During a dive on a recent trip to Fiji, I found myself in a critical situation, which nearly cost me my life. Our trip was three weeks long and on the second week, we moved to a resort in the Beqa area of Fiji. The seas were rough, and our first dive took place in 3 to 5 foot swells.
Not surprisingly, once underwater, there was a very strong current. I was disappointed to find that the site was more suited for macro photography rather than wide angle. After a few minutes, I had enough of kicking against the current and motioned to my dive buddy that I was done and going up to the boat.
When I surfaced, I noticed that the boat had moved up current about 200 feet from our dive site and was attached to a mooring. I studied the boat in between swells and saw no one in sight. Yelling repeatedly, I signaled the boat with my Sola Video 8000 Pro light while struggling with the swells and the current. My dive whistle had been damaged while we were traveling and turned out to be completely useless. Fighting the current was tiring and I was drifting further away. No one on the boat was watching out for divers surfacing early.
My dive buddy surfaced 31 minutes later and encountered the same problem—no one in sight on the boat; no one looking for divers; and the boat was now a long distance up current from the dive site. After 10 minutes of trying to signal the boat, my dive buddy finally managed to catch their attention by throwing one of his fins into the air and then catching it repeatedly. Eventually, one of the crew saw his fin. They released the boat from the mooring and motored over to him. With the challenge of unmooring the boat, the swells, and the distance to my dive buddy, approximately another 10 minutes passed before he was able to get on board. He immediately asked where I was.
The captain and deck hand replied that I was with him. When he replied “no” and told them that I had surfaced much earlier, the captain and deck hand began to search for me. My dive buddy dumped his gear and helped them try to spot me.
At this point, I had been fighting the current for about 50 minutes and the only way I could see the boat was when I was on top of a set of waves. I was exhausted. The big waves had flipped and rolled me over repeatedly. To lessen drag, I kept my camera system on my chest. I pointed one of my Light & Motion Sola Video Pro 8000 lights up high, towards the boat set it in its special SOS mode. There’s no doubt in my mind that this light saved my life. Before long, my dive buddy spotted the SOS of my signal light which by then I was nearly a quarter mile away in the rough seas. It took about another 10 minutes for the dive boat to reach me to get on board.
Once rescued, I was mad, exhausted, and had almost no voice left from yelling for help. I removed my gear, lay on the deck, and tried to catch my breath, and keep my cool. The captain and deck hand never came over and said a word. Once the dive master came aboard, she apologized for what had happened. I was wiped out and skipped the second dive.
I am sure that if I had not used the SOS function on my Light & Motion light that my recovery would have taken much longer if (a grimmer thought) my rescue had happened at all. My thanks go out to my dive buddy and Light & Motion.
I feel a lot of people don't even think about the SOS feature on their light because they think that it will never happen to them, or they simply forgot about the feature because it is something that is not regularly used. Hopefully this story will help them remember.
Blue Abyss Photo/Marine Camera