Safety first — and always improving.

ps_january2014Steve Maday and Peter examine their Nautilus LIfeLines – standard issue (no charge unless lost) for all diving guests.

The combination of radio and GPS is part of our multiple redundant safety systems for diving the Galapagos Islands.
Each diver has a SMB (Surface Marker Buoy) and Dive Alert.

Now, each diver will also carry this combination 2-way radio and GPS emergency locator(Nautilus LifeLine Rescue Radio).

Safety first — and always improving.

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New MMSI Information from Australia!

We are pleased to advise that AMSA recently held a meeting with ACMA to discuss the Diver Handheld VHF DSC transceivers and the requirement to provide a MROVCP. It was agreed there is no requirement in Australia to provide a MROVCP for the owner/operator of the device if operating from a boat of whom is being operated by someone who is qualified. If the person is operating from the shore then they must be suitably qualified.

Diver Handheld VHF DSC transceivers

Effective as from November 2013, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) does not mandate a marine radio operator certificate prior to the issuing of an MMSI for personally attached diver VHF radios, that offer a digital selective calling transmit capability, and limited voice communications. This presumes that the radio operator in the diving boat (mother vessel) is qualified. In the case of lone divers not operating from boats, the requirement for a marine radio operator certificate remains.

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The Best Life-Saving Gear – Nautilus Lifeline Featured in Sport Diver Feb. eNewsletter

Surface-signaling devices are considered a must-have safety item for many divers, and the Nautilus Lifeline takes that concept to a new, ingenious level. A combination GPS receiver and VHF marine radio, it gives divers the ability to speak with boats up to eight miles away. Plus, the system will broadcast GPS coordinates of the diver’s location to nearby vessels. A tough polycarbonate housing is rated to 425 feet and easily attaches to a BC’s D-ring. Battery life is 24 hours in emergency mode and, even better, there’s also a strobe.

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Kamloops couple survives as dive tour boat sinks within seconds off Mexico

Kamloops couple survives as dive tour boat sinks within seconds off Mexico

Breaking News

Photograph by: Vancouver Sun ,

KAMLOOPS – A Kamloops couple believe they were seconds from death during a scuba diving expedition in Mexico.

Diane Barry and her husband, Tim, were on a one-day diving excursion off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico, when one of the divers failed to surface.

The tour group was waiting aboard the boat while two other divers went down to search when Barry says without warning the small craft took on water and almost immediately listed heavily.

She says the captain abandoned the three divers below and tried to move the boat to shallower water but the engine flooded and the little vessel tipped on its side, trapping the Barrys and one other

person in the cabin.

Barry says she thought she was about to die but her husband hammered open a cabin window and pushed her out, then followed, along with the third person.

All aboard survived last week’s incident, floating for 90 minutes on a life jacket raft before being rescued, and the Kamloops couple has returned to Canada, but Barry says she doesn’t know the fate of

the missing diver or the two searchers.


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Rescued Bali diver tells harrowing tale of survival in rough seas


BALI, Indonesia–While drifting in stormy seas off the island of Bali, Saori Furukawa and six other lost Japanese female divers were forced to quench their thirst with a floating coconut while hoping for rescue.

The 37-year-old diving instructor said she reached a nearby island after becoming separated from the others and gathered plastic foam and other debris scattered along the beach to put on top of her to try to stay warm.

Furukawa was rescued on Feb. 17, some 75 hours after she and the others went missing while diving off Lembongan Island three days earlier following heavy rains in the area.

Local volunteers who were participating in the search for the missing women spotted Furukawa lying on a beach of Penida Island.

“I have no words to describe my deep appreciation to these people for their concerns and their help,” she said.

Furukawa, who works for Yellow Scuba, a diving shop in Bali, gave details about her ordeal in writing in response to questions posed by Japanese news outlets via the Japanese consulate-general in Denpasar, Bali.

Furukawa said there was nothing unusual about the conditions on the afternoon of Feb. 14 when the group was on their diving excursion.

The group included another Yellow Scuba instructor. The five others had traveled from Japan to go diving in the waters off Bali.

“The health of all the members of our group appeared to be fine,” she wrote. “The weather was good. So were the sea conditions.”

That was until the group surfaced after their last round of diving.

“The weather had changed drastically. Heavy winds were creating rough seas. The visibility was very limited due to torrential rain,” she explained.

Furukawa used a whistle in an attempt to draw attention to the group after they heard the sound of a boat engine nearby. Eventually though, they lost sight of the boat as the tidal current grew more violent.

“As if in a washing machine, the surface of the sea began whirling about,” Furukawa said. “We held hands, scuba tanks or buoyancy vests to hold onto each other, all the while spinning about.”

She said they continued drifting farther away even after managing to escape the swirling waters.

Furukawa said they were able to keep track of their approximate location by observing the shapes of the islands during the day and, after dark, by using their compasses, observing lights on the Islands and noting which direction the airplanes overhead were flying.

They made it a top priority not to make unnecessary moves to conserve their strength. They held hands and tied each other together using rope.

The following morning, on Feb. 15, they spotted a tugboat when they were drifting off Penida Island.

Furukawa swam toward the boat in order to get help. But she could not reach it and ended up becoming separated from the other women due to the strong currents.

She said she believed the others remained together at that point and were still in the vicinity where she left them.

In the evening, she managed to make it to a rocky stretch of Penida Island.

“I was desperate to find a way to a nearby village to ask for help,” she said. “But with the rough seas, swelling waves and strong currents before me and a sheer cliff behind me, I could not move from where I was with the little strength I had left.”

She relieved her thirst by harvesting rainwater and sipping drops of water on dead leaves. She also sought shelter under a rock to protect her from the rain.

On Feb. 17, Furukawa, unable to move, was discovered on the beach by employees of other diving and boat shops that had joined the search effort. She said she came to when they shouted for her.

Furukawa was later airlifted by a helicopter to Bali.

A doctor at the hospital where Furukawa was admitted said Feb. 18 she had not eaten for three days and was suffering from many mosquito bites.

Local police said the body of a woman discovered on Feb. 18 in an inlet off Serangan Island, just across from Bali, had been identified as 59-year-old Ritsuko Miyata.

Shoko Takahashi, 35, the other diving instructor working for Yellow Scuba, is still missing.

The four other divers–Nahomi Tomita, 28, Aya Morizono, 27, Emi Yamamoto, 33, and Atsumi Yoshidome, 29–were found on Feb. 17 clinging to a rock wall 800 meters northwest of where Furukawa was discovered.

They were taken to a separate hospital in Denpasar where they were treated for light sunburn to their faces, hands and legs.

A doctor who treated them said at a news conference on Feb. 18 that their conditions were stable, and that they will be released in the next few days.


(This article was compiled from reports by Makoto Igarashi, Hiroshi Nakano and Yoshikazu Hirai in Denpasar, and Tadao Onaga and Etsushi Tsuru in Sanur.)

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Five Japanese divers found alive after days missing off Bali

By Putra Wicaksana

Semawang (Indonesia) (AFP) – Five Japanese scuba divers were found alive Monday clinging to a coral reef in rough waters off the Indonesian resort island of Bali three days after they went missing, officials said.

Fishermen spotted the divers, among seven women who went missing Friday, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from where they set off for a diving expedition but could not rescue them because the waves were too high.

But one of them was later rescued by a helicopter, which also dropped food to the stranded divers. The four others were being picked up by a rescue boat and would be taken to Semawang beach in southern Bali.

“There were five found atop a large coral reef,” Rudi Tjandi, an official from the Bali disaster agency, told AFP.

“The waves and current were quite strong, so the fishermen who spotted them couldn’t approach.”

He said they were found at Manta Point off the west coast of Nusa Penida island, just east of Bali.

A Navy rescue team searches on February 17, 2014 for …

A Navy rescue team searches on February 17, 2014 for the Japanese scuba divers who went missing off  …

They had set off on a dive expedition Friday from the Mangrove area of Nusa Lembongan, an adjacent island. The shortest route to where they ended up was around 20 kilometres.

Local police chief Nyoman Suarsika also said that they were found in the Manta Point area.

Officials had no news of the other two missing divers.

At Semawang beach a group of 20 Japanese people, including relatives of those missing, were seen sitting at a restaurant. One woman was crying and the others refused to be interviewed, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

Four ambulances were waiting next to the beach for the divers to arrive, while dozens of Balinese people had also gathered.

Map locating Nusa Lembongan island near Bali where …

Map locating Nusa Lembongan island near Bali where seven Japanese scuba divers went missing on Frida …

A search involving about 100 people has been under way since the divers’ disappearance, with rescue efforts hampered by heavy rain and strong winds earlier Monday.

– ‘Praying for her safety’ –

“I’m praying for her safety,” the mother of missing instructor Shoko Takahashi told reporters in Japan on Sunday before leaving for Bali, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun daily.

“She is an active person with a dependable personality. She never does foolhardy things.”

Takahashi and her husband had set up the operator known as Yellow Scuba that took the divers out on the trip, said Japanese consular official Kenichi Takeyama.

A rescue team search for seven Japanese tourists who …

A rescue team search for seven Japanese tourists who went missing after leaving for a scuba diving t …

Takeyama said Yellow Scuba had provided boats and staff for the search.

The women were experienced scuba divers who had logged more than 50 dives each.

The dive boat’s skipper said he was following the divers for some 20 minutes before a sudden downpour made the water cloudy, according to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

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Rescuers search for Japanese divers missing off Bali

BBC NEWS ASIA – 15 February 2014 Last updated at 11:13 ET

Indonesian rescuers have been searching for seven Japanese divers missing off the island of Bali since Friday.

The search for the group, which includes two instructors, was halted on Saturday evening and will resume on Sunday morning.

The seven, all experienced divers, disappeared in bad weather while exploring an area of mangroves.

Conditions were reported to be bad at the time the group disappeared, with heavy winds and strong rains.

“A helicopter was deployed … to spot victims who might be floating in the water. We have still not found any,” Bali search and rescue agency chief Didi Hamzar told AFP.

“We are putting our best efforts and hopefully we can find them in safe conditions,” he added.

The group were diving near the island of Nusa Penida, a small island some 20km (12 miles) off the coast of Bali itself.

They had gone for two diving trips on Friday morning but failed to return after a third trip in the afternoon.

The Japanese Kyodo agency quoted government officials as saying all members of the party had completed at least 50 dive trips previously, while the instructors were based locally and so knew the area.

Nusa Penida, popular with divers because of crystal clear waters and the opportunity to see rare Ocean Sunfish, is known for treacherous currents. A number of fatal accidents have occurred there.

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Divers Who Get Lost at Sea

From the February, 2014 issue of Undercurrent

The couple most famous for disappearing on a dive is Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who were left behind on a Great Barrier Reef dive trip in 1998 when the crew failed to take an accurate headcount. They were never found, and their tale was memorialized in the box-office hit Open Water a decade ago, a film that was made because the writer/director, Chris Kentis, and his wife, producer Laura Lau, first read their story in Undercurrent. Since then, it’s commonplace to see stories about divers left to drift at sea pop up in the media.

Take Jake and Lexa Mendenhall from Mesa, AZ, who celebrated their openwater certifications with a Thailand trip in November. The press was all over their story about how they surfaced from their second dive to find their boat gone (apparently, the captain had engine trouble and sped off to shore for a quick repair). Luckily, they were with two divemasters, who inflated a safety sausage that attracted a snorkeling boat. Back home, the Mendenhalls gave an interview to their local ABC news station. Lexa told how, exhausted and freezing, she climbed into the rescue boat and collapsed, splitting her chin open. “When we were bobbing, I knew there were sharks,” she said. “I saw them all around this reef, and here I am just bait on the top.” Total time the couple estimates they spent “lost at sea” — 30 to 45 minutes.

Then there are St. John and Claire Neilson, a British couple who went to San Pedro, Belize last spring for a Blue Hole day trip with Aqua Scuba. During the lunch break on Halfmoon Caye, they wandered off to see the red-footed boobies and returned to the dock 16 minutes late, only to see the boat disappearing into the distance. A ranger on the island put them on another dive boat, and when the Neilsons returned to San Pedro, they reported the incident to the authorities as well as to the media. Belize’s Channel 5 News filmed them talking about how they were scared to be on the island alone, and how the owner of Aqua Scuba refused to give them an apology. “Whether you are late or not — 10 minutes late or half an hour late — you do not leave people behind,” Claire said. “If we were in the water, it could have been a much worse scenario.”

Claire is right. It could have been worse. But why on earth did the Neilsons and the Mendhalls merit such media coverage for their experiences — anxiety-causing for sure, but not much more? They weren’t in much jeopardy, especially the Neilsons, who were on dry land with a ranger to rescue them. Folks, these are non-stories.

However, these non-stories provide allow us to share some stories from Undercurrent readers who answered our request for their own bobbing-at-sea stories, their explanations for why it happened, and their advice for other divers on how not to end up drifting away into the open.

Randall Rothenberg (New York City, NY) learned his lesson about getting separated from his group, but he came out fine because he stayed calm and trusted his instincts. During his final dive on a Cozumel trip, he made a giant stride entry, only to find his regulator freeflowing. “The group was waiting for me, but I waved them on and returned to the boat. One of the crew gave my regulator a good whack, and it stopped free-flowing. He motioned for me to go back in, but I couldn’t see my team. ‘They will be for you beneath the boat,’ he said. Well, they weren’t. Everyone was from another group.” Since it was a drift dive, Rothenberg knew his boat would be gone if he surfaced. “I had no choice but to drift along the reef to the end, making sure to keep in proximity to other dive groups. After a 40-minute drift, I saw a group surfacing, and decided it would be smarter to surface rather than risk drifting to a place where there might not be any boats. So I ascended with this group, explained my predicament, and the divemaster said in a French accent, ‘Ah, I see your boat there!’ He radioed to them, and they picked me up. It wasn’t my boat, but it was from my resort.” Rothenberg said he learned some lessons for serious current diving. “First, don’t listen to the guy on the boat; don’t go in unless you are with your buddy or your group. Sacrifice the dive, not yourself. Second, when all else fails, keep others in sight, and prepare to depend on the kindness of strangers.”

Years ago, Randy Shuman (Seattle, WA) took his family to the Galapagos for a land/dive trip and they all learned a lesson in staying calm. On that notable dive, they went with the boat owner to a rocky reef in open sea, with a few islands nearby. “We were taken there in an inflatable, driven by a young crew member. He was instructed to follow our bubbles and retrieve us at the end of the dive. Our goal was to find and photograph sharks in rock caves. After successfully doing so, we returned to the surface to find no inflatable in sight. We inflated an orange rescue sausage, blew whistles, and waited for 30 minutes. With still no boat in sight, we decided our best option was to swim to a nearby island, as we were slowly drifting away from it. After swimming for 30 minutes, we came ashore, and hauling our bulky camera gear, climbed to the top of the island. From the 65-foot height, we could spot the inflatable. He either saw us or heard our shouts and came to the island. My understanding is he was fired for not following our bubbles, but he was inexperienced, and the waves were significant. Having two crew members to follow the bubbles, a GPS on the inflatable and a loud signal horn for the divers might have helped. Also, the dive-capable VHF radios now available would have allowed us to contact the main vessel.”

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It definitely appeared unusual, if not strange. I’d been walking the aisles of Pacific Marine Expo searching for new ideas, different ways of approaching old problems.

Looking at the profile drawing on the wall of Northern Marine’s booth, I thought “OK. I haven’t seen that before on a fishing boat.” The artist’s rendering displayed a 58-foot seiner, but instead of sporting the normal cylindrical shaped bulbous bow that juts straight out from the hull’s forefoot, this bulb seemed kind of squished up, while pushing up from the forefoot to the waterline and not going out very far.

George Roddan, a Canadian architect, designed the hull (which packs 210,000 pounds below deck) and bulb using computational analysis. The bulb was designed to give the 58-footer a 10-knot speed. Early reports from the first 58-footer launched by Northern Marine put the speed at 10.8 knots, with a 750-hp Cummins QSK19.

Don’t feel alone if you haven’t heard of Northern Marine. Located in Anacortes, Wash., Northern Marine is a newly created branch of New World Yacht Builders, and this is their first commercial fishing boat.

Also on the show floor, I’m always on the lookout for safety products, especially from outfits new to the show, which is what I found at the Nautilus Lifeline booth. As I remember, they had one product, a marine rescue radio with GPS. 

The company started out selling the waterproof radios to divers and other recreational users before deciding to enter the commercial market. The small handheld radio seems simple to use. Flip up the top and push the red button to send a distress message and your GPS position. The green button lets you talk to your own boat — if, say, you are in a skiff or suddenly find yourself in the water. The orange button is for talking to other boats on channel 16. 

If you do go in the water, it’s best to be in an immersion suit, and the Stearns booth displayed the Thermashield 24+, which pushes the design level for immersion suits up a notch or three.

The normal immersion suit in 32-degree water provides a roughly six-hour window of protection from hypothermia. As the name says, the Thermashield 24+ gives you at least 24 hours.

Here’s where Stearns is different from every other immersion suit. With the suit zipped up, you blow into a tube, and that transfers heat from your breath — about 88 degrees — into a series of air bladders within the suit. Basically you use your core body heat to warm the immersion suit and yourself.

Stearns’ new immersion suit also comes with hard-sole molded boots, making it easier to walk on deck than when wearing Gumby-style footwear.

There were other new products at the show, including an engine from GE that probably was the biggest that’s been at PME, but the three mentioned here were showstoppers for me.


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Lessons for Life: Strength in Numbers

By Eric Douglas

The wind shifted while Mary and Herb were underwater. It made surface conditions choppier than when they had entered and created a strong surface current. That strong current, combined with a meandering dive, took the pair off-course. They found themselves a long way from the boat when they surfaced, and it was going to be a long swim back. What’s more, they had to swim directly into the current to get back to the boat.

The Divers
Mary and Herb were in their early 50s, and they loved to be outside and active. While neither was a “health nut,” they worked to stay fit. They both considered diving a great way to combine a love of the water, being outdoors and doing something together. They were occasional divers, making three or four dive outings a year with a couple of dives on each one. They both wanted to dive more, but life often got in the way of those plans.

Still, they kept their dive gear in good repair and did their best to stay fit enough to dive locally. Their local diving was a bit colder and a little more challenging than the typical warm-water destinations they would read about in magazines. They both felt the local diving was just as beautiful as the distant destinations, and more rewarding because it was in their backyard.

The Dive
The boat was floating at anchor with 2- to 3-foot swells rolling through — nothing unusual for the location — with the water temperatures around 68 degrees F. They were both wearing adequate thermal protection: a 5 mm suit for Herb and a 7 mm suit for Mary. The divemaster briefed the dive, suggesting they head into the current that was flowing along the bottom, turning when they reached the midpoint of their dive to allow the current to bring them back to the boat.

Everything started out great as the buddy pair kitted up and began their dive. Mary descended first with Herb behind her. They reached the bottom at around 80 feet and began by swimming away from the boat. Neither diver paid much attention to the surroundings when they started out. The dive was uneventful and, after about 20 minutes, Herb reached the air pressure they agreed would signal the turning point of the dive. They began swimming back toward the boat as a team.

When Herb was down to approximately 500 psi in his tank, they began to surface together. They didn’t see the boat’s anchor line on the way up, but assumed they had to be close to the boat. After completing their safety stop, Herb and Mary surfaced for a total dive time of about 40 minutes. As soon as their heads broke the surface, they realized they were in trouble. They could barely see the dive boat off in the distance and only when they rode to the top of a swell. Worse still, the current was pulling them farther away.

The Accident
Mary and Herb tried yelling and waving their arms to get the attention of the boat, but the waves and chop made it impossible for the crew to see them. They were both confident the crew would begin to look for them soon, but not yet. That’s because they weren’t late — the boat captain would probably wait another 10 minutes before he realized they were lost. It could be a while before the search began in earnest, and the speed at which the current was pulling them away made the couple think they might be long gone before anyone even realized where to look.

With that in mind, the divers ditched their weight belts and began swimming. They decided to swim with their masks in place and use their snorkels. They began by sighting the boat. Mary took a compass heading and then they started swimming, stopping every few minutes to find their bearings and to attempt to signal the boat. When Mary stopped to look for the boat and check her heading, she realized Herb wasn’t with her any longer. They had gotten separated by the waves while they swam. She looked for him for a half-hour before accepting that he was lost. She just hoped they would both be found soon.

Mary was picked up by another dive boat about an hour after she became separated from Herb. It wasn’t until three hours later that searchers found Herb. He had ditched his tank to make himself even more positively buoyant, and his BC was fully inflated. A combination of the cold water, stress and coronary-artery disease probably caused him to have a heart attack. He was dead when searchers located him.

Mary and Herb’s only major mistake during the dive was not paying closer attention to the underwater topography for navigation. They weren’t thinking about how to find the boat on the return; instead, they simply assumed the current would bring them straight back to where they started. But they didn’t swim in a straight line on their way out, so it stands to reason that when they turned and began riding the current back, they would return to another spot.

The surface current created by the turning wind took them farther off-course. The wind was blowing across their original path. And while they waited at their safety-stop depth with no visual reference and no anchor line to hold onto, they were dragged farther away from the boat. Upon surfacing, the biggest mistake the couple made was not staying together. Most survival specialists believe that when you are lost at sea, staying together is more important than trying to swim: Two divers together make a bigger target to spot than one. They also could have encouraged each other and, by holding onto each other, they would have lessened the cold water circulating around their bodies. They were both smart, however, by making themselves positively buoyant.

A typical diver can swim only about 1 knot per hour in full gear for a short period. A highly trained, fit rescue swimmer can make only about 2 knots for limited periods. Fighting a 2-knot current, as was present that day, is impossible and will serve only to put more stress on your body, and paradoxically might even chill your body faster — you are generating heat from the exercise, but you are also flushing more cold water over your body, even with a wetsuit, which will carry that heat away.

The last thing that would have helped Herb and Mary’s chances of survival was a surface-signaling device. Many commercially available devices are brightly colored, reflective and raise a diver’s in-water profile between 4 and 6 feet above the surface of the water. This simple device would have made it significantly easier for rescuers to locate the pair floating on the surface.

Have you or anyone you know ever been in a similar situation to Mary and Herb? If so, please brielfy explain what happened and how you made it out in the comments section below.

Lessons for Life
1. Be aware of your surroundings. Take a natural-navigation course to understand how to notice bottom features and navigate your way back to your starting point.
2. Practice self-rescue techniques. If you are ever separated from the boat, stay together and hold onto your buddy.
3. Carry a surface-signaling device. This will raise your profile above the wave heights. Ideally, this will include an inflatable surface-marker buoy and some sort of whistle or noisemaker to gain attention.

Eric Douglas co-authored the book Scuba Diving Safety, and has written a series of dive adventure novels and short stories. Check out his website at


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