A Scuba Diver Meets Mr. Reaper: It’s Not My Time Yet
Diving accidents occurs!
This is a perfect example on why we as divers always must be prepared on the worst. A regular day of diving almost ended in catastrophe for Ani. Here he's sharing his meet and greet with Mr. Reaper:
As I dropped three feet into the cool blue Mediterranean, which gently kissed the rocky ledge where I had assembled my scuba gear - I had not even the slightest inkling that within an hour I would be the closest I had ever been to death.
No, in fact as I splashed through the surface, with a perfectly executed giant stride entry, I was brimming with confidence.
See I’m a fantastic diver.
Since my first dive, I’ve had an uncanny ability to seamlessly transition between the human - walking awkwardly on land, to the natural grace of a lifelong sea-creature, using perfectly orchestrated dolphin kicks to propel myself with ease.
It was an exceptionally beautiful day, even when weighed against our skewed scale.
Biased by the perfect summer that only the Mediterranean enjoys. Entering the water, I remember the excitement flooding through my body.
The slow drip of adrenaline that accompanies every dive, dilated my pupils, steadied my breath, and sent chills through my body.
I smile at my dive buddys, spitting out salty sea water and signal that I’m okay with an overhead wave.
The three of us venture off a little ways away from shore to make for a smooth descent. We checked our gear one final time, and then it began!
Mask check! Regulator check! Deflate our BC’s and with a down turned thumb indicated by our team leader we begin to decent.
It finally begins!
The first inhalation through the tubes of my tank marks a dramatic transition. Underwater it’s you, your thoughts, and the sounds of your breath - analogous to Darth Vader’s ominous breathing.
We began a slow descended to our predetermined depth and began our exploration. All sounds of the surface world dissipating as if the three of us were all that exist.
My excitement could barely be contained as I darted in and out through schools of fish. Executing barrel rolls like a p-40 war-hawk, firing invisible bullets at an unsuspecting barracuda completely oblivious to our dog fight.
I settled into my element floating gently as if on the hand of an unseen current, carrying my weight as I continue my search through the strange world.
Thirty minutes pass in seconds; we check our pressure gauges. My war with the barracuda must have taken a toll!
I had used the most air, enough for a mere twenty minutes. I indicated a hundred fifty bar with an open palm and a closed fist. Little bubbles escape from my lips bringing me closer to the end of my expedition.
Our team leader, a navy seal, had nearly double that. Making me wonder if he could have completed the dive without any gear at all.
I mean does he even breathe?
Needless to say, I was jealous and more than a little annoyed that our dive would be coming to an end soon even though he had a half tank strapped to his back.
What a waste!
We settled on the ocean bed facing each other, debating the time for ascend, through a series of signals. The irritation obvious in my eyes even through the translucency of the Mediterranean blue.
Finally, our team leader pointed at his tank then at me.
I smiled, nodding excitedly.
We had just decided to switch tanks!
At this point, anyone who has ever been scuba diving would label me suicidal, but I wholeheartedly disagree. This was not a new maneuver, in fact, I had successfully completed it many times in the past.
As we began undoing our jackets I remember thinking of how I was cheating the system, breaking the only rule there is in diving - coming up when your tank is empty.
Smiling at the opportunity to have the hourglass flipped back, I pass my gear over with my left hand, grabbing his simultaneously with my right. Securing a firm grip on the jacket, I motioned for an exchange of the regulators. Deep inhale - and switch. That simple.
Now comes the tricky part, putting on a fully assembled scuba gear while rolling with the current. All my previous grace disappearing as I resembled a turtle on its shell.
Upturned limbs wriggling as I balance on my back.
Sliding the right hand through the strap was easy; the next move however was not. Trying to slide the left through, I contorted my hand and shoulder as I attempted to pass it through.
Didn’t get through.
Tried again, didn’t work! Damn! Damn! Damning my flexibility as I remembered my high-school coach yelling at me for not stretching, even at this moment; I smiled.
Though awkwardly placed on my back with the tank below me and struggling like a fish out of water, I had nothing to fear except embarrassing myself to a nearby trout. Blushing at the thought, I tried a different approach, a slightly more unconventional move. I kneel and place the jacket in front of me, pass both the arms through and then attempt to flip it up and over my head.
The bottom of the tank hits the regulator, knocking it out of my mouth; I freeze.
My terror projected on my dive partner’s face. Our eyes lock. I dart after the regulator evading me across the sand, twisting away in a serpentine fashion.
Heart pounding, metabolic demand so high, that I do the one thing I was trying not to do.
I took a breath.
Then another. And another. Sea water pouring into my lungs with the force of a bursting dam, powered by the weight of the water above, and the atmosphere above that.
Pain like I had never felt before.
I see my limbs thrashing out in front of me as though they belong to someone else.
I kick into autopilot. Begin emergency ascent, but I’m held down! Struggling I turn back and see my fellow divers holding me down!
Are they trying to kill me?
Fear flooding through me as I see my limbs get sluggish, filling with lead, as the once convulsing energizer bunny finally runs out of juice.
For a moment forget the words, forget the analogies, the metaphors, and just envision me thirty meters deep, thirty seconds away from death. I was floating vertically, in the arms of the other divers as they frantically strapped me back to my vest.
Unaware of the regulator being shoved into my mouth, my hypoxic brain continues to display a halo, expanding, approaching like an oncoming train.
A moment passes, maybe two. The bright light searing my unfocussed retina.
A speck of dust floats into my vision like a fly on a white ceramic plate. Growing, slowly into a shadow. The silhouette grows an index finger gently forming a ring with a thumb. The universal gesture – are you ok?
I manage to nod, still coughing; chest on fire reminiscent of the left hook that broke my rib many years ago. Head clearing; I realize where I am; a school of soldier-fish shaking their heads disapprovingly.
I look down, surprised to see my limbs right where I had left them. I had been reconnected with the closest air source available.
Logic returning as I remember my dive mates preventing my emergency ascent, preventing my risk of lung overexpansion injury, preventing any risk of decompression sickness.
Cough subsiding, I indicate that I am ok again, fingers moving sluggishly as I check my gauges, depth – thirty meters; sounds about right. Air is on 200 bar – that’s another thirty minutes of dive time!
What can you learn from this?
We can all learn from dive accidents! What do you think you've taken from this experience?
A personal experience written by Aniruddh Kapoor.