Being left behind in open water after you have just enjoyed a thrilling scuba diving experience is definitely something that no diver ever wants to endure. But by remaining calm and remembering the following tips, you can get yourself to safety as soon as possible.
Also remember that, while being left behind is rare, you should always take precautions to ensure you will get back on the boat at the right time.
That is the very first step you need to take to ensure you will never have to experience being alone in the water with no boat in sight.
Check Your Surroundings
If you come up from a dive and you are shocked to find that there is no boat in sight and no other divers in the water, the first thing you need to do is scan the entire area for any other boats.
Turn a full 360 degrees, looking for anything, from land on the horizon to objects floating in the water that you can hold onto for extra support.
Drop your weights so that you are more buoyant and you will float more easy on the surface, especially if you find that there is a way to get to safety nearby.
However, make sure your regulator, snorkel, and mask remain in place. Use a surface signaling device to alert others of your presence
Safety tools and signaling devices
Before heading for a dive, you should make sure you have the proper safety tools with you, just in case anything bad happens, like being left behind.
You should have a surface marker buoy, an audible signal (which should easily connect to the low-pressure inflator), and a mirror. In the event that you see someone nearby, make use of the audible signal and your mirror.
But if you have a GPS beacon, this is even better. Use whatever gear you brought along with you to make other people aware of your presence in the water so that they can come and get you.
Keep Your Energy and Strength Levels Up
While you are in the water, it is vitally important that you keep your energy level up and not deplete your body of its strength. Take steps to conserve your energy by swimming with the current, rather than against it.
However, if you see land nearby and you are swimming towards it but the current is working against you, avoid swimming right into it by instead swimming 45degrees in to the current.
Struggling and fighting against a current, especially a strong one, is sure to deplete your energy and exhaust you very quickly, especially if you are already having trouble staying calm.
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On top of maintaining your energy and strength to survive, you also need to make sure you are able to maintain a healthy body temperature. This means you have to take steps to keep warm despite how cold the water might get.
Remember that, even though you are wearing a wetsuit and it may very well be quite thick, the mere fact that you are in the water for an extended period of time is enough to force heat out of your body, leaving you cold and susceptible to hypothermia.
Hug your knees to your chest if you can, as this will help you to trap body heat and conserve your warmth.
Be Ready to Defend Yourself Against Predators
Again, it may be extremely difficult, but you have to remain as calm as possible throughout this ordeal. If you begin to panic, your heart will race, you are more likely to not think straight and make the best decisions for your survival, and you may end up thrashing in the water, which will deplete your energy and strength and increase the odds of drowning.
Thrashing in the water is also a way to alert sharks to your presence in the water. If you are in shark-infested waters or a shark ends up showing up after some time, remain calm but prepare yourself for a potential fight to survive.
Remember sharks are no man eaters and shark attacks are rare a shark will most likely not see you as dinner. But in the unlikely event a sharks turns up and is overly interested in you need to remember the following:
Punching the shark, particularly in the nose, or hitting it in the eye are the best ways to deter it and get it to leave you alone if it is attacking.
And remember that deep, steady breathing and deliberate, steady movements are important if you want to get yourself to safety soon.
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Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.