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May 2020    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 35, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Have You Ever Surfaced and Been Lost?

sensible divers take steps to avoid it

from the May, 2020 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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The hiatus in our diving activities gives us time to pause for thought and consider how we can make our activities safer once we pick up where we left off.

"I'm just glad I'm alive," explained Mike Ozburn, a Pensacola diver, after he drifted in the Gulf of Mexico for eight hours before being rescued by a Niuhi Dive Charters boat last June. "I never intended anything like this to ever happen in my life" (See the story in Undercurrent July 2019). It's an experience that would shake up any diver, and it's not so uncommon.

Like Ozburn, we divers spend time underwater happy in the assumption that our boat will be there as surface support when we need it. If we didn't, we couldn't enjoy the dive. However, things don't always go according to plans. Mechanical problems, sea conditions, and the needs of other divers might mean you are not picked up quickly, and surface currents may move you a long way from where you are expected to surface. In planning, preparation for a worst-case scenario is the answer.

Like Mike Ozburn, Wilt Nelson (Leesburg, FL) had a similar experience. He recently wrote to Undercurrent about drifting away with a group in the North Coral Sea before being found because one of the divers had a military-type signal mirror in his BC. "We were adrift two to three hours, which isn't an eon, but some in our group were getting panicked and worried about sharks, so it was one big ordeal too many."

The most frequent diving disaster we write about in Undercurrent seems to be divers lost at the surface. Imagine leading a group of divers around a remote reef in the Suarkin archipelago of the Sudan's Red Sea for an hour, only to surface to discover no pick-up boat and no liveaboard in sight -- only an empty horizon. It happened to Undercurrent's Senior Editor, John Bantin, when he was a dive guide.

He took his charges around to the leeside of the reef so that they were out of the wind and current and could float there without danger of drifting off into the wide blue yonder. They didn't know what had happened to their boat, and their only option was to wait....


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