to get unexpectedly caught in a current. If you can’t make it back to shore, you’re going to be in trouble. Using the NL, you can talk to your buddy, organised surface support or marine rescue services.
- Lost Buddy – we don’t like to admit it, but lost buddy scenarios are quite common in the limited visibility conditions that we can find ourselves in. Waiting on the surface for your buddy, and bobbing up and down in the windy chop is just not a good recipe for fun. If your buddy is carrying an NL, you can talk directly to them and reunite.
- In water emergency – we hope it never happens, but in the event of an in water emergency the NL by far the quickest way to get emergency services on site. From the surface you can initiate a DSC distress call and talk directly to marine rescue directly. The time saved by not having to get back to shore can be life-saving.
Now it’s not all roses, well at least not here in Australia. Unlike much of the world, Australia has a requirement that operators of VHF radios hold a Marine Radio Operators VHF Certificate of Proficiency (or equivalent). Now whether you need one of these to gain the benefits of the NL, particularly in an emergency situation, is debatable. Damien Siviero, who some of you will know has posted on his blog about the MMSI specifics of the NL and how to get the distress button to work. The VHF course is run by Marine Rescue NSW (amongst others) and is a worthwhile activity for anyone interested (cost with certification is approx. $150; we are also inquiring about group classes).
For me the Nautilus Lifeline is a no brainer. They are small, low cost and can be taken on any dive with ease. The benefits they offer for boat diving are indisputable, though shore divers in the ocean are arguably a group with more to benefit given the support, or lack of that they have.