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August 2001 Vol. 16, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bahamas Rogue Downwellings

from the August, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

While aboard Blackbeards Sea Explore r in the Bahamas on a cruise beginning April 28, I witnessed the rescue of several unfortunate divers caught it a nasty downward current.

It was a horrible, rainy and cold cruise, the worst possible conditions for Blackbeards accommodations. We all bit our lips and did what we could to enjoy the diving.

When we arrived at our next site, we found divers scattered everywhere on the surface. As the crew of another Blackbeards boat, the Pirates Lady, struggled to get an unconscious diver up the ladder, our skipper, Steve Clark, immediately recognized the problem and quickly maneuvered the boat to recover divers from the ocean. They waited on our boat while first aid was administered to the unconscious diver on the deck of Piratess Lady. A half dozen divers got dragged down by a current as far as 200 feet. Three divers had to be evacuated from Bimini to the chamber and medical facilities in Miami.

One diver told me that he got pulled to 175 feet and had to make a rapid ascent from that depth. He was later evacuated with mild DCS symptoms. Later I talked with Blackbeards about the fate of the unconscious diver. She had suffered a mild heart attack and fully recovered.

We dove the same site 30 minutes after recovering the others. I saw huge turtles and a reef shark doing figure eights over a section of wall that jutted over the drop off. As I felt a light current running down a chute on the wall, our group of 15 divers completed the dive unscathed.

Bruce Purdy, the owner, said he once experienced a similar current, though apparently not as strong, on another dive during November. He found that both times a strong northeast wind had prevailed for several days and the tide was going out. He said he will advise his captains to avoid the drift dive on this wall off Bimini when the rare northeast wind is a factor. They will also brief divers on the potential of encountering a downwelling and instruct them on how to swim out of it if necessary.

Jim Walls

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