Running Out of Air

Hi fellow divers! It has been a while since my last scuba blog, but here I am again. Maybe you  recall that the latest course I did was my advanced certification which allowed me to dive deeper? Since then, I learned to appreciate diving along walls. You may think: “Walls? What are walls doing underwater?” A wall is more like a vertical drop off, like a cliff. The bottom can suddenly be 30m below you, or even a 100m. So we swim next to the wall and monitor our depth limit, without dropping all the way down to the floor. Good thing that I did the buoyancy class at the time, because that is what you need on such dives.

So I was diving near Cane Bay at the northshore of St. Croix. Me and my buddy were enjoying the depths of this popular place, simply called “The Wall”. Right at the start, we ran into a turtle. I often see them but it is always a promising start of the dive. No matter how many turtles you have seen while diving, it remains an exciting encounter. We dropped down to 25 meters. The visibility is so good here that you don’t realize your depths, so it is important to monitor your depth gauge or dive computer. Yet, the base of the wall cannot be seen, it just keeps going deeper. The marine life there is incredible. Such a variety. A bit off the wall, we could see barracudas looking for a tasty snack. We descended a bit more, as there were some wonderful fan corals as big as us. We looked for the Flamingo Tongue sea slug which can often be seen on those soft corals. We were at 32m. It is easy to get carried away, but we watched our NDL time (No-Decompression Limit), which is the maximum time we can stay at depth and still be able to safely surface. So we went up to shallower depths and started our return to the starting point. 

When we were at a depth of about 15m, my buddy suddenly pushed me and was moving his hand in a horizontal movement in front of his throat. It is something you learn in your first level of scuba training, but it something you hopefully never need. My buddy ran out of air, his cylinder was empty, he couldn’t breathe anymore. Luckily he stayed more or less calm and I gave him my alternate regulator, as I learned in my Open Water Course. He could breathe from my cylinder. But as we had both been at the same depth for the same time, I didn’t have enough air for both of us to make it all the way back. Because of the depth we were at, I also preferred to have enough air to make the safety stop at 5m. The only thing we could do, was to make our way to the surface. We ascended to the 5m range, while holding each other’s arms so we wouldn’t get separated and we just managed to stay a few minutes to finish our safety stop and slowly continue to the surface. We were not back at our starting point, so that became a long surface swim. But it is better this way then being out of air underwater. 

There is a lesson learned! The deeper you go, the more air you use and the more important it is to check the pressure in your scuba tank. It is obvious, but it is so easy to get carried away at depth while admiring the abundant marine life. Luckily all ended well and it is a situation none of us will ever forget and hopefully we never have to go through it again.

Keep safe and happy bubbles!

Ethan and David

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