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March 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Two More Divers Stranded for Hours on Great Barrier Reef

from the March, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It seems to be an annual event for a male and female diver to get separated from their Great Barrier Reef liveaboard and stranded at sea for hours. Last year, it was Allyson Dalton and Richard Neely who spent 19 hours overnight in the water, after they failed to be spotted by their liveaboard, the Pacific Star, after surfacing. (They told us their story in the July 2008 issue of Undercurrent and last month, the Australian officials officially charged the boat’s company with failure to ensure the divers’ health and safety.) This year, it was Michele Turner, 42, of Lititz, PA, and a 40-something male diver from California who went adrift while on a seven-day trip aboard the Mike Ball liveaboard Spoilsport. Fortunately, they only spent seven hours at sea and were rescued before sundown.

On February 6, Turner and the other diver were buddies for an hour-long morning dive at Ribbon Reef #10 near Lizard Island. Mike Ball told Undercurrent what happened next. “At the dive orientation, the plan was to keep hold of the descent line until everyone met at the reef, then swim upcurrent and return with the current. They descended at 10:09 a.m. What happened was one diver let go of the line and drifted downcurrent, followed by the other diver. At 11:15, we notified the closest vessel to assist search, and at 11:45, we notified the Australian Maritime Safety Authority of missing divers.”

Turner’s husband told the Express Times in Bethlehem, PA, that the divers surfaced at 10:20 a.m. and were nowhere near the boat. The current pulled them eight nautical miles from the dive site and they tread water until 5:15 p.m., when they were picked up by the Lizard Island-based M/V Fascination.

One good takeaway from this incident: It’s not a bad idea to wear bright-colored gear. Rescue crews said Turner’s pink diving suit helped them find her. “They are two very lucky people,” Cairns police inspector Brent Carter told the Cairns Post. “Another hour and a half and it would’ve been dark and a different proposition.” Ball said the two divers rejoined the Spoilsport for the remainder of their trip, “and they had a great time.”

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