22 October 2001
Deep Diver course, Dive 3
The names of the divers have been changed in this article in order to protect their anonymity (and due to the fact that some of them still dive with us regularly to this day)
The day started off with picture postcard conditions for day 2 of dives on our first ever Deep Diver course as Scuba Culture Hawthorn.
The sea conditions were amazing, the skipper of the boat said to me as I was getting my class ready, “Mate, you could water ski all the way to Tassie today, she’s as flat as a biscuit out there!”
Music to my ears I thought! From an instructor’s perspectives, as soon as people start to feel seasick, we know that there is the potential for worse to come underwater.
I had 4 students that day, 3 girls and 1 bloke, they were all very keen divers, but 2 of them could get seasick by simply looking at a boat let alone being on one!
As we boarded the boat, I cast a final check over my crew, they were all rearing and ready to go, this was going to be a serious deep dive where we were looking to get between 35 and 38mts in order to finish off some Nitrogen Narcosis assessments.
All was at the ready, a final check of tank pressures with everyone carrying a 12lt cylinder along with a 3lt pony and regulator as a bail out/redundant system.
We stood in amazement at the stunning conditions, as the boat powered towards Pt Phillip Heads, we knew we were in for a treat but nothing could prepare me for what was minutes away from unravelling underwater.
We arrived at our destinations following a 20 minute boat ride, the deckhand dropped the shot line in, and the skipper proceeded to deliver his brief.
I couldn’t help myself, I had to cast an eye over the side to gauge what visibility I might have on the dive looking down the shot line…. This was nuts! I could see the shot line easily down to at least the 25mts mark, the boat had cut its motors and had not moved an inch.
Following the skipper’s brief, I delivered my final piece of my brief, this detailed the task at hand, we were to descend to the sand next to the conning tower, form a circle, do a weight system check, and I was then to display my dive slate to my students for them to read and answer questions by writing them on their slate.
We would then survey the wreck externally, and after about a total of 10 minutes begin a slow final ascent performing a safety stop of 5 minutes at 5mts and performing a gas switch to our redundant air systems, breathing on these through to the point of surfacing.
(At least that was the plan)
We geared up, entered the water and slowly began our descent down the shot line, as we passed through the 10mt mark, I signalled to all my divers the OK signal, all was fine, all replied perfectly well, again I did the same passing through the 20mt mark.
From the 20mt mark and looking down, I could see schools of fish gathered around the conning tower, the WW1 British J Class Submarine was right in front of us, welcoming us into its final resting place.
As we approached the submarine, I turned around again, 2 of my female divers (identical twin sisters) were laughing so much that they were loosing an unacceptable amount of air, as I approached them, one of them was making gestures as if she was a rabbit scratching its’ ear, the other was rolling around doing the dolphin kick, I tried to steady both of them, but it was no use, they were both under the effects of a severe hit of Nitrogen narcosis. I turned my class around and swam the group back to the shot line and started ascending everyone slowly in order to relieve the effects of the narcosis. They both snapped out of their hysterical trans at approximately the 25mt mark, I turned around and with my 2 remaining divers headed back to directly below the girls hanging on the shot line to complete the skills, as I was working my way through the skills, I happened to look up and much to my amazement, the girls were making their way back down slowly, they appeared to be in a better state of mind, able to at least return my hand signals.
Before I knew it, the girls were on the sand next to me, but still obviously clearly affected by nitrogen narcosis due to their delayed responses in interpreting and returning hand signals.
The air content in everyone’s cylinder was still around the 150 to 170 bar, I decided to keep going.
I judged that the best option was to reduce the exposure of nitrogen narcosis to the entire group by moving them back on top of the hulk, and to swim them towards the conning tower. As we were swimming I observed the only male diver on the team gesticulating with a waving motion and showing me the thumbs up. I raced over to him, occy in my hand, ready to share my air with him but he wanted simply to draw my attention to the fact that he felt that he was hearing noises and that he seemed very pleased with what he was hearing…
The only noise down there was the noise of our own breathing, I wasn’t too sure as to what was going on, nevertheless, he looked really pleased with himself. The twin girls had by now resumed their giggling and were bursting into fits of laughter every time they looked at each other.
I looked at my computer, it was time to turn around and begin the ascent… I felt happy about that!
We made our way to the shot line, the ascent was nothing short of perfect, well controlled with great buoyancy, great communication and buddy contact. As soon as we hit the 5mt mark, divers moved clear of the shot line and in perfect unisome, executed their gas switch to perfection.
Now, I was baffled as to what had just happened a few minutes ago where I thought they were going to lose the plot!
Upon reaching the surface, we made our way on the boat, got out of our gear and looked at each other, they were all looking at me as if to say “What are you looking at Xavier?”
I began to question them about their behaviour, initially the twins had no recollection of what happened during the dive apart from the descent, being brought to the shot line and ascent, after a minute or so, simultaneously they burst into laughter, they explained to me that one of them was seeing her sister as a rabbit underwater, the other saw a dolphins face on her sibling but was puzzled because the dolphin had a wetsuit on and a reg it its mouth! (GO FIGURE!!!)
When I approached my male student, he looked at me and said “Mate, that was un-real, it was like being at the grand final down there!!” You can imagine that my facial expression needed no questions asked!
“It was just like being behind the goals” he went on to say, “You know, with all them big hands waving at you” he said… I was now genuinely concerned for his sanity.
But as I pondered his statement, I understood where he was coming from, the “Big hands” were reminiscent of the “Ambush Marketing” advertising signs in the shape of hands being worn and waved by spectators were actually in fact finger sponges gently waving with the slight underwater wave motion that was present.
Ho… the 4th student… she was fine, she remembered nothing what so ever!