The Farnes were blown out, white horses charging across angry water, so we took a chance on launching at South Shields for the wreck of the Oslofjord.
Bad idea. The sea was cold and sullen, and it was black as night in the water. Blacker. I could see nothing. I knew I was on the bottom only because I hit it.
I pointed my lit torch toward my eyes at arm’s length. Nothing. Not a glimmer. The lamp was within a foot before I could see even a faint glow.
With no chance of seeing the wreck, unable to read my contents gauge or computer, I called the dive and headed up.
Well, maybe up. I knew I was off the bottom because I couldn’t touch it any more, but I had no idea if I was going up, down or sideways.
Fortunately the Oslofjord is largely flattened, lies in less than 15m, and I’d only been in for a couple of minutes, so a squirt of air into my suit guaranteed an ascent. It was faster than I might have liked, but I was just happy to be out.
I wouldn’t have bothered staying any longer had I been using Scubapro’s new Galileo HUD computer, because there was no point, but at least I’d have been able to monitor my depth and gas status and make a more controlled ascent despite the atrocious conditions. However, there was nothing like it available back then.
The Galileo HUD is a full-function gas-integrated open- and closed-circuit dive-computer, like the wrist and console versions, but now with a head-up display. The unit fits to the top of your mask, and promises to make important dive-data accessible at all times with nothing more than an upward glance.
Open the fitted case in which it’s supplied and the HUD unit looks a bit like a big wedge of matt-black Toblerone, with a bite taken out of it and a Scubapro logo moulded on one side.
Scubapro Galileo HUD in the up (behind) and down positions on the mask.
A long, threaded horizontal bar protrudes from one side of the wedge, and a shorter twiddly knob sticks out of the opposite side. The long bar is used to attach the computer to a special fitting on your mask; the smaller knob is used to turn the HUD on, select menus and sub-menus and make and adjust settings using a combination of short and long presses and turns.
The computer at the heart of the HUD can be set to open- or closed-circuit modes, allows you to pre-set up to eight gas mixes and has switchable high and low CCR set-points.
For gases you can set air, any nitrox blend between 21 and 100% oxygen or trimix, then select any pre-set gas to breathe at any time during your dive – although the unit will warn you about an inappropriate switch and will also prompt you to switch to a more appropriate decompression gas should you forget.
With the appropriate senders you can monitor the contents of each cylinder you’re carrying, with the display showing only the pressure of the currently selected breathing gas for simplicity, along with a note of what that gas actually is, plus any decompression appropriate to finishing the dive on that gas.
Incur mandatory deco at depth and switch to a richer mix on ascent and you’ll see the deco time displayed reduce as the computer recalculates based on the new gas you’re now breathing.
The deco model used, as with the other Galileo computers, is Buhlman, with preset options for added conservatism, or user-settable gradient factors if you prefer to take control of your own deco profiles.
As usual you can set alarms for depth and time, select a safety-stop timer if you like, and more, or switch pretty much all of them off.
All in all, let’s just say that if the HUD doesn’t do it, you don’t need it done.
The first job was to charge the unit using the supplied cable. One end has the usual USB plug to fit a charger unit, not supplied. The other end has a flat blue plastic plate with four connectors that slides into matching grooves on the HUD.
You can’t get it wrong, because there are grooves that fit only one way.
Charging is very quick, and there’s a battery-level indicator on the display. When the battery runs down the HUD won’t turn on, and displays an angry red battery symbol with a bar across it to make clear that you really shouldn’t try to dive with it. I got three full days of liveaboard-diving in the Red Sea with battery life to spare, and finished the trip on the top-up charge.
Once charged, you turn the unit on with a press of the twiddly knob until it clicks.
The click bit is important. The knob depresses easily under finger-pressure, as though it were doing the job, but if you don’t follow through to the click, it doesn’t actually do anything.
Think half-pressing the shutter button on a camera and then completing the pressure to take the picture, except that the half-press achieves nothing.
Once I’d worked this out, the rest of the set-up was a breeze.
Once the HUD is turned on, you’ll need to hold the window in front of the display close to your eye to see what’s what and make settings.
At this point you might feel a little daft, but don’t be put off, and don’t even think about whether you like the unit or not at this stage.
Making and changing settings is quick and intuitive, even for a techno-numpty like me.
You click the adjustment knob to open the menu selection, turn the knob to highlight the sub-menu you need and click to select, then turn the knob to make changes and click to confirm.
A long press on the same button takes you back to the start.
The whole process has obviously been thought through by somebody who knows what they’re doing, and likes to make things simple for users. From a standing start it’ll take you minutes to get the computer set up exactly as you like it – and entirely without the aid of an instruction manual. A prompt at the bottom of the screen tells you whatever you need to do next.
I did download the manual to my phone just in case, but found no need to look at it.
The HUD does everything you need but, vitally, without so many bells and whistles that it gets confusing, or that you forget how to access some features.
Serious thought has gone into what a dive-computer really needs to do, perhaps from the same person responsible for the user interface.
And it’s worth mentioning that if the display colours aren’t to your liking – and a colour-blind colleague did find the HUD hard to read – an alternative can be downloaded.