What should you do when you see your diving buddy show signs of narcosis? Simon Pridmore shows you the path to safety.
THE DIVE had just begun. The three divers Paul, Bill and Johnny had dropped quickly down the sheer cliff wall to the seabed at a depth of 50 metres. Their plan was to cruise the foot of the wall for 30 minutes then ascend and do their decompression on the wall face.
They had just reached the bottom when Paul looked for Bill and saw that he was swimming away from the wall, his fins kicking up the sand in clouds behind him. He swam over and touched him on the shoulder. Bill spun round as if he had been shot and stared at Paul with wide, confused, uncomprehending eyes. Paul gave him the OK signal and gripped Bill’s upper arm to reassure him.
There was no response and, thinking fast, Paul reached a decision. He summoned Johnny, who had been watching concerned from a distance, and thumbed the UP signal to both his buddies. Johnny nodded and returned the signal, Bill still looked confused, but did not resist when Paul gently guided him upwards with pressure on his arm.
The team ascended slowly to the top of the wall and at a depth of about 15 metres, Bill pulled away from Paul’s grip and looked at him with clear eyes. He pointed to himself, gave the OK signal and suggested they go back down and continue the dive. Paul and Johnny both shook their heads and they completed their ascent without further incident.
Paul’s decision to abort the dive immediately and not wait to see if Bill would shake off the narcosis that had claimed him on their fast descent made absolutely sure that the dive did not turn into a tragedy. Had he waited, Bill might have panicked, threatening the whole team’s safety. Immediate action was important as the[
DOS AND DON’TS
DO follow the cave diver’s rule that anyone can terminate a dive at any time for any reason at all with no explanation required and once a dive is aborted it is, “One Up, All Up!”
DON’T underestimate narcosis. Use TRIMIX for deep dives if it is available or, if you must use air, descend slowly and focus intently on your dive.
DO dive defensively: live to dive another day.