I had recently purchased a new housing for my DSLR, and decided a holiday to Spain was the perfect opportunity to test it out. It was my first time diving in Spain but knew that it would be cold compared to the warm tropical waters of South East Asia, where I had done my previous 800 dives.
Preparing for the Dive
The day didn’t get off to a good start; I got lost trying to find the dive shop so was half an hour late, it was clear that my guide was not happy with the delay. I rushed to put my 7mm wet suit on; not wanting to keep anyone waiting longer. I nearly left my mask behind; this was not the only thing I had forgotten.
For the first dive I had requested that we go to 40 meters so I could be sure my housing did not leak before putting the camera inside. On the boat the instructor had a brief chat with me about the dive plan but spent most of her time talking to her student who would be joining us to do his deep specialty. I had completely overlooked that the housing would be empty and therefore extremely buoyant.
We arrived at the dive site, there was a strong current. This didn’t worry me though; with over 800 dives a bit of current shouldn’t be a problem.
On the decent my ears took slightly longer to equalize than normal and I soon started to loose sight of my buddies in the two-meter visibility. But they were waiting when I reached the bottom. We shared the OK signal and I started to check my housing for leaks. After about a minute I looked up, again, I couldn’t see any other divers. Still holding on to the line, I checked my computer and noticed I was only 2 minutes away from my no stop limit.
As I consider my options two shapes appeared in the mist.
By the time we had ascended to 30 meters my computer was beeping, indicating that I needed to do a five-minute stop. I started to feel a dull ache in my ears. Immediately I knew that it was a reverse block. I have had these many times before; stopping and waiting usually clear them. So again I reluctantly watched my buddies go out of sight. The discomfort faded and I tentatively continued up the line, stopping every meter, allowing the air to escape from my ears.
At 10 meters I entered a fast up current, which viciously pulled my camera above my head. I lost control, drastically deflating my BCD, squeezing all the air out, but still rising. My ears couldn’t take it, and I felt a piercing pain drive through them. I tried to kick back down grabbing the rope. It was slippery. I became dizzy.
My buddies were comfortably swimming against the down current a meter from the line. I tried to ask for another weight but they weren’t paying attention. My breathing was heavy and my gauge showed 30 bar. I still had 5 minutes left of my stop.
All I wanted to do was get out of the water. I knew going up could be dangerous, but I felt like I didn’t have a choice, my buddies didn’t seem to want to help and I was soon going to run out of air struggling against the current.
I didn’t finish the deco stop, there was 3 minutes left, I let go of the line, opened my arms and legs wide, and watched the silhouette of our small boat get closer. When I surfaced I couldn’t hear anything and the waves didn’t help with the vertigo.
After the dive
Holding onto the boat, trying to support myself, I felt someone inflate my BCD and start to undo the clips. I looked up he was saying something to me, but I couldn’t work out what it was. When I didn’t respond he pointed to the ladder. Somehow I managed to pull myself up the ladder and fell into the boat. The next thing I knew I was throwing up over the side as my buddies broke the surface, completely unaware of the horrible experience I had just had.
I didn’t do the second dive but sat on the boat for the next hour trying to ignore the throbbing pain in my ears and hoping I hadn’t done permanent damage.
It was a couple of days until my hearing came back and a few weeks before I could equalize without pain, but I hadn’t done any major damage and one month later I was back in the warm waters of Malaysia, diving every day with my camera and new housing.