It is not always the case that you as a diver are in control of your group. Nevertheless, if you perceive what seems to be a chain of events that could lead to an accident, you can still act.
A few years ago, underwater photographer Tom back-rolled into the water with his dive-partner. They were part of a larger group of divers doing a fourth dive of the day in what looked like a shallow, sheltered bay.
There had been delays on the liveaboard dive-deck, which meant that they were diving later in the day than they normally would.
Given the need for the divers to get in the water quickly, while there was plenty of daylight remaining, the guides dispensed with their usual pre-dive current check.
Tender-boat crew look out for divers.
As soon as Tom dropped in, he and the others quickly found that this had been a mistake. Under water, the bay was far from sheltered. As soon as they descended, the divers were whisked away by a strong current flowing at a rate of knots. They were flying across the seabed as if their fins were jet-propelled.
Tom assessed the situation quickly. He definitely was not going to get any photos in conditions like this.
Moreover, he judged that the divers were likely to get carried quite some distance by the fast current and, in an hour’s time at the end of the dive, in fading daylight, it might be very difficult for the tender-boat crews to spot them all on the surface in open sea.
He kicked over to the dive-guide and motioned to him that it might be a good idea to abort the dive.
The guide shook his head and indicated that he thought it was OK to continue. It was true, the other divers in the group seemed to be enjoying the wild ride.
Tom pointed to himself and his buddy, cruising along beside him and asked if it was all right if the two of them went up.
The guide had no problem with this, so Tom and his partner moved away from the group, put a safety sausage up, made their ascent and were shuttled back to the liveaboard by one of the tender-boats, while the other kept watch on the site.
Note that Tom didn’t just make a unilateral decision to abort the dive. He notified the guide and got his approval first, thereby making sure a) that the guide knew what was going on and b) that the guide had no objection on practical or logistical grounds.
Tom and his buddy watched later as the tender-boats scuttled around to pick up members of the dive group who, as often happens with fast drift-dives, had eventually surfaced, scattered all over the ocean. It was almost dark by the time the last ones were picked up and brought back to the mothership.
Nobody was lost. Nobody was hurt, but one or two had endured a few minutes of concern after surfacing in a wild ocean with no boat in sight and the sun setting behind them.
Nobody had seen anything during the whole dive, however, apart from the reef racing past below them.
One said she had felt like “Indiana Jones hanging on to the bottom of that truck”. As the guide passed him on the way to the dive-deck, he gave Tom a rueful smile: “You were right,” he said.
Read more from Simon Pridmore in:
Scuba Confidential – An Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Better Diver
Scuba Professional – Insights into Sport Diver Training & Operations
Scuba Fundamental – Start Diving the Right Way
Scuba Physiological – Think You Know All About Scuba Medicine? Think Again!
Scuba Exceptional – Become the Best Diver You Can Be
All are available on Amazon in a variety of formats.