On a diving holiday to Australia in January 1998, two Americans, Tom and Eileen Lonergan, joined a group in Port Douglas, near Cairns, for a day's diving on the Great Barrier Reef, 40 miles off shore. In the evening when the boat returned, unnoticed by either the crew or any of their fellow divers, the Lonergans were not on board.
Two days passed when the manager of the hotel where they were staying noticed their absence and raised the alarm. By the time the search was finally launched, it was almost certain that the Lonergans were dead.
No one knows what happened to them, whether they eventually drowned or were eaten by sharks. Either way, their end is too horrible to Imagine. A few months later, one of diver's waterproof notepad was found in a mangrove swamp. In the faded writing that was still readable was a horrifying message. “To anyone who can help us… we have been abandoned… please rescue us before we die. ”
All adventure sports carry risks, and diving is no exception. When complications arise in diving, they can quickly become potentially fatal with an alarming speed. Most of these are due to human error but can be avoided if precautions are taken before hand. Practice and experience do help but the key to safety is in the preparation. Here are ten tips to remember.
1. Training and Practice
Learning to dive is a bit like learning to drive. You arc not a competent driver when you have passed your test – you need to broaden your experience before you have gained true competence. You can begin by joining the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) that has branches throughout the UK and in several overseas locations. At the BSAC courses, diving skills are taught progressively so that each new experience is built upon step by step.
2. Select Qualified Operator
When diving on holiday, you have to be dependent on your operator. If you are going to trust your life on their equipment and experience then it makes sense that you spend some time in selecting the best. Divers should ensure that the operator is affiliated to one of the main international diving associations, such as the BSAC, PADI or CMAS (World Underwater Federation). If possible, talk to the operator and get to know the depth of his local knowledge.
3. Undertake a Refresher Course
Take a refresher course before you go. Most accidents happen with divers who go on a diving holiday without preparing enough mentally, physically, equipment-wise or experience-wise. PADI recommends that all divers complete a refresher course if they have not dived for six months or longer. "
4. Be True With Your Diving Record
Maintain you diving record. Before going on a diving holiday, check your record. Go on a refresher course if you are not confident and inform the operator how long it is since you last dived. Some dive operators would look at logbooks to establish your experience.
Use the correct equipment because to put into practice what you have been taught in theory is crucial – and more difficult than it may seem. There have been instances when a single item of the equipment like a diving knife can make a difference between life and death. Avoid cheap equipment.
6. Buddy System
Divers depend for their safety on their fellow divers. This is why the “buddy system" – always diving in pairs – is taught by all the main agencies including the BSAC and PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors).
7. Make Friends with People Onboard
Incidents similar to Lonergan have occurred not for the first time. People have been forgotten in the sea. If you are a holiday diver and no one on the trip knows you, make agreement with another member of the party to watch out for each other. The trip operator should be doing this, but arranging your own back-up plan is a sensible precaution.
8. Remember Your Lessons
Most accidents are caused by human error, when divers panic and forget what they have been taught. The most serious transgressions include diving solo, lack of buoyancy control, decompression mistakes and inexperience with equipment.
9. Intermittent Holiday Diving
Accidents occur more frequently to those who dive only from time to time. A diver with the right paperwork is technically qualified, however long it is since his last dive. But it takes time to reacclimatise and techniques that used to be second nature require relearning. Practise makes the man perfect.
10. Are You Physically Fit?
Before going on a dive, ask yourself, if you are physically fit? Small instances like a bad cold can be dangerous. The pressure and infection on the eardrum can disturb the sensitive mechanism of the inner ear for life.
All divers must accept responsibility for themselves. And that means never diving when there is any doubt as to their own competence or the competence of the operator.
© 2006 Harish Kohli
Harish Kohli is an avid traveller who likes to share good travel ideas with others. He is also CEO of AwimAway.com where he can help tailor-make an adventure or experiential holiday for you . Visit http://www.awimaway.com to see what's new on line.