December 26, 2008

Twenty million gallons a day. That's how much has been leaking from the Rondout-West Branch Tunnel originating in the Catskill Mountains and supplying much of New York City's water. Teams of divers live in a pressurized tank far below ground for a month at a time, working on repairing things, and breathing a helium-rich air mixture that makes them squeaky voiced.

Here's some more info on this deep lifestyle. Scroll down to hear the helium effects in song.

  • This is astounding stuff. Where's all the water going, and what is going to be the eventually impact? Another giant Guatemalan sinkhole? If this flow were visible, people would be blown away. These men are heros. As well as absolutely crazy buggers. *high squeeky voice* Great post, fish tick!
  • I don't understand. Both links fail to explain why they breath mostly helium.
  • add an e.
  • "Heliox is a mixture of helium and oxygen used for very deep diving, usually to greater than 200 feet. Helium's great advantage is that it does not lead to nitrogen narcosis. Helium diving requires as much or more decompression time as nitrogen, so there is no saving there. Beyond 300 feet heliox may cause the 'high pressure nervous syndrome', a shaking sensation that can be incapacitating. Another disadvantage of helium is that it conducts heat about six times faster than nitrogen, so divers get colder than with air diving. A third problem is caused by the fact that helium is much less dense than nitrogen or air; as a result, the vocal cords vibrate much faster and divers sound like Donald Duck. Professional divers can use voice unscramblers to make their speech intelligible." I think they mean Mickey Mouse. Source: If anybody can't access the NYT article, here's a Pruned version.
  • Awesome, thx.