My worst camera flood and it wasn’t my fault.

Flooding a camera is every underwater photographers worst nightmare. Unfortunately it happens to every underwater photographer at some point. This is the story of the worst camera flood I have encountered and it wasn’t my fault.

Lets set the Scene

I was working on a small island in Malaysia called Perhentian Kecil. I had been there for about 3 months and had spent a year in Thailand before that. The whole time I had been working with my Canon 7D inside an Ikelite Housing. 

Everything was going well, I was enjoying life and making money from something I loved. What could possibly go wrong?

The Dive of the Camera Flood

That day started out like any other, cleaning the dive shop, setting up tanks, and greeting customers. I set the camera up as normal and did my usual dunk test in one of the cleaning buckets before heading out onto the boat. 

I had two return customers that day. They had been to our dive shop about a month before and Shaun had done his PADI open water course with one of our instructors. He loved the diving so much that he had now managed to persuade his wife Sarah to give it a try. 

Sarah was very nervous and scared of the water, but her instructor was very understanding and took things slowly. We started the dive in the very shallow water close to the beach. Again as I entered the water I checked my camera for leaks. 

No problems so I started taking shots of Shaun whilst we waited patiently for Sarah to do her skills. We were in the shallow water for almost an hour before Sarah finally felt comfortable enough to swim out towards the deeper reef. 

With Pufferfish

Once we were on the reef I could see that Sarah really started to enjoy herself and relax. This was perfect for me. I was able to get some great shots of the couple together, with the coral and even some great fish. 

arms open pose

As we were finishing the dive I took a picture but on the play back I noticed something strange. Turning the camera housing around I found that there was a large amount of water in my dome. I turned the camera off and headed for the surface, holding the lens down. 

 

After the Dive

Once back at the dive shop I quickly opened the housing and took the camera out. Retrieving both the CF card and battery I found an old container of rice and through the camera in there. I didn’t touch the camera for a full 24 hours. 

Putting the CF card into my computer and was happy to find all the pictures from the dive were there. I continued with my usual business of editing and showing the images to the customers. They were delighted and brought all of the photos from the dive. This was at least some good news. 

What caused the camera flood?

As soon as I had the chance I examined the housing. After a close inspection I found a small hairline crack running down the side of a hole which had been drilled for a button. Placing the housing back into a bucket of water confirmed that this was the cause of the camera flood. 

It was completely baffling by how a crack like this could occur. I strained my memory to recall hitting, dropping or bashing the housing at any time. I was always very careful with my equipment and therefore could not remember any such events.

The only explanation was that it was a manufacturing fault with the housing. Sending pictures of this to a local Ikelite dealer confirmed my reasoning. They said the whole housing would need to be sent to America to be completely re-fitted. This would take at least one month.

What had happened was that a small crack must have appeared, which was fine on the surface, however once I went into deeper water this crack expanded with the pressure. On the way back up the air inside the crack would have expanded as well, making the crack even bigger. Eventually the crack made its way through the acrylic and the expending air could escape, letting water in to replace it. 

As for the camera it never turned on again.  

 

Conclusion

I was very lucky in that I had insurance which covered this camera flood. However it took almost 2 months for the insurance claim to go through. This meant two month of not being able to work.

The lessons I learnt from this situation which I would like to pass onto you are quite simple.

  • Always insure your camera equipment. It may cost a bit initially but it will save you a lot in the event of a camera flood.
  • Always check your equipment before the dive, don’t just look at the o-ring check the whole housing, and look for cracks which are beginning to appear.
  • Keep checking your housing for bubbles throughout your dive.  

 

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