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Old 8th April 2012, 08:15 AM   #1
Bob001
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How much air do you need?

The return of "Titanic" has me wondering this: As the boat sank passengers were pulled underwater, but their lifejackets brought them back to the surface. Some survived the experience (like Kate and Leo), but others drowned. Question: If you could seal a plastic bag around your head before you went under (always travel with duct tape), what volume of air would you need to survive for, say, two minutes? Would a standard supermarket grocery bag be big enough? Even if you were just trying to hold your breath, the bag would help keep water out of your nose and mouth. Or would this just be an exercise in futility? (No, I do not care to conduct an experiment...).
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Old 8th April 2012, 08:28 AM   #2
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I would think the average person could probably hold their breath for 2 minutes in decent conditions. Ice cold water might make it harder. A plastic bag would probably be counter-productive as it would suck into your mouth if you tried to breath.
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Old 8th April 2012, 08:30 AM   #3
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All of it. I need all the air. Stop using it. It's mine.
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Old 8th April 2012, 08:32 AM   #4
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Tape over your mouth and nose would not kill you in a mere 2 minutes. I doubt even an out of shape person under exertion would pass out that fast, but don't quote me on it.

And a plastic bag taped around your throat would act as a very good flotation device. I was under the understanding people in the water died from drowning from passing out from going numb in the near-freezing water. I didn't see the movie so I didn't know they portrayed people being sucked down by the sinking ship. Mythbusters busted that myth, but they did use a boat that was about 1/20th the size of the actual titanic.
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Old 8th April 2012, 08:53 AM   #5
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As a side note as long as you hold your breath you can get sucked down pretty far without dying. A couple hundred feet down is perfectly fine for example.
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Old 8th April 2012, 08:58 AM   #6
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We had a pool in the backyard what I was little. And we kids found we could put a small plastic bucket over our heads and, with some effort, hold it there while we sat on the bottom of the pool, breathing happily (and blissfully ignorant of the risks). If I recall, the main thing that drove us back to the surface was not the shortage of air, but the effort of holding the bucket under water.

So I imagine a plastic bag would be rather helpful, assuming the length of time was not too great, and ignoring the cold and probable hyperventilation.
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Old 8th April 2012, 09:03 AM   #7
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Yep. Wikipedia says the record depth for no-limits apnea is 214 meters
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Old 8th April 2012, 10:36 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Denver View Post
We had a pool in the backyard what I was little. And we kids found we could put a small plastic bucket over our heads and, with some effort, hold it there while we sat on the bottom of the pool, breathing happily (and blissfully ignorant of the risks). If I recall, the main thing that drove us back to the surface was not the shortage of air, but the effort of holding the bucket under water.

So I imagine a plastic bag would be rather helpful, assuming the length of time was not too great, and ignoring the cold and probable hyperventilation.
The only real risk in that situation would be going to the bottom of the pool, taking in a lungful of now compressed air and then holding your breath all the way back to the surface.
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Old 8th April 2012, 11:09 AM   #9
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They had a fellow on Science Friday a while back talking about the science of drowning. He said that what would have killed many of these folks was what he called the "cold water respiratory response".
Essentially, suddenly being chucked into cold water causes an instant, involuntary gasp, which means that if you are already underwater, a big intake of water. If you fight this response and succeed in holding your breath, you can actually survive considerably longer.

He was primarily researching survival of naval accidents/warfare incidents.
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Old 8th April 2012, 11:45 AM   #10
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The plastic bag taped over your head would at least prevent the intake of water. But in near drowning, I'd bet you'll tear it off and fill your lungs with water. I stayed down too long once when snorkling. Really hard to NOT inhale just short of the surface.

But if somebody says getting sucked down by a sinking ship is an un-true myth, I would believe them. The were thousands of survivors of ships sunk in WWII, and must have had first hand knowledge of watching their buds close to sinking ships. Interviews must have been done.

However, exiting a ship after it heads for the bottom might be a whole different problem. The hydro-dynamics could cause all kinds of swirling, and increase water pressure would push a victim INTO the boat. And the myth might have been started by a near-victim, who barely escaped- back in the wooden boat days.
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Old 8th April 2012, 10:26 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post

But if somebody says getting sucked down by a sinking ship is an un-true myth, I would believe them. The were thousands of survivors of ships sunk in WWII, and must have had first hand knowledge of watching their buds close to sinking ships. Interviews must have been done.
The one I was peeved with was that mythbusters did not consult was the sinking of the HMS Hood duing WW2. Only 3 survivers, and one of the survivers directly states he was pulled down with the ship, till what they believe escaping air from the ship broke the suction http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Briggs , thou it was the worse case senario, massive mass of ship sinking extreamly quickly. A lot harder to recreate at scale.
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Old 9th April 2012, 01:57 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by NewtonTrino View Post
The only real risk in that situation would be going to the bottom of the pool, taking in a lungful of now compressed air and then holding your breath all the way back to the surface.
Another risk would be staying there too long and then having no strength to get back to the surface. This could happen if you used up too much of the oxygen without a massive build up of CO2.
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Old 9th April 2012, 02:07 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
... they portrayed people being sucked down by the sinking ship. Mythbusters busted that myth, but they did use a boat that was about 1/20th the size of the actual titanic.
I thought mythbusters confirmed this as an genuine phenomenon.

I remember the reconstruction they did in a pool with a big model ship; the effect of being 'pulled down' by the ship was as a result of the air bubbles being released from inside the ship as it went down reducing the bouyancy of the water above the ship so that the human body sinks instead of floats.

You get the same phenomenon when kayaking, if you get stuck in a 'stopper' like at the bottom of a wier or waterfall where the water is circulating around and tends to pull the boat back towards the cascade rather than allowing it to float downstream. In that circumstance it's difficult or impossible to paddle away from the danger as the water is so full of air bubbles that you can't get any purchase with the paddle.

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Old 9th April 2012, 02:27 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Yuri Nalyssus View Post
I thought mythbusters confirmed this as an genuine phenomenon...

Yuri
Ah well, wrong again - http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/myth...-minimyth.html ... sigh

The test in the pool involved a very heavy, cube-shaped block which sank rapidly and actually sucked a diver under in a very dramatic fashion. Obviously I went to put the kettle on for a cup of tea at that point in the original programme, because when they used a 4 tonne ship sinking in a harbour in the second part of the test, no suction was observed. They did mention obviously that the Titanic was considerably bigger than 4 tonnes and scale might make a difference.

But a friend of my grandfather's hairdresser heard from their cousin's brother's chiropracter that a live octopus hatched out of her stomach - that's definitely true .

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Old 9th April 2012, 10:15 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Yuri Nalyssus View Post
I thought mythbusters confirmed this as an genuine phenomenon.
As to MythBusters trials in general: It should be obvious that MythBusters' "confirmed" is almost always more definitive than their "busted".

If they establish X and observe Y, that's enough to prove that Y can happen with X. It just did: DONE. It doesn't prove X necessary, sufficient, nor even related to Y. That's a different question, and explicitly avoiding it is one good reason their trials try to replicate conditions proposed by the myth.

If they establish X but do not observe Y, they've only shown that Y didn't happen for that particular X that particular time. Alone, that's not enough to prove that Y never happens with anything X-like. Even when it's possible to do, truly eliminating all such possibilities is often too tedious for fun TV programming. Where convenient and entertaining, they'll try to stretch conditions X or relax tests Y to further constrain those possibilities... but generally not eliminate them entirely.

As to the "sucked down" phenomenon: I'm truly amazed how many people believe there's no such thing.

Maybe my incredulity at their incredulity arises from my familiarity with fluid mechanics that makes the mechanism obvious to me. When a solid body (e.g. ship) moves through a fluid, the fluid will have to flow in behind the body to fill the space it leaves behind. When that body isn't streamlined (e.g. sinking ship), that inflow won't follow neatly along the boundary of the body. The boundary streamlines separate (which is what we mean by "not streamlined"), and the void behind gets filled by vortices. Anything in the fluid that's small enough will get dragged along in the vortices; if it happened to be in the right place, it'll follow the moving body for a bit. If that body's moving down (a sinking ship) and the vortex flow imposes drag forces on the particle (sailor) larger than its buoyancy, the particle gets dragged underwater.

Maybe it's pedantry about the word "sucked", because what's actually happening is that water in the vortices is pushing downward. Of course, it's really such pedantry that sucks, because such unbalanced push is really what that other "suck" means.

Float just about anything not-too-streamlined. Pull it underwater by applying some force to overcome its buoyancy. A sinking ship usually does that by putting water where it used to have air, but for clarity just hang a weight on a ship-shaped solid block of wood. Marvel at the bubbles of air dragged underwater by the vortices behind the sinking ship; if the ship didn't have any air to release, those bubbles must have got dragged down from the atmosphere by hydrodynamic forces.

Float some test particles first (say, sawdust for a bathtub model, sailors for a ship) and watch some of them go down, too. Try again with only a few test particles, and see how hard it is to put them where they'll get "sucked" down.
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Old 10th April 2012, 11:28 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by NewtonTrino View Post
The only real risk in that situation would be going to the bottom of the pool, taking in a lungful of now compressed air and then holding your breath all the way back to the surface.
Probably not fatal, but a ruptured eardrum or two would be likely. Ouch.
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Old 10th April 2012, 11:36 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by CORed View Post
Probably not fatal, but a ruptured eardrum or two would be likely. Ouch.
Actually, it can be quite fatal, even in just a couple feet of water. It's not the eardrums that are a problem (although popping them will suck), it's the air embolism caused when the air expands in your lungs while you're holding your breath. It doesn't take much overpressure to force bubbles into your bloodstream.
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Old 10th April 2012, 07:32 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Denver View Post
We had a pool in the backyard what I was little. And we kids found we could put a small plastic bucket over our heads and, with some effort, hold it there while we sat on the bottom of the pool, breathing happily (and blissfully ignorant of the risks). If I recall, the main thing that drove us back to the surface was not the shortage of air, but the effort of holding the bucket under water.

So I imagine a plastic bag would be rather helpful, assuming the length of time was not too great, and ignoring the cold and probable hyperventilation.
We fixed your problem with a fairly large suction cup, some rope, and a ~70 quart bucket.
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Old 11th April 2012, 07:55 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Denver View Post
We had a pool in the backyard what I was little. And we kids found we could put a small plastic bucket over our heads and, with some effort, hold it there while we sat on the bottom of the pool, breathing happily (and blissfully ignorant of the risks). If I recall, the main thing that drove us back to the surface was not the shortage of air, but the effort of holding the bucket under water.
Holy... crap.

You are very lucky to be alive.

The most dangerous part of ascent from any dive where you breath ambient pressure air, is last 8-10 feet. If you hold breath while ascending, your lungs expand, but how much they expand depends on relative pressure difference, not on absolute difference. The difference between 10' depth and surface is 1.3 (1 atm and 1.3 atm). Lung expansion by a factor of 0.3 is quite sufficient to rupture them, and to cause air embolism. And I suspect your average suburban parents do not have pure oxygen tanks handy, or know the first aid procedure for air embolism. Well, I have and know, and would not be surprised if Phunk does, but he and I would never allow such activity to begin with.
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Old 11th April 2012, 08:21 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by phunk View Post
Actually, it can be quite fatal, even in just a couple feet of water. It's not the eardrums that are a problem (although popping them will suck), it's the air embolism caused when the air expands in your lungs while you're holding your breath. It doesn't take much overpressure to force bubbles into your bloodstream.
Not to mention tearing your lungs and filling your chest cavity with compressed air.
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Old 11th April 2012, 10:13 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Mark6 View Post
Lung expansion by a factor of 0.3 is quite sufficient to rupture them, and to cause air embolism.
Even with a normal breath though (lungs filled to around half capacity)? That is, would there be a danger ascending quickly with breath held from 10 feet deep with half filled lungs?

Besides that, most home pools are 8 feet deep, so sitting on the bottom, Denver's lungs were probably centered about 6 1/2 feet deep. I would think that unless you held a very forced deep breath, a 20% expansion isn't going to cause a problem.
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Old 11th April 2012, 11:17 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Modified View Post
Even with a normal breath though (lungs filled to around half capacity)? That is, would there be a danger ascending quickly with breath held from 10 feet deep with half filled lungs?

Besides that, most home pools are 8 feet deep, so sitting on the bottom, Denver's lungs were probably centered about 6 1/2 feet deep. I would think that unless you held a very forced deep breath, a 20% expansion isn't going to cause a problem.
It can happen in a couple feet if you take a deep breath and hold it before ascending.

With half full lungs, you'd be fine at pool depths. The problem is when someone instinctively takes a deep breath before taking their head out of the bucket, then holds it while ascending.
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Old 12th April 2012, 10:33 AM   #23
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Anecdote from my own life:

Over 12 years of diving I panicked under water exactly once. Not in an ink-black lake, not inside a wreck, not when tangled in a flag line. No, I panicked in a 12' deep brightly lit pool, during my Divemaster training.

One of the tests you need to pass to become a PADI Divemaster is "equipment exchange while buddy-breathing". The instructor and the trainee take off their masks, exchange them, and put them on. Then do same thing with their bouyancy vests (to which tank and regulator are attached). While doing all this, both must breath from the same regulator -- the one initially instructor's. This is much harder than it sounds, and is incredibly stressful. My heart rate and oxygen demand went way up -- as expected. What I did not expect was the instructor having problems. As I struggled to put his mask on, and to keep track of one regulator that was giving me air, he signaled "up". At which point I panicked. Not "OMG, I am going to die!" panic, more like "OMG, I am going to fail the class!" -- but the result was the same. My awareness narrowed drastically, and as the instructor went up taking the air source with him, I completely forgot I had a perfectly good regulator hanging off me. What I should have done was take my own regulator into mouth, calm down, then surface. Instead I went up with my lungs essentially empty, yet actually felt pressure inside my chest as what little air there was expanded. At which point I remembered "hum as you ascend" rule, which keeps your airway clear for air to escape, and surfaced without injury. Then I found out the instructor aborted the exercise because he was having trouble, not because of anything I did. We rested, and repeated without incidents. But this was the closest I ever came to a serious injury while scuba diving, and the only time I panicked. In a YMCA pool.
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Old 12th April 2012, 09:01 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Mark6 View Post
One of the tests you need to pass to become a PADI Divemaster is "equipment exchange while buddy-breathing". The instructor and the trainee take off their masks, exchange them, and put them on. Then do same thing with their bouyancy vests (to which tank and regulator are attached). While doing all this, both must breath from the same regulator -- the one initially instructor's. This is much harder than it sounds, and is incredibly stressful. My heart rate and oxygen demand went way up -- as expected. What I did not expect was the instructor having problems. As I struggled to put his mask on, and to keep track of one regulator that was giving me air, he signaled "up". At which point I panicked. Not "OMG, I am going to die!" panic, more like "OMG, I am going to fail the class!" -- but the result was the same. My awareness narrowed drastically, and as the instructor went up taking the air source with him, I completely forgot I had a perfectly good regulator hanging off me. What I should have done was take my own regulator into mouth, calm down, then surface. Instead I went up with my lungs essentially empty, yet actually felt pressure inside my chest as what little air there was expanded. At which point I remembered "hum as you ascend" rule, which keeps your airway clear for air to escape, and surfaced without injury. Then I found out the instructor aborted the exercise because he was having trouble, not because of anything I did. We rested, and repeated without incidents. But this was the closest I ever came to a serious injury while scuba diving, and the only time I panicked. In a YMCA pool.
Damn. need to remember that. I still wish to get my Basic dive licence. each year I keep putting it off.
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Old 12th April 2012, 11:55 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Mark6 View Post
Anecdote from my own life:
We had to do a similar exercise before going down for a week in Hydrolab (scroll down to about the middle). While exchanging with my buddy, for some reason I just could not get enough air. The facility manager saw I was having trouble so kept the exercise going (he later told us). I finally had to swim over to a small "bubble" that was kept in the area in order to recover. I have no idea what happened to cause the gulping-for-air problem. But we passed the test and went on with the mission because we stayed down. Going up after getting saturated was, of course, impossible. so not panicking and staying down was the key in this test exercise.
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