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Rated: · Other · Action/Adventure · #1839025
Deep dive danger
It seemed so exciting and adventurous at the time. The E-vite highlighted Dip ‘n Dive’s latest SCUBA trip to Toblemory, Canada’s most notable dive park. Five dives to view the cold-water wrecks of iron ore ships and schooners marked a two-day agenda. The additional underwater cave dive sealed the deal. I was going. Little did I know I wouldn’t see half of it.

I had only completed a few dives since becoming NAUI certified the prior year. Each of my dive experiences took place in a tropical climate and never exceeded 60-foot depths. This was a hobby I could love with beautiful underwater scenery and just the right amount of physical exertion. According to the dive masters, this excursion was more advanced with depths of 125 feet and temperatures below 40 degrees. I couldn’t wait.

For weeks, I prepared trying out various 9 mm wet suits and doing practice dives in the club pool. My tickets were purchased, equipment packed and confidence through the roof. I was ready. Two days before leaving my allergies kicked in and they hit hard. More meds and less pampering would get me through, or so I thought.

The drive to the site was uneventful. The morning typical for a dive, starting with a light breakfast, followed by a tank check. Allergies were still tough so I took another decongestant. Checking out the team of six joining me, I noticed 4 middle aged men in incredible physical shape, one woman about my age who was talking about her recent Iron Woman competition. Did I really belong here? Was I up for this? Running through my mind were the those key points to remember – do not ascend to quickly, watch your buoyancy, avoid quick shallow breathes. My heart started racing. But the dive master was Joe and Joe was awesome. He helped me during my training and his familiar face and soothing voice alleviated some of my newly found fears.

Before leaving the dock, Joe mentioned the rough waters we would be experiencing. It looked like 4 foot swells in our path. We were on a relatively small boat which also meant water entry would have to be done using the backwards summersault. I haven’t done that yet in open water but I was pretty good practicing in the pool.

Our first dive was supposed to be easy. Not more than 60 feet, we just needed to get used to the cold water and the process of exploring a shipwreck prior to tackling the really deep dive below the thermal cline. We stopped and it what time to suit up. I put on the wetsuit complete with booties, hood and gloves. Just that tired me out. Was the extra decongestant a bad idea? Oh yeah.

I did a flawless back flip in. Maybe this will work. When the team was assembled in the water, Joe gave the signal to descend. I held on to my regulator, gently released all the air in my buoyancy vest and started to slowing exhale. My head barely cleared the water line and I could not go any lower. Anxious and a little embarrassed, I kept trying. I couldn’t submerge and I was getting tired. Joe came by, looking a little annoyed. He knew I was struggling; not a good sign as this was the easy part. He took my hand and basically pulled me to the first stop. We held for 3 minutes and proceeded. I was like a little girl with her daddy crossing the street. Sorry Joe.

As soon as he let go of me at the bottom, say 50 ft, I started floating to the top. Struggling to stay down, I am now exhausted. Obviously I was not weighted correctly, not accounting for the buoyancy of the thick wet suit. I had 25 pounds of weight and it wasn’t enough. Joe found two rocks and had me hold one in each hand to keep me submerged. I am not having fun. At this point I am Lady Justice with a weight in each hand, circling a bunch of worn down lumber that used to be a ship. I‘ve got to get out of here. Just breath.

Twenty minutes later, we are back in the boat and on our way to the next dive. Joe saddles up to me and asks if I am ok? Of course I lie and tell him I am fine. He asks again. He knows I am not right but trusts my judgement. Next stop – 145 feet down, 36% F and dark.

This time I load up with 10 more pounds. The descend down is not too bad but the environment is scary. The only part of my body exposed is my face and it is cold. Ice crystals are forming in the water. I am starting to have trouble breathing and now I am scared. More frightened the deeper we descend but trying to calm down, I slow my breaths and concentrate harder. I see the ship. My gauge says 135 ft depth. I am almost there.

Next thing I know I black out. I come to underwater, disorientated and terrified. I hae to get to the top, which violates Rule #1 of Scuba – NEVER ascend quickly without proper breathing and decompression stops. I don’t care. I can’t breathe and the wall of water is closing in on me. I am losing it.

Someone grabs my leg. It’s Joe. He positions himself in front of me. I struggle to get loose but he holds on tight trying to get my attention, trying to calm me down. I look him in the eyes and black out again. I come to and we are surfacing…. slowly…carefully. It’s going to be ok.

We reach the boat. I am a mess, but safe. I rip of the suit, wrap myself in some warm clothes and try to relax, the whole time thinking I will never do this again!
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