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eDiveSoftware blogs

Okay, so you've been diving since the dinosaurs ruled the Earth, have taken every PADI, BSAC, SSI and ANDI course available, moved over to Tech Diving, toyed with Rebreathers and in the process racked up 11,000,000 dives and probably think you could handle diving anywhere.

To your mates your the pinnacle of diving ethos, someone to look up to, someone to follow and someone who knows everything about how to dive.

Yet you still manage to break the simplest of rules - sticking to your buddy like glue. But why? After all, your such a seasoned diver that you don't need to stick to your buddy. If you have a problem your wealth of experience will kick in, you'll solve the issue and continue diving. No fuss....no bother.

During my military training we covered technical aspects of diving in a controlled environment in Portsmouth. We were put to the test. Some of this was for purely military purposes and some for things like search and rescue. The 'tank' was a cool 10 degrees and filled with all sorts of apparatus including part of the shell of an old WW2 bomber. None of it was stripped out - it was as if someone had taken a knife to it, cut some of the wings off, cut a large portion of the tail of and dropped it in the tank. Impressive to say the least. Above this was a large wooden platform with a series of coloured hatches leading down to the bomber on scaffold poles of which many had ropes leading of to different parts of the tank. The water itself was relatively clean with the exception of the constant fizzing of bubbles both part in the safety divers dotted about the perimeter, the instructors ensuring you 'do your bit' and the ait supply hoses running along the tanks hull. A bit of a nightmare scenario. As this was a controlled training environment we were to assume actual depths did not correspond to those depths given. The platform was at 10m, The bomber at 50m and the seabed at 80m. Back Gas was 'assumed' Trimix 22/49 with stage cylinders of Nitrox 50 and 33.

The whole scenario was fictitious but was a 'tester' to see how we'd do. Everything was to be timed to 'perfection'. Idea was to retrieve an 'item' whilst being tested on 'what if' scenarios.

In pairs we were to drop down to the platforms, locate our coloured hatch, remember the number on the underside, pass through it and check Deco stage is available and functioning. Once checked we would travel on our 50% mix, attach a line from our reels and drop to the fuselage five or so meters below fixing the line as we went. At around "30m" we would switch to Nitrox 33% for decent to the Bomber still reeling out line as we go. On arrival of the fuselage we were to switch to back gas, place our remaining second stage cylinders (33% Nitrox) on a suitable attachment point and enter the fuselage. Once we have located the 'item', add notes to log, retrieve item, check time and return to the surface still on back gas but picking up stage cylinders as we go. Deco below platform for designated time before retuning through our 'numbered' hatch. Total dive time would be around an hour (I say around, I can't actually remember the full details!!).

So, The Judge and I dropped in the water, located the blue hatch noting "011" on the underside and popped out beneath the platform. Deco cylinder was clearly marked 70% O2 / 10M and with a quick check of the gauge the contents read 200 BAR. Judge tied of the reel below the deco cylinder, marked the time on the slate and gave me the thumbs down. All was well and we felt positive. We switched over to our second travel gas at the designated time and continued slowly to the designated point with Judge trying his utmost to play out as much line as needed and find suitable attachment points amongst the masses of scaffold poles whilst not getting snared on all the ropes leading to other areas. We arrived at the fuselage, deposited our remaining cylinders and headed through the oval door in the side.

To my disbelief the fuselage inside was pretty much complete - seats, carpets, windows (although no glass in), lights (which worked!!!), and a mass of tangled wiring loom all over the place.

I'm sure at this stage I saw a stewardess....or maybe it was Judge. Anyway, we located the 'item' (a large cylinder) and I signalled to Judge that I would retrieve. On grabbing the cylinder an arm appeared through one of the windows and my mask was gone in an instant. Shortly thereafter the Pilot must have decided it was time to land the plane and all the lights went out. I struggled to locate my secondary mask and in the confusion lost it in the wiring loom somewhere. At this point I decided the best option was to continue to retrieve the cylinder (being mission critical that it was) knowing that Judge would have a mask spare for me. On returning to the oval door in very limited light I realised my predicament. The 'main' lights in the tank were now 'dim' to say the least, Judge had made a speedy exit and taken the reel with him.

Remembering the 'rough' route on the way, I returned to the top of the flight deck and fumbled around for the stage cylinders. Two existed so I assumed that Judge left one behind just in case I ran out of air on the way back. I took both attaching them to my left side (right is rich!!!), head butted something more dense than my head and grabbed hold of it. I assumed it was a scaffold pole. Immediately thereafter the man from Del Monte appeared giving me an 'OK' shape directly in front of my eyes. I gave a noticeable middle finger and continued on my way. Noting the poles angle and approximate direction it conveniently directed me back to the platform. I steadily ascended using the pole for direction en-route banging into everything and anything hoping for no entanglements. Underneath the platform the daylight between the boards gave enough light to make some items a little clearer in my blurry little world. I found the deco cylinder, checked the time and off-gassed for the designated time. I located the hatch, opened and returned from where I started.

On surfacing my eyes cleared and I was told to change and debrief in 30 minutes. I took a shower and headed to the briefing room. The de-briefing did not go well. The team of safety divers did not like the birdie and I should have been reserved enough to give an OK symbol back!! Furthermore, the stage cylinders I picked up outside the plane left my buddy as good as dead as he was stuck inside the plane at the far end. The cylinder I retrieved was the 'wrong colour' (due to the confusing darkness) and turned out to be timed explosive. To put matters worse the 70% O2 I'd consumed at 10M was actually 100% O2 (in theory) as I hadn't checked it on the way back. I'd also been told that I returned through hatch 110 and not 011!!!! I'd killed myself and my buddy whilst alerting the enemy by arriving in their territory. Everyone does a similar task first time around just to highlight the problems.

The only saving grace was that, as I had returned into the arms of the enemy I'd have promptly blown them up rather than my crew......and all because I lost my buddy.

So, what happened to Judge? After de-brief we met up in the galley and I asked where the hell he disappeared of to. I asked him why he hadn't waited at the door and found out he waited for the designated 'time to ascend' time, had his mask removed which he replaced with his spare which was promptly removed. As he turned to locate me the lights went out. Knowing that I'd find my way back to the door he fumbled around in the darkness and in his confusion ended up upside down. Knowing he had to leave he tied off the reel on the outside of the door full well knowing that I would locate it which I didn't. He explained that there was no possibility that I wouldn't have found it even in the darkness. He advised the trip back to the platform was a nightmare. The line was twisted all over the place, he got stuck twice and some undesirable came over and deflated his wing. When he inflated it they took his primary reg out of his mouth and gave the out of air signal. Having picked up his stage cylinder he switched to that and went on a bailout plan which went to pot. He did his best time and 'assumed depth' profile knowing that, had it been for real, he'd be as good as dead. His slates we as good as useless as his writing was too small to read without a mask on. He arrived at the correct hatch 23 minutes after me and on exit found his cylinder had different markings. He was told it was a pressure sensitive explosive and now the whole crew was dead. He too could have died from O2 exposure knowing that he had left his buddy behind who was last heard being interrogated on another ship which promptly blew up. Between the two of use we'd both killed each other, both killed ourselves and sunk both the enemy and our own crew.......Uncle Albert would have been proud.

In his confusion underwater, the instructors opened another door on the opposite side of the plane. As Judge was upside down in 'darkness', the door that had been opened was actually on the correct side. He left the reel outside on the 'wrong' side of the plane. Once his disorientation had sorted itself out he headed for the top of the plane. Not knowing he was on the 'wrong' side of the plane lead him to the wrong set of cylinders with a line attached which he 'assumed' was our line. The cylinder he picked up wasn't his but the line took him back home. He mentioned seeing the odd thing in the blurriness that he recalled from his descent so he felt good that he was making the correct choices to get back.

The dive was repeated two days later and despite lights going out, lack of masks, being on a 'sunken ship', Judge having his fins removed (we both shared one), and my dry suit being flooded the exercise was a great success. All because we retained a string link between each other. It changed our diving for good and made us very much aware of both the underwater surroundings. So, next time you find your buddy more than a few feet away have a thought of the most ridiculous scenario you can and how you and your buddy would react. You won't be able to benefit from a controlled training environment and you may not get a second chance. Take heed that, even the most seasoned and experienced diver can become useless without his or her buddy. If your buddy isn't around you could be as good as fish food next time around. Check your six, check your buddy and have a safe dive.

Submitted anonymously (but rewarded with a free copy)