It's important to stay focused when you are doing something dangerous. If it's driving a two ton car at 60 down the highway, or crawling along the bottom of the river with surfaced supplied air, you've got to keep your mind on the task. 
     When you've been doing something for many years, it's easy to start thinking you are bullet proof. That is a dangerous state of mind, you become careless and that can get you killed. Yesterday the wind was up and the lake was white capping. I knew the only way for me to dive was to drive my boat a couple of miles against the wind and let it drag me through the shell beds. I started out from Danville and went just passed the creek channel in front of Bass Bay. There is a strip of ebony shells along the river bank there that I have been working. Before I jumped in, I looked back down the path I would be working. The wind was going to drag me across the creek channel which was about 25 feet deep, no big deal, it was only about 20 yards wide. But there were channel marking buoys on each side of the creek, I thought to myself, "I'll probably get my hose wrapped around one of those buoy cables". No big deal, just a little inconvenience. 
     When I got my suit on and compressor started I hooked my weight belt around my waist, tested my regulator, adjusted my mask and jumped in. The wind quickly caught the boat and it was all I could do to slow it down enough to grab shells as they went by. The waves were pulling me up and down but I've dove in a lot worse. Before long, I reached the edge of the creek channel and started down, there were a few shells on the bank and along the bottom. As I started up the far side I was wrenched to a halt. I thought "yep, hit a buoy". Since I was 25 feet deep the waves were really jerking me up and down now as I felt around behind me for the cable. That was the weird part, the cable had snapped itself unto my weight-belt hook. We have our air hoses attached to our weight-belts by safety snaphooks. That way we can easily unhook them if we have trouble. But by a freak accident, this buoy cable had gotten lodged in the hook along with the ring on my belt. Since the waves were slamming me up and down, I had to wait for the lull between waves to work on it or risk losing fingers. I was at the point of ditching my belt and surfacing (which I really didn't want to do) when I finally got the hook off my belt. I had just a couple of heartbeats to unsnap it from the cable and back on my belt before the wind and waves jerked it out of my hands. It was a little hairy, but over in a couple of minutes and I was back up the bank and grabbing shells.
     This little experience reminded me that what I do for a living can be dangerous. We are in a hostile environment dependent on surface supplied air.  I have lost good friends who were excellent divers, but it only takes one bad accident to end a life. I have been diving for 37 years, all my adult life and half my childhood, and never had a cable snap onto my weight-belt like that. Just like driving a car, you need to stay alert and focused at all times. Don't be lulled into thinking you're too good for something bad to happen. As Ra's al Ghul told Batman, "Mind your surroundings!"

Leave a Reply.