Avoid getting lost and increase chances in getting found again
Getting lost or left behind at sea is probably one of the scariest situations a diver can find himself in. Being alone at the surface in the middle of the ocean is something you don’t want to experience. Fortunately it doesn’t happen often and with a little knowledge and reparation you can reduce the possibility in getting lost to a minimum. Don’t count on luck only if you want to be found again.
Divers can get lost because they simply got forgotten by the dive crew and the boat went back to shore without them or they can get lost because they surfaced too far from the boat (or shore). While the implementation of head count procedures by the dive operator would eliminate the chance of divers being forgotten, surfacing to far from the boat or shore is a bit more difficult to avoid and can depend from several factors such as:
- Underwater or surface currents (including drift dives): While drift dives can give you a nice diving experience, you should have the needed experience or dive who somebody who has this experience
- Weather conditions: Darkness (night diving), rain and high waves will drastically reduce the visibility
- Poor diving (underwater navigation) skills: Getting lost underwater might mean you are also far away from shore or boat, and at some dive sites it doesn’t take much to get out of sight
- Technical difficulties (engine problems): If diving from a boat, the skipper might be able to follow the divers during the dive, but if the boat is experiencing technical problems it might be possible that divers are drifting away from the boat
- Dive emergencies: Material problems or even out of air situations can end a dive sooner than expected and if at that moment you are far away from the boat, it might be difficult to get back to the shore/boat and dive crew at the surface might not expect divers to surface at that moment and thus not be looking out for divers at the surface
- Diving from an unattended boat: What if for whatever reason you surface and are not able to get back to your unattended boat or the boat is gone? Although in some areas it is common practice to leave the boat at anchor and dive all together, this should be avoided. If it is done, make sure there is a safe shore exit, but mostly this is not the case
- Physical condition: If it is because the diver carries to much weight or has a poor physical condition, not being able to swim back to the boat will increase chances in getting lost. Swimming 100m, fully packed, at the surface with even slight waves and little current is just not the same as swimming 100m in a pool
Remember that you might be able to see the boat or shore, but your friends or dive crew might not be able to see you. The reason is very simple: You are just a tiny dot on the surface of the sea. All that can be seen on the surface is your head and shoulders and although dive suits, hoods and BCDs are available in many colors, these colors might not be very easy to spot and dark colors, specially for diving suits are the most popular amongst divers. So, what you need to do is increase your visibility and bright colors can make it more easy to be seen. Although studies have shown that fluorescent green (green-yellow) and fluorescent orange are the most visible colors, these are not colors in which it is easy to find dive materials or not the color a diver likes to wear. These colors as well as bright yellow, green and orange would however increase your visibility. The more contrast between you and the surface of the sea, the easier it is to be spotted. The use of reflectors (preferably SOLAS reflectors) also increase visibility and some manufacturers already have reflector stripes incorporated in BCDs, diving hoods and dive suits.
But wearing special colors only isn’t enough. The use of specific diving safety materials will drastically improve chances of the lost diver being spotted and found.
Although it is recommended to dive with at least one visual and one audible diving safety device, how many and which kind of materials you should take with you on a dive to reduce the chances of getting lost will depend on the investment you are willing to make and the dive environment you dive in. While certain safety materials will drastically increase chances being found, the price can be rather high. Other materials cost less, but will have limitations. This safety campaign introduces some safety materials that reduce chances of getting lost.
Which of these materials do you take with you on your next dive?