Lax safety on #Galapagos scuba yacht?

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YOU’RE FIRED. Ivan, the useless lump of a dive buddy. I did only one treacherous dive with him.

Where to begin?

Along with my drysuit, scuba gear and camera, I guess I should have packed a ‘dive buddy’ as well.

I booked my seven-nights-aboard-a-luxury-scuba-dive-boat Galapagos trip in October 2015 (to happen December 2016). Nowhere in the fine print did it say, “we won’t give a shit about your safety if you travel unaccompanied and fail to bring along a loved one or friend to be your dive buddy.”

Yup, I travelled alone, fully expecting the dive liveaboard to partner me up with a buddy from among the other passengers – a responsible dive buddy. Because that’s what’s supposed to happen. Meaning buddies would be compelled to adhere to safe diving practices – such as sticking together. Or, have their diving privileges taken away – as the dive crew threatened, but NEVER acted on.

“Where’s my buddy?”

Ok, so the expectation on my part was that my cabin-mate – a woman diver – would be my buddy. And, she’d have some experience. Here’s the fine print: Recommended requirements include 50-100 open water dives, experience in currents, ability in removing gear in water and ability in getting into small boats in choppy seas.

Only, Flo, my cabin-mate, had roughly 15 dives. Most of those dives had been done one week earlier in calm, turquoise warm water, when she took an advanced skills course. Flo had NOTHING recommended in the fine print. A total rookie and prima donna, to boot. But, very wealthy. Money talks.

That’s not all, Flo had hired a private divemaster on the ship who acted as her personal servant/sherpa/ass-kisser for the week. Carrying her dive gear and essentially dragging her around dive sites. Meaning, Flo wasn’t going to be my dive buddy. (Maybe that’s a blessing because Flo would’ve been a danger to me).

Flo’s presence was the first of many clues the liveaboard company wasn’t exactly safety focused. (Lots of fine print in CAPS stating divers are responsible for themselves, yadda, yadda……) Essentially, the message was this: we’ll take your money, recommend you have some training and experience, but don’t really care if you don’t and we’re NOT responsible if you die.

As for my buddy? Well, “Ivan” failed to make it to the ship on time before we departed on the Sunday. “He’s coming tomorrow,” the dive crew told me.

“So, what do I do for a buddy until “Ivan” arrives?” I asked.  “Just stay near me,” the divemaster said. Bad idea.

Methinks, it’s possible Donna Newton and Eloise Gale may have laboured under the same delusion I did. That it was okay to travel alone because the liveaboard would pair you with a responsible other diver and ensure safety practices were followed.

To be continued…

 

Die-ving #Galapagos – is being a woman a risk?

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Darwin’s Arch, Galapagos. The currents here can be deadly for divers.

If I’d know about scuba divers Donna Newton and Eloise Gale, I might not have been so eager to book a liveaboard dive trip to the Galapagos.

Unlike Donna and Eloise, I made it home alive from my Galapagos dive trip. But, I can identify with the circumstances that seemingly were factors in their deaths.

I’ll leave my own experience for a future post where I can explore what happened in detail. Suffice to say, for now, my experience triggered extensive research into the dangers of diving – especially Galapagos diving, liveaboard diving and deaths associated with ‘bad buddies’. Buddies are a pair/trio of divers who agree to stick together at depth and keep an eye on each other. NOT leave or abandon each other.

My research was eye opening and frightening. Now, bear in mind, few diving deaths ever make the news. Especially when they occur in countries where English isn’t the main language or the deceased isn’t from an English speaking country. The diving industry certainly isn’t going to publicizing this kind of news – it’s bad for business.

First, 40 year old Donna Newton of Britain. She drowned in the Galapagos in October 2009. According to the coroner, factors in her death included her dive buddy leaving her alone at depth and her divemaster failing to watch over the divers he was guiding.

Next, 23 year old Eloise Gale of Texas. She drowned a few months later, in February 2010. Like Newton, she was a passenger on a Galapagos liveaboard and, according to a report, it appears her dive buddy left or lost track of her underwater.

Finally, I’m also aware of the death of a Chinese national on a Galapagos liveaboard in November 2015. I learned of it from a trusted friend whose friend was an eyewitness. The diver was a mother of two, who’d travelled to Ecuador with her scuba club. The diver was partnered with a buddy who apparently abandoned her underwater. Her body wasn’t recovered.

Three dead women left alone by their ‘buddies’ to fend for themselves. That’s NOT supposed to happen.

The Galapagos are known for strong currents. This isn’t diving for the faint of heart or the inexperienced. I knew what I was getting into. I have 400+ dives, experience in strong currents and cold, green water. I travelled to the Galapagos expecting the dive crew on my vessel to follow safe diving practices.

They failed miserably, in my opinion.

Last thing. Regarding the liveaboard yacht I travelled on in December 2016 – two of the three dead women whose stories I’ve described were on the same vessel as me.

To be continued…