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Being left behind in open water after you have just enjoyed a thrilling scuba diving experience is something that no diver ever wants to endure.

There have been cases, where not only have divers been left behind, but no one noticed until the next day when the gear was discovered on the dive boat by the next day divers. Those cases are rare, but it did happen.

Peter Trayhurn was left behind in open water

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Because of some incidents that got a lot of media attention, dive boats especially liveaboards have ridged check out and check in requirements. Those systems allow the dive operator a clear understanding of who is onboard and who is not.

It is not always a matter of a dive boat forgetting divers.

In Aug 2015, four divers and a dive guide surfaced some distance from the dive boat. The divers insisted that the dive guide would go and get the boat. When the dive guide was approaching the boat he became unconscious, the boat picked him up and rushed him to shore. When the boat returned, the divers were not found. After ten days the search for them was called off

A more common experience is one which a dive or dive team surfaces down current of a boat and is unable to reach it. Even if they are spotted, the boat might not be able to get them because of other divers in the water. This happens more frequently than you imagine. These situations are usually resolved successfully, with other boats coming to aid.

Also read: Dive Insurance Can Save Your Life in Case of a Scuba Emergency

Check Your Surroundings

If you come up from a dive and 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. Turn a full 360 degrees, looking for any signs of your boat or another. While searching also look for anything that will give you added buoyancy. Drop your weights so that you are more buoyant, and you will float higher on the surface.

Keep the remainder of your gear on as it will provide additional buoyancy. Keep your mask in place and use your snorkel if seas are choppy. Use a surface signaling device to alert others of your presence. If you are with your dive buddy, latch yourselves together so that you do not drift apart.

Safety Tools and Signaling Devices

A surface marker buoy should be a standard item of your dive kit in open water. These items will make you easier to see with their bright colors and higher profiles.

A surface marker buoy will make you more visable

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An audible signal device such as an air horn that connects to the low-pressure inflator or a whistle should be with you. A flash of light off a mirror will stand out and be easier to spot than your SMB by an aerial search.

Also read: How Not to Abuse Your Underwater Signaling Device

Recent technology improvements have made personal emergency beacons affordable to divers. Based on the concepts of a pilot down radio and the locator beacons of sinking ships, these items will connect to your BCD or slipped into a pocket.

While specifications vary, most have the ability to first send a short range location signal or even an audio message. If this is not effective, then the lost diver can activate a GPS emergency signal. A signal is sent to a network of satellites which in turn will alert Search and Recover organizations. They in turn will send the nearest vessel towards you. They may also launch air search activities. If you have one of these devices and maintain your buoyancy you will be found.

Also read: These 9 Scuba Tools Could Save Your Life Tomorrow

Keep Your Energy and Strength Levels Up

You need to start conserving your energy as soon as you can. Being latched to your partner will reduce the swimming you will need to do to stay together. Maintaining a streamlined profile will help you conserve energy as well.

If you see land that you think you can reach, by all means try. However, be careful of the currents and do not try to fight a current stronger than a mild one. Try crossing at an angle if it is a local current. If the current is strong, it might be better to conserve your energy instead of fighting a losing battle with the last of your energy stores.

Planning a scuba trip? Then you should download the ultimate scuba dive checklist just like 5000+ other divers already so you will not forget to bring anything.

Keep Warm

It is important to keep your core body temperature up. If you start to feel chilled, move your arms and legs to generate heat to your body. Do so in a controlled manner so that your energy is not wasted. Hug your knees to your chest if you can, as this will help you to trap body heat and conserve your warmth.

If you are with your dive buddy see if you can share some body heat. Even in warm tropical waters you can develop hypothermia.

Be Ready to Defend Yourself Against Predators

Remain calm, the panic diver is one not thinking straight. He is also not conserving his energy. Thrashing in the water will also 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.

Keep calm at all times

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Remember sharks are not 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. Do this only as a last resort. Some species see this type of action as a threat, while they will initially retreat they will return with help.

Feel free to contact us. We have multiple partners that offer dive packages + accommodation and scuba lessons.

Planning a scuba trip? Then you should download the ultimate scuba dive checklist just like 5000+ other divers already so you will not forget to bring anything.

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 and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.

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