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May 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Real Advanced Open Water Class

from the May, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Two South African scuba divers were found, exhausted but alive, drifting more than 8 km away from where they went missing on April 8.

The alarm was raised shortly after 9 a.m., when dive instructor Juan Snyman, 45, and Advanced Open Water Dive student Rezano Damoense, 36, surfaced a hundred meters from their boat. The men were part of a group of five divers who were doing a recreational dive out of Port Elizabeth. Snyman, co-owner of Elite Scuba in Walmer, was taking Damoense on his first 30m deep dive.

Snyman said "We were taken adrift by the current ... Our two marker buoys were inflated and raised, but because of the angle of the sun and the glare on the sea, the skipper and people on the boat were looking directly into the sun. We saw them, but they could not see us."

When Snyman realized they had not been spotted, they blew their emergency whistles, but the wind and sound of the boat's motor muffled their whistles and calls for help.

Damoense said he knew they would be found because of Snyman's 17 years of diving experience. "He explained that we had to stay in line with the boats that were searching. At one stage, we started drifting apart and then held onto each other's gear to stay together. We discussed dropping all our dive gear and making a swim for the shore, but the current was just too strong." Both eventually did drop their dive weights.

Damoense said that at one stage they spotted a "dark thing" heading towards them, which gave them both a fright. "That was scary, but it turned out to be a seal, which then went away."

Snyman said they had realized that they were drifting further out to sea, away from the searchers. "We attempted to swim towards the [Cape Recife] lighthouse, but the more we tried, the more tired we got, and we just kept drifting further out to sea. At one stage, I got cramps in my legs."

Meanwhile, the skipper raised the alarm for more people to join the search. Seven rescue boats, spaced 100 meters apart, conducted a sweeping line search following the direction of the currents and wind, and a rescue boat spotted them about 12.30 p.m.

The two men joked that if they had not been found, they would have likely come ashore near the marine protected area at Coega, and would probably have spent the night in jail because no one would have believed that they had drifted that far and the police would have thought they were poachers.

Asked if he would be hesitant to dive again, Damoense said he was keener to dive than ever. "You cannot learn this in a textbook -- only experience can teach you what to do -- and I am lucky that he [Snyman] was there to teach me," he said.

From an article by Gareth Wilson
in the Port Elizabeth Herald

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