Archive for the ‘Diving’ Category

scuba monkey rescue breathing accident article

Sometimes, sadly, things can go wrong.

 

Social media is and always has been a double-edged sword. It can be used to spread good ideas, spark discussion and facilitate friendships. It can also be used for trolling, posting an infinite number of ‘cats falling over’ videos or inciting racism and hate. It led Stephen Fry to leave Twitter due to the a constant barrage of bile and vitriol he was receiving. You pay your money, you take your choice.

 

Scuba diving posts and videos are becoming more prevalent over the internet. Most of this driven by the affordability of technology. Every budding diver now buys an underwater camera before they hone their dive skills. This, again, is driven by social media.

 

That means that sometimes horror diving videos are posted on the internet. Is that a good or a bad thing? Is it better to show these things so people can learn from them? Or is it an invasion of privacy for those involved? Can we justify restricting these scuba accident videos when you’re only a couple of clicks away from road accident footage? How should it be monitored or policed? That’s a whole debate to be had.

 

Rescue Breaths

 

However, for the purposes of this article I thought I’d give my comment on one video that went viral and appeared to spark a lot of interest – eventually arriving on my desk. Just to be clear, this is simply my feedback and risk management advice as an Instructor that has spent over 10 years in pretty most diving environments. This isn’t an endorsement or comment from any training agency.

 

The video you’re about to watch took place in 2012 and is of an ‘Advanced Training Dive’ in South Africa. It’s what appears to be four divers; two students (Waseem and Doug), who we assume to be a Divemaster/Divemaster Trainee (called Niki “who keeps everyone calm”) and an Instructor.

 

The video is around 7 minutes long, so grab a coffee, sit back, relax and take a look:

 

 

Now, what was wrong with this dive? Well, pretty much everything. Ok. Firstly, it’s lucky that everyone survived (as far as I’m aware) injury free. That’s good. I’m pleased. Now let’s look at the negatives or, at least the things that stand out to me as issues.

 

Before we even enter the water, why was the student (the cameraman, who I believe is called Doug – student 2) even filming in the first place?? Cameras are a distraction even with experienced divers on a simple dive, never mind a student on their first deeper dive. Even if Doug had the camera strapped to his forehead or wrist with one of those straps it still, psychologically, leads divers to consider the footage they’ll be getting first and their safety second. It’s like driving a car round a series of cones while on a mobile phone: neither your driving or your conversation is at it’s best! It subconsciously effects their decision making. Had it been my class I would have had a polite conversation with the diver and explained that this was ‘…a training dive and full attention is required. Perhaps, if all goes to plan, the camera can come in on subsequent dives.’ The camera would have remained on the boat.

 

Taking the overall picture of the dive, ask yourself as an observer – do these two students look ready for the deep dive? Does the dive site and the conditions appear conducive to the skill and comfort level of the two divers? One of the tell-tale signs of a novice divers is ‘wafting’: the bad technique of waving hands and arms around in the water as the diver has inadequate control and skill. These two guys are flailing around like they’re dancing the Charleston or auditioning for a production of Riverdance. Had they been adequately pre-assessed, a Peak Performance Buoyancy course instead of a Deep Adventure dive may have been a preferable choice at this stage in their diving. They lack control and it’s this lack of control that acts as trigger for the series of events that follow.

 

Yes, telling someone that perhaps they need to polish their skills before progressing to the next level of their training is a difficult conversation to have, but a necessary one. As dive professionals, that’s what we’re paid to do – give professional advice and use good judgement. No, some customers may not like it. But that’s the job. Although some recreational divers may believe otherwise, Instructors know some things they don’t.

 

While we’re on the basics, we’ll give the instructor the benefit of the doubt and assume that the dive has been planned correctly with depth and time considerations. We’ll also assume that buddy checks were completed, but who is buddied with who exactly? To be at this stage in their diving the divers must be qualified divers. This means they should be aware of the buddy system and that it is their responsibility – the students – to stick together. Under some training agencies they would have signed their agreement to this. Doug and Waseem should have been together from beginning to end of dive, no more than a handful of fin kicks away from each other and, preferably on their first deep dive, right next to each other. This is a failing on both their parts.

 

Next is the descent. This is a wreck dive. Look at 0:44. There is a shot line leading down from the surface. And this is the first ‘deep dive’ these guys have done. Again, we’re back to good judgement. There’s a line, make use of it! There may be water movement, anxiety issues or ear problems with the students. Plus, as someone who coaches instructor candidates, I always emphasise control criteria on training dives. The instructor should have briefed the dive accordingly and positioned himself so that each diver is next to the line before decending. Then, and only then, the group should leave the surface in formation: the instructor leading the group to set the pace and assess conditions. The two student ‘buddies’ behind communicating with each other, staying level and adjusting buoyancy to descend slowly and not exceeding the instructor’s pace. The DM should have been just above the students – sandwiching them – and able to monitor their comfort, safety and progress. And ALL should have been grasping the line in their RIGHT hand and (initially) descending feet first before leveling off and easing into a nice controlled diving position as they progress away from the surface.

 

Using the right hand to hold the line serves multiple purposes:

 

  1. It allows the student divers to stop their descent should they encounter ear problems.
  2. It allows the Instructor below to act as a barrier to prevent the students exceeding a safe decent/ascent rate.
  3. It allows the students to make buoyancy adjustments, equalise and communicate via hand signals with each other with their left arm – where all buoyancy adjustment takes place – while simultaneously monitoring their depth on their dive computers – which should be mounted on their RIGHT wrists for that reason.
  4. The knock on effect of taking these steps is that it may increase student diver control and decrease student diver anxiety mid-water.

 

Then, finally, when all four divers together arrive at the wreck below the group can then make a final adjustment for neutral buoyancy and check their buddy(s) are ok before releasing their grip on the line and beginning the dive proper.

 

So what actually happened? 0:46 student 1 decides to (wrongly) duck dive head first from the surface and head deeper at an alarming rate leaving the rest of the group. Was Student 1 crazy? Had he lost control? Had he not listened to the briefing? Let’s leave to one side these questions. The fact remains he has irresponsibly abandoned his buddy and shot off on his own. By 1:17 he’s several metres below the group, on his own, with the Instructor appearing to be chasing after him as quickly as his ears allow.

 

Taking students on their first deep dive can be a very focusing experience. One good rule of thumb as an Instructor is to always position yourself so that you or your DM can make immediate physical contact with your students – you need to be in a position to assist your students if required. However, regardless of what the instructor had briefed, Student 1 had taken it upon himself to ignore his group and head down on his own. It is at this point, for me, the dive would have also taken a different course.

 

Presented with this situation, the Instructor has essentially two ‘safer’ options, again depending on his professional judgement. One, he signals to his DM to stay with Student 2 and that they should (together) surface while the Instructor apprehends Student 1 and aborts the dive. Or, two, he signals to the DM to stay with Student 1 and slowly follow down on the line while he, the instructor, apprehends Student 1, checks he’s ok, and waits for DM and Student 2 at the bottom of the line for 1 minute. Then, if DM and student 2 do not appear, abort and begin a safe ascent up the line together.

 

What happens, in contrast, is Student 1 is on his own, being chased by the Instructor. The DM (for some reason) has abandoned Student 2, who is mid-water. This leaves Student 2, by 1:30 into the footage mid-water, with a burst ear, breathing like he’s Sepp Blatter in a FIFA investigation room – out of control and teetering on the brink of panic. And ALL are too far away from their one control point, the shot line, except the DM who is on the line with her back to Student 2.

 

2:19, Student 1 finally realises “Hey, I have a buddy!” and flaps over to his side. Finally, at 2:30, on the wreck, Student 2 signals to Student 1 he has a problem. Good. He’s communicating. This is the first positive thing so far. However, sadly, both Student 1 and 2 have insufficient skill or focus to maintain their buoyancy. They’re both so busy ‘wafting’ that Student 1 knocks Student 2’s reg out of his mouth at 2:43. It’s not clear where Instructor and DM are at this point.

 

Between 2:50 and 3:00 things start to take a turn for the worse. Without looking at their computers which, ominously, neither seems to do – Student 2 either goes up (which seems more likely based on later events) or, alternatively, Student 1 begins going down. Either way, neither has the presence of mind to take the line and stop, think and breathe.

 

At 3:10 the Instructor appears in shot. He’s waving his finger at Student 2. This would seem to indicate that Student 2 has ascended and is close to group separation at best, rapid ascent at worst. The Instructor appears to gain control of Student 2 and by 3:33 Student 2 is on the deck of the wreck again and his breathing rate is restored to something more normal. The Instructor, to his credit, is at this point trying to get his group together, despite his students’ best efforts. At 3:50 he identifies the DM and Student 1 away from the site in the deeper water and tries to gather the divers in the same place to regain control. And, just when you think he’s finally, FINALLY, got things almost resembling a proper Deep Adventure Dive class, Student 2 begins to go up AGAIN! And, again at the same time, the DM turns her back on Student 1 who has lost control of his buoyancy in the deeper water behind her. At 4:12 the Instructor appears to make the decision to cut his losses and abort the dive. He signals Student 2 that the group will be going up.

 

4:24 and Student 1 grabs the DM’s alternate air source and is in active panic. I would assume that, due to excessive negative buoyancy, rapid breathing and dead air space combined, Student 1 has begin to feel overexerted and air-starved and jumped to the conclusion it’s a regulator problem. The DM and Instructor are trying to calm Student 1. Meanwhile Student 2 watches and continues to film while they begin the ascent.

 

The DM turns to Student 2 at 4:51 and, rather than instruct him to calm down and stay with her, she gives a shrug and a ‘What’s going on?’ signal. They begin an ascent, mid-water. Ascent rate unknown.

 

OK, so at this point there has been a whole catalogue of cock-ups. Some from the Instructor and DM, some from the Students. The group has become anxious and is having to abort. They are mid-water and away from the line. Options are running out.

 

At this point as an Instructor (if I was transported into his wetsuit) my initial duty of care is to ensure that Student 1, who is panicking, makes a safe ascent. Student 1 is not being rational and this is the priority – the danger point. I would then expect (and instruct) a good DM to take control of Student 2, who’s currently unattended but rational and (if possible) launch an SMB to alert any boat traffic that we’ll be ascending mid-water – possibly in boat traffic – and try to keep the whole group together.

 

5:30, we’re back on the surface. This, of course, means NO safety stops were made. No oxygen is provided but we’ll assume that the Instructor has assessed the whole group and asked about their well-being and any signs or symptoms of DCI and has O2 on standby.

 

The video ends with the rolling text that both students are ‘…soon going to be divemasters. But nothing you can learn from a text can prepare us for what took place that day!!. That’s where I disagree.

 

Everything that’s goes wrong here is discussed in all the training up to that point; whether that’s something as simple as maintain buoyancy and buddy contact. Or, alternatively, using an ascent/descent line for control and how to deal with vertigo. Both are studied within the Open Water training.

 

Or, from the perspective of a DM or Instructor, group control, assisting with student divers in training, control criteria and risk management are all studied within DM and Instructor training.

 

It’s easy, sat here with a cup of coffee watching the footage and with the benefit of hindsight, to be smart. The Instructor lost control in the opening seconds of the class and spent the rest of the dive chasing his tail. It snow-balled out of control from there. However, this is all stuff that has been presented in black in white earlier in their training and – had the training been followed – there are a several things that could and should have been done to prevent this even occurring in the first place:

 

  1. Pre-assess the student divers’ skill level. These two guys should not have been on a Deep Adventure Dive based on the evidence presented. Their skill level and general dive procedures were poor.
  2. Don’t allow students to take cameras on a training dive. Training dives are for training.
  3. Thoroughly brief the student divers on the dive plan and refresh them on the buddy system, which was disregarded here.
  4. Remind them about contingency procedures and what to do if there is a problem such as separation, ears, vertigo or disorientation.
  5. Thoroughly brief the DM (if Niki was a DM/DMT) that no student must be left unattended. Always be in a position to make contact and offer assistance. Don’t turn your back on the group unless necessary for minimal periods.
  6. Use the risk management tools at your disposal. In this case go up and down the shot line to maintain group control.
  7. Be clear with your students in the water. Give them clear signals and take control of the group.
  8. If unsure, abort the dive. Do it another day or at another site when they are ready.

 

None of the above is a personal criticism of the DM and Instructor in this video. I’m sure they’re nice people. And a large proportion of the blame for the cluster-f*ck you’ve just watched lies with the students – who seem to have abandoned the basic principles of recreational diving learned in training up to that point in search of their next qualification – or some good footage on their GoPro camera to post on Facebook or YouTube.

 

Professionals, help protect your students and yourself by briefing your DM to do their job. Put any risk management procedures in place that you can to help with diver safety. And brief your students to follow the plan. You can only do so much. But we have to do our best.

 

How do I feel about the footage having reviewed it again? Well, I hope that recreational divers or non-divers don’t view this as a ‘typical’ dive. Diving is a great sport. And, statistically, it’s very safe. Let’s keep it that way. Play it safe. Refresh before your next course, hone your skills and be ready to take the next step – don’t run before you can walk or you won’t be doing yourself or the group you dive with any favours.

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‘Paradise’ is often used to describe tropical diving locations, however, the Maldives encapsulates every sense of the word.

Manta Ray Maldives

Mantas are visitors to The Maldives

 

A group of 1,200 islands located south west of India and Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives hosts an abundance of diverse marine life and offers some of the best dive sites in the world. Whether it’s exploring the lagoons and shallow reefs or flowing through fast currents on challenging drift dives, the Maldives appeals to divers of all abilities. In fact its actual name has the word ‘dive’ in it!

The Maldives offers diving throughout its wet and hot seasons. Due to its location you can expect the air temperature to be between 26-32 degrees and the sea temperature remains at a very pleasant 25-30 degrees all year round.

For the best visibility underwater visit between December and April. During these months the weather is very hot and sea conditions are generally good.

The wet season in the Maldives runs from May to August. There is a higher likelihood of rain, high winds and storms during this time. Water visibility can be reduced down to around ten metres during the wet season, although high levels of Plankton increase the chance of spotting Whale Sharks and Manta Rays!

Here is a selection of some of the best places to dive in the Maldives!

The Kuredu Express.

Maximum depth 27 metres.

Better suited to confident and experienced divers, the Kuredu Express is an exhilarating dive site so called because of its fast currents! Situated in the Lhaviyani Atoll and only a ten minutes boat ride from the island of Kuredu, this famous site offers a great opportunity to dive with larger marine life.

The pretty reef, teeming with small lagoon fish, sits at five metres. Most divers prefer to casually drift off the sloping reef and drop down to a sandy channel at around twenty-five metres. It is here, past a corner and amongst some alcoves in the reef, where the action really begins!

It is wise to hold onto the rocks in an effort to maintain your position with the current whizzing past! Here you will see dozens of Grey Reef Sharks taking advantage of the small marine life (food!) flowing past in the deep water channel’s current. Napoleon Wrasse, Morays, Eagle Rays, Large Tuna and Stingrays are also regular sightings.

 

Kureda Express

Kureda Express

 

Okobe Thila.

Maximum depth 33 metres.

Okobe Thila, or Barracuda Giri as it is also known, is a unique dive site situated within the North Male Atoll.

The site is made up of three stunning coral covered pinnacles and divers have two choices as to how they explore the area depending on how strong the current is.

The first option is to drop down to the main reef at twelve metres via a shot line, then continue down the slope to 25 metres where small overhangs and caves harbour inquisitive Moray Eels.
The second option is to begin the dive by drifting on the current before gradually descending down the sloping reef and navigating the pinnacles.

A bright sandy slope reaches up to around five metres and divers can spend their safety stops amongst Gorgonian Sea fans, soft corals and Anenomes.

Divers are almost guaranteed to encounter some (very friendly!) Napoleon Wrasse, Lionfish, Anthias, Scorpionfish, schools of Oriental Sweetlips and Bannerfish. Big Eye Trevallies, Barracuda and Dog Tooth Tuna can often be seen hunting for smaller fish during dawn and dusk dives.

 

Kandooma Thila.

Maximum depth 30 metres.

Found in the South Male Atoll, this unusual pinnacle, shaped like a teardrop, exhibits a stunning amount of marine life.

This dive is best suited to divers of an advanced level due to the strong currents and a rapid negative entry is advisable. Stretching for three-hundred metres, the pinnacle plays host to Barracuda, Big Eye Trevally, Triggerfish and Grouper. At the west point is ‘Jack Corner’ where Dog Tooth Tuna, White-tip Sharks, Eagle Rays and Jack Fish are likely to buzz past.

Overhangs sit along most of the pinnacle and these provide some protection from the current. Many divers prefer to reverse into the strong current and ascend gradually to the top of the pinnacle around twenty metres where Grey Reef Sharks and Eagle are common sightings.

Kandumma Maldives

Kandumma below the surface – fish life is abundant.

 

Broken Rock.

Maximum depth 30 metres.

Divers in the South Ari Atoll can take advantage of this beautiful reef which offers a myriad of exotic marine creatures.

Just a twenty-five minute boat journey from the island of Vakarufalhi and divided into two parts by a rocky canyon (hence it’s name), this site displays acres of soft corals.

Scorpionfish, Moray Eels, Napoleon Wrasse and thousands of small reef fish bustle around the huge fan corals and Anenomes adorning the sides of the canyon. Schools of Bannerfish, Triggerfish, Pufferfish and Anthias are also attracted to the colourful reef.

Divers can expect to experience some strong currents whilst swimming through the canyon, although their hard work is likely to be rewarded by the company of some charismatic Green Turtles on their safety stop.

Oriental Sweetlips

Oriental Sweetlips hanging around the reef!

 

Hammerhead Point.

Maximum depth 30 metres.

Also known as Madivaru Corner this world famous dive site sits within the Rasdhoo Atoll.

Whilst it is only a five minute boat ride from Kuramathi island, Hammerhead Point is mostly favoured by livaboard divers hoping to catch sight of Hammerhead Sharks early in the morning.

The best way to navigate Hammerhead Point is to drop down and follow the reef’s ridge at around ten metres. Underneath the ridge is a series of coves and overhangs stretching to twenty-five metres, where scores of Surgeonfish, Moray Eels, Anthias and Triggerfish can be found.

The elusive Hammerhead Sharks, some up to four metres long, often appear around the outside corner of the ridge and are a breathtaking sight as they emerge from the blue abyss. Some fast currents can occur around this point, so be prepared to fin a bit harder whilst awaiting the arrival of the scallop-headed wonders!

Large schools of Black Snapper and curious Dog-Tooth Tuna are also frequently spotted here.

Hammerhead Maldives

Cross your fingers, you may stumble upon one of these!

Like what you hear? Want to dive the Maldives? Click here for deals on liveaboards!

http://divezone.net/diving/maldives

In breaking news at The Scuba Monkey’s top-secret research lab (recently re-located to Scotland, just off the main high street in Orkney, past the Fish and Chip shop on the left. Ask for Bob, red beard, glasses, you know the fella) it has been revealed that the Oxford English Dictionary is to be revised due to a spate of incompetent divers.

As it stands, the word ‘Autonomous’ is written on the back of all diving certification cards from Open Water level through, Advanced Open Water level and beyond. This wording was thought to mean that the diver had achieved a level of knowledge, learning and self-sufficiency necessary to dive independently and globally with a similarly qualified dive buddy.

However, recent findings have indicated that the vast majority of supposedly qualified divers are massively incompetent and cannot even prepare themselves for a dive without a team of trained dive professionals dressing them like a small baby having it’s nappy changed and pandering to their every whim.

Rare photo of diver putting their own fins on.

Rare photo of diver putting their own fins on.

On a recent diving trip, Dick Byrne, 63, a recently retired accounts manager, fully qualified diver and irritating arse said “I’ve dived globally and have over 50 dives in my logbook. However, I still can’t manage to put on my own hood, gloves, mask, fins…anything in fact. I can’t even manage to switch on my own tank before kitting up.” Looking baffled he added “I know it says ‘autonomous diver’ on the back of my certification card but I thought that meant I had to sit on the dive deck like Professor Stephen Hawking while 3 people dressed me and then eased me into the water.”

“I thought you were going to equalise my mask for me.”

Rosy Beaver, 28, of Boston, USA, a web designer and olympic standard wet-blanket, said “When I go diving I like to wait until 3 minutes before the dive before checking my equipment and then decide I’d like different fins, mask, gloves. And then to sit there like a helpless animal while a team of dive staff run around after me like I’m Kanye West in a Gucci shop. I and I never put on my own fins. Never.” Looking surprised, she added “I thought Autonomous meant you would be dressed automatically anyway.”

Anass Rhammar, 36, an IT consultant originally from Mumbai, said “When I dive I have a diving computer. However, I have no idea what the strange figures are it provides me on screen are. I just follow the guide blindly like a lemming on a suicide mission. It looks good though, it has a red strap.” Dumbfounded, he said “I thought Autonomous meant I had to wear it in the car too”.

Representatives from the Oxford English Dictionary are presently revising the dictionary definition of ‘Autonomous’ to read: stands a 50/50 chance of being competent and able to think and act for themselves.

Maggie, 38, an Instructor working in Indonesia said “…most holiday divers are about as autonomous as my 3 year old nephew. Yesterday I had to explain to someone which of their boots was for the left foot and which was for the right foot.” Shaking her head she added “Soon we’ll be towing them around the dive site on long ropes so they don’t have to move their legs either.”