Don't Panic

Boy diving is fun. The warm, clear, water. Gentle currents slowly taking you across the reef. These are the thoughts that went through my head just after I found my self stuck in a 1 meter wide steel tube, submerged at 160 feet. But I’ll get to that.

In my last post, Don’t Panic, I briefly spoke about the importance of, that’s right, not panicking. To expand further, allow me to take you on a journey I took, as well as write my first “Adventures” post!

The story started like anyone, a fun day out in Pensacola Florida with some good dive buddies. After our first couple dives, and with lunch approaching, we decided it was time to do some lobster hunting on an old oil rig foundation.

After the initial splash, I broke off from my group to deeper water (apparently my rebreather makes me a super diver!). It wasn’t too long before I came across one of the foundation steal tubes. I turned on my lights and took a look down the dark steal shaft. Reflected back through the darkness were the glimmer of dozens of little eyes. Jackpot! Not only was lunch before my eyes, but so was some major coolness points for getting them.

So, I followed my stomach and tried to grab a couple of the nearby lobsters. Well, lobsters are a little smarted then they appear. Every time I got close, they would jump back. Repeat a few times, and I suddenly realize I am about 7 feet in to the steal tube. It’s important to note, organisms grow quickly underwater, so the walls of the steal pipe were no longer smooth. Jagged sprouts of coral and various pointy animals lined the inside as far down as can be seen.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with commercial underwater diving, typical hourly hazard pay goes up significantly per foot of enclosed space a dive goes in to an enclosed space, so by all means I should have made a fortune, but I digress….

Back on point. Here I am, 7 feet in this pipe, lobsters staring at me, stuck.

Now let’s look back at the idea of not panicking. Being in a cold, dark, steel, tube, is a pretty good reason to panic. But let’s think about it for a second, what exactly is panicking going to do to get you out of the situation? This is a mindset I’ve learned over the years in order to get over my fear of things like heights.

My line of thinking is typically this.

  1. I need to do something (i.e. jump out of this plane).
  2. My initial reaction is to be scared
  3. Does being scared help me complete what needs to be done?
  4. No -> put your initial reaction aside
  5. Complete the task
  6. Take all the time you need to be scared AFTERWARDS

Another important process to remember is Stop, Think, Act. Acting on instincts leads to quick decisions, and typically bad mistakes.

So back to the tube. At a thousands thoughts a seconds, I focus in on what needs to be done. I need to get out of this tube. Am I breathing, YES! That means I’m alive. Do I have air? Yes, about 75 minutes worth (thanks Evo+!). OK…. Time to get out of this tube.

Slowly I begin to wiggle back and forth through, inching my way back up the tube, breaking coral, and getting poked by urchins.

It took about 5 minutes, but I have to tell you, these were some of the longest 5 minutes that I have experience.

Finally I made it out. Freedom!…. That is, after I complete my decompression requirements and make it up from 160 feet.

Once back on the boat, we can laugh and joke about the situation, and the loss of those delicious lobsters. But the important thing is, the joking was only doable because I was able to control my panic and do what needed to be done.

Interestingly, more people are afraid of public speaking then they are of dying. Obviously, they’ve never been in such a precarious situation, but beside the point, if you can learn to put your emotions on the side bar while you do what needs to be done, you’re much more likely to reach a successful outcome. This take time, practice, and hard work. It’s easier to follow instinct then it is to will yourself to take another course of action. Not everyone is going to find themselves in a physically dangerous situation, but start small, and work on your everyday life first. Worry later.

Bring your towel. Don’t panic

Deep-shipwreck diving is among the world’s most dangerous sports. Few other endeavors exist in which nature, biology, equipment, instinct and object conspire—without warning and from all directions—to so completely attack a man’s mind and disassemble his spirit.

– Shadow Divers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>