RebreatherPro is going to have a little open circuit content for the next few posts. I would have loved to have been using a rebreather in the cave on January 17th, but side mount was the only thing that would fit… Still, the lessons I learned should help every diver… not just my friends on CCR.
In the grand scheme of life, I suppose January 17, 2011 was a good day. Everyone got home safe after a dive I would rather not repeat.
In a nutshell, I was exiting the cave through a small restriction. My buddy ahead of me became horrendously entangled in the guideline and old stray lines nearby. She was stuck, tied-up and the spaghetti ball of line was no longer attached to anything that could get us out of the cave. Instead of yielding to my attempts to back her up, she pushed harder, assuming she was grinding through the restriction. Her kicking stirred up the soupy phlegm of a floor and we were in trouble. No vis. No good line. Stuck and now my second stage is violently free flowing...
This is going to take a few posts to offer up the story and solutions. The most important thing to remember is that everyone, if they dive long enough, has bad days or bad dives. I’m not sharing any of this to make judgments, but hope that writing about a misadventure might help my readers think a little deeper about risk assessment or perhaps trim their gear better and perhaps just kiss their loved one a little more urgently every day. I wasn’t sure I was coming home to my husband and I want as many people out there to make sure they do.
Lesson One: As my friend Tom Mount so eloquently says, “only you can breathe for you.”
In the end, you need time to solve the big problems and you need a clear head. Breath control is essential. I spent the last hour underwater turning on and off my tank for each breath. I think it kept me in a helpful slow pace and saved every precious bubble from the free flow. I was reserving as much of the remaining 2000 psi in my left tank for my buddy in case she needed it. This malfunctioning reg on my right tank would simply not suffice. As it turned out, my SAC rate remained at its normal low of .35 cft/minute. That was important. It gave me time and a clear head.
Lesson Two: In the words of my dear friend Woody Jasper, “Oh well, it's a shallow cave, get back to the job at hand.”
Woody was on his way to Otter Springs when I was overdue. He recounted a story to me from his past: He was doing a body recovery in Royal Springs. It's the day after the solo open water diver fails to return from the cave. His plan was to do a solo recovery but he takes Arwin Carr in the water as cover for the sheriff who doesn’t understand that solo might be safer. He finds the victim as far back in this shitty silt hole as he could get and he was entangled in most all of the line that had ever been installed in the entire cave. His last efforts had been trying to get out of his gear and he had succeeded except for one arm which was still hooked in his Stab jacket. Woody hooked his reel off to the left wall to avoid getting it involved with the other hundreds of feet of the stuff the body was hooked on. Several minutes later the body is whittled out of that burr of
line and gear and is ready to transport. He was now is a TOTAL silt out and his reel was 6-8 feet away on the wall. The victim still has his 22# weight belt on so he is not going to float away so Woody goes down his leg to the tip end of his fin and holds on to it with both of his arms outstretched and begins to search around in a semi circle until 60 seconds or so later he finds the line. OK got it. Now back to him: The only way to move him was to dig one hand into they bottom then pull him 6 feet forward then repeat as necessary. Slow and tiring but he didn't want to drop the weight belt and have him stuck
on the ceiling. He had been really careful going in to minimize any serious silt so after they were on their way they had reached OK vis. Not too far along and then comes Arwin, as he gets about 10 feet away, as Woody gives the deceased another pull and his feet and legs emerge from the trailing silt cloud… Arwins' eyes get really big and he turns around and bolts leaving them in a marvelous silt out once again.
There is only one thing to think about at that moment: "Back to the job at hand."
This is a bit long for a blog post. More lessons will be posted in the days to come. Jill Heinerth