school of jackfish

Amazing Palau And The Mistakes I Made – Part 2

February 13, 2018
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As we let go we are being launched into the blue. Ah sorry, if you haven’t read the part one of the story I recommend doing so. Like the previous post, this one is also weaved with mistakes.

As we are “flying” away, the ridge disappears really fast and we are preparing for the decompression stop. A few guys appear to be having a deeper decompression stop while I am at 5 meters having a 5 minute one.

I notice Sam, my friend, being dragged by another diver

I am checking around while the buoys are being deployed and I notice Sam, my friend, being dragged by another diver. He can’t inflate his jacket so he is being assisted by another diver while the second dive guide, who used to be always at the back, passes him and doesn’t see he has problems. Also, this is where practice and remembering your training comes helpful. He totally forgot that he could orally inflate the jacket, so did the diver who helped him.

We regroup, everyone is there but the decompression stop is taking too long. As we finally reach the surface, the waves are already high, we are far from the island and the boat’s looks changes fast – from a shape to a dot and after the dot disappears, when the big waves block the precious view of it. I am recollecting memory of where we are. We are at the far south of Palau island called Pelilu and after that, ocean…blue… water vastness… The boat is far away from us and behind us is the sun… setting… Captain can’t see our surface markers because of the reflection and big waves.

Jake Seaplane
Jake Seaplane

What happens now…

We’ve been in the water for fifteen minutes and drifting further away. The dive guide was saying something to Taiwanese divers which I didn’t understand but in the end we did nothing. My proposition of swimming towards the island was met with very poor attempt of doing so by other divers. They just didn’t have stamina for it. After poor swim try, me and one other Taiwanese diver, which is apparently a dive master, started swimming towards the shore, but again, no stamina and lack of confidence led our attempt to a fail. We try again with the same result.

My proposition of swimming towards the island was met with very poor attempt of doing so

He says we should go back to the group. After assessing the situation I decide to continue on my own. I know you guys will say this was a bad decision but I would agree only partially. The sun is going down, there is no sign of the boat and when we pass the Peleilu island we are in the open ocean and I know people already got lost for one and a half days  before, so at this moment I was sure what I wanted to do.

I am swimming towards the shore.  I can see the group further away and an island closer. The waves are big and my mind has this crazy idea to ditch my camera, tank and everything and swim with BCD only. Luckily for me I haven’t done so.

The waves are big and my mind has this crazy idea to ditch my camera, tank and everything and swim with BCD only

Salvation In Sight

After the grueling swim, the shore is very near, maybe 100 meters. At that moment I see the boat pretty near. I am thinking what I should do next, if I should swim to the shore or get the attention of the boat while the current sweeps me away from the shore again. I go for the second option. I put the whistle in my mouth, start whistling and take my strobe and flash it towards the boat. No result… I take of my yellow fin and wave and wave and whistle…Still no result, the boat is literally going around me until it’s out of sight. My morale was so low that it had to do a few deco stops to get back up (divers will understand the joke), so it took a while. More doubts set in my mind…

The boat is literally going around me until it’s out of sight. My morale was so low

The boat went towards the group. Should I swim that way or, again, swim for the shore that is now probably 200 meters away as the current has swept me while I was trying to signal the boat. If he doesn’t find the group who knows where he is gonna search next. As I’m thinking about it I can see a dot and it’s standing still. I presume he found the divers and I let go with the current.

Rest, finally…

The dot starts moving again and I can see it becoming a shape again, a boat shape, which is very important in this situation. It’s coming closer. Again I take my fin off and wave vigorously as the boat alters its direction towards me. They have seen me. Now that the boat is very close I can hear excited conversation of the divers that are already on the boat. The standard procedure went on, I pass the camera, fins and for just this very brief moment it seems like nothing happened. The dive has been finished. I take off the equipment and as I sit down all of my muscles just become jelly as I recollect the situation that’s just happened. Tired of diving and swimming, after almost two hours they just stop functioning while, now, the strength flows back into them.

Final thoughts and lessons to be learned

After all was finished and everybody was safe, there were few things we could learn about. Never rush, even after the boat was fixed we should have not gone for Peleliu, but customers wanted it and the guide wanted to provide that. As for getting lost in the sea, apparently the captain told the guide to deploy the buoy a few minutes before the drop off, which he did a few minutes after the drop off. Now, when I asked the captain how he had found us, he told me by following the current. One question remains, why he didn’t follow the current much earlier.

In the end it’is just the series of mistakes that added up to a big one that could have been easily avoided.

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