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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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September 2002 Vol. 28, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Stop. Think.

from the September, 2002 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

After reading the postmortems of diving accidents in the August 2002 issue, I felt the need to share my experience.

After becoming open-water certified in the chilly waters of Monterey Bay, California, my partner and I booked a tenday dive trip to Moorea Island in Tahiti. After diving several days with groups of three or four, we went out with eight. Since they allowed only one buddy-pair to precheck and enter the water at a time, my buddy and I, being the first ones in, had a bit of a wait. There was a little chop, so as we floated on inflated BCs we used our snorkels. My concern with my video camera managed to occupy the time. Finally we got the word to descend.

I hoisted the BC valve above my head, exhaled deeply through my mouthpiece and shoved under. At eight feet I had exhausted the last bit of air in the BC, and in my lungs, so I let go of the valve and took a great drag on the mouthpiece— of my snorkel, which I still had in my mouth. Fortunately, my throat closed faster than I could think, so I didn’t choke.

As I went to jam the regulator mouthpiece into my face, I realized that I didn’t have any air left in my lungs. I couldn’t clear the water. And I was still going down. It was then that all the training kicked in. Stop! Think!

Even though there wasn’t an ounce of air in my lungs, I still had time to run through a list of things I could do, several of which would have worked, including using the purge valve on the regulator to clear the mouthpiece. I did this, and with a huge gulp of dry air the crisis ended before I became another statistic.

It sounds damnably simple sitting here writing this. It probably does to you, too, reading this. I can tell you, though, it was not my first impulse. It did not seem quite so simple when I was fifteen feet underwater and drifting deeper, with completely exhaled lungs. There is always time to stop and think — preferably before you do something foolish as I did—even if it’s in the middle of what seems like your last breath. I know.

Edward Waldorph
Spanish Fort, AL

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