I always enjoyed reading the, ‘I-Learned-About-Diving-From-That’ articles that once appeared in the pages of diving magazines: dramatic tales of being caught in the “invisible death grip” of a down current; becoming trapped inside the compartment of a wreck; being left at sea; suffering an embolism or ‘bend’; coping with an equipment malfunction at depth, or a scary encounter with sharks.
They’re the sorts of stories in which readers are encouraged to bare their bums to the world by writing about their diving disasters and near-death experiences, and usually conclude with a short sermon to the effect that in diving nothing should ever be taken for granted.
When they’re being honest, most of the writers admit that the incidents were the result of poor dive planning, lack of foresight, or a failure to accept responsibility for their own actions and well-being.
Occasionally, however, some divers find it easier to pin the blame for their predicament on somebody else. In extreme cases, (like my mate, Krabbmann when he wants to side-step the issue of responsibility) they’ll even suggest that the incident was an Act of God and could have happened to anyone!
“Did I ever tell you about the time, I was Instructing on a day-boat?” Krabbman asked.
“It was my first day on the job,” he continued. “I’d given a comprehensive briefing about the dive site and ensured that everybody was familiar with the dive plan. I’d even given a few pointers to one novice diver about ways to make his diving more comfortable based on my own vast experience.
“Within a few minutes of their descent two divers surfaced, one towing his nearly-unconscious and choking buddy back to the boat. Rapidly hauling the afflicted diver out of the water and into the enclosed cockpit where the oxygen cylinder was stored, I quickly discovered what had gone wrong.
“It seems that the novice diver had been overly concerned about the condition that, during the briefing, I’d described as ‘cotton-mouth’ – the one where your mouth gets all dry on account of the pure dry breathing air delivered by the regulator.
“Deciding to adopt my recommendation of putting a marble in the mouth as an aid to condensation, he had, without my knowledge, helped himself to a handful of my marbles. During his descent – and with a gob full of marbles – he discovered that he couldn’t grip the regulator mouthpiece properly. It drifted out of his mouth. While replacing the regulator, he depressed the purge button. An action that forced air – together with one of the marbles – down his throat.
“Quickly assessing the situation,” Krabbmann continued, “I performed the Heimlich manoeuvre on the diver in order to dislodge the obstruction. It was so effective that the offending marble – now a lethal projectile – shot out of his mouth, smacked into the GPS and, on the ricochet, shattered the cockpit window.
“Unfortunately it was right at that moment that the vessel hit a small swell and dipped down into the sea. A flying fish, presumably escaping from a predator, flew through the smashed window and lodged itself in the skipper’s throat. Shocked by the intrusion and with arms flailing everywhere, the skipper dragged the ships radio onto the deck in a swelter of wires and bits of metal.
“Pulling the fish out of his mouth by its tail, he swiped it around and caught the cook – carrying a tray of hot coffee – under the jaw. She fell backwards. The tray fell forwards, spraying scalding hot drinks over everyone in the vicinity – including the now recovering diver.
“Screaming in agony and clutching his injured eyes, he misjudged his timing and fell over the side of the boat straight onto the head of a surfacing diver.
“With two injured divers, A GPS that showed our position as being somewhere in Mongolia, and no obvious way to summon assistance, I quickly took control of the situation by firing a Very pistol flare to attract the attention of a nearby fishing vessel.
“Unfortunately the incendiary landed right on top of their fuel canister and set fire to the boat. But not before they’d sent off an emergency radio call that summoned several rescue craft to the scene.
“I learned a lot about diving from that,” said Krabbmann. “The main lesson being that losing your marbles and panicking never, ever makes a bad situation better.”
The above article first appeared in print in February 2006.