Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Review: Peatos Crunchy Curls Fiery Hot

We discovered these alongside the Classic Cheese flavor of PeaTos, promising a hotter version of the badly named, pea-based cheese snack (or so it seemed), much as Cheetos has a Flamin' Hot version. ...

from Taquitos.net Snack Reviews
by August 31, 2021 at 09:49AM

Monday, August 23, 2021

Review: Take Out Meal in-a-bag Puffs White Chedda

I do eat a lot of cheese puffs, sometimes with a meal, sometimes as a snack, but I have never really thought about whether cheese puffs could constitute a meal on their own. ...

from Taquitos.net Snack Reviews
by August 23, 2021 at 10:32AM

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Review: Cheetos Crispy Chicken

This snack was a whole lot like the Spicy version of the same product, not shaped like any other kinds of Cheetos and not even made from corn. ...

from Taquitos.net Snack Reviews
by August 17, 2021 at 01:52PM

Review: Lay's 3D's Bugles Sabor Bacon y Queso

This snack from Spain was a weird one from a Frito-Lay branding standpoint, as it clearly had the Lay's logo on the bag, but the snack inside wasn't potato chips, nor was it even made from potatoes. ...

from Taquitos.net Snack Reviews
by August 17, 2021 at 12:15PM

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Can Humans Breathe Liquid Like in The Abyss?

At the end of James Cameron’s 1989 underwater thriller The Abyss, oil rig diver Bud Brigman, played by Ed Harris, dons an experimental diving suit in which instead of air he breathes a special oxygenated liquid. This allows him to avoid the lethal effects of extreme water pressure and descend to the bottom of a deep ocean trench to defuse a nuclear warhead. While certainly a memorable plot device, surely such a technology is pure science fiction, right?

Well, not as much as you might think. The breathing fluid depicted in the film, oxygenated perfluorocarbon, actually exists, and while scenes with the diving suit were filmed with Ed Harris holding his breath, an earlier scene in which a rat is immersed in breathing fluid was filmed for real. While The Abyss is certainly the most famous depiction of liquid breathing, the technology has been experimented with for over a century, and while it might not be quite ready for use in deep-sea diving, it may have lifesaving applications in the field of medicine.

The first experiments with liquid breathing were conducted shortly after the First World War, when doctors began investigating the use of oxygenated saline solutions to help heal the lungs of soldiers damaged by poison gas. But it was not until the height of the Cold War in the late 1950s that research truly began in earnest, as the US Navy sought ways of allowing sailors to escape a sinking submarine without suffering from decompression sickness.

Decompression sickness, also known as The Bends, is a condition that results from breathing air at pressure. As a diver descends and the water pressure increases, more and more Nitrogen from the air becomes dissolved in their tissues. If they then ascend too rapidly to the surface, the sudden drop in pressure causes this Nitrogen to come out of solution, forming tiny bubbles that can cause severe joint pain, air embolisms, strokes, and death. Consequently, divers must ascend slowly and make frequent decompression stops to allow Nitrogen to be gradually released from the body. But if instead of air a diver or escaping submariner could breathe an oxygenated liquid, then the pressure inside and outside the lung would be equal, preventing Nitrogen buildup and the need to decompress. Liquid breathing would also help reduce or eliminate other hazards of deep diving, including Nitrogen Narcosis or “Rapture of the deep”, an alcohol-like intoxication caused by breathing Nitrogen under pressure. Oxygen itself also becomes dangerous below a certain depth, a phenomenon known as oxygen toxicity. To avoid these effects, divers use various breathing gas mixtures such as Heliox or Trimix which dilute the Oxygen and Nitrogen with Helium. But even this only works up to a point, as below around 160 metres breathing Helium induces severe tremors and other neurological effects known as High Pressure Nervous Syndrome. As a result, the deepest any diver breathing pressurized gas has been able to descend is 701 metres – and even then only in a land-based diving chamber.

In 1962 a team lead by Dr. Johannes Klystra at Duke University succeeded in getting mice and other small animals to breathe an oxygenated saline solution pressurized to 160 atmospheres – the high pressure being necessary to dissolve sufficient oxygen in the fluid. But while respiration was sustained in this manner for around an hour, the animals died soon after of respiratory acidosis – AKA carbon dioxide poisoning. This revealed one of the major shortcomings of liquid breathing which has plagued researchers ever since: while breathing fluid can easily deliver sufficient oxygen to the body, it is far less efficient at removing exhaled carbon dioxide. In order to prevent acidosis, the average human would have to move 5 litres per minute of breathing fluid through their lungs while resting and 10 litres per minute to perform any sort of physical activity – a flow rate human lungs are not capable of sustaining for any length of time. Any practical fluid breathing system would thus have to actively pump fluid in and out of the lungs, like the mechanical ventilators used in hospitals.

In 1966 American researchers Leland Clark and Frank Gollan made a breakthrough in liquid breathing research by replacing Klystra’s oxygenated saline with an exotic liquid called perfluorocarbon or PFC. First developed as part of the Manhattan Project during the Second World War, PFC is a colourless liquid composed of the elements carbon and fluorine. The bond between these two elements is among the strongest in nature, making PFC unreactive and biologically inert. It has twice the density of water but a quarter the viscosity and can hold nearly 20 times as much oxygen and carbon dioxide as water – properties which make it ideal as a breathing fluid. Clark and Gollan’s early experiments involved simply immersing rats and mice in oxygenated PFC and allowing them to breathe naturally. While the high density of the fluid made breathing difficult, the animals were able to survive fully immersed for up to 20 hours without any ill effects. Larger animals required the use of forced ventilation to prevent carbon dioxide buildup, but experiments on anaesthetized dogs further demonstrated the viability of PFC as a breathing fluid.

Clark and Gollan’s work on PFC was soon taken up by Klystra, who between 1969 and 1975 conducted one of the most comprehensive studies on liquid breathing in history, using both animals and humans as test subjects. In the course of this research, US Navy diver Francis J. Falejcyk became the first human to breathe both oxygenated saline and PFC. Despite receiving no medication except for local anaesthesia to facilitate intubation, Falejcyk did not find the experience overly uncomfortable, though they encountered difficulty draining the fluid from his lungs and he developed pneumonia as a result. In 1971 Falejcyk delivered a lecture on his experiences which was attended by a then 17-year-old James Cameron, inspiring him to write a short story that would eventually become the screenplay for The Abyss. Klystra’s research concluded that a human could breathe PFC for up to an hour without suffering carbon dioxide poisoning provided they didn’t overly exert themselves, making liquid breathing a viable method for escaping a sinking submarine. For more physical applications, Klystra also experimented with emulsions of PFC and Sodium Hydroxide which could more readily absorb carbon dioxide from the bloodstream. Ultimately, however, none of these techniques ever saw practical use in real world scenarios. The Navy SEALs reportedly experimented with liquid breathing in the early 1980s, but found breathing PFC so strenuous that several divers suffered rib sprains and fractures from the effort during testing exercises.

One proposed solution to the acidosis problem is to fit divers with a venous shunt device that scrubs carbon dioxide directly from the bloodstream. Unfortunately, the medical and logistical issues inherent in such a device are fairly obvious, and liquid breathing still has a long way to go before it becomes a viable technique for deep-sea diving. It may, however, have an important role to play in medicine, especially in the care of premature infants.

Our lungs contain around a half a billion alveoli, tiny sacs of tissue through which oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream. To prevent these from collapsing in on themselves like a wet paper bag, the body produces a substance called pulmonary surfactant, a mixture of lipids which reduces the surface tension of water and allows the alveoli to remain open. Premature babies, however, are incapable of producing sufficient amounts of surfactant, and as soon as they are born most of their alveoli collapse, making it difficult for them to breathe. While traditional mechanical ventilators have been used for decades to help premature infants breathe, the high pressures produced by these machines can severely damage their delicate lungs. But by flooding the lungs with breathing fluid, liquid ventilation recreates the conditions found in the womb and allows the alveoli to open up, greatly increasing gas exchange. The technique also provides a convenient means of administering medication directly to the lungs.

Neonatal liquid ventilation was first pioneered by J.S. Greenspan at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, who in 1989 placed 13 premature infants on liquid ventilators for between 24 and 96 hours. All were successfully weaned back to breathing air, and of the 13 these 11 showed marked improvement in lung function, though six later died of causes unrelated to the experiment. A similar study conducted by R.B. Hirschl in 1995 on 19 adult, paediatric, and neonatal patients similarly confirmed the viability of liquid ventilation, with 11 of the 19 patients surviving with improved lung function.

However, the equipment required to carry out full liquid ventilation was found to be overly complex and expensive, so in 1991 B.P. Fulman developed a simpler technique known as partial liquid ventilation, or PLV. In PLV, the lungs are only partially filled with breathing fluid, the rest being supplied with air via a regular mechanical ventilator. This allows the breathing fluid to open up around 40% of the lung’s alveoli while allowing for more efficient removal of carbon dioxide. Another proposed technique involves administering breathing fluid as an aerosol mixed with air or oxygen, which produces similar results while being far more comfortable for patients than breathing straight fluid. And in 1995 Mike Darwin and Steven Harris demonstrated the application of liquid breathing to the induction of therapeutic hypothermia. This refers to the cooling of the human body following cardiac arrest to slow the onset of brain and other tissue damage. By perfusing the lungs with chilled PFC, Darwin and Harris achieved a cooling rate of 0.5 degrees Celsius per minute – faster than any existing technique. As a result of these and other breakthroughs, the FDA has granted liquid perfusion “fast-track” development status in order to bring this potentially lifesaving technology to patients as quickly as possible.

So while James Cameron won’t be able to reach the Marianas Trench without a fancy submarine for some time to come, he can at least take comfort in the fact that the technology which so inspired him as a teenager may one day save millions of lives.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Expand for References

Liquid Breathing – Medical Uses, https://web.archive.org/web/20100415002959/http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Liquid_breathing_-_Medical_uses/id/1580110

The Current Status of Liquid Ventilation, RT Magazine, February 7, 2007, https://rtmagazine.com/disorders-diseases/critical-care/ards/the-current-status-of-liquid-ventilation/

Tarantola, Andrew, Can Humans Breathe Liquid? Gizmodo, August 27, 2013, https://gizmodo.com/can-humans-breathe-liquid-1156138301

Pomeroy, Ross, Can Humans Breather Liquid? Real Clear Science, https://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2019/08/15/can_humans_breathe_liquid.html

Klystra, Johannes, The Feasibility of Liquid Breathing in Man, Office of Naval Research, October 1975 https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a037089.pdf

Tawfic, Qutaiba and Kausalya, Rajini, Liquid Ventilation, US National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3191624/#r2

Taylor, Jerome, Into the Abyss: The Diving Suit That Turns Men Into Fish, The Independent, November 20, 2010, https://ift.tt/3aggnm6

The post Can Humans Breathe Liquid Like in The Abyss? appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Gilles Messier - August 13, 2021 at 11:52PM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

The Steampunk Flight Simulator That Helped Win WWII

Flight simulators are often an integral part of pilot training, allowing trainees to log hundreds of flying hours and experience in as many emergency scenarios as possible without ever leaving the safety of the ground. But while modern simulators with their advanced computerized displays and motion-simulating hydraulics may seem like a relatively recent development, the idea of replicating the experience of flight on the ground is nearly as old as manned flight itself, with the first mass-produced simulator, the Link Trainer, appearing in the early 1930s.

The brainchild of American aviator and inventor Edwin Link, the Link Trainer was a remarkably sophisticated device for its time, and was produced and used in the tens of thousands by flying schools, airlines, and air forces around the globe. The Link taught an entire generation of pilots to fly, and was one of the forgotten secret weapons that allowed the Allies to attain air superiority and victory in the Second World War.

Edwin Albert Link, Jr. was born on July 26, 1904 in Huntington, Indiana, to Edwin A. Link Sr. and Katherine Martin. In 1910 the family moved to Binghamton, New York State when Edwin Sr. bought the bankrupt Binghamton Automatic Music Company, a manufacturer of pipe organs and player pianos. Renamed the Link Piano and Organ Company, under the senior Link’s management the company flourished, its products selling well in New York and Pennsylvania and even as far as California, competing on equal terms with the more famous Wurlitzer company.

In 1918 the family separated, Katherine moving to Chicago to resume her singing career. Not wanting her youngest son to grow up in the city, she sent Edwin to live with his aunt in Rockford, Illinois. Here Edwin acquired his lifelong passion for aviation, reportedly after witnessing a troupe of barnstormers fly into town. A common sight in rural America in the interwar years, barnstormers were nomadic pilots – many of them First World War veterans – who flew from town to town putting on displays of stunt flying and offering aeroplane rides or even flying lessons to the local townsfolk. But while young Edwin was enthralled by their feats of aerial derring-do, his Father was less than supportive of his new obsession, and pressured him to attend college like his older brother George. But Edwin was firmly drawn to the practical and the mechanical, and instead enrolled in vocational training at Rockford Training High School and then Los Angeles Polytechnic High School. It was in Los Angeles that Edwin took his first flying lessons, at a small field run by none other than Sidney Chaplin, brother of legendary movie star Charlie Chaplin. Right from the start, Edwin was less than impressed by the standard training procedure of the time:

“For the better part of that hour we did loops and spins and buzzed everything in sight. Thank heaven I didn’t get sick, but when we got down, I hadn’t touched the controls at all. I thought, ‘That’s a hell of a way to teach someone to fly.’ But I made a date for the next week anyway.”

 “I had two more lessons with Sidney, and they were pretty much like the first one. He did let me put my hands and feet on the controls during the maneuvers so that I could feel what he was doing. I didn’t learn too much, however, I found out later that most of the old-time aviators, like Chaplin, started teaching their students by scaring them half to death.”

For Edwin, this was a painfully inefficient way of learning to fly – and an expensive one too, with each lesson typically costing between $25-50 ($300-$600 today). It would be nearly six years before he sat behind the controls of an aeroplane again.

At the insistence of his Father and older brother, Edwin enrolled at the Lindley Institute military school in Pennsylvania, but while he enjoyed the military life he found academic classwork dull and soon dropped out, working briefly for the Western Electric Company before landing a job at his Father’s factory. Over the next four years he travelled widely on behalf of the Link Company, installing and repairing organs and player pianos in churches, theatres, and music halls across the country.

During this time he also filed his first patent – a small vacuum for cleaning out the air holes in organs and pianos – and befriended a group of barnstormers headed by WWI ace Richard “Dick” Bennett. In 1926, he finally achieved his dream of flight when fellow pilot Alfred Stanley allowed him to solo in his aircraft.

Upon hearing of his son’s achievement Edwin Sr., rather than be impressed and offering to pay for more flying lessons, was instead furious and fired his son on the spot. Thankfully, Edwin Jr. had an ally in George Thayer, the factory superintendent, who, recognizing the younger Link’s mechanical talents, threatened to resign if little Edwin wasn’t hired back. But by this time Edwin Jr.’s heart was firmly set on aviation, and in 1928 he borrowed money from his mother to buy his first aircraft, a brand-new Cessna Model AA.

While ubiquitous today in the world of aviation, in 1928 the Cessna Aircraft Company of Wichita, Kansas had only just been incorporated, and Edwin Link Jr.’s aircraft was the very first to be delivered. Using this aircraft Link went into business flying ferry and charter flights and formed his own professional barnstorming troupe. Unlike most of his contemporaries, who drank heavily and boasted loudly of their flying abilities and wartime exploits, Link and his crew maintained a sober, professional image, Link later stating: “I wanted to promote aviation, not kill it.”

Around this time Link’s thoughts returned to the problem of teaching pilots to fly in a safe and affordable manner. He had heard of a system used by the French during the war whereby pilot trainees were introduced to the controls and basic handling of an aircraft by taxing around on the ground. Known as the “penguin system”, the technique dramatically cut down on training time by allowing students to master the basics without the stress and distraction of actual flight. Edwin began to wonder whether a device could be built to simulate the basics of flight while keeping the pilot safely on the ground. While primitive simulators like the Sanders Teacher and the Eardly-Billing Oscillator had appeared within a few years of the Wright Brothers’ epoch-making 1903 flight, none had been commercially successful, and in any case what Link had in mind was far more sophisticated.

Working out of the basement of his Father’s factory, Link spent a year building and perfecting his flight simulator, which he dubbed the “Pilot Maker.”  The device consisted of a small plywood fuselage with stubby wings and a tail containing a cockpit with a full set of controls and instruments. Drawing on Link’s intimate knowledge of organs and player pianos, the Pilot Maker was driven by vacuum pressure and used a system of valves, bellows, and pneumatic motors to make the fuselage climb, dive, roll, and spin just like the real thing. Link immediately proved the device’s effectiveness by teaching his brother George to solo after only six hours in the simulator and 42 minutes in an actual aircraft. On April 14, 1929, Link filed a patent for the Pilot Maker and established a workshop and flight school in the factory basement to build more simulators and use them to train prospective pilots. The revolutionary training course promised to teach students to fly after only 35 hours in the simulator and 2 in an actual aircraft – all for the remarkably low price of $85 (about $1300 today).

While the flying school was reasonably successful, with 100 students soloing in its first year of operation, Link found the Pilot Maker itself considerably harder to sell. Though he had hoped that the Army Air Force and the Navy would jump at such a useful training device, at first the only buyers were county fairs and amusement parks, who, as the November 1930 issue of Science and Invention explained, saw the Pilot Maker as little more than a more sophisticated mechanical hobbyhorse: “The device is the centre of attraction at the Mayfair Miniature Golf Course in Los Angeles, California, where it was first installed. Such devices would make a valuable adjunct to the multitude of miniature golf courses that now dot the country.”

Though disappointed, Link bowed to market pressure and began manufacturing Pilot Makers specifically for the amusement park crowd, with a built-in coin slot and a scoring dial that removed points every time the rider deviated from a level flight path. But soon slow sales were the least of Link’s problems, as the worsening Great Depression killed demand for organs and player pianos and forced the Link factory to close its doors. Over the next four years Link took on various jobs in order to stay afloat, including aircraft maintenance, stunt flying and parachuting, and even founding one of New York States’ first local airlines. Among his most successful schemes involved wiring lights to the bottom of an aircraft’s wings to create a giant illuminated flying billboard.

But in 1934, a major government scandal would finally give Link the opportunity he’d been waiting for, and prove the Pilot Maker’s true value to the world.

In 1920, after several years of experimental flights, the United States Post Office Department established the first regular transcontinental air mail service. At first the work was contracted out to private companies, but this arrangement soon became mired in scandal. As compensation was based on carrying capacity and not actual mail volume carried, those with stock in the air mail companies began mailing each other lead weights and other heavy objects to pump up revenues. In February 1934, fed up with allegations of corruption and price fixing, the Government withdrew the contracts and awarded them to the Army Air Corps, which, being a government department could be more tightly controlled. However, keeping a regular delivery schedule meant flying at night and in inclement weather, and the Army Air Corps had so little experience with flying on instruments that a dozen pilots were killed in accidents in the first 5 months of service alone. On February 10, Edwin Link received a call from the Army Air Corps asking for him to demonstrate the Pilot Maker at Newark airport the next day. The weather the following morning was grey and foggy, and as the hours ticked past the Army delegates assembled in the airport hangar began to realize that Link wasn’t coming. But then, a lone aeroplane suddenly burst from the fog and made a perfect landing on the runway, and from it stepped Edwin Link. Without even having seen the Pilot Maker in action, the delegates concluded that anyone who could make such a landing must know something about flying on instruments, and soon thereafter the Army Air Corps placed an order for six trainers at a cost of $3400 (about $66,000 today) each. The Link Company was back in business.

Over the next four years Link would sell hundreds more Pilot Makers – now known simply as Link Trainers – to the Army Air Corps and the Navy, as well as dozens of private airlines and flight schools. In 1935 Link secured his first international sale to Okura & Company of Japan, and was invited to travel to Japan to supervise their installation. The trip that was strongly supported by the US Government, who wanted Link to report back on Japan’s military capabilities. Link arrived in Japan only to discover one of his simulators disassembled and laid out to be photographed. Unable to do anything about it, he nonetheless carried on with the rest of the visit despite knowing that his design would be copied and he would likely never sell another unit to Japan.

During the early part of the Second World War, as the United States tried desperately to remain neutral, Link would sell simulators to many other countries who would soon become enemies, including Germany and Italy. By the time America entered the war in 1941, the Link Trainer was being used by the air forces of some 35 countries.

At this point the ANT-18, the standard Link Trainer used during the Second World War, was not merely a glorified amusement park ride but rather a sophisticated device for teaching instrument flying. In addition to being able to climb, dive, roll, and spin like an actual aircraft, the Link had a full set of instruments that behaved exactly as they would during flight. Amazingly, just like the Link Trainer’s movement, much of this simulation was accomplished not with electronics but rather pneumatics. For example, pushing the control column forward or back would let air in and out of a metal tank behind the instrument panel. The pressure inside the tank would be read by a pair of modified pressure gauges, which would give simulated values for altitude, airspeed, climb rate, and engine speed. Other instruments, like the artificial horizon and gyrocompass, worked exactly as they would in a regular aircraft, while others were slightly modified to work without the g-forces encountered in actual flight. The trainer even featured a cam-powered pneumatic system for simulating turbulence, as well as a mechanism that would throw the student into a spin if they stalled in uncoordinated flight. And to force the student to use his instruments, the Link Trainer was fitted with a hinged hood that could be lowered to cut off visibility of the outside world. The effect of all this was so realistic that one Navy trainee, finding himself in a particularly rough simulation, reportedly threw open the hood and attempted to bail out, only to break his ankle as he fell to the floor three feet below.

A short distance away from the Link Trainer sat the instructor, seated at a specially-designed desk that allowed him to monitor the progress of the student’s simulated flight. In addition to a duplicate instrument panel that displayed what the student saw in his cockpit, the desk also featured a small wheeled device called a “crab”, which rolled along in synch with the student’s movements and traced out his flight path in ink on a map. The instructor could also communicate with the student using an intercom system and simulate airport beacons, blind landing systems, and other radio signals using a specialized transmitter.

In any event, the increasing need for combat aircrew caused production to skyrocket, and Link established a new factory in Gananoque, Canada, to keep up with demand. The factory produced nearly 5000 Link Trainers over the course of the war, and at its peak one Link rolled off the assembly line every 45 minutes. The devices were widely used by the US Army Air Corps, US Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, where they played a pivotal role in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, a massive undertaking wherein nearly 170,000 British Commonwealth and Empire aircrew – nearly a third of all who served – were sent to Canada to be trained. In total, more than a million Allied pilots were trained in the “blue box,” the importance of which in securing Allied air superiority was such that after the war RCAF Air Marshall Robert Leckie would declare: “The Luftwaffe met its Waterloo on all the training fields of the free world where there was a battery of Link Trainers”.

 After the war, the Link Aviation Devices would go from strength to strength, developing ever more sophisticated flight simulators including those used to train the Apollo astronauts to land on the moon. And they are still around today, having been acquired in 2000 by L-3 Communications and renamed L-3 Link Simulation and Training.

As for Edwin Link, in addition to developing simulators he also became a pioneer in deep-sea diving, developing some of the earliest ocean exploration submersibles and becoming the first diver to breathe a mixture of helium and oxygen underwater – a practice that is commonplace today. He died in Binghamton, New York on September 7, 1981 at the age of 77, his creations having taught nearly three generations of pilots how to fly.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Expand for References

Kelly, Lloyd, The Pilot Maker, Grosset & Dunlap, NY, 1970

The Link Trainer, Aeroplane Maintenance and Operation Series, Volume 8, George Newnes Ltd, London

Taylor, John and Jim, A Link to Victory, Vintage Wings of Canada, http://www.vintagewings.ca/VintageNews/Stories/tabid/116/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/129/A-Link-to-Victory.aspx

Lipsner, Benjamin, Airmail: a Brief History, https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/airmail.pdf

The post The Steampunk Flight Simulator That Helped Win WWII appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Gilles Messier - August 13, 2021 at 11:42PM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

The Most Gruesome Death: the Byford Dolphin Accident

Imagine working 100 metres beneath the sea, a hostile place that sunlight never reaches and where temperatures can plunge to a few degrees above freezing. All your off hours are spent in a tiny, cramped metal tube, breathing a mixture of gases that makes it hard for you to speak and constantly saps heat from your body, giving you a permanent chill. Here you can eat a meal delivered through a tiny hatch or catch a few hours of sleep before your next shift begins and it’s time once again to plunge back into the abyss. Now imagine living like this for months at a time, unable to escape your little sealed world without facing a certain and gruesome death. Welcome to the strange twilight world of saturation diving, one of the most dangerous – and well-paid – jobs in the world.

Developed as part of the U.S. Navy’s Sealab Program in the mid-1960s, saturation diving is a technique that allows humans to live and work at extreme depths for extended periods of time. Specifically, it is designed to overcome the danger of decompression sickness, better known as the Bends. As a diver breathes pressurized air at depth, Nitrogen gradually becomes dissolved in their body. If they then ascend to the surface too quickly, the drop in pressure can cause this Nitrogen to come out of solution and form tiny bubbles, which can cause crippling joint pain, strokes, paralysis, and even death. To avoid this, divers must ascend to the surface slowly, taking decompression stops at regular intervals to allow the Nitrogen to be slowly and safely expelled from their bodies.

However, for long, deep dives like those required in the offshore oil industry, this technique becomes infeasible as divers would have to spend far more time decompressing than working during each shift. For example, a dive of more than an hour below 100 metres depth would require more than 50 hours of decompression. Instead, in saturation diving the divers spend their entire working shift under pressure, spending their off-hours in a diving chamber pressurized to their working depth and travelling to and from the job site in a pressurized diving bell known as a transfer capsule. This practice is based on the fact that after a certain amount of time a diver’s body becomes fully saturated with Nitrogen and cannot absorb any more, meaning that no matter how long they stay below, the required decompression time remains the same. Thus, rather than making multiple dives and decompressions, saturation divers only decompress once at the end of their shift, greatly reducing the risk of decompression sickness. The downside is that this single decompression can take up to two weeks to complete. There are also other hazards, including Nitrogen narcosis, a disorienting euphoria caused by breathing Nitrogen at pressure which divers describe as being similar to alcohol intoxication. Oxygen also becomes toxic below around 80 metres, so saturation divers must breathe trimix, a gas mixture in which much of the oxygen is replaced with Helium. This comes with its own problems. Not only does Helium alter the human voice, forcing divers to wear electronic descramblers in order to be understood, but it also has poor thermal properties, wicking away body heat and leaving divers perpetually chilled. Breathing Helium at depths below 300 metres can also produce severe neurological effects known as High-Pressure Nervous Syndrome.

But the greatest danger in saturation diving is the high-pressure environment itself, as a group of four British and Norwegian divers discovered in 1983 in a gruesome event known as the Byford Dolphin accident.

Byford Dolphin was a semi-submersible offshore oil rig built by Aker Engineering of Oslo in 1974. Weighing 3000 tons and manned by a crew of 100, it was capable of drilling in waters up to 460 meters in depth. To allow construction and maintenance of the wellhead at these depths, the rig was equipped with a sophisticated Saturation Diving system built by French firm COMEX. On November 5, 1983, the rig was drilling in the Frigg Gas Field in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. At 4AM, British divers Edwin Coward and Roy Lucas were resting in the dive chamber while Norwegian divers Bjorn Bergersen and Truls Hellevik were returning from their shift in the transfer capsule. The capsule was hoisted from the water and docked to the dive chamber by diving tenders William Crammond and Martin Saunders, allowing Bergerson and Hellevik to climb through a short trunk to join Coward and Lucas.The normal procedure was for the divers to first seal off the trunk and isolate the chamber so the tenders could depressurize the capsule and detach it from the airlock. But before Hellevik could close the chamber hatch, William Crammond released the clamp securing the capsule to the trunk.

The results were immediately and horrific. The capsule violently decompressed and blasted away from the trunk, killing Crammond and severely injuring Saunders, while inside the chamber the pressure dropped instantaneously from 9 atmospheres to one in an instant. Hellevik, crouching in the trunk, was blown apart, scattering body parts across the rig deck. One observer described finding his liver “complete as if dissected out of the body,” while part of his spine was found 10 meters above the chamber on the rig derrick. The other divers in the chamber fared little better. Autopsies of Coward, Lucas, and Berergsen revealed lumps of white fat clogging their arteries and veins – proteins which had cooked and precipitated as their blood flash-boiled. Mercifully, all four divers are believed to have died instantly and painlessly.

A subsequent investigation concluded that the accident was caused by human error. As William Crammond was killed in the incident, it is not known why he released the clamp before the chamber hatch was closed; investigators surmised that a combination of fatigue and deck noise may have lead to a fatal miscommunication. However, another key factor was the saturation diving system itself, which, despite recommendations from Norwegian oil and gas regulator DNV, had not been fitted with any interlocks, pressure gauges, or other safety features to prevent the diving chamber from being disconnected while pressurized. This fault in the equipment was not mentioned in the official accident report, and as such the families of the divers killed received no financial compensation. Believing the investigation to be a cover-up, the families formed the North Sea Divers Alliance, which finally succeeded in suing the Norwegian Government and obtaining a settlement in 2008 – 25 years after the accident.

The Byford Dolphin rig is still in operation, currently on contract with British Petroleum, and saturation diving continues to be widely used in the offshore oil industry, consistently ranking among the most dangerous but well-paid jobs in the world – with many divers receiving up to $1400USD per day. While safety measures and accident rates have improved significantly since 1983, the Byford Dolphin incident stands as a stark reminder of the dangers that always come with living and working in extreme environments.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Expand for References

Giertsen, JC et al, An Explosive Decompression Accident, American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, June 1988

Banbury, Jen, The Weird, Dangerous, Isolated Life of the Saturation Diver, Atlas Obscura, May 9, 2018, https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/what-is-a-saturation-diver

Hellwarth, Ben, Sealab: America’s Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor, Simon & Schuster, 2012

Norwegian Government Finally Pays Out for 1983 Byford Dolphin Diver Death, cDiver.net October 20, 2009, https://ift.tt/2Uhj1UN

Wingen, Tom, Pioneer Divers in the Norwegian Sector of the North Sea, https://web.archive.org/web/20100103101013/http://www.pioneerdivers.org/index.php?/en/

The post The Most Gruesome Death: the Byford Dolphin Accident appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Gilles Messier - August 13, 2021 at 11:01PM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

Friday, August 13, 2021

Review: Pea Crackers Medicinal Ribs Stew Flavor

These helical-shaped, pea-based snacks had a similar orange color to the many other flavors of Pea Crackers, but the promise of "Medicinal Ribs Stew" had our snackers expecting something weird (and some were nearly unwilling to try them). ...

from Taquitos.net Snack Reviews
by August 13, 2021 at 07:46AM