A section of Sir Robert H Davis’ classic work, ‘Deep Diving and Submarine Operations’ is devoted to Divers’ Yarns.
Highlighting the fact that an active imagination can often prove to be a diver’s worst enemy, one of the stories tells the experiences of a 19th century Siebe, Gorman & Co. diver, operating from a salvage vessel working in the vicinity of a foreign port where nobles had been executed and their bodies thrown into the harbour.
Responding to the pleas of a mother of one victim, who begged the Chief Diving officer for help in recovering the body of her son, one of the divers was duly briefed on what to look for. A few minutes after descending, the diver’s surface attendant received frantic signals on the life-line. Hauled quickly to the surface, and back on board the vessel, the terrified diver began babbling that he’d been surrounded by ghosts.
He had, apparently, just started his search in the harbour’s murky water when he beheld the corpse of an old man who appeared to be approaching him. The diver started to retreat when he suddenly – and terrifyingly – found himself surrounded by the dead, all of whom appeared to be stretching out their arms to grab him.
Later dives confirmed that the bodies had been weighted at the feet with chains to prevent them floating to the surface. Although anchored by their feet to the sea floor, their bodies were free to move with the tides, currents and water eddies.
Proof that in diving, an active imagination can be both a blessing as well as a curse.