Monday, June 02, 2008

Divers Left Alone At Sea For Nearly 20 Hours!


In what can best be described as a nightmare come true, British Diver Richard Neely, 38, and his American girlfriend Allyson Dalton, 40 were left behind by their diving group last week, and were forced to survive for more than 19 hours adrift at sea.

The couple was on vacation in Australia and were diving off the Great Barrier Reef. The dive was to last just one hour, but turned into an ordeal after they surfaced roughly 200 meters from their boat. The strong current was pulling them away, and they couldn't swim fast enough to reach their companions. Shouting for help had no effect, and soon the commercial diving boat left and three hours passed before anyone noticed that they were missing. An extensive search began shortly there after.

Neely and Dalton jettisoned their depleted oxygen tanks, and later their weight belts, to allow themselves to become more buoyant but as night set in, the water grew cooler. Neely remembered reading in a book that it was best to lash yourselves together in a situation like that, and in a move that may have saved their lives, the couple were able to share body warmth throughout the night.

The longer they were at sea, the more they began to think about the sharks that inhabited the area. The Great Barrier Reef is home to the largest shark population on the planet, and the two divers were afraid to even mention the word to one another. As the daw approached, there fear grew, as they knew that sharks were more likely to attack at dawn.

Fortunately the dawn also brought back warmth and light, allowing the search teams to continue their job. Eventually they were spotted by helicopter and pulled from the water, cold and wet, but only a little worse for wear.

If you've seen the movie Open Water you probably have a bit of an idea what these two were going through and how they might have been left behind. These large commercial diving boats often have a lot of people and a quick head count is performed before leaving the area. I guess in this case the head count was either not performed at all or it was a miscount, but either way, they're lucky to be alive. Something tells me that they may soon own that diving company. ;)

12 comments:

The Adventurist said...

Yeah, they will probably 'own' that diving company as much as the climbers on Everest can 'own' the expedition companies. I am sure they had to sign waivers to negate the company of any ill doings. It sucks, but companies like this usually get away with their 'little' mistakes. It does piss a person off..

Luckily they survived. A few more hours and they probably would have been shark bait.

Adventure Junkie said...

Have to disagree with you here. No waiver in the world is going to protect them when they've left behind their clients in this fashion. It does not equate to the same kinds of situations that climbers face at all. This is gross negligence of the worst kind, and company is going to feel it.

DSD said...

I did see that movie. Very scary stuff!
So where are you adventuring this summer?
DSD

Adventure Junkie said...

That movie was creepy. Eerie ending too.

I'll be spending much of my time off this summer in Montana working at Primal Quest. It's just a few weeks away now, so things are getting really busy. I was invited to go hiking and climbing in the Tetons after the race with the PQ gang, including climber Jay Smith, but unfortunately I have other obligations.

How about you? Got plans?

DSD said...

Looks like so far we will start at the coast and head east. The Rockies are always calling, maybe Grey Owls' again, likely some northern river fun, then off to Killarney...
Never been to the Tetons! Boy would I like to adventure there...
And place a few stones on a summit or two.....
Your time with PQ will be great!
DSD

Adventure Junkie said...

Yep! PQ should be interesting for a lot of reasons. :)

You sound like you have a pretty good plan for the summer as well. The Rockies are an amazing place to spend the summer. (spring, fall, and winter too!)

SecretAgent said...

Just the other day I was talking to an acquaintance who along with her husband own and operate a dive boat out of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The head count and verification of the number of passengers is always on their mind. Any operation who fails to do this and do it right is running a second rate company. However, the worst thing she said are operators who go out with huge crowds on the boat. She said anything over 8 or 10 divers on a dive trip requires way too much work and is not the way to operate a dive boat.

Adventure Junkie said...

Exactly what I was thinking SA. A lot of these dive services just pack 'em in and ship 'em out. Too many people and you can't possibly keep track of them all. Personally, I'd pay a little more to be with a smaller group anyway.

Christina said...

I spent a fair amount of time diving the GBR, living with a dive instructor out in Cairns, and spending a lot of time on the boats of different companies. They are/were seriously anal about the check in/out of the water process. It really shocks me that this happened given the diligence I witnessed.

Do you know which dive company it was?

Adventure Junkie said...

I've never heard the name of the dive company that this couple used, and I have also heard how diligent they've become about making a head count since that similar incident a few years back that was the basis for the film "Open Waters". I was kind of shocked to see that it happened again as well.

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somebody said...
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