One of the items on our European Bucket List was a visit to the Poseidon factory in Gothenburg, Sweden. Conveniently, we were already going to Sweden, so it was just a matter of strategically planning flights (which ended up being 3 one way tickets; to read about planning flights, visit this blog post). We left on Thursday night after work, flew to Gothenburg via Copenhagen. We spent the night in Gothenburg and Friday morning, jumped on a tram and headed to the factory.
Now, if you're a diver, you may know that Poseidon makes some of the best regulators, especially for cold water. In fact, it is the only regulator used by US Navy divers and by many other navies around the world. They also manufacture other dive equipment including drysuits, wetsuits, BCDs, masks (I love my Poseidon mask!), and rebreathers.
On Friday morning, we met with Jörgen Nilsson. From the minute he introduced himself, you could tell this guy lived and breathed (sorry for the pun, I couldn't help it) Poseidon. He gave us the rather fascinating history of Poseidon. 50 years ago, some guys from Gothenburg wanted to dive, but dive gear was not only hard to come by (especially in Sweden), but also incredibly expensive. Their solution? Make it themselves. They would work in the mornings designing and building the equipment, and in the afternoon, they would head to the coast to test it. From there, they would tweak and refine their design. Originally, their regulators had two hoses - one for inhaling and one for exhaling. Eventually, they got rid of the exhalation tube, they were actually the first manufacturer to do this, and today, this is the typical design. After their initial development of regulators, very few changes have been made to the internal workings of them. In fact, they have remained relatively unchanged for over 40 years. An unexpected side effect of this is excellent quality control. And why the name Poseidon? The company was originally called Aqua Sports, but the name was already trademarked in many countries when they decided to take their products international, and so the name was changed. Aside from being the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon was also the name of the dive club the founders belonged to. Gothenburg is a major shipping city (and has been for hundreds of years), and there is even a statue of the Greek god.
Over the years, Poseidon also started making drysuit valves and other diving equipment. Eventually, the businesses were split between the founders and the valve side became Si-Tech. You may have heard of them if you own a drysuit.
After this incredibly informative background, we started our tour in the dive pool. Ok, not technically in the pool, although that would have been awesome, but in the pool room. It's 10 feet deep and made of stainless steel. I've never seen a pool like this before, but after seeing it, I want one. They also have a 30 foot deep dive tank to allow for a little bit of a deep dive. The pool room is gorgeous! On two sides are walls of windows that look out into a forest. The dive tank and ceiling are wood paneled. There is a small classroom off to one side that is used both by Poseidon to host classes, as well as community groups. In fact, the pool has been used a number of times for non-dive purposes including a music video and a bikini model shoot. Apparently an underwater studio in Sweden is hard to come by.
Then we headed into the heart of the company - the factory. It's smaller than I expected, only about 50 x 100 feet, but this is where every single Poseidon XStream Regulator and rebreather are assembled, by hand. Much of the manufacturing (i.e. casting and machining of the regulator housing, molding of the plastic pieces, etc.) is delivered to Poseidon as a subassembly, but this is where they are all born. Each regulator is inspected and tested before being sent out. A portion of them are also tested in their in-house, 10 foot deep pool or their 30 foot deep dive tank. It's comforting to know that the the life support equipment I rely on underwater meets such high quality standards :) Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures of this part, for obvious reasons.
After that, we got a brief primer on rebreathers. In case you don't know, a rebreather is a special type of breathing apparatus. Instead of exhaling bubbles into the water, you exhale into a tube, which is then circulated back to a tank, goes through a scrubber to remove the carbon dioxide. Oxygen, air or other gases (depending on the type of diving you're doing), are added back in to your breathing gas. I've always though of these things as death machines. Afterall, a lot of the dive fatalities each year involve rebreathers. And, you can see why - an improperly set up rebreather, or improperly operated one, can allow any number of things to go wrong and kill you. However, Poseidon has worked out an extremely safe program for setting them up and operating them. If you follow the program, and don't take short cuts, they are incredibly safe. There are also a lot of benefits to diving one of these. For starters, no bubbles means that you don't scare the wildlife and are able to get closer to them. You can also stay down longer or dive deeper since your breathing gas is automatically optimized for your depth. I have to say, I'm sold. Now, just to be able to afford one....
We would like to send out a HUGE thank you to Jörgen for hosting two crazy Americans who wanted to see the birthplace of Poseidons! He was incredibly welcoming and we really enjoyed the three or so hours we spent there. It was a great way to start our trip in Sweden!