Monday, April 10, 2006

Marie Celeste

A group of us from the Dubai dive club went for a splash last Thursday. The wreck of the M V Dara is about four miles offshore, broadly west of Umm Al Quwain, and lies in several pieces about 20 metres below the surface. When we arrived, there was already a boat tied to the wreck, presumably to the buoyed line helpfully installed by the Emirates Diving Association.

Normal procedure in these circumstances is for the new arrival to tie off astern of the anchored boat. With divers already in the water it's potentially dangerous to lob an anchor in. The Universal Law Of Sod guarantees that the descending anchor would hit a diver; whereas it's usually really hard not to hit the wreck. Tying to the stern of the other boat was not helped by the crew of the other boat. There was no-one to be seen. We assumed - correctly, as it happened - that both occupants were underwater. One appeared soon after we'd tied off. His dive buddy surfaced about ten minutes later. So much for buddy diving.

How can competent adults be so heedless of their own safety? Congenital idiocy perhaps, or a desire to get mentioned here? Underwater visibility was only a couple of metres, so it would be all too (Not to. Happy now, Mme Cyn?) easy not to find the rope back to the boat. And with a knot or two of current, how far downstream of your boat would you eventually surface? Two hundred metres? Four hundred? That's one hell of a swim against the tide. The nearest land is only 20 metres away. The nearest dry land is four miles as the gull flies. Swimming, across or against the current, you'd have to cover a considerably greater distance. You're gonna die, dude, all for the sake of leaving someone in the boat to come and pick you up.

While I was in the water with my buddy, the aforementioned boat motored off. At the end of our dive, I couldn't find the line to the surface. It turned out that our friends had chucked their line overboard and it had sunk to the sea bed. Gosh, thanks guys! We surfaced astern of our boat and were duly picked up. There was another dive boat on site by this stage. Every one of the six divers on that one missed the anchor line to the surface and had to be picked up.

Incidentally, someone has stolen the EDA's buoy. Primary suspects are the local fishermen. They appear to believe that no-one else owns a GPS, echo sounder, or can navigate, and by removing the buoy they can prevent divers from nicking the fish out of their traps.

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