Search & Rescue … missing divers …


This past weekend we had another “exciting” trip to the Korean East Coast. The day started out fairly calm and relaxed, we were able to take our time getting setup for a nice and easy technical dive to 42m for approximately 20 minutes. By the time we headed out of the harbor the weather started turning and the waters began to get rough causing large waves. It took several maneuvers with the boat to get the dives near the buoy. The first group splashed in and the boat maneuvered again to drop off a single 38th Parallel Diver who would try and catch up to the 2 Koreans. Because of the rough conditions the 2 Korean divers decided to descend away from the buoy to get to calmer waters below, this left our diver by himself on the surface and he returned to the boat. After approximately 45-50 minutes the Korean divers’ smb (surface marker buoy) was spotted and the boat watched from a distance. After some time the boat captain became concerned that he still didn’t see the divers so he slowly approached and couldn’t find any bubblea near the smb. The captain slowly & carefully retrieved the SMB (making sure no divers were on the line).

The two divers are both highly trained and experienced trimix instructors and divers. Apparently during the ascent they lost control of their SMB (surface marker buoy) which made it impossible to track their movement underwater from the surface.

About 2 – 2.5 hours post-splash the divers were found thanks to the help of several dive shops, the harbor police and navy (or coast guard…we couldn’t tell for sure) and the water rescue helicopter.

Despite being in the cold water for an extended period of time neither diver suffered any injuries. They remained calm and were in good spirits once back on board.

What was the “Lesson Learned” from this experience?

1. have more than 1 SMB per team
2. ideally have 2 SMB’s (complete, with reel) per person
3. make sure the SMB you are using is of proper size for the environment you are diving (i.e. a 1m SMB is ok for calm waters but a 1.5-2m SMB is minimum recommended size for Korea)
4. make sure you never dive without surface signaling equipment

We are very grateful that the two divers were found safe and sound and we are looking forward to diving with all of our new friends that we met this weekend.

There’s Diving, Tec Diving …. In Korea??

Wreck Dive in Korea

This post is purely from my personal perspective. I was recently asked by a good friend of mine (PADI Course Director, Lee Butler) to provide some anecdotes, quotes, challenges or stories about Tec diving in my area…Korea. Other divers were asked as well about their experiences but I think I was the first to answer. So here is what my reply will be:

Why Tec Dive, Let Alone Dive in Korea
Diving in Korea demands a tough mindset and strong desire to get in the water. The conditions are less than ideal for any type of diving let alone technical diving. The waters are cold (averaging 4-7C at technical depths), the visibility is poor (5m on a good day) and there is little to see in the way of coral, sea life and wrecks. With thick hoods, drysuits, 5mm+ gloves dexterity is a real challenge. So why dive in Korea? Easy, it is a phenomenal place to master skills needed on those vacations where it is 27C, 30m viz and abundant fish, coral and sights. I have NEVER been disappointed on a dive trip because ALL the conditions were ALWAYS better. Still not convinced? It is the only place on earth you can dive (safely) so close to North Korea, we regularly dive just north of the 38th Parallel, our dive club [enter plug here: 38thParallelDivers YouTube/Facebook and 38thParallelDivers.com] even provides certificates of achievement for those who dive above the 38th Parallel. Even night dives require special coordination as the local military must be notified that divers are in the water (especially when diving on the northern part of the east coast).

Some “Exciting” Moments During Dives
As far as me personally…I believe I have a “black-cloud” following me around. On just about all of my dive trips something “exciting” happens. My tank handwheel will twist off (can’t do a shutdown drill without that piece), my scrubber basket latch will fail, my zipper will leak and surprise me by filling my drysuit with 4C water, inflator/deflator has a free-flow, OH and let’s not forget the most memorable which happened during some training with Lee Butler at Savedra Dive Center (doing Tec sidemount). We were almost done with one of our instructional dives and it was time to practice the valve shutdown drills when all of a sudden I hear a loud POP followed by a woooooosh. My long hose has popped off my regulator and was dumping precious air into the ocean all around me, since it was on the long hose it was wildly flying about in the water. I looked over and Lee’s (and my dive buddy’s) eyes were HUGE. Needless to say I passed the valve shutdown “drill” by successfully shutting the tank down before it lost too much air. For me this was just another “exciting” dive.

Another “exciting time” happened during my Tec 40 course. Apparently there were a lot of jellyfish in the area (Mactan, Cebu) and no one told me about it. For the most part they didn’t hurt too bad and having a full wetsuit really helped. While doing an “S” drill and practicing handing off the long hose I found one of those jellies. After correctly demonstrating the drill I was returning my primary reg back into my mouth and apparently I had picked up a little friend, the jelly’s tentacles went right into my mouth and when I bit down on the mouth piece I felt that lovely stinging sensation all around my mouth, lips and face…the worse part was that this was the “S” drill that started the dive…only 85 more minutes to go I thought as I cursed through my reg.

Still this was not enough for the jellies…they demanded more blood from this diver for being in their space. The next day while deploying a DSMB I managed to snag a jelly in the line. This wouldn’t normally be any problem in Korea because we are covered from head to toe and hands. Being that this was nice warm water I didn’t have any gloves on. As I reeled up the line I looked over at my two instructors and they both just smirked with shit eating grins…needless to say I had to deal with it while the instructors secretly giggled.

The Greatest Moment in Diving Explained
For me the payoff with tec diving is simple. I am a more competent diver with better skills and better ability to self recover from emergencies. The technical courses and certifications offer a safe and semi-controlled environment to push limits and expand my personal diving knowledge. The courses push divers to read, understand and even research into best practices. Tec diving is my salvation from everyday life. I work with people and computers and it is nice to get away from it all 2 hours at a time. Tec diving allows me to focus on something I enjoy and it offers a quiet, peaceful seriousness that I simply can’t find anywhere else. This is the best part about diving in Korea; few like to dive in the cold, dark waters but I love the entire experience. The week prior to I prepare, test and service equipment. The night before I pack it all in my SUV, ready to leave straight from work on a Friday. Friday night I have a 3.5 hour drive that most people hate but I love cruising along the Korean expressways late at night with the music cranked and windows down. Saturday arrives and I am up at 530 am (normally a nuclear explosion would wake me this early but it a DIVING day) and I run downstairs from the hotel that I always stay at to see the water…then comes the smile, “I am diving today, today is going to be great”… doesn’t even matter if the water is brown and the waves are high…”I am diving today, today is going to be great”. But the best part hasn’t even come yet. The moments that take me from my seat over to the area where I complete a giant stride into the water begin to build the excitement and here it comes…the descent. This is the absolute GREATEST experience ever! Letting the air out of your BCD begins all the tasks that you were trained to do, “S” drills, bubble checks, trim, streamline now fill the counter lungs, breathe…OK…check PO2, look for buddy, check buddy, dive light on…camera on….counter lungs, PO2…all of this while slowly falling through various shades on blue, green, brown and finally somewhere around 40M there is clear, COLD water. Nothing beats watching the bottom of the ocean come up at you on a deep technical dive. THAT is my favorite part of every single dive! Just writing this down I can’t wait for this weekend to hop in the water and make the descent.

The other reason that I like to dive now is I like to share the skills that I have learned along the way with others. I am always eager to dive with any diver, new, experienced or otherwise…I hope to see you on a dive trip soon.

Why Do YOU, Like to Dive?