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.

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