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    Submitted by: David R.E. Ramael

    The Holistic Hogarthian Approach to DivingH2

    The Holistic Hogarthian approach is an all-encompassing approach to diving, which incorporates a clean and streamlined gear configuration with a thorough understanding of diving physics and physiology, proper dive planning, and team execution. Furthermore, the Holistic Hogarthian diver makes sure he/she is in good physical and mental shape to execute the dives, whether it is a 30 ft reef dive or 300 ft wreck dive. H2 evolved from the Hogarthian gear configuration developed by numerous deep-exploration Florida cave divers, and which was distilled into a system by Bill “Hogarth” Main. His primary philosophy was “less is better,” if you don’t need it – don’t bring it. H2 opened this approach to all aspects of diving, not solely the gear configuration.

    The Hogarthian gear configuration

    At the center of the Hogarthian gear configuration is the back plate harness setup. This system is simple and rugged, yet extremely versatile. The aluminum or stainless steel plate is strung with 2inch nylon webbing, preferably a single piece of webbing or with a quick release.[1] A minimum of three D-rings is added: two shoulder D-rings and one hip D-ring at the diver’s left-hand side. A wing sandwiched between the tank and the back plate provides the buoyancy. For single tank diving, the 35 to 45# range is optimal, for doubles diving a 55-65# bladder is recommended. Anything more than a 65# bladder is considered overkill, and it will only enlarge the diver’s profile, thus creating more drag. The Hogarthian gear configuration also does not recommend the use of dual bladders, as it only adds more drag, is one more failure point in the setup and is absolutely unnecessary when using a balanced rig. The diver should be neutrally buoyant at 15ft with no gas in the wing when using a wet- or drysuit, but has the option of ditching enough weight at depth (whether it is a light canister or actual weights) to be able to swim up to the surface. This also implies that a diver never uses heavy steel tanks in combination with a wetsuit.
    The diver breathes a long-hose regulator, and donates the regulator from which he is breathing in case of an Out-Of-Gas emergency. The hose length can be as short as 40” for open water, but a seven-foot hose is recommended. The seven-foot hose goes straight down from the regulator’s first stage, across the diver’s chest, loops around the neck into the mouth. The backup regulator is worn in a bungee loop around the neck, and hangs directly underneath the diver’s chin. In case of an OOG, the donor always knows where his backup is, and just has to put it in his mouth, without having to unclip anything. At the same time, the OOG diver has a clear visual reference as to where his gas supply will be coming from (the exhaust bubbles!), and she/he also knows the regulator she/he is about to receive actually works. The pressure gauge, which is a simple gauge and not a bulky console, is clipped off to the left hip D-ring.


    Proper technique is one of the key elements in the H2 diver’s repertoire. The same basic technique gives her/him the enjoyment of cruising on a tropical reef dive, as it does on a deep cold-water wreck dive. Proper technique starts with proper posture: the H2 diver moves horizontally through the water, reducing his overall profile (hence better gas consumption) and facilitating the gas transfer ability of the lungs. Careful consideration is given to the use of proper finning techniques: the H2 diver strives for minimal impact on the dive site and for maximal thrust. This is accomplished by using the frog kick and a variety of modified kicks, all designed not to kick up any silt. Therefore the kicking motion is always directed back- and upward – never downwards. The last main component of proper technique concerns the mastery of buoyancy. Without proper buoyancy the H2 diver would be extremely inefficient. Good buoyancy technique minimizes the diver’s impact on the environment (no bumping into fragile coral), while it also enhances the joy and ease of diving. The H2diver also has impeccable equipment skills, such as donating the long hose in an OOG situation, and in more advanced settings, the proper use of dive reels and spools, efficient lift bag deployment, and effortless gas switching. All of these skills are honed through constant practice. It is not only important to develop the diving repertoire, but also to maintain it. The H2skill set should become second nature to the diver, in order to be able to react instantly to a possible emergency situation. Therefore, OOG drills, lift bag and reel deployment, etc., should be practiced on almost every single dive.

    Team diving

    The H2 diver is a team-oriented diver. This goes far beyond the usual buddy approach to diving, which boils down to diving “at the same time in the same ocean.” Keeping track of your team-members is one of the primary concerns of the H2 diver while in the water, but it also means that the dive is planned in advance based upon the lowest common denominator of the team-members, and that the team does not exceed the limitations set forth during the planning whilst diving. Pushing the limits of a single member of the team can lead to the breakdown of team integrity in the water, with possibly catastrophic results. This is not only valid for an advanced wreck penetration, but also for simpler recreational dives. Knowing the skills of each individual diver and of the team as a whole is of primary concern to the H2 diver. The team approach also includes proper post-dive evaluations, with the team analyzing every aspect of the dive planning and the execution. This briefing will enhance the in-water awareness and cooperation of the team-members, and will not only lead to more efficient dives, but also to much more enjoyable dives.

    Physics and Physiology

    A thorough theoretical understanding of concepts relating to diving physics and physiology is also of interest to the Holistic Hogarthian diver. This knowledge is not only informative, but also of practical importance. Knowing and understanding varying models on decompression theory will inform the H2 diver about how to plan dives correctly, to use the proper gasses for a dive, to properly use computers and dive tables, and to know when to call a dive. For diving in cold water, a theoretical knowledge of the body’s response to a cold environment will inform the diver to use proper insulation, to develop emergency scenarios and to incorporate these factors into the dive plan. There are a myriad of related fields worth investigating, and every single piece of information will make the H2 diver better informed and for that very reason a better diver.

    Physical Conditioning

    Physical conditioning is part of the H2 lifestyle. It improves not only diving skills but also overall health – and healthy people smile more often! Contrary to popular belief the most important workout for a diver is the aerobic workout. Most people think because diving is 1) not a very aerobic sport, and 2) since hauling tanks is an anaerobic activity that the most important workout for a diver is a weights routine.
    This does not imply that weight routines are not important for the diver. Weight lifting builds strength, which facilitates lifting the heavy scuba equipment, it strengthens the bone structure, which reduces the possibility of bone necrosis (something to worry about when you're doing long and deep exposures), and it builds lean muscle mass, which is far easier to off gas than fat tissue.

    However, the aerobic workout is more important for several reasons. First, it improves the overall physical conditioning, which lowers the heart rate at rest, thus improving overall gas consumption - hence, longer bottom times on a tank, or reduced gas consumption on a more strenuous dive. Secondly, being in better physical shape delays the onset of the panic response. The mind reacts emotionally to an increased heart rate by increasing physical activity. This becomes a loop system to the point where the diver will succumb to his efforts and become unresponsive. Third, physical conditioning increases lean muscle mass, which off-gasses inert gas much more easily. Also, it improves the gas exchange ability of the lungs, so the aerobic fit diver will be able to off-gas more inert gas with every single breath and send more O2 through the bloodstream than the unfit diver. And last, aerobic training increases the diameter of the blood vessels and increases the amount of pathways. This has two implications: bubbles formed in the bloodstream won't get lodged as easily because of the larger diameter, and if they do get lodged the blood has different pathways to bypass the blocked area, thus reducing the chance of clinical DCS.
    Therefore, aerobic training should be the primary concern of the H2 diver. The kind of workout isn't as important as the fact you do it, but a workout of a minimum of 30 minutes three times a week should be considered.

    The H2 Lifestyle

    The holistic approach to diving also extends into the day-to-day life of the H2 diver. The concepts of minimalist functionality, goal oriented teamwork and streamlining gear, mind and body are attributes beneficial to everyone. But most importantly, the Holistic Hogarthian diver approaches diving with an open but critical mind. The diving lifestyle becomes a quest for knowledge and improvement. This includes openness toward differing ways of gear configuration, diving theory, and diving practice. This does not imply an undiscerning approach to diving – the Hogarthian method was developed through years of trial and error, sometimes even through the loss of life – but the understanding that for certain environments different methods are preferential. Therefore the H2 diver has the moral obligation to familiarize and investigate her/himself with techniques such as side-mount diving, photography and videography, and the pros and cons of rebreather diving. This implies that the H2 diver is well versed in a multitude of diving languages, and that the diver approaches his/her own diving from the basic tenets of the Holistic Hogarthian philosophy: simplicity and functionality in a team-based environment.

    [1] Whereas the quick release offers the diver ease of donning and doffing the setup at the surface, it is considered a liability since it introduces a possible failure point in the webbing. One has to make the conscious decision to prefer the convenience of the quick release versus the inherent risk of breaking underwater.