29 August, 2008

The Moment I was Hoping Would Never Come....

This post has been kindly contributed by Ken Chan, a veteran diving instructor currently based in Hong Kong and one of the founding members of the Sandy Bottoms Divers Club. If you live in Hong Kong or if you are just passing by and have time for a dive or two you should definitely check them out:
The Moment:
Last Saturday I was out diving, the first time out at sea for my two open water students.
Dive one was on a sandy bottom, max depth 6 mtrs and bottom time was 24 minutes.
The last exercise was a “5-point-ascent”. My students performed it very well, a textbook ascent. Though the fin-kick wasn’t that beautiful, hands were up, air was released from their BCDs as they went up, no faster than 18 mtr/min, all the while turning around and looking up.
Just as we were about to reach the surface something looked wrong. One of my students stopped kicking and started going down again with head slumped down.
I grabbed the BCD, brought the diver up and established positive buoyancy while telling the other student to hold on to the dive marker next to us. I called the student’s name but got no reply, there were no signs of breathing either.
My student had blacked out and stopped breathing less than 30 cm from the surface!

I started Rescue Breaths and called/signaled for help in between. (Wow was I glad there were no other divers on the surface*) Just before help arrived, my student regained consciousness. Very weak and barely breathing, but conscious.
I removed weight-belt and BCD and towed my student to the boat. Another instructor and the boatman took care of the other student and equipment respectively.

My student recovered on the boat while the other divers were returning to the boat. Once back in Sai Kung, it was straight to the hospital.
As the doctor and nurse did their tests, I expressed my thoughts regarding an excessive amount of CO2 as a possible cause. They put her on oxygen to flush-out any possible excess CO2. I then called DAN / DES for some more input. Could it be as simple as hyperventilation leading to hypercapnia? Doesn’t that happen to free-divers only? DAN / DES advised to contact the HK hyperbaric chamber, just in case bubbles were a factor, which I did. Not much help there. Once they heard we were already in a, public, hospital I was told just to wait to see what the doctor would say and do.

Results from the blood-tests showed a high CO2 level, likely b/o hyperventilation and/or shallow breathing.
My student would be fine but was kept overnight for observation none-the-less. The next dive with my student has already been planned.

I now think that maybe one, or more, of the fatal accidents in HK with divers going missing and found drowned at the bottom of shallow water might have had hypercapnia as a cause. Little or no experience (in low viz) lost from your buddy and low light are enough to get one to hyperventilate/breath very fast.
I learnt a number of things, though not exactly the way I had in mind to learn about this. At least all my training paid-off.

What to take from this?
- Our practice, at SBD, of only taking as many students you can see (as you swim behind
them) diving, is spot on.
- Never wave your arms for attention, unless in an emergency. Local divers seem to
habitually surface far away from their boat and then wave for the tender to pick them
up. As I was downwind from the boat I could not be sure that I could be heard correctly
on the boat so “waving” was important to get the message across.* Hence I was glad no
other divers were on the surface.
- Know your rescue skills and practice those skills.
Thank you Ken - - - - The Frog Man

27 August, 2008

Join the Elysium Expedition

The following is an alert for interested experienced divers. Information in this post was made available by Michael Aw of Ocean Geographic For more information contact info@ElysiumEPIC.org
Project Abstract

In 2010, the heroic spirit of Sir E. Shackleton lives on through a new team of explorers: To follow his footsteps, not for the glory of being the first to cross the Antarctic or the first to climb the highest mountain but to produce a momentous documentation of one of the most beautiful places on Earth. This production will serve as a gift for future generations with an imaging epic that guarantees to inspire, invigorate and challenge for preservation of planet earth. Elysium is a project that draws upon the world’s finest nature artists and scientists to document the vista, flora and fauna of the Antarctica Peninsula and South Georgia. The area is regarded as one of the most enchanting wilderness regions of our planet, yet volatile and under severe threat from the warming of the world’s climate. The production promises the most awesome and most stunning audio visual interpretation ever seen of Antarctica.
To achieve the desired outcome, some of the most world’s most celebrated explorers have been selected for the principal team which includes David Doubilet, Jennifer Hayes, Wyland, Amos Nachoum, Heather Angel, Leandro Blanco, Jonathan Shackleton, Göran Ehlmé, Paul Nicklen, Michael AW and Jamie Watt.
Opportunities now arise for individuals who wish to be part of an expedition among the giants of twentieth-first century explorers in a benchmark project that will leave behind a legacy of achievement and discovery for this generation and the next.
Download Abstract and to join the expedition

24 August, 2008

Shark Humor

Since I have just written a post on sharks this vignette sent to me by my friend Christian is quite timely!!!

It is true! Diving at Chumphon Pinnacle is a lot of Bull….Sharks!!

A few months back I read a little insert in a regional diving magazine announcing the discovery that what were believed to be large Grey Reef Sharks at the Chumphon Pinnacle dive site, located in the waters between Chumphon on the mainland and the island of Koh Tao in southern east Thailand, were, in fact, Bull Sharks.

I must admit I totally forgot about that reading until boarding the dive boat bound for the Chumphon Pinnacle this past Tuesday. On a fine August morning the Chumphon Pinnacle can be a very busy dive site with half a dozen boats neatly lined up at the only two mooring lines but on a windy afternoon with choppy sea you can end up having the site all to yourself with a few privileged companions. I got to experience both.

The top of the pinnacle lies at about 15 meters deep and with a sandy bottom at just over 30 meters the site provides for easy navigation. However, visibility can get rather poor.

On our first dive, past the frenzied traffic of divers ascending and descending the mooring line to and from the top of the pinnacle and on the way to the sand field at the bottom I caught (unfortunately not on camera) one of the most fascinating sea life scene for me so far. A large Barracuda swam by me and turned to hover just above my head before darting forth and, with a loud SNAP!! sound, cut in half a passing fish of which it quickly ate the first half. Within a split second a second large barracuda dashes for the second half followed at great speed by a shark. SNAP!!! goes the Barracuda and off goes the shark having missed his chance for a tasty morsel. Some action!!! It happened so fast I really cannot tell what kind of shark that was.

A different story at the bottom where the very distinctive, stocky shapes of Bull Sharks roaming the sands restlessly and rather uncaring of the daring few divers getting close enough to get a good look through the silt hovering between 25 and 30 m, confirmed what I had been reading months earlier. Magnificent creatures which seem to be wanting to make a clear statement about their name and status in the shark family. Below is a video of one of the Bull Sharks taken on the first dive at Chumphon Pinnacle.

The second dive at Chumphon Pinnacle was a different experience as, while we were the only one diving on the site last Thursday afternoon, visibility at the bottom was rather poor and the Bulls would just materialize in front, behind or on your side 2 or 3 meters away from you and even then only as a majestic silhouette. The second video below is very poor in definition but serves to provide an idea.

More on Bull Sharks at the Chumphon Pinnacle here.

All videos and pictures below are taken by Marco Gorin whom retains copy rights.