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October 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 23, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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How Useful Is a Dye Marker in a Search?

from the October, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Dear Ben,

Because my husband and I dive around the world in remote places, I always am interested in your articles pertaining to rescue. Thankfully, we have never needed to be rescued. However, we have always tried to prepare ourselves as well as possible for that worst case scenario.

In your recent article, Rescue Devices for Saving Your Bacon, you mention several well-known devices. The yellow flag on a tall pole that is strapped to a divers tank is interesting. But I wonder why you didnt mention the fluorescent dye markers that come in a vial about three inches long? I read an article awhile back about a lost diver who was rescued. He believed that a dye marker enabled the planes to see him. Furthermore, he said he would never dive without one again. I immediately ordered dye markers for my husband and me. Would you please address the fluorescent dye marker as a help in rescue?

- - Patty Turbeville (Bradenton, FL)

Patty, we asked the Rescue Devices article author, John Bantin, to respond to your question.

Dye markers are useful for making a person in the water a bigger visual target for an air search. However, they are only effective when the sea is calm, as the dye soon gets dispersed. Assuming that a diver has left a boat with the crews knowledge, and should the sea be calm enough for a dye marker to work, the crew should also be able to spot the head of a diver (or other visual marker device) at the surface. Just as flares are only usefully applied to draw the attention of those known to be searching, a dye marker has a limited application for divers. We need a marker that is not obscured by waves and rough seas, and that is why dye markers were not mentioned.

It is when divers surface away from the reef or where the boat crews do not expect them to be (in the open sea, for example) that they become cause for concern. Therefore, divers should carry a rescue device that works in any type of weather or water.

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