High Altitude Diving, the Tampico and More

For many years, we have known some aspects of diving at altitude required changes in the procedures used at sea level. As early as 1966 a Technifacts reader wrote, What factors should we take into account in diving in bodies of water at altitudes above 5,000 feet? More specifically, What is necessary to complete safe decompression for such a dive? Recently, 31 years later, another reader wrote, I would like to know if the U.S. Navy Standard Air Decompression Tables would have to be modified for fresh water diving at altitudes different from sea level? For safe diving, the answer to both those questions is that we do need to take special precautions for high altitude diving.

Skin Diver Magazine first published High Altitude Decompression in Technifacts in the November 1970 issue. That Technifacts was reprinted with permission in the NAUI News for September/October 1972. In NAUI Publication No. 5, C.L. Smith provided valuable information. Also in that issue of NAUI News, Smith addressed other problems in his article, Depth Gauge Corrections for Altitude and Fresh Water Diving.

In the intervening years, there has been a great deal written about decompression requirements at altitude. NAUI, PADI, SSI and other dive training organizations have published tables for altitude diving. They have also addressed the problem in their training and instruction manuals. The NOAA Diving Manual provides a chapter entitled Altitude Diving Tables in Use. For Canadian SDM readers, the Canadian DCIEM Diving Manual provides information on diving at altitude. Both manuals are available from Best Publishing Company, P.O. Box 30100, Flagstaff, AZ 86003-0100.

For a copy of NAUIs cross conversion tables published as High Altitude Decompression and C.L. Smiths Depth Gauge Corrections send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to, E.R. Cross, Technifacts, c/o Skin Diver, 6420 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515.

Early Issues of
Skin Diver

A December 1951, Volume 1, Number 1, First Edition of SDM, then called The Skin Diver, is extremely rare. Jim Auxier and Chuck Blakeslee developed their idea for a national dive magazine in the early months of 1951. The first issue contained 16 pages, with six advertisements, including Sea Net Manufacturing Co., the first producer of skin diving and spearfishing equipment (originally for fishermen, not divers); Rene Sports, which later became the giant U.S. Divers Corp.; and, of course, Voit. Also, in its day the one and only California dive charter boat Maray advertised as well. Volume XI, Number 1, January 1962, was also an important publication. For one thing it had grown in size. It contained more than 100 pages and hundreds of ads. And, the first issue of The Skin Diver was reproduced, complete, in the January 1962 Skin Diver. With perseverance, and much luck, it may be an easier issue to find than Vol. 1, No. 1.

If youre looking for other issues of Skin Diver, Jose (Pico) Castello of Cozumel has a collection for sale. His issues date from 1962 to the present. Anyone interested in buying them (he says theyre in good condition), should contact Jose (Pico) Castello, Dive Paradise, Cozumel, Mexico; phone (011) 52 987 21007, fax (011) 52 987 21061 or e-mail appledp@cozumel.czm.com.mx.

A Potpourri of
Diving Memories

It is amazing how quickly our memory of well known diving individuals fails. John Guy Gilpatric was a noted author of the classic The Compleat Goggler in the early years of diving. Gilpatrics humorous exploits with primitive diving equipment in the Mediterranean left early divers fascinated. Equipment for early Mediterranean diving consisted of goggles (not masks) a knife and a handspear. Skin Diver reprinted The Compleat Goggler in the March, April, May and June 1956 issues. An early friend of Gilpatric was Carl Kohler, an early Skin Diver contributor. Dr. Samuel Miller wrote, For the last six months I have been working on the Gilpatric Project, for lack of a better name. I am trying to tie the pieces of Guy Gilpatrics life together. Sam continued, I would like to enlist Technifacts assistance in my search for friends, relatives or anyone who may have known Guy Gilpatric or his wife Louise. Miller would also like to reach family or friends of Kohler. Send information to Dr. Sam Miller, 1629 Maywood Avenue, Upland, CA 91786.

Donald A. Cable would like to correspond about treasure research with serious Skin Diver readers. Readers interested in the study and research of wrecks should write directly to 1006 Highland Lakes Trace, Birmingham, AL 45242.

One more missing personality: Jack Bromiley wrote asking for information on Max Eugen Nohl. He worked with Desco in developing and testing mixed gas deep diving in the 1930s. If readers can supply information, please send it to Jack Bromiley, Mesa Road N1819, La Crosse, WI 54601-8424.

A South Africa Technifacts reader is looking for the book entitled International Guide to Working on Oil Rigs by Tom Williams. Also, this reader needs a copy of the June 1996 issue of Skin Diver. If anyone can help with this request write to Warren Lebanathan, 32 Erythrina Avenue, Croftoene, Chatsworth, Durban, KZN, South Africa, 4092.


The tanker Tampico wrecked off the coast of Baja California in May 1957. The vessel is now destroyed, partly owing to salvors and partly owing to the savagery of the sea. There has always been conflict about the vessels ownership and nationality. I have always assumed she was owned by Petroleos Mexicanos, the Mexican national oil cartel. I have photos of her taken a couple of weeks after she grounded showing the home port as Panama. This is not unusual since many owners of vessels used Panama as a convenient port of registry, for tax and other liability concerns. Lloyds Registry of Shipping shows the Tampico as a twin screw diesel vessel. When I dived her shortly after she grounded, I thought she was a single screw tanker. She grounded on a rocky headland, and I thought a second screw would not have been buried. If anyone has additional information on the Tampico, please send it to E.R. Cross, Technifacts, c/o Skin Diver, 6420 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515.

Even though the Tampico was sitting nearly upright, I preferred not to make a penetration dive. There was dangerous surge running into and out of the hull. Many movable objects were flopping around owing to the surge. Also, a real danger was the tremendous wind draft generated in the part of the hull that was above water. For every eight gallons of water that surged into the hull, one cubic foot of air was displaced through deck hatches, portholes and other openings above water. Objects near this tremendous draft could be torn loose and become dangerous.

The vessel was nearly 400 feet long, with a beam of 55 feet. At least half of the bottom was open to the surging sea at about 10 feet. Probably, at maximum surge, more than 8,000 cubic feet of air was pushed through the hull and out any available openings. Divers should keep these hazards in mind when planning dives on partially submerged wrecks. Large volumes of rapidly moving air can also generate potential hazards.


It is particularly important to read the water when diving wrecks. Not just the flow of water into and out of a wreck but what the water, and possibly wind generated by surge in partially submerged wrecks, is doing to your favorite wreck. Remember the old railroad crossing sign; Stop, Look and Listen. You will be glad you did.

Continental Micronesias 1998 Discounted Dive Packages: Continental Micronesia will continue to offer discounted dive packages in 1998. Most of the wholesalers will offer all-inclusive discount packages with up to 50 percent savings. Continental Micronesias in-house tour division, Island Adventures at (800) 900-7657, is currently offering packages to Guam, Palau, Truk and Yap starting at $1,150.

There have also been changes to the Yap schedule owing to airport runway construction. Planes will be flying in Wednesdays and Sundays for departures/arrivals.

Continental Micronesia also has a new Groups & Buddies Program, offering fully escorted tours to the exciting dive destinations of Micronesia. The program is designed for all divers traveling with or without a buddy and can accommodate larger groups in search of a great vacation. A variety of dive destinations throughout Micronesia are offered with the program, including Palau, Truk and Yap. Upcoming departure dates from the various destinations are listed on the Web site at www.dest mic.com or you can speak with one of the travel specialists by calling (800) GO-DIVING.