What? - I can’t see you, in fact, I can’t hear you either!

Diving in Northern Ireland is always a bit dull. I don’t necessarily mean boring; I mean there is a definite lack of light when descending below, em, ........oh ....about a metre. I’ve become quite used to diving in low light and actually quite enjoy it, mainly because I get to use my rather cool Halcyon Pro 3 canister light. My trusty dive light is one piece of equipment I wish I had acquired at an earlier date, in fact I can tell you the exact date and time I wished I had said can light; my first night dive

Pro 3 HID light

I had just finished my PADI course and was accompanying fiancée-buddy on the final dive of her AOW course. This was actually my first dive as a qualified diver. Needless to say it didn't go exactly according to plan. Kerri was doing a night dive as one of her PADI specialities; I was merely coming along to clock up some dives. It wasn’t really a night dive in the true sense of the word, more of a late evening dive. It was about 7pm when we reached the dive site but as it was still the winter solstice the light was fading fast.

It was a familiar wreck dive for us as most of our training had taken part on this lump of rusting metal, known as “The Outer Lees.” Our instructor made a big deal of the preparation involved in the pending night dive and had an impressive slate with all the procedures and stuff we had to abide by.

Oh, the irony.

We were then educated on to how to care for a diving torch, lube the 'O' rings and clean the contacts. This was all very fascinating but I just wanted to get in and do my first real dive, in the dark no less – how exciting!

There were a number of divers aboard all crowding forward eagerly as the torches were hastily being handed out. Being an awfully polite fellow I waited my turn, but in fact found myself empty handed. I simply presumed I wouldn’t be diving after all. How annoying.

It appeared I knew nothing of night diving as I was told I would indeed be diving, but would be "sharing" a torch. How in the name of all that’s precious do you “share” a torch under water?

You can’t.

I was partnered up with the instructor and wife-(to-be)-buddy. This gave me a bit of security but I still wasn’t particularly thrilled about not having a torch. 10 minutes later I jumped in, descended, and our buddy team made way around the wreck.

Night vision bunny
I recalled as a child my mum telling me to eat my carrots as they would help me to see in the dark like the rabbits do. If I had known 20 years later I would be underwater, in the middle of Strangford Lough, at night, I’d have eaten every bloody carrot I could have got my 10 year old mitts on, because unlike the rabbits, at that moment in time I couldn’t see a fucking thing.

Our instructor was leading, he had a light. I was in the middle, I didn’t have a light. Kerri was following up the rear, she had a light. You got that? I can’t remember exactly whose light I was supposedly sharing, but it seemed that it wasn’t a “fair share” just at that moment. Then the inevitable happened – we got separated.

Yes, I turned around to signal fiancée-buddy and she was gone. Well that was amazing, I finally met a girl I liked and she had promptly drifted off into the blackness of the Lough. Not your average method of being dumped and certainly a first for me.

I hastily made the decision to stick with the instructor as he was "sharing" the light at that time. I finned over to him and practically ripped his arm from the socket, he seemed to get the picture quite quickly. He handed me his spg to hang onto and we sped off around the wreck. I was now being trailed around in complete darkness.

It turned out Kerri had problems equalizing, subsequently surfaced, waving her light, as trained, and putting it against her chest so that she could attempt to see other dive lights. I didn’t have a light so that was impossible and poor Kerri had to surface alone in the pitch black.

In the mean time I was now properly upset and we eventually gave up searching. I was becoming accustomed to the fact Kerri was obviously lost forever and was glad I hadn’t really met her parents at this stage, therefore could probably get away with not being the one to tell them their daughter was dead. I wasn’t sure of the legality of the whole thing but was also pretty confident the instructor would be going to prison and, I hoped, that would appease Kerri’s parents’ probable bad mood.

As we began to ascend my ears began to hurt and I got a little light headed. When we finally broke the surface I felt rather peculiar and it took me a minute to get my bearings. We boarded the boat and amazingly Kerri was alive, although looking rather unhappy. As I quickly readjusted my thought patterns to the idea I would be getting married after all, I too became a little unhappy. Not at the prospect of marriage of course, that still seemed a good plan, but at our so called night dive disaster.

We doffed our kit and Kerri explained she had gone quite deaf and was convinced her ear drum was perforated, thankfully that wasn’t the case. My ears felt a bit woolly, but I’d felt it before and wasn’t too concerned.

We had survived our night dive, which was some achievement all in all, but not one we cared to repeat anytime soon. Three days later the problems really started.

Sucking Carbogen

The 3rd day after the dive I went completely deaf in my right ear. I went to hospital after work one morning and was admitted instantly. Needless to say the hospital wasn’t convinced it was diving related and put me on some crazy mix of carbon dioxide and oxygen. It was called “Carbogen,” and had little or no effect on my recovery. Three days of hospital mistreatment later, Kerri lost it and basically demanded that I was sent home. I was still completely deaf at this stage and just nodded to everything. I found this kept everyone happy.

Once at home Kerri had me on the road to full health having sought advice on the World Wide Web combined with her super nurse knowledge. Decongestants and steroids fixed me right up. Two weeks later I could hear just fine, except for certain phrases including, but not limited to; “Will you feed the cat army?” and “Are you making tea?

Hospital hearing tests did ascertain I had lost certain frequencies, but being in a heavy metal band, I figured I’d lost those frequencies years ago and it was nothing to worry about.

I ended up out of diving action for a few months just to be safe and we came to the conclusion that I had suffered a reverse block as I had recently recovered from a cold. At the time of the dive I felt fine, but i guess these things just happen.

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t dive too soon after a cold. 
  • Doctors have no appreciation or knowledge of diving accidents. 
  • Carbogen is stupid. 

As a side note; I always dive with at least 2 torches irrespective of the dive and I continue to play heavy metal, but still have problems hearing certain phrases like;“Will you feed the cats?”


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Safe diving buddy.