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A close call

View SE ASIA on J kerouac's travel map.

After I left P. Perhentan Kecil I crossed back into Thailand via the precarious S.E. boder. A week before I crossed the border a muslum school had been bombed and several monks had been killed. I decided not to waste any time in the south and hopped on a northbound train to Surat Thani where I caught the ferry to Koh Tao. I was scheduled to meet Sa and her friends around the 28 but I was early so I thought Id get my advanced open water diving certificate.

Each dive during the advanced course has a specific teaching purpose...navigation, peak performance bouyancy, depth, etc. I had completed all my dives except the deep dive; a dive to 30M (100 feet). On the boat my dive partner and I double checked all our equipment and we hopped in the water to wait for the dive master. There were six of us descending together when at about 14 M (50 feet) my regulator suddenly stopped giving air.

This just dosent happen; in my open water class i was told that my air supply would never simply cut off. I was told that if there is a problem with the regulator that it is designed to free flow air, we even practiced breathing from a free flowing reg. I was told that if for some reason I used up all the air to the point that there was no more pressure that there was still 50L of air that I could suck from the tank. Thats not what happend; there simply air in one breath and then nothing.

So here I am 50 feet below the surface, my BCD (the vest that you inflate or deflate to ascend/descend) is empty because we are descending, I breathe in, equalize my ears and mask, and exhale completly to continue the descent. I drop another meter or so and try to breathe in. Nothing comes out and my heart skips a beat. I glance down at my pressure gague, which shows 195 PSI left in my tank. Plenty of air in the tank. The other divers have continued to descend and are now 2 meters below from me and two meters to my right. I attempt another breath. Nothing. A quick glance to the surface and I know that I cant make it. Even if I could, Id have decompression sickness from the quick asscent. I can feel my heart racing as I fight the overwhelming urge to make a bee line for the surface. The other divers have not notived that Ive stopped and continue to descend. They are now 3 meters below me and their features are no longer clear through the darkening water. My lungs start to scream for air and I have only one option. Despite what my instincts tell me, I roll 180 degrees foreward and begin swimming down hard.

The ten feet to my partner seemed an impossible distance and my face must have reflected that thought because as I shook my partners arm and gave her the "out of air" signal (ironically a hand drawn back and forth across the neck) she looked absolutly terrified. Luckilly my partners secondary regulator slipped easily from its attachment point and I got another breath.

When the dive master looked up and saw me breathing from my partners rsecondary she looked pretty panicked too. She swam up to check that the tank valve was open. It was. And that made her look even more concerned. The DM and I swam to the surface together where the regulator resumed functionng. The reg. was inspected later and it was determined that a piston in the first stage had gotten jammed due to the increasing pressure. It was then freed when we ascended. No one at any of the dive shops had ever heard of this happening before.

I swam back to the boat, got a new regulator, checked it three times and got back in the water to finish my dive. Everyone bought me beers that nite...


Posted by J kerouac 00:17 Archived in Thailand

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