Last update: 20090204

Light Up,   it could save your life  !!!


Now, before you run to the nearest corner shop for some cigarettes, read on first.


On our SBD trip to Bali last Christmas, we met a group of divers from the USA. The land that brought us the “Spare-Air”. These divers had all sorts of equipment with them for emergencies. Clearly visible were things like a 3 ltr pony-bottle, large SMB, spool, air-horn and dive-flag. One could only guess what they had in their BCD pockets.


Over the past few years, there have been a number of incidents involving divers “left behind” in the Australasia region. The most famous being the one at the Great Barrier Reef, when two divers were left behind by their boat and the mistake noticed when it was too late. No trace has ever been found of the divers. )The film “Open Water” seems to be based on this incident.)

During April-May 2008 there were three incidents with divers separated from their boats and not found until a few days later. All 3 incidents ( Great Barrier, Tai Wan and Komodo) had happy endings.


How could this happen?


Boats could leave without having done a proper “head count” or it could be that divers surface too far from the boat to be seen/heard (or both). What can you do to prevent being left behind by your boat? In case of the former, get noticed on your boat. When people notice you, it will be more likely you’ll be noticed “missing” during the count.

Don’t go and hit the dive master though, be noticed in a “positive” way.

As for getting separated/left behind, be prepared.


Accidents do, and will, happen. It’s how well prepared you are that will make the difference.

 In most of the cases that divers got separated from their boat, a (strong) current played a role. Currents were stronger than expected (Komodo) or went in a different direction than expected (Tai Wan).

A drift-dive can be extremely good fun and I can certainly recommend doing one. Do some research about the dive site though before you go and do one. While there are sites with predictable currents, there are also places where currents can be “unpredictable” and/or “come out of nowhere”. Think twice before you dive there, and if you do…… be prepared.

Do your home work!!! Consider doing the “Drift Diver specialty course”, properly!! (more about that in another article)


So what does that have to do with a cigarette? Nothing at all………….


With “Light Up”, I mean using a dive light. On every dive I will carry a reel/spool, SMB, whistle, small mirror and……………. a dive light. Night AND day !

A dive light comes in very handy when you want to see “true colours” or shine into dark places to get a better look.

It will also help to make yourself visible at night when you want to be seen/noticed by your boat or, touch wood, a search and rescue team.

When S&R teams look for people, divers, lost in the water, most searches will stop once it gets dark. It is very difficult to see people in the water during the day and impossible during the dark hours. Unless………………… you got a light. A light can be seen from far and when a S&R team knows for sure you got a light, it will be more likely that they continue the search. In fact, it would be easier to spot you at night (with your light) then it would be to find you during the day (in most cases).


Most “emergency kit-lists” will have a strobe on them (no not the one for your camera/video). A strobe works great but will only be useful for that purpose alone, not many people are willing to purchase one for that reason. A, small, dive light however can be used as mentioned above and be your back-up light on night dives.

If you dive with a camera/video and strobe(s), you could fire those when you hear a boat/plane at night.


Take note though, having an extra piece of gear does NOT mean you’ll be safe. It’s just another “tool in the toolbox” to help you deal with anything that might happen.

Proper training and Experience are two other major “tools”.


So, on your next dive……….. “Light Up” and “lighten up”, it’s meant to be fun !!!!!




The Moment I, as a diver, was hoping would never come, came and ……

We, Sandy bottom Divers, have talked a fair bit the last few months about all the dive accidents/incidents that have been happening, especially the fatal dive accidents in Hong Kong. We hoped, and still do, to find out what happened to the divers that went “missing” and were found dead underwater. By finding out the cause(s) we hope to learn from them and as such to avoid similar accidents.

Unfortunately no causes have ever been published, except for an incident where a diver got hit by a propeller (and died) in 2005. This report was published by the Marine Police since the captain of the vessel was not qualified to drive the vessel.

Without actually ever been “on-site” of a dive accident it will forever remain a mystery what the causes have been.

The  Moment

Last Saturday I was out diving, the first time out at sea for my two open water students. Dive one was on a sandy bottom, max depth 6 mtrs and bottom time was 24 minutes. The last exercise was a “5-point-ascent”. My students performed it very well, a textbook ascent. Though the fin-kick wasn’t that beautiful, hands were up, air was released from their BCDs as they went up, no faster than 18 mtr/min, all the while turning around and looking up.


Just as we were about to reach the surface something looked wrong. One of my students stopped kicking and started going down again with head slumped down.I grabbed the BCD, brought the diver up and established positive buoyancy while telling the other student to hold on to the dive marker next to us. I called the student’s name but got no reply, there were no signs of breathing either. My student had blacked out and stopped breathing less than 30 cm from the surface!

I started Rescue Breaths and called/signaled for help in between. (Wow was I glad there were no other divers on the surface*) Just before help arrived, my student regained consciousness. Very weak and barely breathing, but conscious.

I removed weight-belt and BCD and towed my student to the boat. Another instructor and the boatman took care of the other student and equipment respectively.

My student recovered on the boat while the other divers were returning to the boat. Once back in Sai Kung, it was straight to the hospital.

As the doctor and nurse did their tests, I expressed my thoughts regarding an excessive amount of CO2 as a possible cause. They put her on oxygen to flush-out any possible excess CO2. I then called DAN / DES for some more input. Could it be as simple as hyperventilation leading to hypercapnia? Doesn’t that happen to free-divers only? DAN / DES advised to contact the HK hyperbaric chamber, just in case bubbles were a factor, which I did. Not much help there. Once they heard we were already in a, public, hospital I was told just to wait to see what the doctor would say and do.

Results from the tests showed a high CO2 level, posibly b/o hyperventilation and/or shallow breathing.

My student would be fine but was kept overnight for observation none-the-less. The next dive with my student has already been planned.

I now think that maybe one, or more, of the fatal accidents in HK with divers going missing and found drowned at the bottom of shallow water might have had hypercapnia as a cause. Little or no experience (in low viz) lost from your buddy and low light are enough to get one to hyperventilate/breath very fast.

I learnt a number of things, though not exactly the way I had in mind to learn about this. At least all my training paid-off.

What to take from this?

- Our practice, at SBD, of only taking as many students you can see (as you     swim behind    them) diving, is spot on.

- Never wave your arms for attention, unless in an emergency. Local divers seem to habitually surface far away from their boat and then wave for the tender to pick them  up. As I was downwind from the boat I could not be sure that I could be heard correctly on the boat so “waving” was important to get the message across.* Hence I was glad no other divers were on the surface.

- Know your rescue skills and practice those skills.


Ken, August 2008

February 2009

" Light one up, it may save your life...."

August 2008

"The Moment I, as a diver, was hoping would never come.......... "