Today was a very action packed day! We started the day off with a nice long breakfast and then hurried off to the DUI Factory, where we were cheerfully greeted by representative Faith Ortins. Diving Unlimited International (DUI) is a distinguished dry suit manufacturing, company famous for its top-of-the-line custom dry suit products and is considered the leader in the trade; DUI caters to everyone from the general public to the U.S. government. Faith took us on a tour of the factory, and described how a dry suit is made from start to finish. DUI prides themselves in the construction of their products; every dry suit and accessory is made by hand.
A suit starts out in the back with the cutters. There are two cutters who each cut their designated patterns. The man who cuts the patterns for the style suit that Pat wears has been cutting for around ten years, which ensures manufacturing consistency. DUI uses materials such as their own version of crushed neoprene, trilaminate, and cordura; the neoprene is cut uncrushed, so at the cutting table it looked thick and spongy. The next room we went to was a large warehouse-style room filled with tables and busy workers, this is where the suits are sewn together and the seams are sealed with rubber. A dry suit is a dry suit because of its seams. Water does not pass through neoprene on its own; wet suits are thus “wet” because water leaks through the suit’s seams. With snug latex wrist and neck seals and properly sealed seams, a dry suit has the ability to keep a person not only dry when diving, but also quite warm because of the ability to put layers of insulating material between the person and the suit. Therefore, dry suits are usually used in cold water environments, but also in situations where divers remain stationary for long periods of time, such as with Dr. Hanlon’s squid divers in Australia.
Our next stop was outside where the products are pressure tested in long horizontal pressure chambers, and then we went into an adjacent building where employees were also sealing up seems and putting together the suits. The zipper is another important component of the suit. This, too, must be impermeable to water, and is one of the most important pieces of the suit to maintain because a dry suit filled with water is bad news. Every suit is carefully inspected for leaks, they want to catch even the tiniest ones which could have formed from a popped bubble within the rubber sealant. The suit is zippered and plugged up at each of the opening then inflated with air. The testers submerge the ballooned suits in a trough of water and look carefully for rising bubbles. They also go over the seams with a soapy spray bottle if further inspection is needed. I can not believe how trained their eyes are; they pointed out a leak but I could not see the bubbles in the soapy water even though they said they were there, and that the suit had to be sent back.
At the end of the tour, Faith showed us DUI’s dry bag that soldiers in the military use to transport their machine guns underwater. Needless to say, seeing firsthand the dedication and the precision with which each dry suit is constructed is quite impressive. After DUI we stopped by John Jackson’s house.
John Jackson is an incredible shell collector, author and founder of Odyssey Publishing Company. His house is like a museusm, its amazing. Displayed on shelf after shelf are different kinds of shells that he has acuired. Being particularly fascinated by cowries, a large portion of the lower level is dedicated to drawers full of these shells (and pictures he has taken of the live animal). He has collected them from all over the world and is particularly fascinated by the rare ones, of which he has collected many. He has been working for the past seven years on a beautiful new book, Australia’s Spectacular Cowries, which was just published this year. I was floored when he gave me a copy! Not only by that, he gave me a four other shell and wild life identification books, and even a beautifully shined up cowry!! I was completely taken aback and can’t wait to dive into them. We spent the next few hours with John Jackson eating at a fun restaurant that overlooks a pond, then headed home to catch up on some rest. We got back to the house and Steve showed me a new pair of Scubapro split fins that Sergio had left for me…oh my god! Wow. What a day.