Episode 132: Dumpster Diving

Air Date: November 25, 2009

During a rooftop chase, jumping into a dumpster will ensure survival and allow successful escape.


Adam and Jamie first underwent fall training from a professional stuntman. Then they went to a waste management facility to inspect some of the dumpsters. They found that the dumpster contents were mixed and usually contained dangerous items such as wood, metal, and even hospital waste. To test the best-case scenario, they dropped Buster (a crash-test dummy) into a dumpster filled with pieces of foam rubber. From a height of 20 feet (6 meters), accelerometers on Buster measured his deceleration at 9.9 G’s, which was even better than the 11.4 G’s that the professional stunt airbag provided. Adam then safely jumped into the foam-filled dumpster himself. Despite this result, it would be unlikely to to find such an ideal dumpster in real life, so this myth was only declared plausible.

When diving in an old-time diving suite (pre-SCUBA), failure of the surface air supply will cause deadly decompression that will push the diver’s body into the helmet.


Kari, Grant, and Tori began with a small scale test using a miniature diver made of ballistics gel. They lowered it into a diving tank at a Six Flags amusement park and found that the body of the diver was indeed pushed into the helmet when de-pressurized. Before the full scale test, Kari temporarily left the show due to her pregnancy, and a new host, Jessi, was introduced. Next, Tory built a fake diver using a plastic skeleton and pieces of pig flesh sewn around it together. Organs and fake blood were also inserted into the chest cavity. The team went to open waters and lowered the fake diver to a depth of 300 ft (91.4 m). At that depth, 135 psi (9.2 atm) of pressure was needed to equalize the suit pressure. To simulate the air line being cut, grant used a quick-release valve. To the team’s surprise, the pressure differential did indeed force organs, blood, and flesh, into the helmet, and thus, the myth was confirmed.


  1. Cliff says:

    Dumpster diving was cool and deep sea diving was the best. Question for Jamie: Who makes the glacier glasses you wore during this episode?

  2. brando says:

    u guys r just a little nuts! but I love it. keep it going!! now resent I just saw an animal show w/ a flying squirrel, now I know u guys did a plywood but it’s not the same. if u wear that one pcs. jump suit. Some what like a web on a duck’s feet. I think there is even a small part in a movie. sorry don’t know. anyway just a thought. ( Keep Rock’in) Big Fan: Brando from N.J.

  3. Richard Booth says:

    Loved the concept of the body in the helmet, but as a former MK V diver, I am here to tell you WRONG. Shortly after the inception of the MK V they soon realized that problem and eliminated it by placing a non-return valve in line with the air supply just at the helmet so accidentally severing the air supply would NOT cause the body to migrate to the helmet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!A response would be greatly appreciated.

    • Seemab says:

      I think they are referring to before the valve was installed, because I’ve asked my scuba instructor and he says that it used to be possible before safety precautions were installed. I guess the valve was the safety precaution.

      • Ryan says:

        Percisely… If you watch the episode as well, they point out early on of the non-return valve, and that the myth would require the use of a suit without one. Though should that valve also fail to operate properly…

  4. Chris says:

    In the episode, they acknowledged the existence of the non-return valve and mentioned that it would be immediately busted if it was working. But a historian on diving said that often divers would neglect the upkeep of their suit and this valve would malfunction. So the Mythbusters just assumed a malfunctioning non-return valve and disabled it.

  5. Leslie says:

    Any ideas of how I could do an even smaller scale test than they did? I’m trying to come up with a Mythbusters birthday party demonstration.

  6. JR says:

    I think someone pulled a fast one on you guys!around here, dumpster diving MEANS, digging through a trash dumpster to find whatever goodys or food you can find!!!!!!

  7. Laser says:

    And around here, episode titles are sometimes puns.

  8. Mr Know it All says:

    There is a technical fault with the phrasing/s of the diving helmet issue.

    IF the hose was cut near the helmet, the pressure between the inside and the outside of the suit would be similar. IF the compressor stopped and there was some fault with it’s valving – meaning it leaks backwards, AND OR the hose was cut near the surface on the deep dive; it’s then and only then that the “air running up a straw” effect would occur.

    The pressure differential has to be created.

    Great episode.

  9. westcoast2 says:

    dumpster diving.

    On July 1st, 4 teenagers went on the roof of a 7 storey building. 2 of them leaned against a piece of plywood covering an old elevator shaft. They fell the 7 storeys onto a pile of recycling and lived. One person broke a leg and the other received cuts and bruises. So Jamie and Adam………very plausible. This occurred in Vancouver BC.

  10. gillotte says:

    hmm i dont really see why meatman did that as the world record for free diving in just a wetsuit is 109 meters or around 327 feet. anyone explain why meatman went into the helmet while this guy in just a wetsuit is fine? possibly cause the test didnt take into account the air in the divers body?

    • jacob says:

      Because in a wet suit, your body equalize pressure with your surroundings as you descend. So as long as you exhale while diving, your lungs don’t explode. But in a diving suit like that, you’re at surface pressure. So when the line is cut, its a sudden shift in pressure.

      It’s not that somebody can’t survive that pressure, its the pressure change.

  11. Lance says:

    Not an expert here, but while the air was being pumped into the suit, it balanced the pressure squeezing on the soft canvas-based?? suit.

    With the non-return valve disabled (this was mentioned) – when the air pressure from the surface was stopped and “dumped”, the external – VERY HIGH water pressure could squeeze the softer suit material and even the soft parts of the human inside the suit – in a manner similar to squeezing a toothpaste tube.

    The only place for the soft body parts to go would be into the rigid helmet. (Note – even the “rigid” helmet could not fully withstand the DIFFERENCE in pressure – it buckled too!)

    I will admit I am NOT familiar with free diving in an ordinary wetsuit – SORRY.

  12. Francisco Gonzalez says:

    Regards from Venezuela:

    Today my father saw one of your old programs at discovery latinoamerica, you’re working in a myth related with a fatal accident in a mark V diving suit.
    He was in the navy in the 50’s an said there was so obvious, in your country you should have old diver and they can tell you all about the risk in this times.
    But he told me when he worked in the 60’s for a Standard Oil Associated (Creole Petrolum Co) they worked in a improved systems they use 2 gas tank as spare for the compressor, they were 4 men 3 venezuelan technicians a 1 US technician, Mr Boscan Diver Chief Esso lake fleet, Mr Tobinson Esso lake fleet operational maintenace, Mr Pedro Gonzalez Esso fleet oil tankers maintenance & operation team’s member (my father) and Mr Pablo Nava (Diving contractor firm) the last one design a dual decompression chamber y the three worked in the support system for divers.
    In a brief they use two-ways valves for safety operations.
    He also said me that this kind of dead is awful, horrible and there is no words for describe that terrible event

  13. Mercia says:

    I grew up in northern NJ, just acsors the river from Manhattan. AS kids, we loved “garbage night”, when everyone put their trash out for pick-up. People threw away the most amazing things. Perfectly good furniture, radios, toys, etc. We loved roaming the neighborhoods looking for treasures. Whenever we go back for a visit, I still find it amazing that people throw away perfectly good items. And it’s still fun to wander about to treasure hunt. In general though, we don’t really dumpster dive anymore. Not because we are too proud but mainly because we have too much stuff in our lives already. However, if we see an item we can use, we’ll pick it up.

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