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Necessity of Briefing Surface Personnel

Published on: 9th November, 2016 | Reviews and Training Tips
Photo credit: Ashton East
This story concerns an unplanned, but not unexpected, drift dive where surface support had not been warned of the possibility.

Diving in the Nelson Bay area is subject to strong tidal currents, and it is common to dive the slack tide. Tide charts are usually pretty accurate, allowing those wanting to extend their dive time to enter the water at the end of the incoming tide, drift away from the entry point until the current slows, and wait for the start of the outgoing tide to return to the entry point.

Neptune is not always so accommodating. On this occasion we entered the water ten minutes before slack tide. As the slack tide did not occur on schedule we found ourselves swimming against the current to remain in the planned dive area.

When it became clear the tidal current was not slowing, we decided to turn the dive into a drift dive. All three divers were very experienced with the area in question, and knew we had plenty of air to make our exit at Nelson Bay Beach, the Marina, anywhere along the Co-op Wall, or even at the Pipeline.

The dive itself was smooth and enjoyable. We ended up exiting on the slack tide partway along the Co-op Wall. Straws were drawn to see who would go for a walk to find a phone.  The possibility of a drift dive was touched on during the pre-dive discussion and was understood by each member of the very experienced dive team. The problem was that this possibility was not explained to those non-diver wives and girlfriends left at Fly Point with the cars.

From the perspective of those left on shore, our dive team was the first to enter the water, followed by other groups of divers over the next 20 minutes. About one hour after we had left the last groups of divers returned to shore. It would then be another thirty minutes before they received a telephone call from us at Pro Dive.

This was thirty minutes where all other divers had returned, and there was no sign of bubbles in the area around Fly Point. This was not fair on our significant others, and they could well have, and almost did, contact emergency services.

The lesson here is that we should have included our shore-bound significant others (or support personnel) in our pre-dive discussion and explained those possibilities that we had simply assumed amongst ourselves based on long experience.


Ashton East

OC and CCR trimix, stage cave, underwater photographer; NSW, QLD and UK Legal Counsel.