Frequently Asked Questions

Roatan Institute of Deepsea Exploration

Frequently Asked Questions

The deep diving submersible Idabel has numerous safety systems that are specifically designed to ensure safe and reliable operation around the island of Roatan. She is the result of over 35 years of dedicated effort to design the best vehicle possible and has been routinely upgraded. Idabel has completed over 1800 dives totalling over 5000 hours of incident free operation.

Some safety features of Idabel include:

  • Twin high-pressure air systems
  • 700 pound drop weight
  • 48 hours of backup life support
  • Cell phone carried for surface communication
  • Fully redundant propulsion systems
  • Fully redundant electrical systems
  • Fully redundant surfacing systems

Idabel goes up and down using the same basic buoyancy principles as nearly all submarines: by adjusting the amount of air or water inside the ballast compartments. On the surface Idabel is over 1000 pounds positively buoyant. The passengers are weighed and lead weight is added inside the sub that so when the ballast tanks are filled with water, the vessel will only sink by about 20 pounds. This is why it takes approximately 40 minutes to sink 2000 feet— we are just slightly negatively buoyant.

To get neutrally or positively buoyant, a little bit of air from either of the large air tanks is injected into one of the two ballast tanks. Completely filling the tanks with air, dropping the weight, and/or using the vertical motors would rocket the sub to the surface in 5 minutes from 2000 feet.

Absolutely! The sub is designed such that the passengers get the closest view with the best lighting through the main forward dome. All the photos and videos you see on this site were shot through that large window.

As this is not your typical tourist attraction, the standard copyright policies towards photographs do not apply. It is quite possible that you will acquire media of creatures about which so little is know (possibly even an animal never photographed or filmed before). As this evidence may have value for publications such as encyclopedia articles and scientific journals, it is my policy that I retain copyright on any media shot from the sub, even if shot by a passenger on their personal equipment. However, you will never be denied your own photographs or films for your private use.

Besides your schedule, there are many options to consider when arranging a time for your sub tour. Six-gill sharks are strictly noctural; therefore, if you are interested in seeing these elusive giants, it is best to dive at night. However, during the winter months, winds can often pick up in the afternoon, making the morning the most desirable and safest time of day to embark. If you are doing a 1000 feet dive I generally advise diving between 9am and noon, as the sun is directly overhead and the views up the wall are amazing. If you go at night, bioluminescent animals, hatchet fish, bristlemouth fish, and squid are observed; however, the long-range visibility (up to 600 feet vertically, 300 feet horizontally) that you can have in the day is lost. As in most ecosystems, animal activity is greatest at dawn and dusk. Based on all of these factors we will determine the exact time of your tour in the days and weeks leading up to your arrival.

The water temperature at 2000 feet is about 50°F (10°C) however the sub stays at about 60°F (16°C) For shorter, shallower dives it will be warm on the surface out and like free air conditioning at depth. For dives longer than 2 hours most people would want a long sleeve shirt and jacket. For long explorations be sure to pack socks, and maybe a hat and pants.

This can be separated into two categories:

The terrain
This by itself would be worth the price of admission. Imagine taking a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. The animals are not the main attraction but rather the place itself. In Idabel we will descend up to 2000 feet (630m) down the Cayman Trench wall. The trench continues to over 25,000 feet beneath the ocean surface (in comparison, the Grand Canyon is merely 5,000 feet deep). The area between 250-500 feet has the most bizarre rock formations you will ever see. During past ice ages the sea level was up to 450 feet lower than it is now, allowing the coral reef to flourish down to what is now 700 feet under water. Then when sea levels rose again, deep water currents eroded the soft limestone made by coral animals into many intricate and delicate shapes. The phantasmagoric results of these processes will amaze you.

The animals
We have yet to find life in space, but are finding new forms of life in the ocean every year. Scientists still struggle to classify the family of animals to which some of these new species belong. On a dive with me, you will come face-to-face with some of these truly alien creatures. Look through the photos on this website to learn more about the inhabitants of this barely-explored realm of our planet.

Your fear is a common one but, once underwater, your concerns will become a thing of the past as a whole new world emerges before you. Most people report the experience as being no more uncomfortable than riding on a small commercial airliner, though I personally find the ride to be a lot smoother.

On the best dives, your perception of the sub being a limiting space is completely reversed— for example, upon first sighting of a large six-gill shark, the sub suddenly feels like a safe, comforting cocoon!

Idabel is designed for two passengers and a pilot. However, if you want to split the expense amongst more people, you may squeeze as many people into the front compartment as will fit under the 520lb maximum weight limit.

So far, the record number of passengers for a single dive is six.

I do not believe that people should be penalized for events beyond their control. If a dive is canceled due to bad weather, missed flights, family emergencies, illness, etc., a full and prompt refund will be issued. 50% cancellation fee apply for cancellation made less then 48 hours of notice.

I check my email nearly every. Use the contact form on this site to send me a message.

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