Advances and Limitations in Manned Undersea Activity

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Advances and Limitations in Manned Undersea Activity

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Title: Advances and Limitations in Manned Undersea Activity
Author: Lambertsen, CJ
Abstract: Clearly there is no working circumstance involving a more severe composite of physiological stresses than is encountered in modern diving. The Olympic athlete functions to physical exhaustion, but in an ideal and harmless environment. The astronaut is essentially unstressed, week after week, regardless of distance from earth, protected by engineering from most hazards or even need for severe exertion. The mountaineer suffers the cold and extreme hypoxia of Everest, but after weeks of progressive adaptation prior to attempting his final ascent. Even the whale ~s not exposed to the full severities of human diving. It does not have to ventilate its lungs with dense gases, it has no narcotic, hyperoxic, decompression, temperature or strenuous exercise stress. While its exposures to hypoxia and pressure are severe, they are acute and the requirement for detailed performance is limited. For the human diver each of many forces or effects increases with the greater pressures of deep diving, and some also increase with duration of exposure. Of all these examples he is the only one who becomes "physiologically" trapped by the high pressure environment and unable to leave it at will. It still requires longer to decompress from saturation exposure to a helium pressure of 1000 feet of sea water than to return to earth from a landing on the moon.Clearly it also must be recognized that, in the face of these stresses, physiological limits of many forms do exist for diving. They exist at all depths, from the shallowest to deep diving. Some limits can be overcome or postponed by modification of the diving method. Some can be eliminated by engineering. Some can be masked. Most persist and re-emerge with the increasing pressures and durations of deep diving. Investigation and prediction of these limits require awareness of what diving actually is. Diving is not simply passive exposure to breath holding in a chamber, and it is not simply breathing or breath holding underwater. The activity of diving is a linked composite of subconscious physiologic mechanisms which support the consciously purposeful functions of vision, judgement, communication, physical work, and discrete manipulation which are the intended purposes of diving. Therefore prediction of limitations must be concerned not only with the absence of pain or convulsions but also with the quality of thought and the capacity for useful physical action. The nature and degree of performance disruption can vary with decrement in any combination of sensory, mental, psychomotor and physical processes. The disruptions can be of any degree, extending from undetectable to full physical incapacitation, to mental dullness and unconsciousness.[Editor's note: Introduction of document]
Description: The items forming the Rubicon Research Repository Christian J. Lambertsen collection are generously donated by the Lambertsen Family. All items in this collection are released through Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + ShareAlike (BY-NC-SA) licenses in an attempt to encourage the use of these works to further scientific understanding of physiology.
URI: http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/10747
Date: 1982

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