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drsteve

Sealife sucking you into the deep...

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Hi all, on my recent trip diving in Alaska, I had an "event" that I thought I would discuss. On one dive with Stellar sea lions I was at about 60ft, with the animals above me, trying to frame silhouettes I was having a great time and really focusing on the viewfinder. Then things just starting going wrong. The first thing that I noticed was that I was getting a headache and my air was getting thick. I then realized that I had neglected to inflate my drysuit and was getting squeezed pretty hard. Worse, I was finning hard, breathing fast and shallow, and still sinking. I checked my depth and I was at 100ft, which isn't that deep, but was deeper than I had planned on. The worst thing was that the friendly goofball sea lions suddenly seemed huge and menancing and it really seemed like they were sucking me down into the deep. I know that sounds silly, but that is what I was thinking at the time. I am normally a very calm and level headed diver but I realized that I was experiencing classic narcosis systems; anxiety and confusion compounded by CO2 buildup. I really had to fight down rising panic.

 

I think I dealt with it okay. I had plenty of air and I concentrated on slowing my breathing and inflating the drysuit. It seemed to take forever to take the squeeze off, but I was able to swim over to the wall and steady myself while making a slow ascent to around 60ft, where I found my buddy. My head cleared and I calmed down, but it really freaked me out. The water was pretty turbid and the sea lions were dashing around everywhere so it wasn't surprising that we got separated.

 

In retrospect, it doesn't sound like a big deal. I went a little deeper than I wanted and made a controlled ascent, but at the time the rising panic really surprised (and scared) me.

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Hi all, on my recent trip diving in Alaska, I had an "event" that I thought I would discuss. On one dive with Stellar sea lions I was at about 60ft, with the animals above me, trying to frame silhouettes I was having a great time and really focusing on the viewfinder. Then things just starting going wrong. The first thing that I noticed was that I was getting a headache and my air was getting thick. I then realized that I had neglected to inflate my drysuit and was getting squeezed pretty hard. Worse, I was finning hard, breathing fast and shallow, and still sinking. I checked my depth and I was at 100ft, which isn't that deep, but was deeper than I had planned on. The worst thing was that the friendly goofball sea lions suddenly seemed huge and menancing and it really seemed like they were sucking me down into the deep. I know that sounds silly, but that is what I was thinking at the time. I am normally a very calm and level headed diver but I realized that I was experiencing classic narcosis systems; anxiety and confusion compounded by CO2 buildup. I really had to fight down rising panic.

 

I think I dealt with it okay. I had plenty of air and I concentrated on slowing my breathing and inflating the drysuit. It seemed to take forever to take the squeeze off, but I was able to swim over to the wall and steady myself while making a slow ascent to around 60ft, where I found my buddy. My head cleared and I calmed down, but it really freaked me out. The water was pretty turbid and the sea lions were dashing around everywhere so it wasn't surprising that we got separated.

 

In retrospect, it doesn't sound like a big deal. I went a little deeper than I wanted and made a controlled ascent, but at the time the rising panic really surprised (and scared) me.

 

 

Glad it worked out and very good story that was great that you shared. Despite how safe we all feel when diving a reality check of a story which any of us can run into is always a good reminder.

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Hi Steve, thanks for posting this. It is a risk that we are so focused on photography that we tune out the surroundings and lose track of depth, air etc. Despite our best intentions. My priorities are safety first but there have been times when you get really into the photography zone for a while and realise that you have lost yourself in it to the exclusion of the wider environment. Fortunately, when this has happened to me I have been in shallow water and haven't had any equipment or buddy problems. Your situation was more risky because of the depth/narcosis issue. A cautionary tale and reminder for us all... our lives come first!

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Well, I would consider this more of a "near panic" moment than "panic" because you still had your wits about you. I've been in similar uncomfortable situations but reason ultimately triumphed over fear. BTW, I told you I loved your Canada/Alaska photos over on SB. :drink:

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I think particularly with big animals; sharks, rays, seals, turtles, this can be a problem when tracking them.

I have not fortunately been in a situation like yours, but I will definitely take note. I have been in a less serious situation where I got hopelessly lost temporarily following a turtle. Probably something one has to make a mental check of before going after a big animal, or as is often better, wait for them to come to you if possible.

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Hi Steve,

 

Glad your training kicked in & you sorted the situation out safely. Narcosis seems to manifest itself in different ways, but that does seem fairly classic.

 

More of a concern for me would be the MOD of the nitrox in open water situations where the seabed is a long way below you!

 

Hamish.

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My first ever dive with a camera I started sinking faster than I wanted, had trouble clearing and before I realized it my mask was so squeezed it felt like my eyeballs were going to pop out of my head. It all sounds innocent enough but when the task loading hits and you've got sensory overload it can unravel you in a heartbeat. I remember laughing about it later because the bottom was only 90ft but at the time I was also "overly excited". I'm glad to hear you're okay Steve and I think your post is important. I think we all get too comfortable at points and we'd all do well to be a little over anal about fundamentals.

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I was once lured into the open blue water following a school of Hammerheads when I was on the last 1/3 of my air supply, with a buddy who knew better than to follow me willingly. Nothing dramatic happened, but I felt stupid and learned the lesson that you have to keep your priorities straight and not let the camera or subjects take over. If I'm diving with a buddy (99% of the time) then as soon as I loose sight I stop everything and focus on re-connecting.

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I was once involved in the unsuccessful resuscitation of a man who swam off at the end of a dive in order to get one more shot. Ironically it was of a brain coral. He ran out of air and then panicked (we assume) because he drowned. He was only 17m deep. http://www.cdnn.info/news/article /a030708.html As for hammerheads, they were once 'responsible' for me doing a dive with a 188 minute ascent time! (yes, you read that right!)

Edited by John Bantin

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I was very stupid and let a group of hammerheads lure me into the deep off Angarosh Reef in the Sudane Red Sea, which has abyssal waters surrounding it. With my eye glued to the viewfinder, constantly getting closer and closer to the sharks, I ended up much deeper than planned, out in the blue some distance from the reef. Going back, I discovered that the current out there, which I had to fight to get back to the reef, was much stronger. My breathing went up, building up a lot of CO2 and finally, a rather big hit of deep narcosis. When I reached the reef I had to concentrate really hard to keep my breathing calm and to not panic up to recreational diving depths. Had a very long decompression. I'm a bit embarresed about the episode, but it was a sobering experience. The shots ended up mediocre.

 

Christian

Edited by Christian K

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It was hammerhead action that was involved the time I had a major loss of concentration of my depth.

 

We we out on a day-boat off the back of Jackson Reef in the Red Sea, we'd set off extra early as hammerheads were being spotted first thing in the morning. The dive leader's briefing was thorough - and included the warning 'watch your depth, the sharks have a habit of slowly spiralling down & you need to be on your guard not to do likewise'.

 

So we were strung out in the blue, 20m down and in a line out from the reef (I'm the furthest out) when the first hammerhead appears & I'm mesmerised by it; it circles me repeatedly and I'm totally focussed on it through my viewfinder..... it was the darkening water that alerted me, a glance at my gauge showed 59m and I realised that I was descending fast. 4 years have passed since then, but the sick, frightening feeling I experienced at that moment is still vivid today as I type this.

 

A harsh lesson learnt and one I'm unlikely to forget.

 

R

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wow.......I'm glad im not the only one who does things like this! :chatterbox:

 

Here are two stupid things I've done:

 

One: I was photographing massed spider crab aggregations in Victoria, Australia. They come together in the 1000's and sometimes are over 1/2 m deep in places. I was at 8m. I knew I was low on air (20 bar) but decided to stick around and keep shooting/enjoying the spectacle. I ran out of air and had to swim the 100m or so back to shore on the surface. I was never in any real danger but it was still silly of me to do and I only did it cause I had a camera with me.............

 

Two (the bad one): I took my DSLR with twin strobes on a drift dive through 'The Rip" in Victoria, Australia. This was off a private boat. There was a 4 knot current. No one has ever really photographed the reefs down there (now I know why) so I thought it was a great opportunity. We dived with a rope connected to a bouy. We held onto the rope with our hands (non trigger hand for me.) At some stages during the drift it felt like my arms were going to be pulled from there sockets. The weight of the camera vs holding onto the rope was intense plus the risk of smashing into rocky ledges etc.

 

The embarrassing part was that I was warned by the most experienced diver (3500+ dives in the area) not to take the camera.................

 

Live and learn I guess....... or live and have no arms/camera :o

 

Cal

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Thank you all. I have been getting cocky, but reading these stories will put a little more caution back into my blue water diving.

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All useful reminders, as if one were needed, that no photo is worth getting injured or dying for. :bananashark:

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It was hammerhead action that was involved the time I had a major loss of concentration of my depth

 

 

It must be a hammerhead thing: I drifted off the reef wall at Sha'ab Rumi in Sudan following 50 or so hammerheads, and ended up at 52m on Nitrox (PO2=1.9)!!

Hung for 35 minutes, drifting east: and watching for a 12-foot tiger shark that had visited a few hours before!

 

I haven't learned my lesson, though: one shot was published....

 

Tim

:lol:

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One of the differences, I have been told, between school and real life...

 

In school, first you get the lesson and then you get the test.

 

In life, first you get the test and then you get the lesson.

 

 

Thanks for the writings so perhaps I can learn lessons first, before the test.

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All I can say is - where the hell are the hammerheads? Everyone seems to be seeing them except me.

 

Vandit

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All I can say is - where the hell are the hammerheads? Everyone seems to be seeing them except me.

 

Vandit

 

Deeper than you think . :P

 

R

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Hammerheads? I got this reading on my computer once while photographing hammerheads in the Maldives. I know it says a total ascent time of 80 minutes but it had been saying that for quite a time. That is because with only two digits it couldn't display 180! The depth reading for max depth is in metres. I had already done stops at 30m, and all those in between that and where I was when I took the picture.

post-4197-1222617025.jpg

Edited by John Bantin

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I do not think it is a Hammerhead thing but a shark thing. While in Belize in blue water watching a Whale Shark I went from 70 to 90 in about a minute I knew I was descending and leveled off. Mean while another diver played Energizer Bunny and kept going and going. I think he finally stopped at 130 when the shark disappeared. The divemaster was just freaking out. For those who have not dove in Belize the DM tend to be rather paternalistic to the point of being a PITA but no in this case. Of course when the diver got on the boat he was oblivious to the situation.

 

This all falls under the term perceptual narrowing.

 

John did you get a ticket from Maldives Police? It is my understanding that diving below 30m is illegal in the Maldives.

Edited by allen

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Hammerheads? I got this reading on my computer once while photographing hammerheads in the Maldives. I know it says a total ascent time of 80 minutes but it had been saying that for quite a time. That is because with only two digits it couldn't display 180! The depth reading for max depth is in metres. I had already done stops at 30m, and all those in between that and where I was when I took the picture.

 

How long were you at that depth in order to get 180+ minutes of ascent time and how much air did were you carrying on that dive? :P just curious! :good:

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John did you get a ticket from Maldives Police? It is my understanding that diving below 30m is illegal in the Maldives.

 

Just like I do when I drive at more than the speed limit, I made sure there were no police watching! Strangely enough I didn't see one policeman while I was down there!

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Just like I do when I drive at more than the speed limit, I made sure there were no police watching! Strangely enough I didn't see one policeman while I was down there!

53m is 172 feet.

I'd like to kid you I was superhuman but no...

Full story: http://www.divernetxtra.com/gear/dtst598.htm

Edited by John Bantin

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i was at at Darwin Arch Galapagos a few years ago and we had come off of the reef to drift into the blue to see if we could catch a whaleshark. Now for those who have yet to experience firstly Darwin Arch and secondly the size of the whalseharks in the Galapagos islands I can tell you that firstly you do not want to be having problems under water at the Arch and secondly the whalesharks are gigantic 12 -15 metres long is not out of the ordinary there.

 

Well the timing was spot on, no sooner had we left the reef, all we could hear was the rattle rattle rattle from one of the guides of the Deep Blue. This was the signal for whaleshark. So further out into the blue we went. ascending as we went further into the blue. We could hear the rattle noise still but could see no whaleshark. I was at about 10 metres when all of a sudden this whaleshark the size of a London bus come cruising below us. I checked my computer and then my air and I had to make a decision, I had 60 bar remaining, and my no deco time was fine. More importantly, I had 1 minute flashing on my video battery indicator. My wife was a good few metres below me with another guide who were waving for me to go back down. I signalled that I would do my safety stop and that they were now buddies. Just at this time the Aggressor divers were back rolling into the water and as soon as they see the whaleshark were all chasing after after it. It actually made me ask myself questions as to whether it is acceptable for so many divers to be chasing after this shark. I dont know if it was envy or whether it was gut feeling, but I remember the feeling to this day. Anyway the divers had all disappeared down into the depths and I was left in the blue on my own at 5 metres. I couldnt see any bubbles by now, and I was just starting to take in my DSMB string. All of a sudden the whaleshark had headed for the surface. Whether this was to avoid the entourage of divers or not I will never know. All I can remember is being at 2 metres and seeing this bus sized animal coming towards me. With a delayed reaction I hit the record button and managed to get 40 seconds of footage before my battery died. All of the other divers were below me and I had this minute or so all to myself. I said to Mrs StewSmith that I think he come up to see me as I was the only one that left him alone. I would like to think that this was the case. Mrs StewSmith surface with very little air, and when I say very little, I mean 5-10 bar. Which is not a done thing, and certainly not a done thing at the Arch. The guide was well into deco and his air was about the same as Mrs StewSmiths. I was now on the panga and trying to find a cylinder with enough air inside to help the guide out. Luckily we had a good air consumption diver with us and she still had 80 bar left. So she volunteered to go back down and help out our guide.

 

I, for once in my life managed to make the correct choice, and continue my ascent when I did. I spoke to Mrs StewSmith about this straight away and said that it would have been so easy to have got carried away with the situation and followed the group and the whaleshark. She said that the excitement overtook all rational thinking for her, and that when they went out of my site they were baqck down at 30 meters. What I dont know is whether I made the decision based on the fact that I had little air left or whether it was the fact that my video battery was just about to go flat. Had I had a full battery, the story could well be different. But from that day I realised that its safety before cameras.

Edited by stewsmith

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Good stories. I’ll be in Galapagos in November. Perhaps I’ll learn from others mistakes.

 

My experience at other locations is a bit different. I find that reef squid tend to lead me to the surface – which I suppose could be just as dangerous as being led into the briny depths. On several occasions on night dives in Indonesia I’ve followed reef squid through my viewfinder a good distance from my buddies. I always end up ascending unwittingly. I think there’s some nefarious scheme plotting in those little squid brains. Mmm…Calamari brains.

 

-Brad

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