There's a chance this, being an experimental crowdfunding project, could be a belly-flop - it does sound a little too good to be true. Then again, the chance to have your own personal, hand-held scuba kit, without the typical months of qualifications, is at stake. So maybe we're allowed to be cautiously optimistic about this one...
This new product, currently called the Scorkl, looks like something you'd catch James Bond using as he flippered his way to a secret tropical island populated by scantily-clad beauties and easily dispatched, eye-patch wearing henchmen. It is, in fact, a real product, currently available on Kickstarter, which allows the user to combine the freedom of scuba diving with the ease of snorkelling. Once you're finished you simply use a hand pump to refill the lightweight breathing device, which is no bigger than a water bottle. This gives you up to 10 minutes of shallow diving and exploration.
How about that for aquatic ingenuity?
No PADI certification is needed, you can simply fill the device yourself and start shallow diving. Created by an Australian company, the cylinder was designed using the same standards and specifications applied to traditional scuba diving cylinders. One of the key differences is that the Scorkl can be refilled using a hand pump. The device is also delivered with a scuba tank refill adapter, allowing you to top it up with a scuba tank. The pressure gauge on the Scorkl informs users how much air is left in the cylinder, so you don't have to worry about running-out while you're down there.
Currently available on Kickstarter, the Scorkl has already attracted a large number of aspiring aqua men and women. The company set their target as $22,765. So far they have already raised $370,000. A single Scorkl can be bought for $199. A Scorkl and pump together cost $398.
The most important question still stands: is it safe?
The company behind this breakthrough have insisted that the Scorkl is totally safe and that this device can be used by anyone, including untrained divers. However, no one who uses this device should go below 9.8 feet in depth or use it more than five times a day. Trained divers will be able to descend deeper than 9.8 feet, using what they learned about equalising etc... during their certification training. For anyone still concerned about the prospects of shallow diving with the Scorkl, the device comes with an information kit warning users and providing tips to avoid any potential pulmonary damage.
It can't be stressed enough that this device is designed for shallow diving. So don't expect to be making any solo-dives into the Mariana Trench anytime soon. The company suggests that non-scuba-trained users should stay above nine feet in depth at all times.
Remember that misuse of this device could be dangerous. Decompression sickness isn't likely due to depth and time restrictions, but pulmonary damage (chest expansion injury) is possible if the user holds their breath during ascent or ascends too rapidly. Be sensible and take it easy when you take this cylinder for a spin.
As for air quality, the air that filters through this device is of an assured high quality owing to industry supplier standards. These standards regulate carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, oil and water levels. Since the muscle-powered Scorkl hand pump has way less parts than a petrol-powered mechanical dive compressor, the likelihood of contamination from carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide is hugely reduced. The same logic applies for oil contaminants. However, every Scorkl pump is fitted with an air filter built using the same materials as the filters of mechanical dive compressors. Therefore the Scorkl filter must be replaced after fifty refills - you'll be able to buy extras once the Kickstarter campaign concludes...
So, we can imagine you might have a few questions, like where do I find one of these human gill machines? If you'd like to find out more, you can check out the Scorkl Kickstarter campaign here.