Staff on board Department of Environment boats can now keep in close contact with their surfacing divers thanks to new donated radio equipment.
Gary Redfern of Cayman Solar Solutions donated two Nautilus Lifeline marine radios to the Department of Environment on Thursday.
Bradley Johnson, research officer with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, said the communication equipment will make a lot easier for those in the water and those on the boats.
“These will go with the divers to the grouper spawning sites. Most of the diving we do is in rough conditions – high winds and rough seas – and generally toward the end of the day. Around sunset is when most of our important data is collected, so we have to be in the water then. When you’re diving, you have that slow ascent and controlled ascent, so that means we have to be in the water close to night, close to darkness.
“With the currents, it can get hairy sometimes getting back to the boat so these are a great added safety feature,” Mr. Johnson said.
The radios will mean that a diver can contact the boat as soon as he or she surfaces. As well as being able to speak to those on the boat, the radio also enables the people on board to pinpoint the diver with GPS, and vice versa.
Tim Austin, deputy director of the Department of Environment, said the radios would have daily practical uses as well. “Simply using it to locate the boat or to just tell the boat you’re up, even if it’s not an emergency situation, these radios are very useful,” he said.
Unlike other devices that can send distress signals, this one enables divers to get an instant response and be able to speak with people who have received the distress call. Mr. Austin said this could help divers or other water sport enthusiasts who find themselves in trouble or stranded. “You get instant acknowledgement that your rescue is on the way … with other location devices, you see the light flashing and know the signal’s been sent, but you don’t know if it’s been received or if everyone’s gone home. At least with this one, you’d be reassured to know that at least someone’s got your signal and commented and that might help you relax enough not to make a stupid decision or try to swim to shore,” Mr. Austin said.
Mike Lever, inventor of The Lifeline, said Nautilus had put 13,000 of the radios in the hands of divers, boaters and other water sport enthusiasts over the last 13 months, since the product went to market.
“Every week, we receive stories of more divers who were able to call for help fast before their situation became a full blown emergency,” Mr. Lever said.
The Lifeline radio not only allows divers to communicate with their own dive boat, but also with other boats nearby, dive shops and emergency responders with a distress button.
Once the distress button is pressed, the unit broadcasts the diver’s position using digital selective calling to marine radios.
Mr. Redfern, who is the local distributor of the Nautilus Lifeline radios, said the casing remains waterproof to 425 feet, so it is suitable for most recreational and technical scuba divers. Because of its compact size and light weight, it can also be used by kite boarders, paddle boarders, Jet Skiers, kayakers and anyone else who participates in water sports.
On the surface, while using the radio, it is splash proof.
A fully charged battery will ensure 30 minutes of talk time and 24 hours of emergency distress transmissions.
Daniel Livingstone, marketing manager of the Nautilus Lifeline said: “Lifeline is pleased to be working with our distributor in the Cayman Islands, Cayman Solar Solutions Ltd, who has had great success with the Lifeline to date in getting them into many hands to increase safety in the marine industry. We are pleased to have been able to work with Cayman Solar in order to donate these Lifelines to the Department of Environment to monitor the grouper spawning in January as this is the one of the many uses of the Lifeline; to help ones doing technical diving in situations that might be dangerous such as deep, long dives and night dives.”
Mr. Redfern, who is an avid divers and former sea rescue volunteer, said: “It was an easy decision to donate the two units to the Department of Environment as the DoE is working hard to preserve the marine environment, plus night diving on the spawning aggregations is a perfect application of the Nautilus Lifeline unit.
“The Nautilus Lifeline is not just for ‘extreme’ diving; it will be equally useful during regular dives and activities, when you’re caught in a current, when the engine on your Jet Ski dies or where you get separated from your paddle or kite board.”
Local dive shops Divers Supply and Divers World have started stocking the radios, which sell for $299, and several dive operators are working through the logistics of being able to rent the radios to their customers.
Mr. Redfern is also meeting with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s Joint Marine Unit and the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands to introduce them to the equipment.