Sunday, December 30, 2007

Diving Accident

The fourth day on the 23rd of December saw us diving back at the Ras Mohammed National Park. As strong currents prevented us from seeing many things on the Shark and Yolanda dive two days previously, the plan was to try this dive again. Again, the dive itself was spectacular.

We saw the biggest Napoleon wrasse I've ever seen in my life. He was a very generous 2 metres long and looked to weigh as much as a bull (in my overactive imagination). In any case, he was HUGE! Trying to distract our attention from the Napoleon wrasse were a number of Giant Moray eels. Everywhere we turned there was a moray head sticking out. In addition to that, there was a beautiful Hawksbill turtle. I got wonderful photos of all of these delights but . . . . more of that in a minute.

Toward the end of the dive, I had gone through my air a bit more quickly than Henry and George so I was buddied up with a fellow diver named Andy and we went for our safety stop and then to the surface. This left a few more minutes of "bottom time" for Henry and George.

During the safety stop Andy and I saw two masked pufferfish. They're so cute. Poisonous to eat, but adorable. I think puffers swim like clockwork fish. You can almost hear the tick tock as they go past. When Andy and I got to the surface, it was clear that the weather had changed while we were underwater. We had been under for about 50 minutes. The waves and wind had picked up. We had to swim away from the reef so that the boat would be well clear of the reef in order to pick us up. As we swam away from the protection of the reef, the waves got a lot bigger. We hadn't realized how big they had become during the dive because waves are all on the top of the water.

It took a lot of effort to swim to the boat. One of the crew threw us a rope to hang on to. Catching the rope, we could then drag ourselves hand over hand and wait our turn to board while holding on to the rope. It took me three attempts to get onto the boat. The waves were very high by this point. The ladders onto the boats are hinged at the top and it was tough to hold onto the rungs while being sloshed up and down by big waves. I got bashed about a bit but eventually made it onto the boat.

Andy came up the ladder right behind me and promptly barfed into the sea. I got my heavy diving gear off and then turned my attention to my husband and son who were still in the water. The boat was motoring over to the second pickup point and we could see Henry, George and the dive leader from the dive company, Jesus.

George was the first to come aboard, but he was having difficulties. At 14, he isn't nearly as big as the rest of us and was bobbing like a cork. There was a huge wave and the hinged ladder of the boat came down on George, pushing him under the back of the boat. He was under water for about 8 seconds, but they were the longest 8 seconds of my life. George bobbed back to the surface, but his mask had been knocked and George was clutching his face. Oh God! Jesus was in control and had George while holding the rope. While Jesus managed George, Henry was hauled on board and was promptly sick. I'll mention at this point that the waves were breaking over the back of the boat. Everything on the deck was sloshing around in warm salty water.

Jesus and the boat crew decided to get George out by hauling him up by hand in the area between the two ladders on the back of the boat. I stayed well back, heart in mouth, letting the crew and staff get on with things safely. They managed to get my boy on board with what seemed very little effort the second time. After hauling Jesus on, and checking that everybody was safely on board, the boat took off for a more sheltered area.

I went to check on George. His dive gear was now off and he was holding his mouth. The dive ladder had come down on George's mouth, knocking his breathing regulator out and his dive mask off. The ladder had also pushed his orthodontic braces up into his gums and a few of his front teeth were a bit loose. Poor lad! At least he still had all his teeth inside his head. We decided that we were DONE diving for the day. Just about everybody had seen their breakfast again. Oddly, I didn't hurl. I am one of the world's biggest barfers when it comes to being on boats when it is anything other than calm. I kept my face to the wind and my eye on the horizon and though it was close at one point, I didn't vomit.

The boat made it to a lovely sheltered and calm area where the crew could tend to the boat and even after all the violence of the waves earlier, they served up lunch! At first nobody thought they would be able to eat, but as calm was restored the seasickness went away and appetites returned.

We had the doctor that is in charge of the local hyperbaric chamber look George over. He said that it was probably best for George to wait and see his own orthodontist than to see a dentist here in Egypt. Things looked a bit twisted, but nothing that couldn't wait a few days until we got home.

If you're wondering where the pictures are, here's the thing. While I was trying to get out of the surf and onto the boat, I got bashed about quite a bit. When I was finally on board, it was brought to my attention that I didn't have my camera anymore. At first I thought they were wrong, the red lanyard was still attached to my equipment. I looked more closely and discovered that there was nothing on the other end of the strap. The camera was gone. My camera with it's non-scratched lens and expensive, weighted waterproof housing is at the bottom of the Red Sea.

I'm so glad I had just switched memory cards in the camera. The photos from the first three days of diving were safe. I only lost the pictures from that last dive. Naturally, this means that there are no more holiday photos.

Henry and I are grateful to Camel Dive Centre and their staff member Jesus and the crew of the ChicII for their professionalism.

Now we've got to battle the insurance company for some sort of compensation so that we can get the camera replaced.


Lost Notice - If you are diving at Shark and Yolanda Reefs at Ras Mohammed National Park and see an Olympus C750 digital camera in a rigid clear plastic housing with red bits on it, it's mine and I'd like it back.

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