“Wow, you’re a scuba diver? That’s really cool!”
The typical response when we tell people what we do. And I must admit, it is true. Gearing up, heading out into the sea, exploring the beautiful life underwater…a diver’s life is idyllic. Well in most cases.
Recently, a friend asked us if we would undertake a diving expedition of a different sort. An adventure resort situated on the Machinbelle Dam next to Big Banyan Tree, had lost the motor of their boat in the lake and were looking for people who could dive in and rescue it. Being an inland dive centre, true diving opportunities are few and we jumped at this chance to get our H2O fix. Gear up, head out to the lake, dive in, find the motor, tie it to a rope … how difficult could it be? Well, we were about to find out…
So about a week back, our dive instructor Karthik, Abhishek (Yes, we have two Abhisheks. This one is our true on-ground support) and i headed for the resort which is approximately 60 km from Bangalore. An hour and a half later we reach the pick up spot and wait for the co-ordinator of the resort to pick us up. What followed next was a shot out of an action flick where we are waiting on the banks, with all our gear, to be picked up by this small speeding boat that comes up from behind a hillock. A Bond scene with only Halle Berry and a exotic sounding beach/town name missing. Unfortunately, 'Manchinbelle Dam’ didn't sound that exotic.
We reach the resort and quickly assess the situation. The area where the motor had fallen was approximately 300 sq ft and the resort crew only had a vague idea as to the exact location. With no anchor to mark the spot, locating the motor was going to be a complicated task. Karthik and i geared up. Quick back roll and I was in the water first, only to be greeted by the murkiest water I have ever seen (or not seen?). Ever dived into yellow coloured water? Karthik joined me on the line that we had dropped. Quick hand signals on the surface and we decided to dive in to check it out. ??What we experienced next was unlike anything we have seen before. We definitely expected bad visibility. But as we descended a few meters, the yellow sunlight shining through the water begins to fade away. At approximately 7 mts depth, there is a complete shift in the water layer and we enter absolute darkness. Visibility? Forget about it. This was pure blackness around us. Karthik and i couldn't even see each other. Oh any by the way, that motor we were down looking for….that was black in colour!
To add to the darkness, the water temperature drops drastically and I assume this is due to the non penetration of sunlight post 7-8 mts. We both had never experienced something like this. This was absolutely new to us. I admit..It freaked me out! Realising that we could not do much about anything in this darkness and cold, Karthik and me both slowly ascended to a depth where we could see each other clearly and we signalled to head up.
We came up to the surface and explained to everyone on the boat that its going to be impossible to search for a BLACK coloured motor in absolute Blackness! Finding it was an actual shot in the dark. I think more than the blackness and the cold, it was the idea of not knowing whats down there that spooked both of us. There could be weeds, old ropes, muck and of course many creepy crawlies. If one of us got entangled or stuck, the other wouldn't even be help as we were diving blind. A scary proposition. We truly understood the sentiment attached in finding that motor, but we couldn't risk this. With all our years of diving, we realised we just weren't trained for something like this. (Huge salute to all our search and recovery divers across the world). We came up to the surface and told them that we wont be able to do it. Not something we were proud of stating after all our years of diving. Of course they were all disappointed. But so were we. But I guess thats just the way it is sometimes.
In this kind of a scenario, detailed planning and loads of training is required. Something that we recreational ocean divers were not exposed too. The oceans pamper us with great visibility and sea life that makes it a whole to of fun and a truly recreational activity. Apart from the odd current or thermocline, the oceans do keep us safe. Unless of course we do something really stupid. We always believed that Scuba diving was the same in all water bodies and we realised that pretty quickly that it isn't the case.??We got back to the resort and called up the owner who was traveling in Goa and informed him about the failed mission. Not surprisingly, he was not happy and did share this thoughts on how we should and could have planned these dives. Well, its always easier said than done and lets not discuss that. We knew the risks and took a conscious decision of aborting the dives.
Post a quick chat with the resort staff, we headed back to our vehicle on the other side of the bank. (Nothing Bond like about this scene). We packed up all our gear and drove back to the city. As we drove am sure Karthik and me had the same thought…”oh man this was something we definitely did not expect”. In hindsight, did we enjoy the experience? I think we truly did, as this was the first time we both were diving in fresh water. Disappointed? Yes! we truly were as we believed that we could surely retrieve the motor. After all we are in the diving business and all. How difficult would it be to get something out of a shallow lake. The big question: Would we do a lake dive again? I don't think so. Not in the near future. I think we have realised that we definitely have not trained for this nor do we have experience of diving in similar conditions. But then again, with us divers you never know….the idea of diving in will surely draw us back to do something like this again…
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