Galapagos diving nightmare – epilogue


Me, practicing deploying an SMB. At Whytecliff Park, West Vancouver, B.C. Photo taken by Greg McCracken, Ocean Quest Dive Centre (February 2017)

By now, you know I lived to tell the tale.

The experience spooked me. Even more so after I’d returned home and had a chance to really think about what had occurred. Learning about the deaths of Donna Newton and Eloise Gale frightened me.

Wanna read the entire story, in order of blog postings?
Download the pdf here: tankard-galapagos

I was lucky. I survived. And, I learned a lot:

  • I will never again expect a diving excursion operator to respect the diver buddy system. If I have concerns about the complexity of the dive, I’ll hire my own guide or just not go.
  • I’ve learned the liability waiver a diver signs lets operators off the hook for everything. Even when they’re at fault. You dive at your own risk.
  • I’ve learned that few Galapagos diving mishaps are ever reported. It’s in the industry’s interest to keep these stories out of the media so that divers keep coming. Even if they’re unqualified.
  • Unaccompanied divers — travelling without a friend or loved one who cares if they live or die — are most vulnerable. Both the dead divers, Donna Newton and Eloise Gale, travelled to Galapagos unaccompanied, like me.

Changes I’ve made. None of these would have improved my situation in Galapagos, however:

  • Took additional dive training in February to fine tune things, like kicks, buoyancy, removing mask underwater and emergency situations. I thank Ocean Quest Dive Centre in Burnaby, Canada. Excellent dive shop and training facility.
  • Purchased a space air tank (aka a pony bottle) for warm water travels. A tank I can pack in my suitcase. I already own a larger spare air tank for B.C. waters —its’s too big to pack in a suitcase. Means I don’t have to rely on another diver for air. However, air isn’t the only problem one can have at depth. Nothing replaces a good buddy.
  • Sold some of my equipment and replaced it for better fit and comfort.
  • Will take additional training to become a more self-reliant diver.


  • None. Pay your money and take your chances. Did I complain to the company? No point.

I’ve not named the vessel publicly, but I’m happy to do so privately, if you contact me through WordPress. I’ll never patronize this operator again on any of its diving tours worldwide.


Left to #die #scuba #diving in #Galapagos?


The zodiac (panga). The yacht had two. This is how we were taken to/from dive sites.

I’ve never before had the feeling I might not survive a scuba dive. It happened THREE times diving in the Galapagos in December 2016.

The most terrifying was when the inflatable zodiac (aka panga), to which I was assigned, left me bobbing alone in the choppy surface waters after a dive. Took off without me. Jose was my dive guide and was also supposed to be my buddy.

Luckily, a diver on a different zodiac heard me crying out, “help me”, and pointed me out to the skipper. I was hard to see. The waves were incredibly high.

Still, it was many minutes before they attempted to pick me up. Now, I was so close to the rocks, the zodiac risked getting punctured if it ventured closer. So there I was. Bobbing up and down, hardly able to catch my breath. Becoming more fatigued by the second. Realizing they might not be coming for me.

What did Reuben the dive guide do when they finally moved closer? He shouted at me from the safety of the zodiac, “where’s your dive buddy”?

To which I breathlessly replied, “I don’t have a dive buddy – you haven’t given me a buddy.” panga2

Yup, this is what it had come to. Unwilling to provide me with a safe dive buddy, I was on my own. And, in danger.

“You have to swim to us,” Reuben called out. “We can’t come to you.” Reuben, evidently, wasn’t going to swim out to assist me.

It was difficult, but I did make it the 30 or so feet to the zodiac, swallowing water and gasping for air. I clung to the rope on the side. Breathless and terrified. Reuben asked me to remove my fins and buoyancy jacket. I had NO energy for that.

Hand over hand, I shifted myself to the ladder and held on for dear life. I couldn’t climb it. They insisted I move back onto the rope. I refused, not trusting them. So, Reuben and the skipper pried my hands off the ladder and moved me themselves. Then, they hauled me onto the zodiac with all my gear on.

I remember sitting there in a lump. Too fatigued to move. I have no idea how the eight other divers on the zodiac reacted. A couple did approach me afterwards to see if I was okay.

Back on the yacht, Reuben and Jose went to speak with the captain about the incident.

I sat on deck. Crying, and I’m not a girl who cries easily. A few hours later, I prepared to dive again. I knew I had to. But, not before Reuben and Jose had hatched yet another ‘brilliant’ buddy plan. This one involved Flo’s private dive guide/servant, Eduardo, and he WASN’T happy about it.

To be continued…


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


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…