Sunday, 17 November 2013

Going Under Part 6: And Then There Were Five

To wait 5minutes for someone your are expecting to arrive can not be considered a big deal, even by the most impatient. However, the context of the waiting is entirely key in this. Setting plays a big part too.

Take the situation I recently found myself in. I was not alone, but with someone I had not known very long, a nice girl called Lorna. We were both kneeling, shivering and holding hands, for reassurance purposes. The person we were waiting the 5, or so, minutes for had led us 18 metres straight down narrow shaft, in a flooded and disused stone quarry, and abandoned us to the cold and the dark.

'They're ought to be a bloody good reason for this', I thought to myself. Bravado was my only way of generating a little body heat. Despite the wetsuit , it was cold.

There was, so it happened, a very good reason for the wait. One of the trainees following us down the shaft had panicked. Be it brought on by a overwhelming and irresistible attack of vertigo or claustrophobia, the result was that poor Alan had made a dash for the surface at 10 meters down with Dan, one of the Dive Master team, frantically hanging onto his legs to stop him ascending too quickly. This can be extremely risky as divers can suffer the effects of decompression sickness, otherwise known as the 'bends'.

The remaining trainees with the dive masters (DMs) had returned to the open shaft, their torches, coming down through the gloom, were a welcome sight for Lorna and I. Jelly, the lead DM, then organised everyone together and we went thought our skills and drills. If any of us were to pass and qualify for PADI Diving licence then we needed to prove we could carry out all the necessary tasks under water.

Fin pivots, flooded mask clearing, using alternative air sources, and controlled ascents were some of the things we needed to prove we were competent at. All under the scrupulous gaze of the DMs, through the kicked-up silt and gloom.

Despite the fractious start it was a good session not just for myself, but for the remaining trainees.

Back at the surface I passed my tanks, jacket and fins up to Kim, another of the DMs, before making slow progress up the iron ladder from the water hampered by a sodden and constrictive wetsuit. Before I got to the top I could hear raised voices.

It was policeman-Dan. Still in dripping in his dive gear, he stood, leaning menacingly over someone who sat in front of him on the bench. A condescending, finger jutted back and forth. ' I don't care if you want to get yourself bent, but next time I will leave you to it!'

At the time I had no idea what was going on. I had no knowledge of what had happened to Alan, but I was now piecing things together.

'If you thought your weren't up to this Alan , you should have f***ing said something before put our lives at risk!" Dan continued his rebuke the forlorn Alan, until Jelly interjected.

"That's enough, Dan!" The big man's words sounded like a drum.

Dan, red faced and spitting, turned to face Jelly, " I'm not having this Steve ..."

"ENOUGH!" The senior DM showed him the flat of his hand hand to accentuate the point. It may have been instinctive, but the hand signal meant STOP, even at the surface.

Dan, shot a look at his partner Kim who now had a grip on his upper arm. He wrenched his    arm away and stormed off, head steaming in the cold air. We all looked on, many open mouthed.

Jelly watched Dan go before turning to us. He suddenly, looked drained. " We're calling that a day guys".

"Tomorrow we're diving off Portland. Go fill your tanks and make sure you don't leave any of you kit behind."

Almost apologetically he turned to the figure who had been motionless throughout. "Alan grab yourself a brew, we need a chat". Childlike, Alan stood, uneasily and then moved through us, like a ghost, making no eye with any of us.

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