Heat and Diving Don’t Mix

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So you think you did everything correctly for a dive weekend?

You get up on Saturday morning excited to begin a weekend of great diving. You eat a light breakfast and drink an ice cold Gatorade before heading out to load the boat and go. You’ve applied sunscreen and are wearing a rash guard with long sleeves and a hat. It’s going to be a hot day!

15 minutes away from the first dive site you start to gear up like 1000 times before. (on the charter boat) All the other divers are doing the same. Boat is tied to mooring line. The other divers start the parade to the back deck to jump into the water. You are standing at the back of the line in a dry suit with a set of doubles strapped to your back in a slight bit of the shade of the cabin. Did I say it was frigging hot? You finish off the second bottle of water since you got on the boat and head to the back of the boat to hit the water and cool off.

Image credit: Paul Darnbrough

Sweating profusely, I hit the water, and the dive quickly goes sideways. When I entered the water, I was overcome with anger, fear confusion and panic all at once. I’ve done over 1,000 dives in everything from under the ice to blazing heat in the Caribbean, and I’ve never felt this way in or out of the water. It seemed like it took me ten minutes to fight my way back to the ladder, and another ten minutes to get back up on the swim platform (l am pretty sure is was nowhere near that long, but it felt like it).

I collected myself (or so I thought) and stepped up the deck, and boom, I went down like I fainted, but I was completely aware of what was happening but couldn’t help myself. My eyes were open, and I could see and hear everything that was going on around me, but I couldn’t respond. This lasted about 4 to 6 seconds before I “snapped” out of it. Throughout this ordeal, Helen Cooper (the best Damn Charter Boat Captain on Lake Ontario and, I am proud to say, my friend) was doing everything humanly possible to help:::first get me out of the water, second:::rip off my hood and third:::remove my tanks, open my dry suit and lastly get me cooled down.

I returned to reality, sat in the cabin, and stripped off my gear. My weekend of fun diving had come to an screeching halt. I was alert again after a couple spears of fresh pineapple (thanks Durrell Martin), some rest and a couple more bottles of water. I did not dive any more on this weekend and saw a Dr. on the Monday. I had a battery of tests and was told by both my doctor and DAN that I was suffering from heat stroke. A week of rest and plenty of fluids, as well as staying close to my A/C and TV is in store for me!

Paul Darnbrough wrote this article and submitted it to us for two reasons:

  1. Even when everything is done correctly, things can go sideways on a dive quickly and at any time.
  2. When things go wrong, listen to and follow the advice of friends and fellow divers.

Paul thanks Helen Cooper, Corey Phillips, Durrell Martin, Kayla Martin and Mike McAllister for being there to assist when he needed them.

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About Author

Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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