Looking For Mr. Wheezy And Re-Examining History

Sometime ago, on a 3-day trip involving seamounts and off-shore diving, I thought  I'd try out one of my friend Franko's old 2-hose regulators (any of them still holding its own in the "cool" factor).

I hadn’t used one of these rigs in countless years.

So, for this big experience and hit from the past, I thought I'd go for the real deal--the state of the art of 1960s diving, the U.S. Divers Mistral--single stage, unbalanced, no pressure gauge, and no attempts at user friendliness. But, it was shiny chrome with bright yellow hoses. There was nothing closer to the Cousteau experience.

It was beautiful!

After multiple days of breath hold diving and breathing gas mixtures other than air, I felt I could risk it all, clamp this reg on the basic old steel "72" with J-valve, classic plastic death pack, and breathe the real thing--God's own COMPRESSED AIR.

Going for the fundamentals, I also opted for wetsuit diving and felt my freediving weight set-up was going to be the right choice for this retro test flight in 60' of clear water 100 miles off the California Coast.

Strapping it all on, I felt Man Fish stirring deep in my DNA.

I took a few "practice" breaths.

(Honestly, it had some of the funky rubber aura my wetsuit was getting after 3 days, and even on the boat, it was breathing like a pig.)

Over the side I went.





Looking down through bubbleless vistas, I executed the required and perfect surface dive, descending headfirst, wheezing toward my destiny.

I felt liberated in my mobility.

No BC. No pesky worries about runaway inflator valves. No pockets and no pouches. And, of course, no perfect buoyancy at 90,' or 30,' or 10' for that matter. But, with all my heart, I knew what Mike Nelson would do.

Other than the initial nagging feeling that I was trying to breathe from an empty tank, I easily settled into that familiar distant memory of actually swimming up and down through the ocean with just a tank tied to my back.

Down through swirling strands of kelp and fields of blacksmiths, I
stretched my arms out and swam, streaming bubbles unseen behind me. I found my neutral point and rode the surge over broken rock and lush sea grasses.

I felt as slippery as a seal.

Then again, there was that nagging feeling I was running out of air.
(Actually, if I can recall, it felt exactly like trying to suck air supplied from a 40' hose at -03% ambient pressure through a restricted orifice.)

I endeavored to persevere.

Rolling to my side, the regulator coughed up a rejuvenated stream of air.
Rolling on by back, I actually felt that it was going to be generous. (But, I could handle this--do you hear me, Mike Nelson, where ever you are?)

Helicoptering up through the kelp, I circled back toward the boat.
With clouds of white water and froth stirring under the stern, the ladders and the swim step pounding in the rolling swells and the oncoming rising seas, I held my hands out, slowly kicking, seeing Man Fish beside me eyeing my new European long fins.


Before there was Jacques Cousteau

What Mike Nelson had to know