DIY SCUBA: Death On A Stick

Sorry guys, I’ve got to comment on this one.

[tylin] sent in this “DIY SCUBA” youtube video. These guys used a home shop air compressor with a particle filter so they could “SCUBA dive”. This kid is lucky he didn’t die.

I guarantee there were impurities in the compressed air. A major concern here is carbon monoxide, among others. That filter they used is designed to reduce particles, not scrub out CO, CO2, etc. Hemoglobin loves CO even more than dear old O2, so he could have asphixiated or suffered from convulsions despite having an air supply.

He’s lucky he didn’t blow his lungs out. The second he took a remotely full breath off that hose, he started to float up. If he happened to hold his breath it would have ruptured his lungs and caused all sorts of nasty problems.

He wasn’t wearing a weight belt – furthering the risk of floating up when he took a breath. (in my experience about 90% of people are positively buoyant)
4)Nobody was in the water watching his back. If he’d suffered any complications, no-one was there to make sure he didn’t drown. (Think convulsions, black out, etc)

Sorry for the rant – but this is just effing stupid. Don’t try this crap, ever. I’m an advanced open water diver myself – get training and real equipment.

Update: The video was removed after reading my response to it. I went ahead and puled the youtube link since it’s useless.

61 thoughts on “DIY SCUBA: Death On A Stick

  1. CO is not a problem – everyone living in urban regions is breathing CO, smokers even more. The CO content of the air results in a few percent of unusable hemoglobine.

    Compressing the air does not increase the CO content.

    Nevertheless, this is a stupid thing to do.


    1. you people are all very opinionated and over critical. Just giving this a quick overview the person was called an idiot more than 5 times. That is uncalled for. express your thoughts in a more respectful way.

      I am an open water diver as of recently. Years ago i attempted a similar method to retrieve an anchor in 15 feet of water. I used a couple weights and winged it. Bottom line is swimming pools can be 15 feet and anyone competent in equalizing can swim to 15 feet with or without air.

      completely agree on the filtration of air but the body can absorb quite a lot of poisons and impurities. I second the comment on smoking. Its not the best idea but its not going to kill you.

      Having the proper equipment i’d never do that again but you guys need to calm down and show some respect for another human being who is entitled to be an individual and make choices.

      1. Holding your breath and diving down and coming back up is fine as your lungs compress with the pressure, but diving down and then and taking breath, expanding your lungs to normal, then coming up will kill you as your lung over-expand. Did they not show that with the balloon in the open water class? I know of an instance of that happening where I live, it is not something to dismiss. It sounds like a trivial action but there is a great danger that most people do not realize.

  2. don’t hack or improvise anything that’s supposed to keep you alive

    unless of course, it’s a life or death situation and improvisation is needed in order to stay alive. =)

  3. Well I didn’t see the video since it has been removed but the objections here are slightly crazy. Its not like your average shop compressor just runs the exhaust of a gas motor into a tank. Typically a gas or electric motor drives a piston compressor by a belt. So in theory the air would be as clean as your ambient environment. That said most air compressors use oil so they last and generally function and seal better. Most of these oils are toxic to breathe and can combust to some extent in the compressor but in reality all that is required is to use an oil less compressor and a system to mediate pressure. For DIY an improvised diving bell like the old school brass helmets would be perfect. If you are starting from scratch a full face motorcycle helmet should be easy to convert. Easy to strap on. Easy to seal the top and east to line the bottom edge with weight. Now don’t think I am giving any guarantee but with a oil less compressor, filter, hose, bell and weights it should be possible. Test Test Test and have others on hand for emergency but its definitely plausible.

  4. hmmmmm….
    I wonder what WOULD happen if they hacked a pacemaker to pump to the pacman theme song….
    Of course they’d die…

    I agree,
    Also I was thinking about the tank exploding maybe upon filling it? Nitrogen and oxygen have diffrent compositions than Regular air, you know, heavier, lighter, possibly causing a tank rupture…

    However, I don’t know anything about diving…

  5. Well done for “condemning” this video. Hacker culture depends on education to temper the adventuring spirit.

    In fairness to the kid, what he did is not a million miles from what the original underwater pioneers were up to. But then, many of them died. I took my open water certificate in 2004 and before then I had no idea there were SO MANY ways to die by scuba. I hope this kid is inspired to save up and learn the right way to unlock the amazing world down there.

    I don’t know if you heard of the underwater gnome gardens in the English Lakes:…

  6. a reminder that despite the cool stuff that comes up here everyday, most diy projects on the internet have the potential to see you killed. just becuase you can build something doesn’t mean you understand it. if it says compressed air, 300v or nitrosomething-or-other, think about whether you realy have the skills you need, and moveover think about whether the author does.

  7. They do make filters that take more than just the large particulates out of the air, production painters sometimes use hoods equipped with them.

    still, as you say there are too many things to go wrong. sufficient but not excessive pressure, mix of gases (i don’t know about ramifications of using atmospheric air rather than an engineered mix), reliability of the system (what if the compressor seizes?)

    up near my area a guy tried to use a garden hose as a long snorkel. he stays in a box a good long way from the lake he drowned himself in.

    a full suit option might be feasible, though…, …i’m just sayin’…

  8. I agree – dumb move but I’d like to add that even the compressed air in a SCUBA tank has CO2. Pure O2 is toxic at depth and standard SCUBA compressed gas is in the same mix as the air your breathe at the surface. Mixed gas and Enriched Air diving does modify the mixture and has very specific rules with regard to the depth at which you can dive and the length of time you can breathe the mix.

  9. The user who posted the video must have not liked the responses he got from posting it. Maybe next time he should strap on some helium tanks from party central and try to dive. I mean, thats just as dumb.

  10. As a commercial diver, I make the following comment: The set up for diving was flawed but only along simple terms. A home shop compressor is often used in “Snuba” which is using surface support air for diving as recreation (off of a float) or commercially. There are specific rules that must be applied before using such a contraption. These kids did not understand those rules. Therefore, what they did was quite dangerous. But the underlying technology, if properly modified, is safe and reasonable to use. The proper modifications take experience and know how, and learning how to make those modifications from an experienced and knowledgable instructor is fun. I encourage anyone who wishes to use such a contraption to take a course in Scuba from a PADI or NAUI instructor and from that point obtain the information on where you might approach a commerical diver or commercial diving instructor who can teach those modifications to you.


  11. why get annoyed by this when the laws of natural selection can provide you with extremely entertaining video. If others think this is viable… let them try it also. The world is grossly overpopulated and you can’t legislate common sense. Soon enough… idiotic videos will drop to a rarity.

  12. It’s true that many hacks we see detailed every day can be quite dangerous. Thankfully, however, most of them document the danger and feature concerns that people are generally highly aware of, such as high voltage and sharp blades.

    The problem with the shop compressor diving is that many of the dangers are hidden, and basic safety steps only really known to those who undertake such activities professionally (ie, with a club and proper training). The fact that, if I recall correctly, some compressors can introduce carbon monoxide (in particular those that run off engines rather than electricity) is not widely understood to be dangerous, similarly with the risk to lung damage. The lack of a buddy is something that non-divers would probably not realise the foolishness of, however it is vital to safe diving.

    My main problem with the concept of the mysterious video is that it will encourage similar dangerous attempts by not having minimised the risks and explained how to avoid danger. We do not publicise electricity hacks involving live mains current and people, as someone out there will try it and get hurt. We have to be ethical at least when it comes to safety.

    My folks have recently taken up scuba diving, and it surprises me to learn of the number of famous locations were experienced divers still regularly take stupid risks and lose their lives because of them.

    I fully support the pulling of the video, thank you for explaining why.

  13. Funny story. I like watches and technology (see my url), and I bought a watch powered by a 10-year pacemaker battery. I figured it would be a hard battery to replace, but there’s a store near me that specializes in exotic batteries (they built lots of lithium battery packs for journalists in the first Iraq war). Anyway, I asked them if I could get a replacement pacemaker battery… and the guy’s eyes lit up: “OH NO, WE WON’T DO MEDICAL DEVICES”… like he thought I was going to attempt a DIY pacemaker battery replacement!

  14. The issue with the isn’t that he’s breathing in co it’s the percentages of the gases that will kill him (even if he survived breathing it!!!) When you breath in compressed gas the levels of all the gases are delivered to you at higher levels than normal. Therefore if the percentages of the gases in the tank are not at the right levels then you can either die from too much o2 or you will get the bends from too much co2 and die either way.

  15. I will come at this from a slightly different perspective than the rest of you lot… I’ve no problem with suicidal machismo–I rather approve, in fact–but the perils to life should devise from insane disregard for, rather than ignorance of, the hazards.

    So as long as these blokes were well-researched on all the dangers and did it anyway, I say congratulations. If they were simply ignorant (which admittedly seems to be the case)… well, I’ll join in on the on the “what idiots” mantra.

  16. Building underwater breathing apparatus is fully within the reach of the hobbyist, provided you have a solid understanding of the physics involved. My grandfather designed and built his own air compressors from scratch for diving. My father and grandfather have taken thousands of novices underwater without a single pressure related incident (sometimes people get bitten by fish or scrape themselves on rocks, etc).

    This kid is just an idiot without any idea of the dangers involved.

  17. While I agree that natural selection based on stupidity is inevitable, there are a few problems with your argument.

    If someone had gotten hurt it would have been almost inevitable that some stupid regulation that had annoying side effects would have been inacted.

    Furthermore, everyone telling the world how stupid this was helps to dissuade those who have a brain and just aren’t using it from trying this.

    Too many people just think of how cool something is and don’t consider what could go wrong.(Don’t tell me you’ve never done it ;)

  18. Well, it’s Darwin’s theory of evolution, the stupid or weak ones weed themselves out. Personally, this is one of the most idiotic things I’ve ever seen. This almost beats out looking down the barrel of a muzzle loader after it failed to fire.

  19. ok. im a Rescue Dive and i have something to say, wouldnt the pressure of the water at depth force the air to not go down the tube. (I havenot seen the vid so i dont know how far down they went) also on your My Scuba Gear page might i make a few suggestions.
    1. try the Z2 regs there quiet cheap and very good i have taken them down to 150ft and they work great. ALso your regs are still good but out of date.
    2. Although i have not every bought any dive eaquepment of Ebay I wouldnt. DAN dosnt cover any problems, be they life threating, if your gear is second hand and the warenty on the eaquepment is void.
    3.just from my exp. you should cary some zap straps in you save a dive kit.
    4. buying ANY dive gear of Ebay or any other website is not a good idea, if you want gear go to your local dive shop, if they dont have the things you want in stock ask them to order it.

  20. OIL OIL OIL! OIL is the danger when using the wrong compressor technology. Most compressors use oil to lubricate moving parts and this oil gets passed into the air you breathe as a mist. If you breath the oil mist deep into your lungs, then that causes big-time problems! Dive shops will use a special oil-less technology compressor so you don’t breath nasty crap. humm.. unless if you inhale a fish while diving…that would be inhaling nasty carp…

  21. Hey , just thought id ad my 2 bits. See i live in Costa Rica ( Central america) and diveing whith a compresor is not stupid its just not the best way to do it … i know thins becuse this is how all over they local fisherman’s earn there livings, i am only describing the proper use of a compressor which of course implies proper maintenance and equipment ( such as weights and a regulator and of course someone up top to maintain the pressure at a decent level anywhere from 80 to 110 out of about a 1/3 inch hose ) poor mans way of diving yes … but not stupid

  22. This blog entry’s alarmist tone is not what I’d expect from a site covering hacking exclusively. Additionally, you went the extra mile and convinced the poster to remove the link. Way to foster experimentation and exploration in whatever community you’re part of.

    I guess it’s back to some iphone hype and wii controller mods, those should be safe for us to be fed.

  23. Well, Considering this can and will get you killed really easily, I’d think that it’s best to learn that we shouldn’t do this. I have already learned quite a bit about diving, and the physics of it within this post and all of these comments.

  24. Jan, I’ve got to tell you that while you are right about the concentration of CO2 not changing, the amount of air that you breathe increases as you descend on a dive. This causes a greater exposure to co. And before I hear anyone say “well you are getting a greater percentage of o2, so the fact that you are getting a ton of co doesn’t matter!”, you should think about saying that more like “Well you are getting a greater percentage of o2, so the fact that you are getting a ton of POISON doesn’t matter!”. Fact is that eventually (and not slowly either) your body cannot support itself after enough of your hemoglobins are unable to release the carbon-monoxide and unable to attach to o2. Talk about a bad way to go. Death by asphyxiation when there’s oxygen aplenty all around you… bleh.

  25. Um why? I did scuba diving with a device exactly like that but was gasoline powered back in the 70’s and 80’s It was sold by evinrude and provided air to two divers while floating on the surface. The evinrude aquanaut was incredibly cool and made it easy to dive for most people that cant stand regulators. it had a constant wind of air in your face wheil running and you had 50 feet of hose.

    the ONLY was they would “die” would be from oil contamination. if you filter that out or use a compressor that does not need oil ( reed and bellows type compressor) that would work perfectly and not kill you.

  26. It’s pretty interesting the number of people who are expressing dismay at this hack being singled out for admonishment. Very interesting is the correlation between these people and the obvious lack of understanding of the physics of the hack.

    Partial pressures. Hemoglobin affinity. They’re not hard concepts, especially when boiled down to the facts that you need for diving.

    I dive professionally. In my community, we loose people to stupid accidents with some frequency. I’ve reviewed more accident reports than I care to think about. A big chunk of them are due to something simple or stupid that is overlooked, or preventable. These are with purpose-built rigs, and typically a full set of safety protocols in place.

    Testing a rig without even the benefit of another person in the water, with a purpose built, tested rig, is stupid beyond comprehension. It shows a lack of consideration and research regarding the activity.

    Seriously, think about it. If you saw some video of a guy playing around with 5 farad caps, licking them to make sure they were discharged, you’d be screaming about it. It’s only a matter of time until the guy blows his tongue off, and simple luck that it hasn’t happened yet.

    I’ve been a troll on this site for over a year. I’ve got a dozen little hack/bashed projects downstairs, mostly thanks to inspiration from this site. I’m really happy to see that the mods for the site do have the balls to draw the line somewhere, and recoginize a dangerous hack when they see it.

  27. Lol @ overproof.

    I agree, Darwinian law states that our natural population will eventually balance itself out by fatefully forcing people will kill themselves (usually in a very humerous manner).

    Let ’em get on with it, I say, and laugh at them when they do.

  28. Why bother posting a link at all only to rant about how stupid it is ?
    And if safety is a factor, the next time someone adds a gauss gun to his robot should that be censored too ?

    (..and for statistics purposes, this is from another AOW diver who doesn’t care what people do in their spare time as long as they are too far away to cause me any harm..)

  29. The reason to rant about it is because these idiotic activities can impact our chosen past-times.

    By and large, I’ve been impressed with the attention to safety that I’ve seen in this community. Most of the people that post their creations, do so with an eye to safety and with the understanding that they have no control over who is going to be reading their write-up. Sure, I’ve got a coil gun downstairs that punches through metal. I regularly engage in pretty hazardous activities. I do all of this AFTER examining the dangers involved, and learning how to mitigate those hazards.

  30. it’s amazing how much attention a stupid stunt can get though, this is probably the most commented on story recently put on hackaday, and it’s only about two days old.

  31. I can’t agree more with the “rant.” Scuba diving requires accurate, reliable, safe equipment. The simple act of jurry-rigging a positive pressure air delivery system in a closed environment violates all three stipulations from the get-go.
    To be quite frank, this person should be dead. His breathing “equipment” probably raised the concentration of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to dangerous levels. Whenever you increase ambient pressure you increase the amount of gas which can be solved. The human body can only filter out so much of these gasses, after which catastrophic organ failure occurs.
    The skeptics and uninformed may see this as a demonstration of ingenuity, the knowledgeable understand that this fool is asking for death. NEVER EVER LET SOMEONE DO SOMETHING THIS STUPID, ever. Do not ever make your own positive pressure breathing system unless you want to die one of the most painful deaths possible.

  32. Gee thanx “Offisah Will, Sah”: Thx for keeping da rest o’ us dummies from viewing da video.u is mi hero we all’s luv u for uh, keeping us from frett’n our li’l heads off! u is di only one that could possibly straighten things out.After all u bin at dis diving biznis foh long taim now and like my “big brother” u will protect us from/despite our child-like, ignorant selves. [“…Update: The video was removed after reading my response to it. I went ahead and puled the youtube link since it’s useless.”]sic. TIRANT!

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