Where do you put your octopus
Divers dutifully carry around their alternative air sources, but not always in such a way that they would be of much help in an out-of-air situation. John Bantin looks into octopus-rigs Divernet

LOOK THROUGH THE PAGES OF THE MANUALS of many training agencies and youll see pictures of divers with their alternative air source in the form of an extra second stage, or octopus rig, configured to hang alongside their primary regulator. It all looks very neat and would make perfect sense if it was for you alone to use in an emergency caused by the failure of your primary second stage.
ÂÂÂÂ The rubber parts of a second stage - that is, the diaphragm or the mouthpiece - may fail if there has not been a proper pre-dive inspection but would merely give you a damp breathe. However, the second stages of modern downstream regulators rarely if ever fail during a dive.
ÂÂÂÂ Any failure that does occur is likely to involve the first stage causing a higher than usual interstage pressure and resulting free-flow. That might make breathing uncomfortable, but even if it does mean a rapidly diminishing air supply it should never be allowed to become disastrous.
ÂÂÂÂ Its all or nothing. Either both second stages will work or they wont! So what is that alternative air source for Its really for someone else. Its for someone else who has suffered a failure of his or her air supply.
ÂÂÂÂ Take this on board and you begin to question the normal-style regulator as an alternative air source, rigged conventionally on the right.
ÂÂÂÂ Thats because, if its rigged correctly for you, it is almost certainly not rigged correctly for a second party. Take that hose off and rig it to the other side of your first stage so that it hangs on your left. You suddenly realise how convenient it makes air-sharing with an octopus-rig.
ÂÂÂÂ That said, there are several regulator designs that work both right and left-handed and can be positioned equally successfully on either side.

Long hoses
Some training agencies insist that you clip your octopus on in an uncluttered area of your chest. They call this the triangle of visibility. The idea is that another diver, out-of-air and perhaps panicking, can find it easily and grab it.
ÂÂÂÂ I would suggests that if circumstances have become so dire that the other diver is in a panic, its most likely that youll have your primary regulator ripped from your mouth. That will always be the one most visible, and visibly working too.
ÂÂÂÂ For this reason, I believe its most important that you can access the octopus rig easily yourself.
ÂÂÂÂ But then, if its rigged on your left, it will be the wrong way up. Well, you can still use it temporarily and wait until the panic has subsided before you both swap over. Better still, get a longer hose on that octopus-rig so that all the drama is taken out of sharing once and for all.
ÂÂÂÂ Hoses of 1.5 or 2m length allow you to use the octopus-rig yourself, and so can another diver, who is able to swim conveniently alongside, or face-to-face, or even behind you while using it. But where do you stow an octopus-rig with such a long hose
ÂÂÂÂ Some divers like to clip off their alternative second stage in a place from which they can access it easily, and breathe from a primary regulator that is itself on the end of a long hose.
ÂÂÂÂ A good place for a secondary second stage on the end of a conventional-length hose is to rig it conveniently on a necklace of thin rubber hose under the chin. Simply wind the long air-supply hose of the primary regulator around your neck.
ÂÂÂÂ In the event of the panicking diver out-of-air situation occurring, the donor diver simply lets that OOA diver have the primary regulator from his mouth, unwinding the hose by allowing himself to be rotated or simply pulling the coil over his head. The donor-diver then swaps to the alternative second stage that sits ready and waiting.
ÂÂÂÂ Others stow all the excess hose of an octopus-rig under a couple of bungee cords wrapped round the tank. The business-end is then stowed where you choose. You must be sure that the whole thing can be pulled out in a moment.
ÂÂÂÂ The truth is, its all a question of personal choice. Assuming that you are going to lose the regulator thats in your mouth during those first moments of anothers panic, its important that you can access the alternative, or youll find that the panic is infectious!
ÂÂÂÂ If there is no panic - and there really shouldnt be if the other diver is aware of a dwindling air-supply long before he needs to access yours - you have time to deploy your octopus-rig for him in any way you like. You may even want to agree in advance with your buddy that in an emergency you will take the others primary regulator.

Clipping it on
How do you clip the alternative second stage in place The simple necklace method appeals to me, or wear it tucked under a bungee-cord on the tank. Those hose-clips often supplied with BCs are almost useless. At best the hose slips through and at worst the hose just comes unclipped. Both eventually allow the business end to dangle and entangle. Photographs of divers with their octopus-rigs trailing are all too common.
ÂÂÂÂ There are soft rubber ball-like devices that will hold a regulator by surrounding the mouthpiece. Be careful that the mouthpiece does not come away with the ball when its grabbed in a hurry. However, you can still breathe off a regulator without a mouthpiece. Its better than drowning.
ÂÂÂÂ Some companies make a device that clips to the BC but holds the second stage by forming a simple plug. It has the secondary effect of keeping the interior of the regulator free of detritus.

this octopus-holder forms a plug in the mouthpiece,
also keeping it clear of detritus

Built into the BC
What of the alternative air-source that is combined with the direct-feed inflator of a BC, such as the Scubapro Air Two or Buddy Auto Air These are convenient because they get rid of an additional hose spurred off from your first stage, but they are limited in that only the wearer of the BC can breathe from them.
ÂÂÂÂ If you have only a conventional length of hose on your primary regulator, things can get very fraught in an out-of-air situation, with both divers uncomfortably close to each other and the diver in trouble having to deal with an awkward hose routeing. The best way to handle this is for the donor diver to approach the OOA diver from behind or the OOA diver to travel piggy-back style with the donating diver to the surface. That way, the regulator mouthpiece is offered with the right aspect.
ÂÂÂÂ The way in which you rig your alternative air source becomes irrelevant if you dont have sufficient gas for two people, one of whom is breathing rather heavily. You need to plan your dive in such a way that you carry enough for such an eventuality.
ÂÂÂÂ It is in out-of-air situations that a pony cylinder clipped to D-rings at the front of the harness really proves its worth. A pony is usually one of 3 or 4 litres capacity with its own independent regulator, and you can hand it off if necessary.

pony rig carried as a sling tank

ÂÂÂÂ The OOA diver should be able take it from the donor diver and clip it to his own BC, making an independent ascent if required. A pony can also be mounted via a quick-release mount alongside the main tank.
ÂÂÂÂ Whatever you decide, think it through for use at depth and try it out in confined water, sharing with another diver, before you settle on the most satisfactory method for stowing and deploying your octopus-rig.

This long-hosed octopus rig is tucked under a bungee on the tank but can be deployed easily
Octopus-rig on the left of the diver with a pony rig on right
octopus rigged on the left in clear view
combined alternative second stage and BC direct-feed
no difficulty locating this octopus-rig
this octopus rig can be used either way up
An any-way-up second stage
an any-way-up octopus rig
combined alternative air source and BC direct-feed
its important that the octopus-rig should be clearly visible
octopus rig on a long hose, tucked under a bungee on a cylinder

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