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Quote of the Day - There is no dilemma compared with that of the deep-sea diver who hears the message from the ship above, "Come up at once. We are sinking." - Robert Cooper
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Dive Your Plan, Plan Your Dive - Except If You Flaunt The Rules

First let me say I don't have all the facts; indeed none of us can because we weren't there.  But there are several things that bear perhaps a more considered analysis in the behavior of the couple who were rescued after getting lost off the Queensland coast on the Great Barrier Reef.  Oh, and lest we not forget, the mainstream news media, too.

"Shark-infested waters?

Perhaps a good adjective to sell newspapers, but hardly accurate.  How do I know?  Two reasons:  first, the obvious one -- the couple was rescued.  The waters couldn't have been "infested" or they would have died.  Second, I speak from experience - Last year Lisa (who's a Master Dive Instructor and more perturbed about this episode than I am) and I dove the same place they dove.  Sure, there are sharks in the area, but not great whites, and certainly not the kind that are going to attack. 

Shark attacks are rarer than being struck by lightning.  Plus, sharks that are well-fed don't attack humans, and the marine life around the Great Barrier Reef is plentiful enough to feed the sharks.  Finally, sharks generally attack only unhealthy prey - they're really just opportunistic feeders.  It's highly unlikely they'd attack healthy divers. 

How do I know all this?  I'm a dive instructor and dive master.  Plus, I dove in the Coast Guard where they taught survival skills, both of which bring me to my next point.

"They surfaced 220 yards from the boat?"

Admittedly, Richard Neely claims to be an instructor, too, but here are several rules you don't break, otherwise you end up in trouble like he and his companion, Allyson Dalton, did.  First, always know where the boat is.  While you're underwater, you can ask.  The sign used is your two hands cupped together like the hull of a boat with a slight shoulder shrug.  In response to this signal, your buddy first gives a directional signal with one hand and then a relative distance measurement with both hands. 

Too far, and you both head back to the boat.  If you and your buddy can't answer the question, then one of you stays down and the other surfaces, always staying within sight of one another.  The diver on the surface spots the boat and then drops back down and informs the other diver with the same set of hand signals.  You never, ever lose your perspective on the boat's location and your distance from it.

Frankly, if you think about it, why would you want to stray from the boat?  Nothing good can come of it, as perhaps is more than obvious now.  Rule violation number one. 

As a second rule, stay with the group.  There's not only safety in numbers, you can be assured one of the members of the group is the boat's dive master, and s/he will always know not only where s/he is at any given moment.  In fact, if you think about it a bit, you'd realize the dive master has been diving the dive site so long that s/he knows all the dive site's boundaries, but will also know where the boat is, even if you don't. 

In this instance, Neely and Dalton obviously violated that rule, too.  They dove alone, as one of the other divers on the boat reported.  Rule violation number two.

Finally, every dive boat, on every dive the dive master gives a briefing on deck before you get in the water.  It's your job as a diver to pay attention to that briefing and follow it.  The mantra is always plan your dive and dive your plan.  The dive master will identify the outer boundaries of the dive site, the speed of the current outside the boundaries, where it's located and its direction.  Now let's pause here for a moment and give some thought to where the dive boat was moored.

It was in a lagoon.

That means no current - that's the very definition of a lagoon.  It's calm.  And if you've been following along here, the current is where?  Yep, you guessed it:  outside the lagoon.  Neely and Dalton were swept away by?  Yep, you guessed it:  the current.  Which means? 

The reason they were found some seven miles away from the dive site?  Current outside the lagoon.  Where they weren't supposed to be in the first place.  Where the dive master told them not to go.  They claim they weren't briefed.  Right.  Remember that part about plan your dive and dive your plan?  It's part of every dive - which you would have drilled into you, especially if you were an instructor.  Rule violation number three. 

One last thing. 

"A dive whistle?"  Take a look at a dive whistle.  If you're going to flaunt these rules, then at least you should have a dive alert siren.  Think semi-tractor trailer horn.  No way the boat isn't going to know where you are with one of these things, even if you pop up 220 yards away from the boat.  Rule violation number four. 

Talk about unprepared.  Talk about sensational news media. 

Gives diving a bad name it doesn't deserve. 

They're lucky they're still alive. 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 23:20 Comments Closed (2) |
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