Well it happened… on a recent trip to Cozumel, on the very first dive my Sea and Sea YS-01 strobe’s battery compartment flooded. While I’m not sure exactly what went wrong, I attribute this to user error. I think, in my exuberance to get in the water on the first dive, I must not have seated the O-ring and battery door correctly. We’ll never know for sure What we do know is it flooded, so what do you do when this happens?
While I can only personally comment on Sea and Sea (and even then only personally the YS-01), I believe most vendors have designed their strobes such that the battery compartment is isolated from the internals, so in the event of a battery flood, the strobe isn’t necessarily done for. Even so, it is important to take quick action to prevent serious damage.
- Don’t panic. This is true of all dive situations! But easier said than done at depth when you see bubbles, and in my case blackened sea water pouring out of your strobe!
- Turn the strobe off! Sea water is extremely conductive and corrosive, so you will continue to short the batteries when they are immersed
- Get the strobe out of the water. While I don’t think a flooded strobe is a valid reason for a CESA :), if you’ve just started the dive as I had, get the strobe topside. The longer it’s wet, the more damage
- Get the batteries out. Obvious yes, but be careful. If any of the batteries has begun leaking, there could be acid or harmful metallics in the compartment. Best to empty it right over the appropriate trash can
- Flush with fresh water (non-salt water). “Put more water in my flooded strobe?” you ask? Well it’s already flooded! But on a serious note, assuming the flooding hasn’t made it into the primary strobe body, the biggest issue here is corrosion and damage to the contacts. Salt water is highly corrosive, and in the presence of an electric current even more so. It is important to get all salts out of the compartment.
- Flush with alcohol, and I don’t mean Rum! Rubbing alcohol can be used to help dry the interior of the strobe. Even fresh water can be corrosive, so once the salts are gone, we still need to make sure the compartment is completely dry. I literally filled the compartment with 90% rubbing alcohol, let it sit for a second, dumped and repeated.
- In my case simply rinsing didn’t remove all the corrosive film that had appeared on the contacts, so I used a q-tip to wipe every area I could and get the strobe as clean as possible inside.
- Inspect the o-ring. Was it an o-ring failure? User error? Sand? Hair? Standard o-ring TLC applies here.
- Allow the compartment to dry. I travel with small desiccant packs intended for the camera housing, but I always have extras. Put one or two of these (depending on size) in the strobe compartment and close it up slightly, and let it sit. How long is personal preference, environmental conditions (is it inside a dry, air conditioned room or on a humid boat?) etc. With my incident I let the strobe site about 3 hours, and used it later with no ill effects
Well, hopefully this won’t happen to you, but if it does, it isn’t necessarily the end of the strobe. It is the end of the batteries though… best to just toss ‘em.
If this does happen to you, I hope this helps!