Even though DCS might seem sub­tle, it could be se­ri­ous

Scuba Diver Australasia - - Research, Education & Medicine - Text by Images by

We were in the Mal­dives for a seven-day live­aboard. Al­most all the dives we did were deep, the cur­rents were run­ning, and of­ten we found our­selves fin­ning into them as we fol­lowed the guides, on the look­out for the sharks and rays this re­mark­able atoll is fa­mous for. The trip was tak­ing place dur­ing the rainy sea­son, and we had al­ready sur­faced a few times in heavy downpours, with vis­i­bil­ity on the sur­face re­duced to a few me­tres.

SWIM­MING FOR SAFETY

On the fifth day, we did two dives, and by about 4pm we were ready to jump in for num­ber three. The wa­ter was soupy, green. Bot­tom­ing out at around 38 me­tres, we swam along the outer reef to­wards the en­trance to the chan­nel, which we ap­proached from be­low the lip that marks the pas­sage into the lagoon.

We as­cended slowly up the lip to about 26 me­tres, feel­ing the strength of the cur­rent in­creas­ing as we climbed. But it was go­ing the wrong way, not into the lagoon where the boat would meet us, but out to the open ocean. And it was very strong. Our reg­u­la­tors were rat­tling in our mouths, and as we cleared the top of the lip, we had to hold onto the rocky sub­strate to keep our­selves from be­ing pulled off the reef.

The guide called the dive, in­struct­ing every­one to start the as­cent. We let go and the reef dis­ap­peared from view in a mat­ter of sec­onds. It took us at least eight min­utes to reach the sur­face, all of us mak­ing con­ser­va­tive safety stops on the way.

By the time we hit the sur­face, the cur­rent had pulled us a long way from the atoll. The boat, wait­ing for us in the pre­ar­ranged spot, was now just a speck on the hori­zon. It was about 4.45pm, and we had about an hour and half of day­light left. Look­ing to the west, a squall was fast ap­proach­ing. We cal­cu­lated that we had about 20 min­utes for the boat to pick us up be­fore the rain hit, clos­ing out the vis­i­bil­ity and mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for us to be seen.

With ev­ery se­cond we were drift­ing fur­ther out into the In­dian Ocean. All of us had our SMBs up, but the boat was too far away to spot them. We were fin­ning in an at­tempt to re­main where

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