08 February, 2009

Light Up, it could save your life !!!

The following was kindly contributed by Ken Chan of Sandy Bottoms Divers in Hong Kong:
Now, before you run to the nearest corner shop for some cigarettes, read on first.

On our SBD trip to Bali last Christmas, we met a group of divers from the USA. The land that brought us the “Spare-Air”. These divers had all sorts of equipment with them for emergencies. Clearly visible were things like a 3 ltr pony-bottle, large SMB, spool, air-horn and dive-flag. One could only guess what they had in their BCD pockets.

Over the past few years, there have been a number of incidents involving divers “left behind” in the Australasia region. The most famous being the one at the Great Barrier Reef, when two divers were left behind by their boat and the mistake noticed when it was too late. No trace has ever been found of the divers. )The film “Open Water” seems to be based on this incident.)
During April-May 2008 there were three incidents with divers separated from their boats and not found until a few days later. All 3 incidents ( Great Barrier, Tai Wan and Komodo) had happy endings.

How could this happen?

Boats could leave without having done a proper “head count” or it could be that divers surface too far from the boat to be seen/heard (or both). What can you do to prevent being left behind by your boat? In case of the former, get noticed on your boat. When people notice you, it will be more likely you’ll be noticed “missing” during the count.
Don’t go and hit the dive master though, be noticed in a “positive” way.
As for getting separated/left behind, be prepared.

Accidents do, and will, happen. It’s how well prepared you are that will make the difference.
In most of the cases that divers got separated from their boat, a (strong) current played a role. Currents were stronger than expected (Komodo) or went in a different direction than expected (Tai Wan).
A drift-dive can be extremely good fun and I can certainly recommend doing one. Do some research about the dive site though before you go and do one. While there are sites with predictable currents, there are also places where currents can be “unpredictable” and/or “come out of nowhere”. Think twice before you dive there, and if you do…… be prepared.
Do your home work!!! Consider doing the “Drift Diver specialty course”, properly!! (more about that in another article)

So what does that have to do with a cigarette? Nothing at all………….

With “Light Up”, I mean using a dive light. On every dive I will carry a reel/spool, SMB, whistle, small mirror and……………. a dive light. Night AND day !
A dive light comes in very handy when you want to see “true colours” or shine into dark places to get a better look.
It will also help to make yourself visible at night when you want to be seen/noticed by your boat or, touch wood, a search and rescue team.
When S&R teams look for people, divers, lost in the water, most searches will stop once it gets dark. It is very difficult to see people in the water during the day and impossible during the dark hours. Unless………………… you got a light. A light can be seen from far and when a S&R team knows for sure you got a light, it will be more likely that they continue the search. In fact, it would be easier to spot you at night (with your light) then it would be to find you during the day (in most cases).

Most “emergency kit-lists” will have a strobe on them (no not the one for your camera/video). A strobe works great but will only be useful for that purpose alone, not many people are willing to purchase one for that reason. A, small, dive light however can be used as mentioned above and be your back-up light on night dives.
If you dive with a camera/video and strobe(s), you could fire those when you hear a boat/plane at night.

Take note though, having an extra piece of gear does NOT mean you’ll be safe. It’s just another “tool in the toolbox” to help you deal with anything that might happen.
Proper training and Experience are two other major “tools”.
So, on your next dive……….. “Light Up” and “lighten up”, it’s meant to be fun !!!!!

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