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March 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 32, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Long Swim to Safety

from the March, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Last October Undercurrent reported two cases of divers being separated from their boats and drifting in the ocean. In November we told you about yet another case, prompting us to publish an article regarding surface markers that can do a lot to alleviate the stress and reduce the risk of a diver being lost at sea. However, that didn't stop these incidents continuing to happen.

Toward the end of the year, a 46-year-old British diver survived eight hours in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia. He and his buddy were left to swim for it after the anchor line of their unmanned vessel broke and allowed it to drift away. One man finally reached the drifting boat and was able to raise the alarm. It was just as night was falling. Leaving a vessel unattended while you scuba dive is a very risky business.

Rescue boats passed the lost diver several times in the dark and rough seas, but he was able to see the flashlight beams of his desperate family members scouring the shoreline and used them as a beacon to swim 10 miles (16km) to safety. The swim took him eight hours.

Ian Beard, from the Geraldton volunteer marine rescue group, later said, "They found him on the beach at around 3:20 a.m., and you can imagine what a reunion it was. It was a big swim."

He added that he thought the diver's boat was too small for the conditions. It had no viable radio, and the divers should have had personal locator beacons. They had an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) on the boat, but that was not much use to the divers in the water. Ten miles is a long way to swim. We don't recommend it for Undercurrent readers.

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