PowerDive is a great example of Australian ingenuity that provides a viable alternative to expensive and maintenance intensive scuba diving systems. Qantas pilot Steve Gregory came up with the idea four years ago after getting tired of the hassle involved in hiring, refilling, testing and transporting scuba gear. Having seen diving kits that use a hookah system and allow the diver to carry minimal equipment, Gregory set out to design a product that was effective, easy to use and transport and capable of reaching considerable depths. The result is the PowerDive range of 12 Volt boat based and free-floating snorkelling units designed for safe, convenient recreational use, boat maintenance, emergencies or for anyone with a need to be "conveniently underwater".
The basic model is the single-person boat based system known as the DeckSnorkel that operates via the boat's battery, allowing virtually unlimited dive times for boat maintenance tasks. All PowerDive systems operate on the same principle - electric compressors are used to generate the air supply that is then stored in a reservoir at the surface and fed through a hose to the diver below. The two-person PowerSnorkel has floating twin electric air compressors that support one diver to reach a depth of 12 metres or two divers to a depth of 6 metres. The depth limit keeps the user safe from decompression sickness and can vary depending on the fitness of the diver and the water conditions. Because the PowerSnorkel stores no compressed air when not in use, it can be safely carried on commercial aircraft and thus cut down the cost of checking out exotic dive locations. The lack of bulky equipment is another benefit - regulator, mask, weight-belt and flippers are all that's required - and the 6 metre hose supplied with the unit can be extended to a recommended limit of 100 metres, allowing you to move further from the floating reservoir and giving access to dive sites difficult to reach in a boat, but not increasing the depth to which you can dive.
The latest development is the ExtremeSnorkel a two-person boat based system with increased depth capablities, supporting two divers to 15metres or one diver to 22metres. This model will appeal mostly to scuba divers and commercial divers for cray, abalone, pearl or fish farming, whereas PowerSnorkel is orientated more towards family fun and holiday activities. There is also a DiveKayak system where the PowerSnorkel is incorporated into a 3.75 metre kayak so that you can simply paddle to your favourite spot, put on a mask and slip over the side. The self-contained PowerSnorkel runs for approximately 60-70 minutes when the battery is fully charged and the DeckSnorkel and ExtremeSnorkel versions, which are powered by the boat's battery, can be used for as long as eight hours (depending on fitness and experience of course). PowerDive International has sold more than 2,000 PowerDive units since they began manufacturing in 1998 and now export 30-40% of their product - recently gaining trade certification for the European Union. The PowerSnorkel system costs AUS$2695 and includes two regulators, gear bag and 12volt battery charger. The basic DeckSnorkel costs AUS$1395, the ExtremeSnorkel AUS$3699 and the PowerDive Kayak AUS$3350.