|Bubba Beauregard thinks hes sitting on a goldmine. In a run-down dive shop deep in the Florida Everglades this onetime pig farmer has accomplished what many tech divers have been attempting for years: to create an inexpensive and (allegedly) safe breathing mixture, from a plentiful natural source. The gas is called METHOX and it is already creating quite a stink in the technical diving community. Stories of incredible bottom times, minuscule decompression obligations, and virtually unlimited maximum depth allowances prompted the editors of Advanced Diver to head down to the Everglades and find out the real story. What we discovered changed our view of tech diving forever.
Bubbas dive shop is a converted barn deep in pig farming territory. You could not have chosen a more unlikely place for such an incredible discovery to occur. Behind the barn, covered in brown reeds and duckweed, is a retention pond, or in pig farming terms: the fecal lagoon, whose final depth has not yet been recorded and which is reported to have a cave system that webs out for several miles.
We found Bubba to be a quiet and unassuming man, as most geniuses are, and what he lacked in teeth and personal hygiene, he seems to have made up for with down-home friendliness. He relayed the story of his fantastic breakthrough to us over home made collared greens and sweet potato pie. The following is an account of that discovery, in his words.
My ancestors been living on this land since the Indian War. We been farming pigs here for more than a hundred years, and each pig we raised done gone through about 5 pounds of manure a day and every bit of that manure went into that fecal lagoon. Id guess there must be a million pounds of dung down there.
My son, hes a little slow, when he was just a cub hed always be playin in that damn lagoon. Drive his momma wild comin home every night covered in pig droppings, smelling like a damn ham hock gone bad in the sun for a week.
One day he up and fell in the lagoon and that boy sank, luckily Gary Walker, a local redneck and wannabe superhero, was chewin the fat with the boys and saw the cub fall in. When they came out they were covered in pig dung from head to toe, but their eyes were as big as flapjacks.
What they had witnessed inside the fecal lagoon was nothing short of fantastic. A thick, brown haze covered the top 30 feet of water but below, the water cleared and Walker could see that the lagoon went on for a long time. We felt real small, Walker would later tell us, really small.
At that moment Beauregard knew he was onto something big. That morning he made the first dive of his career into the fecal lagoon, and two weeks later he achieved instructor status and acquired permits to open Fecal Lagoon to public diving.
We dove as deep as we could on air, but needed more, Beauregard explained. And it all came together when we hired the Mexican fellas to work the farm.
Unbeknownst to Beauregard, the migrant workers had placed their Porta John in close contact to the intake valve of his air compressor, the results were immediate.
Ill tell you what, Beauregard said, The air comin outta that thing smelled like a Tijuanna outhouse, but we used it anyway. And Ill tell you what, that day I made it to 350 feet.
It was unbelievable, like magic, divers from Bubbas Dive Team kept going deeper and deeper, ignoring the rational physics that had limited them, and they were making it back.
Beauregard claims that members of his dive team have gone as deep as 700 on the new mixture with no ill effects (other than perhaps bad breath). When we asked him about decompression, he gave us a confused look and changed the subject.
The methox bandwagon is now in full swing in south Florida. Beauregard has even gained the blessing of the PNDN (Pay Now Dive Now) certification agency to begin teaching classes in methox. When Advanced Diver reached Joe Profit, head of the PNDN, he sang the praises of methox. Its unbelievable, he said, It will change technical diving as we know it.
Not everyone is sold on methox. At a recent technical diving conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl, the head of a major certification agency spoke out on the dangers of the new gas, calling it Fart Oil, and A real danger to the already suspect oral hygiene of the technical diving community. And while we must keep a watchful eye on any new breathing mixture, it is hard to argue with the results.
Profit sees methox as a marketing giant waiting to erupt, already in the works are methox t-shirts, methox specific tanks, and most recently, engineers for the PNDN have been laying plans for a methox rebreather. A simple concept that works off the divers own natural gas supply. Bottom times may vary depending on what the diver ate the night before.
ADM's dive team did not get to dive the Fecal Lagoon on our visit, unfortunately each of us got violently ill our first day there, but Beauregard assures us that it will pass in time. We are all very excited to dive the new gas and hopefully explore the outer reaches of Fecal Lagoon.