Return to: Deep-Six Home Page
Click HERE to Send E-mail to Deep-Six
By George Campbell
Working at Camp Laurel located on Lake Awosting in Ulster County New York, about 75 north of NY City, was a great 2-month experience during many summers in the 50's and 60's. It was a summer camp for about 100 kids from all aver the world. I had been a camper there as well from 1950 until 1956. At that time I became a counselor and eventually the Waterfront Director and Scuba Instructor having started diving in the lake in 1954.
In July of 1961 I approached the kids with an idea to submerge a time capsule in the deepest part (86') of the lake. One of the campers volunteered to donate his camp trunk for the project. We then solicited samples of the times to place in the trunk. The trunk was filled, weighted for sinking, and closed. We transported the trunk via boat to the deepest spot in the lake using sonar for the location. The trunk was submerged on August 1, 1961.
There is a triathelon that takes place in New Paltz, NY every 2nd or 3rd Sunday in September. The event is the Survival of the Shawangunks, or simply the SOS. The athletes bike for many miles to a parking lot near Awosting, then run to that lake. They swim the 1 1/4 miles, then run to Lake Minnewaska. They swim that lake and then run to Lake Mohonk to swim once again. From there they end the race by running to the Skytop tower at the top of the Shawagunk (pronounced Shon gum) Mountain at Mohonk. To provide recovery assistance there are scuba divers at each lake during the race. That is the only time scuba is permitted in Lake Awosting.
I needed to provide the SOS committee and the divers a sonar map of the track the triathletes make in each of the 3 lakes. So on July 21, 1999 Mr. Robert Ottens and I got permission to take a 2-man, sit-on-top kayak into the Awosting NY State Park for making a sonar image of the bottom of Awosting along the path of the swimmers. Members of the SOS committee got permission from the state to use one of their trucks and a ranger to get us to the lake. We unloaded the kayak, electric motor, and sonar gear at the entry point for the SOS swim. Then (fortunately) the ranger and others left to pick us up at the exit point. Another stroke of luck was the extreme drought at that time that forced the closure of the swimming area preventing other rangers or life guards from observing our sonar study.
As we proceeded along the swimmers' SOS track a sonar chart was produced. When the kayak was at the midpoint along the shore we took the kayak directly out into the lake. When the sonar read 85' we knew we had the deepest spot located. We went back to the shore and tied the kayak to some bushes and then executed one of the biggest capers to be pulled off that summer. Hidden in the compartment of the kayak was full scuba gear for 2 divers. We donned the gear and headed toward the deep spot. The water visibility was about 40'. The bottom dropped off rapidly. We bottomed out at about 80' but noticed it got deeper if we went right. As the turn was made there it was: The camp trunk time capsule that had been sunk 38 years before!
I approached the trunk which was not even 1" in the bottom muck and grabbed the leather end handle in an attempt to lift it from the bottom and possibly hoist it buoyantly to the surface. The handle broke. It was decided to open the lid to gaze at the time capsule interior. That caused a great deal of silt to rise up in the water making the visibility drop to zero. Wanting to bring up as much as could be carried in 2 divers' hands, we simply scooped the "solid" contents of the trunk and left for the surface staying along the bottom so we could surface undetected near the kayak. On the way up I could see the parts of a newspaper. At the surface we placed anything intact in the kayak hold and got back to the sonar mission. Needless to say, most of the time capsule contents remain at the lake's bottom. However, after returning to our own vehicles we discovered we had retrieved a sneaker, a Camp Laurel wooden road sign, and the following piece of a page from the New York Times, 8/1/1961. A lot more remains to be salvaged.
The Camp Laurel wooden road sign after 38 years of being at the bottom of Lake Awosting.
ITEMS FROM OLD SKIN DIVER MAGAZINES
A Decompression Table by Bonnie Cardone 8-82 Skin Diver
SKIN DIVER 6-82 AD
SKIN DIVER AQUATECH AD FOR A NO-DECOMPRESSION MONITOR
SKIN DIVER ARTICE 7-82 ABOUT THE SEAPRO DIGITAL DIVE CONSOLE
SKIN DIVER AD BY SPORTS MERCHANDISERS 5-82
SKIN DIVER 5-82 NEW ENGLAND DIVERS AD
SKIN DIVER'S PARTIAL LISTING OF DIVE SHOPS IN JUNE 1982
AN ARTICLE ABOUT BUDDY BREATHING BY PAUL TZIMOULIS IN 7-82 SKIN DIVER MAGAZINE
PAGE 1 OF 2 FROM SKIN DIVER 5-82
PAGE 2 OF 2 FROM SKIN DIVER 5-82
Skin Diver October 1992 By Geri Murphy
THE FOLLOWING QUIZZES WITH ANSWERS ARE FROM SKIN DIVER MAGAZINES MAY AND AUGUST 1982
RAISING THE DEAD
By Tim Zimmermann
Ten minutes into his dive, Dave Shaw started to look for the bottom. Utter blackness pressed in on him from all sides, and he directed his high-intensity light downward, hoping for a flash of rock or mud. Shaw, a 50-year-old Aussie, was in an alien world, more than 800 feet below the surface pool that marks the entrance to Bushman's Hole, a remote sinkhole in the Northern Cape province of South Africa and the third-deepest freshwater cave known to man.
Shaw's stocky five-foot-ten body was encased in a black crushed-neoprene drysuit. On his back he carried a closed-circuit rebreather set, which, unlike traditional open-circuit scuba gear, was recycling the gas Shaw breathed, scrubbing out the carbon dioxide he exhaled and adding back oxygen. He carried six cylinders of gas, splayed alongside him like mutant appendages. On the surface, Shaw would barely have been able to move. But in the water, descending the shot line guiding him from the cave's entrance to the bottom, he was weightless and graceful, a black creature with just a flash of skin showing behind his mask, gliding downward without emitting a single bubble to disrupt the ethereal silence.
Only two divers had ever been to this depth in Bushman's before. One of them, a South African named Nuno Gomes, had claimed a world record in 1996 when he hit bottom, on open-circuit gear, at 927 feet. Gomes had turned immediately for the surface. But Shaw, a Cathay Pacific Airways pilot based in Hong Kong and a man who had become one of the most audacious explorers in cave diving, didn't strive for depth alone. He planned to bottom out Bushman's Hole at a depth that no rebreather had ever been taken, connect a light reel of cave line to the shot line, and then swim off to perform the sublime act of having a look around. At that moment late last October, cocooned in more than a billion gallons of water, Dave Shaw was a very happy man.
Shaw touched down on the cave's sloping bottom well up from where Gomes had landed, clipped off the cave reel, and started swimming. There was no time to waste. Every minute he spent on the bottom-his VR3 dive computer said he was now approaching 886 feet-would add more than an hour of decompression time on the way up. Still, Shaw felt remarkably relaxed, sweeping his light left and right, reveling in the fact that he was the first human ever to lay line at this depth. Suddenly, he stopped. About 50 feet to his left, perfectly illuminated in the gin-clear water, was a human body. It was on its back, the arms reaching toward the surface. Shaw knew immediately who it was: Deon Dreyer, a 20-year-old South African who had blacked out deep in Bushman's ten years earlier and disappeared. Divers had been keeping an eye out for him ever since.
Shaw turned immediately, unspooling cave line as he went. Up close, he could see that Deon's tanks and dive harness, snugged around a black-and-tan wetsuit, appeared to be intact. Deon's head and hands, exposed to the water, were skeletonized, but his mask was eerily in place on the skull. Thinking he should try to bring Deon back to the surface, Shaw wrapped his arms around the corpse and tried to lift. It didn't move. Shaw knelt down and heaved again. Nothing. Deon's air tanks and the battery pack for his light appeared to be firmly embedded in the mud underneath him, and Shaw was starting to pant from exertion.
This isn't wise, he chastised himself. I'm at 270 meters and working too hard. He was also already a minute over his planned bottom time. Shaw quickly tied the cave reel to Deon's tanks, so the body could be found again, and returned to the shot line to start his ascent.
Approaching 400 feet, almost an hour into the dive, Shaw met up with his close friend Don Shirley, a 48-year-old British expat who runs a technical-diving school in Badplaas, South Africa. After Shirley checked that Shaw was OK and retrieved some spare gas cylinders hanging on the shot line below, Shaw showed him an underwater slate on which he had written 270m, found body. Shirley's eyebrows shot up inside his mask, and he reached out to shake his friend's hand.
Shirley left Shaw, who had another eight hours and 40 minutes of decompression to complete. As Shirley ascended, it occurred to him that Shaw would not be able to resist coming back to try to recover Deon. Shirley would have been content to leave the body where it was, but Shaw was a man who dived to expand the limits of the possible. He had just hit a record depth on a rebreather, and now he had the opportunity to return a dead boy to his parents and, in the process, do something equally stunning: make the deepest body recovery in the history of diving.
"Dave felt very connected with Deon," Shirley says. "He had found him, so it was like a personal thing that he should bring him back."
When Shaw finally surfaced in the late-afternoon African sun, he removed his mask and said, "I want to try to take him out."
DEEP-WATER DIVERS have always been the daredevils of the diving community, pushing far into the dark labyrinths of water-filled holes and extreme ocean depths. It's a small global fraternity-there are no more than a dozen members-and in the history of recreational diving, only six people other than Shaw have ever pulled off successful dives below 820 feet. (More people have walked on the moon, Don Shirley likes to point out.) At least three ran into serious trouble in the process (including Nuno Gomes, who got stuck in the mud on the bottom of Bushman's Hole for two minutes before escaping). And two have since died: American Sheck Exley, who drowned while diving the world's deepest sinkhole, Mexico's 1,080-foot-deep Zacatón, in April 1994; and Britain's John Bennett, who disappeared while diving a wreck off the coast of South Korea in March 2004.
"Today extreme divers are far exceeding any reasonable physiology capabilities," says American Tom Mount, a pioneer in technical diving and the owner of the Miami Shores, Florida-headquartered International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers (IANTD). "Equipment can go to those depths, but your body might not be able to."
Aside from the dangers of getting trapped or lost, breathing deep-dive gas mixes-usually a combination of helium, nitrogen, and oxygen known as trimix-at extreme underwater pressure can kill you in any number of ways. For example, at depth, oxygen can become toxic, and nitrogen acts like a narcotic-the deeper you go, the stupider you get. Divers compare narcosis to drinking martinis on an empty stomach, and, depending on the gas mix you're using, at 800-plus feet you can feel like you've downed at least four or five of them all at once. Helium is no better; it can send you into nervous, twitching fits. Then, if you don't breathe slowly and deeply, carbon dioxide can build up in your lungs and you'll black out. And if you ascend too quickly, all the nitrogen and helium that has been forced into your tissues under pressure can fizz into tiny bubbles, causing a condition known as the bends, which can result in severe pain, paralysis, and death. To try to avoid getting the bends, extreme divers spend hours on ascent, sitting at targeted depths for carefully calculated periods of decompression to allow the gases to flush safely from their bodies. As divers say, if you do the depth, you do the time.
For any diver who can stomach the risks, Bushman's Hole is world-class. It's located on the privately owned Mount Carmel game farm, 11,000 acres of rolling, ocher-earthed veldt sparsely thatched with silky bushman grass and dotted with sun-baked termite mounds. Not until you top a small rise a few miles from the farm dwellings do you notice a break in the clean sweep of the land, where the earth starts to fall in on itself as if a giant hammer had come smashing down. The resulting crater is hundreds of feet from rim to rim and walled on one side by a sheer cliff. If you hike down the steep, stony path on the opposite side, you come to a small, swimming-pool-size basin of water, covered in a green carpet of duckweed. This is the entrance to Bushman's Hole.
No one had any idea how deep Bushman's was until Nuno Gomes arrived. On his first visit, in 1981, the Johannesburg-based Gomes dived to almost 250 feet, dropping down through a narrow chimney that opens up into an enormous chamber below 150 feet. In 1988, he set an African depth record of just over 400 feet, and Bushman's reputation as a deep diver's cave started to spread. In 1993, Sheck Exley showed up. Supported by a team that included Gomes, Exley became the first diver to hit bottom, touching down at 863 feet on the hole's sloping floor.
During the Exley expedition, Gomes performed a sonar scan of the hole. It revealed Bushman's to be the largest freshwater cave ever discovered, with a main chamber that was approximately 770 feet by 250 feet across and more than 870 feet deep. (Gomes later found a maximum depth of at least 927 feet.)
Diving Bushman's is exhilarating. The narrow entrance is claustrophobic, but once you reach the vast main chamber, it's like spacewalking. For a young cave diver like Deon Dreyer, it must have been irresistible. Deon grew up in the modest town of Vereeniging, about 35 miles south of Johannesburg, and loved adventure in all its forms. He shot his first buck at the age of ten. By 17 he was racing a souped-up car around local tracks, tinkering with his motorcycle, and designing obscenely loud car stereos. Another of his passions was diving. "He couldn't sit still, never, ever, ever," says his younger brother, Werner, now 27.
Deon had logged about 200 dives when he was invited to join some South Africa Cave Diving Association divers at Bushman's Hole over the 1994 Christmas break. They planned a descent to 492 feet and asked Deon to dive support. He was thrilled. Two weeks before the expedition, Deon's grandfather passed away. Sitting around a barbecue with his family one night, Deon spoke with boyish hubris. "He said if he had a choice of how to go out in life, he'd like to go out diving," recalls his father, Theo, 51, the owner of a business that sells and services two-way radios.
Deon's mother, Marie, a petite 50-year-old, begged Deon not to go. In 1993, Bushman's Hole had already taken the life of a diver named Eben Leyden, who blacked out at 200 feet. (A dive buddy rushed him to the surface, but Leyden didn't survive.) And then, on December 17, 1994, the hole claimed Deon Dreyer.
For Marie and Theo, the nightmare started with a policeman's knock at the door. They rushed to Mount Carmel, where slowly the story came out. The team had been doing a practice dive. On the way back up, at 196 feet, Deon appeared to be fine, exchanging hand signals with his buddy. The group continued ascending. At 164 feet they suddenly noticed a light below them. A quick, confused diver count came up one short. Team leader Dietloff Giliomee wasn't sure what was happening. Then another diver, in the eerie glow of his submersible light, dragged his finger across his throat. Giliomee desperately started swimming down but stopped when he realized the light below him was already more than 100 feet deeper and fading fast. "I decided it was a suicide chase," he wrote in the accident report.
No one knows for sure what killed Deon. The best guess is deep-water blackout from carbon dioxide buildup. Two weeks after the accident, Theo paid to bring in a small, remotely operated sub used by the De Beers mining company. It found Deon's dive helmet on the vast floor of Bushman's, but there was no sign of his body. Resigning themselves to the idea that Deon would stay in the hole for eternity, Theo and Marie placed a commemorative plaque on a rock wall above the entry pool. "He had the most majestic grave in the country," Theo says. "And I said, 'Well, this will be his final resting place.' "
But on October 30, 2004, Dave Shaw called Theo and said, "I will go and fetch your son." Theo immediately responded, "Yes, absolutely yes." More than anything, he realized, he wanted to see his boy again.
IF RECOVERING DEON from the bottom of Bushman's Hole was a feat of extraordinary ambition and danger, combining extreme depth with demanding work, Shaw and Shirley were just the guys to pull it off. On his first dive, in 1999, with his then-17-year-old son, Steven, in the Philippines, Shaw had found a sport whose challenges he couldn't resist. He quickly pushed past the standard reef tours and went wreck diving. Soon enough he discovered the caves, and he was hooked.
As an airline pilot, Shaw could dive all over the world-in Asia, the United States, Mexico, and South Africa. He was born in the small town of Katanning, in Western Australia, and from the age of three, when he built his first toy aircraft out of cardboard, Shaw knew he wanted to fly. By the time he was 18, in 1973, he was working as a crop duster. That same year he met the Melbourne-raised Ann Broughton at a youth camp in Perth. He took her up in an airplane on their first date, and 20 months later they were married. In 1981, Shaw became a missionary pilot, moving with Ann to Papua New Guinea, where Steven was born. A daughter, Lisa, followed in 1983, and the Shaws relocated briefly to Tanzania before moving to New South Wales, Australia, where eventually Shaw began flying corporate jets. In 1989, he settled in with Cathay Pacific, moving his family to Hong Kong.
Shaw loved to poke around deep underwater, so he was committed to the closed-circuit rebreather for its remarkable efficiency and the warm, moist gas recycling produces. The oxygen supply is automatically monitored and adjusted by a digital controller strapped to a forearm, and pretty much the only oxygen consumed is that which the diver metabolizes. In contrast, divers using traditional open-circuit scuba (the majority of divers today) inhale ice-cold mixes and exhale huge volumes of gas into the water. (Rebreather divers like to call them "bubble blowers.") As a result, extreme open-circuit divers often need a dozen or more gas cylinders, constantly court hypothermia, and, without automatic control of their oxygen levels, end up breathing-and absorbing-more helium and nitrogen, running up a greater decompression tab. When Nuno Gomes went to the bottom of Bushman's Hole on open circuit in 1996, he didn't hang around at all, used more than 54,000 liters of gas, and had to spend almost 12 hours in the water. When Shaw went to the bottom on his rebreather, he tooled around exploring, used only 5,800 liters of gas, and got back to the surface in nine hours and 40 minutes.
The chief drawbacks to rebreathers are that they are expensive (upwards of $5,000), require the diver to constantly monitor the digital controller settings (open-circuit divers just have to breathe), and, until Shaw came along, had not been proved at great depths. But Shaw was convinced that rebreathers were the future of diving. In 2003, he purchased a rare Mk15.5 rebreather, developed by the U.S. Navy for deep submarine evacuation, and modified it with a Hammerhead controller that he filled with paraffin oil, as a sort of internal shock absorber that would help the components withstand intense pressures. Then he set about diving his custom rig to successively greater depths.
Don Shirley, an understated man with steel-frame glasses and a scraggly beard, was a kindred spirit. He grew up in Surrey, England, and spent 22 years as an electronics specialist in the British Army, which took him through the Falklands War and to the Persian Gulf. He dived every spare minute he had, specializing in deep wrecks off the coast of Britain. In 1997, he retired from the army and moved to South Africa, looking to start a new life as a technical-diving trainer in an exotic English-speaking land. He and a partner set up the South African franchise of IANTD, alongside a deep, flooded asbestos mine in the beautiful grassy hills a couple hundred miles east of Johannesburg. He dubbed the spot Komati Springs, spent hundreds of hours a year in the water, teaching technical and cave diving, and developed the mine, with its deep shafts, into a premier dive site. In 2003, he married Andre Truter, a feisty 38-year-old Afrikaner with short brown hair and a sly smile. Together they live in a thatch-roofed bungalow, surrounded by a pack of rambunctious dogs with names like Sheck and Argon.
In the fall of 2002, a bearded man with an Australian twang appeared at Shirley's dive center. "Hi, I'm Dave Shaw," the man said. "Do you mind if I go dive your hole?" Shirley sized up the bluff Aussie and liked what he saw. Soon Shaw was flying in regularly to dive, and Shirley went with him whenever he had time. In October 2003, at Komati Springs, Shaw set a rebreather cave record of 597 feet, with Shirley diving backup. Two days later, Shirley, with Shaw just behind him, became the first diver to reach the very end of the mine's deepest shaft, at 610 feet. Shaw and Shirley had logged more than a hundred hours underwater together in the nearly two and a half years they'd known each other. "It was stunning being in the water with Dave, very relaxed," Shirley says.
Shirley introduced Shaw to the enticing depths of Bushman's in June 2004. Shaw turned up with his modified Mk15.5 and dived it to 725 feet, another world record for a closed-circuit rebreather in a cave. His DUI drysuit and Thinsulate underwear kept him warm. He peed happily into the water via a valve in his drysuit that had a catheter running to a condom (informally known as "the Urinator"), and topped up, intermittently pulling his regulator out of his mouth, on candy bars and water lowered in a string bag at shallow decompression stops. He fell in love with the place.
IN NOVEMBER 2004, back home in his apartment in Hong Kong, Shaw was in almost daily e-mail and phone contact with Shirley. The Big Dive, as they started to call it, was set for early January, and one of the most elusive questions was the condition of Deon's body. The forensics experts they consulted weren't sure but guessed the corpse would be mostly bone. Shaw decided he'd better try to get it into a body bag for the trip to the surface or risk having it fall apart. Together with Ann, he designed a silk bag with drawstrings, long enough to fit over Deon's fins.
Ann, a 49-year-old deputy head principal at Hong Kong's German Swiss International School, was nervous about the dangers her husband faced. "I want someone to ring me as soon as you are on your way up," she insisted. Shaw agreed but gave Ann the impression the dive would be taking place a day later than scheduled. That way, he could just call her when he was back on the surface and say, "Don't worry. It's all over and I'm fine." If he wasn't fine, he gently told Ann, he would arrange to have someone call Michael Vickers, their minister at Hong Kong's Anglican Resurrection Church.
On the evening of Saturday, January 1, Ann made the 45-minute drive to Hong Kong's Chep Lap Kok airport with 250 pounds of dive gear in her car. Shaw had been flying that day, and she met him at the Cathay Pacific offices and drove him to the departure area for his flight to South Africa. They sat together in a coffee bar. "You're not crying, are you?" he asked. "No," Ann replied bravely. Shaw got up to leave for his flight. He didn't say, "I love you." He didn't need to. She knew.
Shaw arrived in Johannesburg six days before the dive. His first stop was Komati Springs, where he practiced getting a body into the bag underwater, with Shirley playing the part of Deon's corpse. At 66 feet, it went smoothly, taking Shaw only a couple of minutes. A day later, he and Shirley drove to Mount Carmel, where seven South African rebreather divers, handpicked by Shirley, and a police team from Cape Town and Pretoria (since there was a dead body involved) were assembling. The dive would go off on the coming Saturday, January 8, and Shirley's dive plan was like an underwater symphony. Shaw was looking at a dive that would last roughly 12 hours, and would hit the water around 6 a.m. All the other divers would key off Shaw's dive time and head for specific target depths either to help look after Shaw or pass Deon's body to the surface. The first diver Shaw would meet on the way back up was Shirley, at 725 feet. He would hand the body bag over, and, if things went well, Deon would be out of the water about 80 minutes after Shaw's dive had started.
Shirley had done everything in his power to minimize the risks. He planned to have 35 backup cylinders of gas in the water-enough so that he, Shaw, and even some support divers could survive total rebreather failure. He arranged for a rope-and-sling system to be set up that could haul a diver on a stretcher up the cliffs of the hole to a recompression chamber that the police trucked in. To cope with any medical emergencies, Shirley had recruited a doctor-Jack Meintjies, a specialist in diving physiology at the University of Stellenbosch, outside Cape Town-to be on hand. When Meintjies realized that up to nine divers would be in the water, and learned the depths they would be going to, he almost backed out. "There were too many potential bodies. You are dealing with multiple divers going deep, and that's serious," Meintjies says.
Shaw, for one, was quietly confident. At Mount Carmel, he stressed repeatedly that the effort was an "attempted" body recovery. "The dive is huge," he told a collection of reporters and cameramen gathered a day before the dive. "No one has ever attempted anything even vaguely approximating a body recovery from these sorts of depths." He also talked about his motivation with the team. "I think what you are doing for the Dreyers is great," said Peter "Big B" Herbst, a 42-year-old dive instructor and the owner of Reef Divers, a dive shop and tour operator in Pretoria. Shaw looked at him, winked, and said, "Face it, B, we're doing this for the adventure of it."
Shaw did have one wrinkle to sort out. He had partnered up with South African documentary filmmaker Gordon Hiles to chronicle the recovery of Deon. Hiles had designed an underwater camera housing for a lightweight, low-light Sony HC20 Handy- cam and attached it to a Petzl climbing helmet. Shaw was not used to wearing a helmet. He liked to carry a high-intensity light on the back of his hand, and if he needed both hands underwater, Shaw would normally sling the light and cable around his neck so it wouldn't snag on anything. The helmet cam would make it hard to do that. Shaw tried the device in the swimming pool at Mount Carmel and decided he was comfortable with the design and weight. He told Hiles that, instead of slinging his light around his neck, he would occasionally set it out to the side.
Three days before the dive, Shaw carried the camera on an acclimatization dive to 500 feet. It came out in perfect running order. "A very impressive bit of gear," Shaw said to Hiles. "I'm sure you'll be impressed with my video footage as well." Everyone laughed.
The divers gathered for one last briefing on Friday. It was a warm, beautiful evening, and Shaw had some final points to make. "The most important person on this dive is you. If you have a problem, deal with your problem and forget about me," he told the team. "It's better to have one person dead than two." He had a separate, private conversation with Shirley, who had upgraded his rebreather for the dive with an oil-filled Hammerhead controller so he could get all the way to the bottom of Bushman's if he had to. Shirley had asked his friend, "If you have problems, do you want me to come down?"
Shaw considered the question and answered, "Yes, but only come down if I signal."
Shirley and Shaw had one last message for the gathered team. "If Dave doesn't make it, if I don't make it, we stay there," said Shirley. "That's the end of the story. We don't want to be recovered."
At 4 A.M. ON SATURDAY, January 8, Shaw and Shirley rose in the dark to prepare for the dive. It had been a rough night for Shirley. The previous evening, as he was changing the battery on his new Hammerhead controller, a wire snapped. Without the unit, he wouldn't be able to make the dive. Shirley was devastated. Shaw felt deeply for his friend but was prepared to proceed without him. He put Shirley and Peter Herbst in touch with Juergensen Marine, the Hammerhead manufacturer. At 9 p.m.-the cutoff time he had set for himself-Shaw went to bed. With the help of Juergensen, a soldering iron, and some tinfoil, Herbst managed to jury-rig a fix. The Hammerhead powered up, and Shirley was a go again.
In the gray predawn light, Shaw and Shirley began the ten-minute drive to the hole, listening to iPods to relax. Shaw had bought two in Hong Kong, loaded them with mixes he called Deep Cave 1 and Deep Cave 2, and given one to Shirley as a gift. (Shirley's favorite tune for the ride to the crater was Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love.") At the water, they started squeezing into their drysuits. Knowing how long he might be underwater, Shirley added an adult diaper to his ensemble. The rest of the team-the support divers, the police divers, the paramedics-assembled as well, and the rocky, uneven ground around the surface pool became crowded, dive equipment spilling over every flat surface. Verna van Schaik, 35, a South African who had set the outright women's depth record of 725 feet at Bushman's in October, settled in with a large sheaf of dive tables. Shirley had asked her to run the dive as surface marshal, and van Schaik, who has magenta hair and a dolphin tattoo on her right ankle, was hoping she was going to have an easy day.
At 6:13 a.m., video camera whirring quietly on his head, Shaw shook Shirley's hand, said, "I'll see you in 20 minutes," and ducked into the dark waters of Bushman's Hole. A few minutes later, Theo and Marie Dreyer made their way to the water's edge. They had come late so that Shaw wouldn't feel any additional pressure to bring Deon back.
Shaw dropped quickly, letting the shot line squeak through his fingers. He hit the bottom in just over 11 minutes, more than a minute and a half faster than he had planned, and immediately started swimming along the cave line. As soon as the corpse loomed ahead, he pulled out the body bag. Then he knelt alongside Deon and went to work. He almost certainly could feel the narcosis kicking in. The helium and reduced nitrogen of his trimix would have limited the effect, but it was probably still as if he had downed four or five martinis. He had been on the bottom of Bushman's Hole, at 886 feet, for just over a minute. Thirteen minutes after Shaw submerged, Shirley got the go signal from van Schaik and dropped toward his rendezvous point with Shaw, at 725 feet. Approaching 500 feet, he looked down. The water was so clear he could see Shaw's light almost 400 feet below him. It was about where he expected it would be, in the region of the shot line. There was only one problem: The light wasn't moving. Shirley knew instantly that something had gone very wrong. By this time, more than 20 minutes into his dive, Shaw should have been ascending. Shirley should have seen bubbles burbling up as Shaw vented the expanding gases in his rebreather and drysuit. But there was no movement. No bubbles. Nothing but a lonely, still light.
There is no room for emotion or panic in the bowels of a dark hole. Shirley stayed calm, his actions becoming almost automatic. Shaw hadn't signaled for help, but Shirley would be going to the bottom. A motionless diver at 886 feet is almost certainly a dead diver, but it was Dave Shaw down there. Shirley had to see if there was anything he could do, or at least clip Shaw to the shot line so his body could be recovered. OK, here we go, then, he said to himself.
At about 800 feet, deeper than he had ever been, Shirley heard the slight, sharp crack of enormous pressure crushing something, and then there was a thud. He looked down: The Hammerhead controller on his left forearm was a wreck. Without it, Shirley would have to constantly monitor the oxygen levels in his rebreather and inject oxygen into his breathing loop manually. It was a full-time occupation, an emergency routine at a life-threatening depth. Shirley was certain that if he went down to Shaw he would join him for eternity. He got his rebreather back under control and started back up the shot line, flipping through the alternate decompression profiles he was carrying with him on slates. He was facing at least another ten hours in the water. After a few minutes, Shaw's light was swallowed by the darkness below him.
BACK ON THE SURFACE, van Schaik and the crowd around the hole had no idea what was going on far beneath them. Twenty-nine minutes after Shaw had gone under (and about six minutes after Shirley had seen that his light was not moving), support divers Dusan Stojakovic, 48, and Mark Andrews, 39, started their dive to rendezvous with Shaw at 492 feet. As they closed on their target depth, they realized there were no lights coming up, and no sign of Shirley or Shaw. Their plan called for them to wait two to four minutes. They stayed for six. Then it was time to go. "There's no heroics in this diving," Stojakovic says bluntly. "You dive your plan."
Before Andrews and Stojakovic started up, they peered once more into the void. This time they could see a light, but they couldn't tell who it was. Andrews took out an underwater slate and wrote, DID NOT MEET D + D, @ 150 [METERS] FOR 6 MIN. 1 LIGHT BELOW? NOT SURE D'S LIGHT OFF. On the way up, they passed Peter Herbst, and then Lo Vingerling, 60, another support diver, who were on their way down. They showed each the slate and continued ascending. They needed to get the slate to the surface.
Herbst is a bearish Afrikaner with unruly graying hair and a love of a good joke. He's also a first-rate diver who never shies from a tough job. The single light meant there was trouble, and without hesitation Herbst descended past his target of 275 feet. Whoever was underneath him might need help, and Shirley was one of his best friends. Just a little deeper, just a little deeper, he kept telling himself. As the diver got closer he found himself praying, Please, please, God, let it be Don.
Just past 400 feet, Herbst pulled even. It was Shirley. Sorry, Dave, Herbst silently apologized. He flashed Shirley the OK sign and got one back. Then Shirley asked Herbst for a slate. He scribbled on it for a second and returned it. It read, DAVE NOT COMING BACK. Now it really hit Herbst. No Deon. No Dave. Reflexively, he peered deep into the hole. He saw nothing, just blackness. He checked Shirley again, and Shirley indicated that he should head up. Lo Vingerling was the next diver to reach Shirley. He signaled that he would drop down to do a last sweep for Shaw. Shirley stopped him, then drew his hand across his throat.
On the surface, the Dreyers waited nervously. It had been more than an hour since Shaw submerged, and the police divers were due to return with their son's body any minute. Theo wrapped his arms around Marie, and they peered into the dark pool. A nervous hush settled over the group. It was broken by the rattling of stones inside a plastic Energade bottle. The bottle was attached to a line dropping 20 feet into the hole, so that the divers could send slates up as they sat decompressing.
It was the slate from Andrews and Stojakovic, and was passed to van Schaik. Somehow, instead of "1 light below," van Schaik understood the slate to read "no lights below." She assumed it was saying that both Shaw and Shirley were gone. Within minutes, the police divers surfaced, empty-handed. In an instant, the entire, noble enterprise fell apart. Divers were dying. There was 30 seconds of stunned silence around the hole, then van Schaik calmly announced, "OK, we are on our emergency plan."
Within 20 minutes another slate arrived. It was from Shirley, and it had been raced to the surface by the next diver to reach him, Stephen Sander, 39, a former police-special-forces diver. DAVE NOT COMING BACK, it stated bluntly, repeating the slate Shirley had given to Herbst. On the flip side it detailed Shirley's new decompression profile. Van Schaik felt some relief-one of her two dead divers was alive-but glancing at the figures on the slate, she could see that Shirley had gone very deep and would run the risk of getting bent as he came up.
For the Dreyers it had been a tragic half-hour. A day that had started out promising the recovery of their son's body was now going to end with Shaw and Deon both at the bottom of Bushman's Hole. The Dreyers backed away from the water, helpless to do anything, and made their way to the farmhouse. Marie was in agony, crying and thinking about Shaw's wife and family. She wandered into Shaw's room and saw his shoes, wallet, cell phone, and clothes, all neatly laid out. It's like he's coming back soon to use it all again, Marie thought. But she knew he wasn't.
Derek Hughes, an underwater cameraman who was working with Gordon Hiles, also left. Before the dive, Shaw had asked him to call Michael Vickers, the Shaws' minister, if there was trouble. Hughes climbed to the top of the crater to get cell-phone reception and placed the call. Vickers asked him if he was sure Shaw wasn't coming back. Hughes waited another two hours before making the trip up the crater to call Vickers again. He was sure.
IT WAS 7 P.M. SATURDAY EVENING in Hong Kong, and Ann Shaw was in her living room. Her 21-year-old daughter, Lisa, was with her, on break from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. The doorbell rang, and Ann opened the door to see Vickers, accompanied by two friends from church. Ann thought the dive wasn't taking place until the next day, but as soon as she saw the somber group, she knew. Vickers explained that Dave was five hours late. He suggested there was still a chance he could reappear. "Oh, no, he won't," Ann replied. "Not if he's been down there so long."
Ann, who has a deep faith in God, tried to believe that there was some higher purpose in what was happening. More than anything, though, she was struck by how completely her life had changed in the brief time it took Vickers to relay the news. The last time she'd had that feeling was 30 years earlier, at 19, as she walked down the aisle to be married, with Dave Shaw, himself just 20, waiting for her at the altar.
Back at the hole, van Schaik didn't have time to think much about Shaw. With five other divers in the water and only two reserve divers on the surface, she had to focus on Don Shirley. She sent Gerhard Du Preez, 31, into the hole to find him, with instructions to check everyone on his way down. Du Preez found Shirley just below the ceiling of the main chamber, checked that he was OK, then turned immediately for the surface to report back.
Alone again, Shirley continued his retreat. As he approached the chamber ceiling at about 164 feet, he started feeling faint. Instinct told him to get off his rebreather and onto his open-circuit bailout before he lost consciousness. He stuffed the regulator into his mouth, and as soon as he did, the cave started to spin around him. Shirley didn't know it yet, but a small bubble of helium had formed in his left inner ear, causing extreme vertigo. He was in a washing machine, and off the shot line. In the dark, all he could see with his light as he spun was black, followed by the flash of the cave roof, then black. He saw a flash of white go by, and then again. It was the shot line, and without thinking he thrust out his hand to grab it. That grab kept him alive. If he had missed, he would have drifted off, lost in the blackness. Up or down, it wouldn't really have mattered. Depth or the bends would have finished him, and van Schaik and her divers would have returned to an empty line.
The washing machine finally slowed just long enough for Shirley to read the backlit screen of his primary VR3. It showed he had come up to 114 feet. It also warned him that he needed to be down at 151 feet. Hand over hand, Shirley descended. As he reached his new depth, nausea hit him and he started to vomit. Shirley would feel the heave coming, pull the regulator from his mouth, throw up, and then replace the regulator. Fighting the vertigo and nausea, he managed to grab some spare gas cylinders from the cluster clipped onto the shot line nearby. The thought that he might die never occurred to him. I will survive, I will survive, he kept telling himself.
After about 20 minutes, Truwin Laas, 31, van Schaik's second reserve diver, appeared. Shirley scratched on his slate, I'M HAVING A BAD TIME. I'VE GOT VERTIGO AND I'M VOMITING. Laas made sure Shirley was breathing the right gas mix for the depth, decided he was stable, and left quickly to update van Schaik. Shirley, alone again, started cycling repeatedly through a subroutine of survival, asking himself, Where should I be now? How long should I be here? And where do I have to go? Each breath was a conscious act that got harder as he tired. Suck, hold, exhale. Suck, hold, exhale. I will survive. I will survive.
Now the marathon began. Van Schaik started cycling divers down to stay with Shirley. Du Preez, Laas, Sander, and Vingerling dived repeatedly that day, racking up three or four dives apiece despite the risk of getting the bends themselves. (Herbst, who was out of action for hours with a suspected minor bend, went down once more; Andrews and Stojakovic had been too deep to dive again.) The divers clipped Shirley to the shot line in case he convulsed or passed out, unclipping him only to move him from one decompression stop to another. Every movement brought a new round of vomiting. "It was heartbreaking to hear," Vingerling says, mimicking the spastic violence of Shirley's dry heaves.
Before the dive, Shirley had told the team that if anything went wrong, his wife, Andre, was to be given the bad news straight and fast. Andre, who had stayed behind at Komati Springs to run the dive center, had been getting regular updates. After one call, a slate was taken to Shirley. MESSAGE FROM ANDRE, I LOVE YOU, it read, and then, YOU'D BETTER HANG IN THERE OR ELSE.
After more than ten hours in the water, Shirley finally reached a depth of 20 feet. He was exhausted and approaching hypothermia, but he stayed there decompressing for almost two hours. The next circle of hell was at just ten feet and had to be endured, according to the tables, for a full two hours and 20 minutes. As soon as Shirley settled in, a sharp pain flared in his left leg, a sign that more bends could be on the way. It was time to take his chances on the surface. LOWER LEFT LEG HURT. COULD BE LACK OF USE? he wrote on a slate. Soon after, Sander appeared. I'M HERE TO TAKE YOU HOME, he wrote.
Shirley was carried out. He had been in Bushman's Hole almost 12 and a half hours. "Don't cut the drysuit," he managed to growl when he saw Du Preez coming at him with a pair of shears. Shirley was winched up the cliff face, and within 22 minutes he was in the recompression chamber.
OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS, as word spread of Shaw's death, the Dreyers and most of the dive team went home. Andre Shirley arrived on Sunday, after driving all night from Badplaas, to take her husband for additional recompression treatments in Pretoria. But Herbst stayed at the hole, and he was in a grim mood. It had been left to him to retrieve all the lines and gas cylinders that still hung in Bushman's depths, work he had started on Monday. By Wednesday, he was ready to go after the deepest cylinders, and he had called in his Afrikaner diving buddy Petrus Roux to help, with the police assisting at shallower depths. Standing at the water's edge, the police team held an impromptu memorial service for Shaw. Police diving superintendent Ernst Strydom and Roux read from the Bible. Herbst hadn't planned to say anything, but emotion gripped him, and a few words came. "I'm going to miss you, mate," he said, as if Shaw could hear. "It's a good place. Rest here, stay here." The group sang "Amazing Grace" as black clouds threatened rain. And then Herbst and Roux dived into the hole.
They dropped to 300 feet and attached lifting buoys to the shot line to raise the cylinders still at 500 feet to a more manageable depth. When they returned to the surface, they were approached by police diver Gert Nel, who had been helping to clear lines in the chimney. "Did you see them?" Nel asked quietly. "See what?" Herbst asked. "The bodies," Nel said. "We saw Deon and Dave stuck in the cave at 20 meters."
Herbst rested up and returned to the water. As soon as he cleared the narrow neck of the chimney, his cave light locked on to Shaw, floating eerily upright, his arms spread wide and the back of his head and shoulders jammed against the ceiling. Shaw's light was hanging below. Looped around it was the cave line he had attached to Deon in October, and cradled almost perfectly in the line, its legs hanging down as if on a swing, was the headless body of Deon Dreyer. Herbst realized that Shaw's light must've gotten tangled in the cave line. When Herbst and Roux had lifted the shot line with the buoys, it had pulled the cave line-and with it Deon and Shaw-off the bottom. As Shaw ascended, the gases in his body, as well as those in his suit, rebreather, and buoyancy wing, had started to expand. Up he had gone, dragging Deon with him.
Herbst brought Deon out first. The police team laid a white body bag along the water's edge and lifted Deon into it. There was a surprising firmness under the wetsuit, and Strydom was shocked to get a whiff of rotting flesh. One of Deon's flippered feet fell off. A policeman tossed it into the bag alongside the body, and the zipper was closed. Shaw had died doing it, but Deon's body had finally been taken back from Bushman's Hole.
Shaw was recovered next. It was a distressing job. His body was grotesquely swollen from the change of depth and pressure, and it was locked by rigor mortis in the free-fall position. Herbst, standing in the surface pool, had to cut Shaw out of his equipment. "That was quite bad," he says, choking up.
Herbst cut the helmet cam free, too. Gordon Hiles, who had been filming the morning's work, was relieved to see that the camera's housing was still intact. Herbst was exhausted, with a pounding headache. He needed to call Don Shirley and Ann Shaw. But more than anything, he wanted to see what was on that video.
IT'S NOT AN EASY THING to watch a person die, especially if that person is a friend. Less than an hour after the helmet cam was removed from Shaw's head, as Hiles made a copy of the video for the police at the top of the crater, Herbst watched the film of Shaw's last dive. Later, he and Shirley (who calls it "a snuff tape") examined it frame by frame, backward and forward, multiple times, to try and understand every nuance of Shaw's death.
The picture is dark, and sometimes hard to see. But along with the sounds of Shaw's breathing, picked up with perfect clarity by the camera in the stillness of the cave, the video tells the tale of Shaw's final moments. When Shaw reaches the body of Deon Dreyer, he is 12 minutes and 22 seconds into the dive, and he's been on the bottom for just over a minute. He pulls the body bag out and starts to try and work it over Deon's legs. As he does, a cloud of silt obscures the picture. When it clears, Deon's body, its head having fallen off, is floating in front of Shaw.
This was totally unexpected. Deon, as it turned out, was not completely skeletal, and he was no longer stuck in the silt. Instead of decomposing, his corpse had mummified into a soaplike composition that gave it mass and neutral buoyancy. And for some reason-no one has an explanation-the body had become unstuck from the mud as soon as Shaw started working on it. "The fact that the body was now loose, and not pinned to the ground, was not one of the scenarios that we had thought about," Shirley sighs. "The body was not meant to be floating." It's a lot easier to slip a bag over an immobile body than a body floating and rolling in front of you at 886 feet.
Shaw starts fumbling and, for the first time, lets out an audible grunt of effort. Herbst, listening intently through headphones, heard the steadily increasing distress in Shaw's breathing and knew there was trouble coming. "Breathe slower, man, breathe slower," he urged out loud. Watching the video with a clear head, it is hard not to wonder why Shaw didn't just turn around right then and abandon the dive. In October, he had turned for the surface as soon as his breathing rate increased. Now he was panting, and Deon, who was attached to the cave line, was floating free. The body could have been pulled up. "All the options involved putting the bag on," Shirley explains. "He's sticking with his plan. Which is what you've got to do." Still, when Shirley first saw the video, he couldn't stop himself from pleading, "Leave it, leave it, leave the body now. It's loose and can come up."
Shaw, however, is responding only to the pounding of his narcosis and his determination to finish the job. He keeps working to control the body, letting go of his cave light so he can use both hands. Deon is rolling and turning in front of him, resisting Shaw's efforts to get him into the bag. Shaw has been at it for two minutes, and the cave line is seemingly everywhere. It snags on his cave light, and Shaw pauses to clear it.
At this, Shirley and Herbst bridled. A cave diver should never let gear float loose. "It's a recipe for disaster," says Shirley, who will always regret not being present when Shaw told Hiles he would put the light to the side at times. "Do not do that," he would have warned him.
Now Shaw is acting confused. He is working at the torso, instead of the feet. His movements have lost purpose. After more than two and a half minutes of work-and three minutes and 49 seconds on the bottom-Shaw pulls his shears out, fumbling to open them. The plan was for him to cut the dive tanks away as he rolled the bag over Deon. Shaw's breathing rate continues to increase. Suddenly he loses his footing on the sloping bottom. He scrambles back to the body in a cloud of silt. The grunts of effort, hateful little bursts of sound, are painfully frequent.
Shirley and Herbst guess that Shaw's narcosis was then closer to six or seven martinis. "You focus on the one thing. You don't focus on the dive anymore," Herbst says. "The one thing becomes everything. And I think with Dave it became the body, the body, the body."
Still, Shaw keeps checking the time on his dive computer. After five and a half minutes on the bottom, he's aware enough to know he has to leave, but he doesn't get far. The video shows the bottom moving beneath him. Then Shaw's forward progress stops. His errant cave light has apparently snagged the cave line tied to Deon's tanks. Shaw knows he has caught something and turns awkwardly. His breathing starts to sound desperate. He pulls at the cat's cradle of cave line, as if trying to sort it out. Every breath is now a sharp grunt. Shaw struggles to move forward again but is anchored by the weight of Deon's body. The shears are still in his hand, but he never cuts anything. The pace of his breathing keeps accelerating, and there is a tragic, gasping quality to it, so painful to listen to that Herbst and Shirley will no longer watch the video with sound.
Twenty-one minutes into the dive, the sounds finally start to fade. Dave Shaw, with carbon dioxide suffusing his lungs, is starting to pass out. He is dying. It's heartbreaking to watch. A minute later there is no movement.
DON SHIRLEY SURVIVED that day, but he didn't walk away unscathed. He emerged from the recompression chamber at Bushman's, which was pressurized to a depth of 98 feet to shrink the helium bubble in his head, after seven hours, disoriented and barely able to stand. He was so weak that Herbst dragged a mattress over from the police camp so Shirley could sleep right there. Over the next two weeks, he endured ten more chamber sessions, for a total of 27 hours of treatment. It was more than a month before he could think clearly or walk down a crowded street without his perception and balance running haywire. "When I first saw him, I got a hell of a shock," Andre Shirley says. "He could not walk without support, and his thinking patterns had been affected. He would sound sane, but two minutes later he would forget what he'd said."
Shirley has improved with time, but the helium bend left him with permanent damage that has impaired his balance. In May he went diving again for the first time, with Peter Herbst hovering protectively alongside. He closed his eyes, turned somersaults, and with relief discovered that the Big Dive had not taken one of the things he loves most. "A cave is a place where I live," Shirley says.
A week after Shaw died, Gordon Hiles brought the video to a guest house in Pretoria, where Shirley was staying while undergoing recompression treatment at the Eugene Marais Hospital, and Shirley finally watched it. "It was difficult to see, but I really wanted to know firsthand what went on," he says. Later that day, Shirley took the video to the hospital, where he met with Herbst and Dr. Frans Cronje, medical director of Divers Alert Network Southern Africa, who was overseeing Shirley's treatment and assisting with the official accident investigation. They watched the video on a large screen and spent hours poring over every detail.
Shirley was so focused on what he was watching that he started mimicking Shaw's breathing. Then, determined to "see for myself what happened," Shirley volunteered for an unusual experiment. As Cronje carefully observed, Shirley sat with a CO2 monitor in his mouth and headphones on his ears, watching the video one more time. Every time Shaw breathed, Shirley breathed. Eventually Shirley was huffing through 36 shallow, extremely rapid breaths a minute.
"There was extreme hyperventilation," Cronje says. "On a rebreather at that depth, it would have been very ineffective." Shirley's breathing became so distorted that by the time Shaw faded to just six breaths per minute and then lost consciousness, Shirley was also on the verge of blacking out. His hands were weak and he could barely move. Cronje concluded that Shaw had passed out from carbon dioxide buildup and eventually drowned.
It took Shirley a full half-hour to bring his breathing back under control. "I actually died with Dave," he says.
NUNO GOMES is the last person alive today who knows what it's like to dive to the bottom of Bushman's Hole, and he understands why Shaw had trouble reacting to a body that was suddenly floating instead of anchored. "You don't think of a new plan while you are down there. It doesn't work. Your mind is clouded. You cannot do it," Gomes says. But he also wonders whether Shaw should have done more buildup dives to increase his tolerance for narcosis-much the way a climber will try to acclimatize to altitude-and his ability to recognize when it reaches dangerous levels. "When he started putting the body in the bag and it didn't work, he should have immediately turned around and left," Gomes says.
Gomes is an open-circuit diver, and his priority is setting records. (In June, he reclaimed the world depth record, reaching 1,044 feet in the Red Sea.) "I didn't think it was worth the risk of a diver losing his life to recover the remains of Deon Dreyer," he says flatly. Even so, Gomes honors Shaw as a fallen comrade. "It was a noble dive, a heroic dive. He did what he believed in, and I've got to say he had a lot of courage," Gomes says. "At the end of the day, he achieved what he wanted to achieve, even though he paid for it with his life."
None of the divers who were with Shaw in Bushman's Hole think the dive was reckless. As support diver Mark Andrews puts it, "If you asked me about the chances before the dive, I'd have said there is a 99 percent chance of success, and a 1 percent chance he'll have to leave the body. And zero percent that Dave wasn't coming back."
Verna van Schaik, who is used to people telling her she is pushing too deep, is sorry Shaw died but not sorry for him. "Dave was going to go back," she says. "The fact that Deon was there just made it more interesting and more exciting. Dave knew the risks. They were his risks, and he took them."
Every diver there that day will keep diving, and instead of second-guessing Shaw, they say they are proud of him. "Dave took rebreather diving where it has never been before. People never knew about [rebreathers] until he died showing what can be done," Peter Herbst says. "Two hundred meters [656 feet] was a damned deep dive on a rebreather. This guy went half as deep again. He made the envelope bigger."
Ten days after Bushman's Hole gave the bodies back, Theo and Marie Dreyer went to see their son. When the morgue attendant asked them to step in, Marie wasn't sure what to expect. When she saw a fully fleshed-out body, her tears stopped, and she felt happy. There was no head, but lying in front of her was her boy. Theo marveled that Deon's legs still held their athletic shape. Marie couldn't believe he was still in his Jockey underwear. "We saw him," she explains, her eyes shining. Overwhelmed, she stepped forward and took her dead son in her arms.
Ann Shaw had hoped her husband would rest forever in Bushman's Hole. When Herbst called to tell her that his body had been recovered, she was completely unnerved. After some anguish, she decided Shaw's ashes should be scattered in South Africa, the place he had come to love so much. Ann continues to live and work in Hong Kong. Every once in a while, when she has a problem with the computer, or needs help in the kitchen, she finds herself thinking, Why did you do this to me? Because now I have to do everything. But it's not anger she feels, just loss. "He needed to dive, and I accepted that," she says. "I wasn't about to change him or to tie him down."
Lisa Shaw, in a eulogy for her father, wrote, "I know having faced death before that my father was unafraid and was completely at peace with the prospect. I know and he knew that the Lord would be right there ready to take him on to new adventures. I am also at peace because he died doing something he loved; very few of us will ever get that privilege." Steven Shaw, who is 23 and is studying for a master's degree at the Melbourne College of Divinity, finds some solace that his father died helping others. "But now I'm feeling more just sad that Dad's gone," he says.
Shirley misses Shaw, too, and has a picture of himself with Shaw, peering out of a recompression chamber, on his computer's screen saver. "Dave died exploring and trying to achieve something he wanted to do," Shirley says. "That to me is better than dying in a car crash." Still, every day Shirley thinks, Ah, I've got to tell Dave that-only to remember that he can't.
Shaw is not far, though. On a beautiful evening in May, Don and Andre Shirley took a bottle of wine and a small wooden box to the summit of a mountain a short drive from their home. Below them, the rich, pungent grasslands of Mpumalanga swept all the way to the distant horizon, and the Komati River glinted in the golden light. Next to a wild fig tree, the couple raised their glasses in a quiet toast. As the sun dipped low, they opened the box and threw Shaw's ashes into the air. The ashes hung for an instant, a cloud of a man. Then the African earth took them, and Dave Shaw was gone.
Washington, DC based correspondent Tim Zimmermann is a respected author of several publications.
CAVE DIVING ACCIDENT
Ulster County Divers Club
Report of the Cave Diving Accident
Cave Diving Fatality of 5 Men
On a Sunday afternoon, February 25, 1962, ten members of the Ulster County Divers Club participated in a dive near Whiteport, NY. Whiteport is approximately 6 miles south of Kingston, NY. This activity was to be a regular bi-monthly club dive. Club divers had been scheduled twice a month and the winter dives were divided between ice dives and cave dives. This type of diving had been a standard practice for several years, performed by club members and though it was not compulsory, many of more experienced divers participated in these activities. Research work for civil defense had been performed in another cave in the area by club members and underwater ice recovery work was always a possibility. Thus this type of diving was considered a necessary and useful endeavor providing some of the club membership experience in case an emergency should arise. The club maintained a record of well conducted recovery and research work with local and community organizations.
The Whiteport cave had been used may times before by club members and divers from other locations. Actual entrance to the underwater part of this cave was accomplished by walking through a 150' long, head-high tunnel that extended into the side of a mountain and opened into a large man made canyon. This canyon had been formed by quarrying of limestone rock. The walls of the canyon rose 50 to 70 feet in height. The width of the canyon was approximately 25 feet and its length extended several hundred feet. The average water table level was approximately one foot below the canyon floor. In the floor of this canyon was an excavation in the form of a shaft which continued downward underwater at a 35- 45 degree angle and opened into a large underwater man made cavern. This canyon which is directly under the canyon above, was formed into a room 25' wide, several hundred feet long and 40 feet high. The ceiling was 20' thick thus making the floor of the room 60 feet below the surface of the water. A submerged railroad track descended into this shaft. It was supported by a heavily timbered trestle part of the way down to the 60 feet level. This trestle maintained an even incline of 35 to 45 degrees. When the quarry was in operation, cars were pulled up this incline by winching methods.
In line with this descending shaft was another inclined shaft which extended downward through the 60 ft. floor level of the underwater room to a depth of 115 feet. This inclined shaft or tunnel also contained a track for hauling cars up the incline but did not require a trestle.
At the 115 ft. level the shaft continued horizontally as a tunnel. The tunnel roof was arched and was approximately 10 to 15 feet high and approximately the same width.
At the present time the length and condition of this tunnel beyond 150' is unknown but it is felt that it extends to another room which in turn, eventually allows to the surface of the earth at a different location. This theory is partially substantiated on the understanding that mules were once used to haul the railroad cars through the lower tunnel to the incline shaft. The shaft was too steep to remove the mules at this end of the quarrying and another opening had to exist. This quarry work was abandoned approximately 70 years ago.
Four divers geared up in preparation to making two two man dives. Two other club divers were at hand with complete gear and tanks ready and available. A 3/8" manila rope, well connected in three places made up a complete 620' line which was wound on a reel. This reel was mounted on a frame and was capable of being turned by a crank. The reel was placed in position beside the shaft opening for ease of paying out or taking in the line. This safety line was also paint marked every 25 feet. The line tender would maintain direct contact with the divers by using a signal system of tugging on the line. A reel tender stood behind the line tender and was ready to call off the line footage as the line was payed out. Another club member was assigned the job of time keeper. All air tanks were re-checked for pressure and none were less than 1800 lbs. The day was clear and cold, the water temperature was 39 degrees. The water visibility was ultra-clear.
Upon final checking of the scuba gear before starting the dive, it was found that Gerry Klemm, one of the four divers scheduled to dive, experienced a slight leak in the high pressure teflon washer connection on one of his tanks. By extra tightening it was possible to stop the leak. However, it was felt, since it might be a question of his safety, that instead of 2 dives of 2 men each being made, one 3 man dive would be performed, leaving the 4th man who had previously had a leak problem, as a safety stand-by diver instead of the two as originally planned.
The equipment used by the three divers was as follows:
William Mills Age 43 President of U.C.D.C. Experience: Scuba - 4 years, Skin 14 years
2 70 cubic ft. tanks standard yoke
1 US Divers Calypso regulator (built in auto reserve)
1 US Divers 250 ft. depth gauge
1 underwater watch
1 Burgess light
1 Quick release weight belt
1 1/4" 2 piece pull over wet suit (complete)
1 pr US Divers swim fins
1 US Divers champion mask
David Lasher age 32 Treasurer U.C. D. C. Experience: scuba 7 years skin 7 years
2 70 cu.ft. tanks standard yoke (manual reserve)
1 double hose regulator (Divair) (Healthways)
1 depth gauge
1 life jacket with CO2 cartridge
1 3 cell Aqualux flashlight
1 slate and grease pencil with decompression table written on it
1 Quick release weight belt
1 3/16" 2 pc. wet suit (complete
1 pr. Swimaster Duck feet fins
Jack Lepinski age 27 Guest member of U.C.D.C. Experience scuba skin
2 70 cu. ft. tanks
2 Sportsway regulators (1 Navy type) (1 sport model) (1 J and 1 K valve)
1 depth gauge
1 Burgess light
1 belt type life preserver with CO2 cartridge
1 Quick release weight belt
1 3/16" wet suit (complete)
All three divers had entered this cave section on previous occasions. One of the club member requirements was to be able to "Buddy Breathe" while swimming a continuous distance of 500 feet underwater. Bills Mills and Dave Lasher were charter members and were two of the most experienced divers in the club. They were also recognized for their capability, calmness and safety. The club is 3 years old.
Jack Lepinski was a member of the U.S. Air Force and was receiving special training at the Kingston, NY IBM plant. It was the practice of the club to allow the men attending this school to obtain guest membership providing they were experienced divers and would submit to a club check-out in the local Y.M.C.A. pool.
Bill Mills had checked out Jack Lepinski on the club requirements and had passed him as a proficient diver. Jack had made a previous dive with Dave Lasher in this same cave. Dave stated that Jack was a good diver and he would dive with him anytime.
Many of the club members had been skin diving since World War II and some of the club members had been using SCUBA gear for at least 6 or more years. Beside physical diving qualifications, it was necessary that all members be at least 21 years of age and male.
On this particular Sunday, the divers were bridled at the end of the safety line. Dave Lasher and Jack Lepinski's lines were approximately 6 ft. long. Dave's line was attached to him by a removable wrist loop. Jack Lepinski's line was tied to his harness. Bill Mills'. who was connected by the use of a safety snap, hooked into a metal harness ring, was about 8 feet from the center connection of all three lines. Attached to this center connection was a water filled plastic Clorox jug which carried the names of all three divers and the date. It was planned to leave this jug at the farthest point of the dive as a "Kilroy gesture" for other divers to find at some later date.
This dive had not actually been planned to be a decompression dive. It was agreed that 15 minutes after the divers entered the water they were to return to the surface at a normal rate of ascent. During final test of the regulators and tank valves, it was found that one of Jack Lepinski's tank valves was closed very tightly. It was then turned on. The three men entered the water at 2:56 pm and descended at a steady and reasonably rapid rate.
At the end of 7 or 8 minutes approximately 460 ft. of line had been payed out. The line stopped at this point and remained stationary.
Approximately 15 minutes from the start of the dive, the line tender, experienced at the job, gave the signal to return by applying three tugs on the safety line. He received 5 tugs in return and started to take in line while passing it through his hands hand over hand to the man who cranked on the reel. The line was retrieved for a distance of approximately 100 ft. where it stopped.
The line tender did NOT pull heavily on the line but only took in the slack. After approximately 2 minutes the line tender gave three more tugs on the safety line as a signal to continue to return. There was no response. The line tender was then backed up by a second man. They gave three more tugs in tandem to create a stronger signal. Again there was no response. This was repeated several times. It was immediately decided that the safety man should go down and investigate.
The time keeper noted that the safety man entered the water 10 - 12 minutes after the 15 minute signal to return was initially given to the divers below. The safety man was attached to the safety line by a sliding loop, the other end of the line was attached to his left arm by using a wrist slip loop. The safety line was held reasonable taut during his descent.
Equipment used by Gerry Klemm age 29 Club Equipment Chairman
2 70 cu. ft. tanks
1 automatic and 1 J valve reserve
2 regulators 1 Healthways Scubair 1 US Divers Aquamatic
1 knife 1 depth gauge 1 burgess light 1 Quick release weight belt 1 pr fins
face plate 1 3/16" 2 pc wet suit (complete)
Gerry Klemm gave the following information.
I swam down the line, until I was swung around when the sliding loop of my wrist line caught on a splice connection of the safety line. I passed the loop over the connection and continued on down the line. I swam down past the trestle to the bottom of the first level. When I started down the second shaft the water began to cloud up. The further I followed the shaft downward the murkier it became. I cleared my ears about 5 or 6 times on the way down. I didn't check my depth gauge. I couldn't see a thing ahead of me so I felt along the left wall of the shaft. I held the light out in front of me so I wouldn't hit something with my head. I kept going, then I hit something. I couldn't even see my own light. I finned to a standing position; I believe I reached the 115 ft. level or horizontal part of the tunnel. I felt something like mud in front of me, a mound about head high and sloping back away from me. I followed my wrist line down to the safety line; it appeared tight against the bottom. I also felt some loops of rope or something but they would not come free. I tried to feel around for the boys....Nothing.
I figured I couldn't do anything more and decided to cut loose from the safety line so I could get back to the surface quicker. When I slipped off the safety wrist line, I also slipped off the loop holding my light. I lost my light. I started to hand over hand it up the safety line, but the line became slack. Boy! I never was so scared in all my life. I thought the safety line had parted. It came taut again and I started up. When I got to the surface, I don't remember what happened for a few minutes or so.
The men who were on top said Gerry Klemm hit the surface of the water and yelled, "there's been a slide. Pull, pull, Ed get your suit on. Get help."
The men on top had given Gerry slack for a moment when they felt 5 or more fast tugs on the line and mistook them for a signal for more line.
Two club members and a visiting member of a nearby club ran for assistance, for ambulance, doctors, and decompression facilities. Two other club members started to get suited up. The line could not be retrieved, finally six people were pulling and with much effort the line came up slowly. After 10 to 15 ft. of heavy pulling, the line became easier to retrieve and was returned at a steady rate. Just as bubbles started to show at the mouth of the cave, the line became taut again.
Without safety line attachment, Gerry Klemm again entered the water and hand over hand down the safety line he dove and found the following conditions. Approximately 15 ft in front of the divers and loosely sound on the safety line, was a piece of timber about 2" by 6" by 3 ft long. This timber had wedged itself in a indention in the ceiling of the shaft. Dave Lasher was found floating upside down against the ceiling; near him was Jack Lepinski. Bill Mills was missing. Gerry Klemm pulled Dave Lasher and Jack Lepinski down from the ceiling, this action also freed the timber from the ceiling and the line was pulled in with the two divers attached. The down time of these two divers was over 35 minutes. The timber mentioned above had been wedged approximately 20 ft. inside the edge of the cave.
Dave Lasher and Jack Lepinski were frothing blood from the mouth and nose. They were a slight cyanotic blue in color. Gerry Klemm immediately started mouth to mouth respiration on Dave Lasher and another club member immediately started back pressure arm lift on Jack Lepinski which was replaced almost immediately with mouth to mouth respiration. The two divers were worked on by various qualified men for over a period of two hours. During this time the doctor administered his help and a resuscitator was used. These men were not revived even though effort to make them breathe was continued in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Due to shock and possible embolism, Gerry Klemm was also taken to the hospital by ambulance. Upon observation for several days in the hospital, Gerry Klemm was released without any apparent physical damage.
While efforts were being made to revive the two divers that were retrieved, it was felt that the missing diver Bill Mills might have unsnapped himself and was possibly lost in the cave or had tried to escape to one of several air holes located in the ceiling of the large upper chamber. A search was carried on at the air holes that were accessible; meanwhile the State Police arrived and maintained law and order among gathering spectators. They also helped arriving Fire Dept's, provided radio communication for immediate helicopter stand by service from Steward Air Force base and took over official command of all rescue activities. Local Fire Dept's assisted wherever possible. Club members were not allowed to enter the cave for a search, because of the possible danger involved. The curtailment of diving activities, proved at a later date to be the correct decision.
It was later revealed, that somehow during resuscitation operations on the two divers that were retrieved, a local diver unfamiliar to the club members had entered the cave a short distance but returned and reported that the water was too murky to see anything. Recent discussion disclosed that this man's name was Bill Mastro and that he had dived in this cave before.
Observations made of the deceased divers and their equipment when they were removed from the cave are as follows.
Dave Lasher - Mask missing. Intake hose torn apart and mouth piece hanging. No air in tanks due to but intake hose. Slight traces of mud on the neck and chest. No apparent external physical damage. (Note) It was later observed at the State Troopers barracks that Dave's depth gauge was stuck at 50 feet. Mud was cleared from the orifice and the gauge and the needle returned to zero.
Jack Lepinski - Mask around neck, mouth piece hanging, one tank empty, one tank showed 1300 lbs. Traces of muck on neck and chest. Striated black lines or marks visible longitudinally on his yellow tank harness.
Many family members were present. Mr. Mills and his family were both at the dive. The scene of anguish will long be remembered by those members who were at the accident.
The search for Bill Mills was given up as darkness fell. Members of the club offered their services to State Police for any recovery work that might take place the next day,
The following day, Monday 26th several members assisted State Police at their barracks in identifying the deceased gear. All gear appeared to be in good working condition except the torn intake hose on Dave Lasher's regulator.
An official State Police recovery team was called upon for assistance. They arrived early Monday afternoon and reviewed the scene of the accident. After detailed questioning of the club members as to the underwater configuration of the cave; it was decided by the Captain in charge of this team, that under the circumstances existing he would not expose his men to an underwater recovery attempt at this time. All club members greatly respected the frankness and sincerity of this decision. Hard hat divers were contact by officials, but they were not successful in locating a volunteer to do this type of work.
Late Monday afternoon, the State Police contacted an officer of the Ulster County Divers Club for more consultation about the cave and also what he thought of any recovery operations. This man was somewhat familiar with the cave but had not been at the scene of the accident. therefore he had not been subjected to the mental duress of teh divers who were there at the time of the accident. This club member said that he felt he could make an exploratory dive safely, providing extreme caution on his part was exercised. He described in detail exactly what steps would be taken in setting up such a dive, and that he would not take any unnecessary chances and thus expose the safety stand-by divers that he needed. He was again reminded that consultation was not for the purpose of getting a diver but to decide what other measure of recovery could be performed. This man was finally given permission to make an exploratory dive. It was felt that by Tuesday morning, 27th good visibility would have once again returned to the cave water. The following plan was consist of 7 club members and one local unaffiliated diver.All men volunteered their services. The unaffiliated divers name was Fred Schindler. This man stood by at the cave all day Monday with the hope that the State Police would accept his services. He was recognized as an experienced diver and also familiar with the cave. On this basis the club officer in charge of this dive accepted his services. Fred Schindler acted as the second back-up diver on the recovery team.
Available at the scene would be an ambulance, furnished by the Round-Out Valley 1st Aid Rescue Squad, let by Herman Miller, the State Police and their recovery team and Mr. Nichols of Nichols Oxygen Co. from East Hyde Park, NY who volunteered his services as a registered male nurse and provided several large tank of air plus oxygen and a special regulator with 150 ft. of hose attached. To show the willingness of the people to help, the wife of Mr. Markle, the Town Supervisor provided the men who participated in the recovery operations with not coffee and donuts. The weather was cold and damp.
The diving plan was as follows; The lead diver would use two 70 cu.ft.tanks plus two regulators and three lights. The buddy system would be used, it was felt that the less men in this cave the better thus one man would act as a lead diver; he would be attached to the end of the safety line buy a removable wrist loop. Following him at a distance of 120 ft. would be the 1st back-up man. It was planned to use no more than two divers in the water unless an emergency existed. It was hope that the second and third back-up team would be on stand-by only. It was also felt that the 120 ft spacing would allow for clear signal transfer to and from the surface and that the visibility would be good enough for the two divers to see each other and their lights. If an emergency did exist the second back up diver would swim to the 1st back-up divers location and if all was a o.k. at this position he would remain there and the 1st back-up diver would proceed cautiously and investigate. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd back-up diver were attached to the safety line by using a short piece of line employing a loop around the safety line on one end and a removable wrist loop on the other end of the line.All men wore knives as well as depth gauges and lights. All tanks were rechecked for pressure just before the start of the dive. Each man understood his job and debriefing took place several times. The line tender was the same man who tended the line on that fateful Sunday and had requested this job during the recovery operations. The same line and reel arrangement were also used. When the lead diver entered the water the line tender was to take charge of the operations.
The rope signals used were as follows: 1 tug all ok, 2 tugs - hold, 3 tugs - take slack, pull easy and slow, If the line becomes taut with no ok signal immediately send down diver to investigate. Under planned procedure he would report conditions by returning with the 1st back-up diver, if he was down or help the 1st back-up diver if possible or stand by and allow him to investigate with caution.
The lead divers plan was to inspect every inch of shaft, roof and sidewalls as he progressed downward and to expend minimum effort in order to cut down as much as possible any disturbance from his exhaust bubbles. He was also obligated to follow this procedure because of the other diver following him.
As the lead diver entered the cave and traveled a short distance down, he observed that the water was still murky. Visibility was limited to about 10 ft. He gave the signal to return and upon returning to the surface reported the water conditions to the other members of the team. It was decided that the original plan would still hold and that only line signals could be relied upon. SInce the temperature was close to freezing, he replaced the regulator he had used with a duplicate type to assure a dry regulator when he reentered the water, so as to prevent any possibility of a freeze-up while he was above the water. He again entered the cave and progressed downward slowly. He experienced difficulty in inspecting the ceiling sidewalls and bottom because of the lack of visibility and to continually swim up and down in order to inspect all the parts of the tunnel, trestle work and space below it. He continued this search pattern slowly and cautiously until he had taken out about 120 ft of line. Meanwhile recognition (ok) signals were being initiated by the diver below and acknowledged by the line tender. He found Bill Mills shortly after reaching 120 ft. Bill was lying on his side on the edge of the railroad trestle. There was no appearance of a struggle but it did appear that his tank valves might have caught on the trestle as he was being pulled in, and enough force had been exerted to open the steel loop of the harness ring and the safety snap had been fastened to. His mouth piece was hanging and his mask was in place. At this depth which was approximately 60 ft he was a slight negative buoyancy. The lead diver picked him up and gave the signal to return to the surface.
Bill Mills body did not show any signs of visible physical injury. His double tank rig still contained 850 lbs. of pressure in each tank and his regulator functioned correctly.
The coroner's report showed that the three divers had died of asphyxiation. The report also revealed that there was no evidence of physical damage to any part of the body on any of the divers. There was no trace of heart failure and the general condition of all divers appeared to be good.
Conclusions and Recommendations
At the present writing, the exact nature of what caused this catastrophe is not known; however an underwater disturbance must have occurred when reviewing the available evidence.
Upon questioning many divers who had been in this cave before, it was reported by all that the water was always ultra clear. It is therefore reasonable to assume that considerable underwater disturbance existed in order to cause murky water throughout the cave for over a two day period.
The mud clogged in Dave Lasher's depth gauge signifies something.
The possibility of a subterranean disturbance or the irritating affect caused by exhaust bubbles escaping at approximately 4 absolute atmospheres of pressure might be considered a contributing factor.
After careful consideration and calculations by some of the club divers regarding the temperature and depth of water, it is felt that the deceased divers had stopped breathing several minutes before efforts were made to retrieve them.
The people on the surface during the time of the accident said there was no visible or audible indication of any underwater disturbance.
Jack Lepinski's diving light showed heavy damage, as though torn apart.
As near as calculations will permit these three men were not pulled by force before their downtime exceeded 27-32 minutes, which would be getting near the time they would run into serious decompression problem especially when considering the temperature.
Vapor freezing of the regulators and valves was not discounted; however there were no visible evidence of water vapor in Bill MIlls tanks or in any club member's tanks that were tested and had received air from the same bank of tanks.
The piece of 2" by 6" by 3 ft long timber, which was buoyant, shows some fouling of the safety line. This fouling could have triggered a disturbance. It is possible the divers themselves tried to free the line during their return and thus triggered a cave in.
Discussion with other divers familiar with the cave revealed that to their knowledge only the upper level of the cave contained cribbing or timber work.
Gerry Klemm's report was checked with other divers to find if there might be some mistake of misinterpreting some previous obstruction in the lower tunnel. for a new obstruction. All divers questioned on this matter reported the lower tunnel clear of obstructions.
A recheck with the coroner verified that there was no physical damage visible on Dave Lasher's wrist; it is assumed the strain of heavy pulling on the life line should have imposed damage, if it were the body of the divers that were being pulled. It should be remembered that Dave was the only member attached by the wrist.
The air used for this dive was obtained from the club air bank. This air was furnished to the club by a pharmaceutical supplier, who in turn received his supply from the Edison Compressed Gas Co., a large and reputable organization.
The air in the club bank and also in Bill Mills' tanks have been tested with the following devices:
1- Pyrite oxygen indicator made by Bacharach Industrial Instrument Co.
2- Vapor Tester, made by Davis Instruments Model m-1 Type L
Oxygen content is all tanks showed within readable limits a 21% quantity of oxygen in the air of all tanks tested. The Davis vapor instrument, which is capable of detecting flammable gas content, one of these being carbon monoxide did not reveal any flammable gas content in any tanks. Recognizing that a gas spectrometer test would be a better test as to the condition of the air, it is felt that results of these two tests made with the above instruments does indicate that the air was normal; however a spectrometer test of Bill Mills' tank has not been discounted and may be performed in the near future. Dave Lasher's tank was empty and Jack Lepinski's gear and tanks were returned to the Air Force.
Discussion with a few local people who know a great deal about these caves, feel that is may be possible to pump the water out of this one; however this operation may become expensive and lengthy if not very difficult. They do not feel there is another opening to this cave. It is agreed that mud seam accumulations contained in a fault in the limestone formation is possible and could have contributed to the accident.
The club divers concurred that it would be safer to enter this cave with water in it, than after the water had been removed.
It is questionable at this time whether man made limestone caves or excavations are save diving areas. Where temperatures do not go below freezing an erosion action due to frost will not occur and thus allow at least the surface entrance to be more stable.
This sport like any other, does present an element of risk, most of which can be anticipated in open water.
The use of the safety line in certain kinds of cave diving may be questioned, also the type of safety line to be used whether it should be buoyant or not and of what size. Should the safety or life line become a underwater phone line?
It must be recognized that the slight disturbance placed on objects that night have remained in a static condition for a long period of time, as deterioration slowly ate at them, could set off a chain reaction that might be disastrous.
This club is presently discontinuing all cave and ice diving activities, unless they are called upon by the local officials to perform a specific duty.
A recent return trip to the cave revealed that a part of the 150 ft tunnel leading into the canyon area has collapsed, this no doubt has been caused by the action of spring thaws.
Underwater photographs may be taken in the future; however with the spring thaws any activities within the cave should be curtailed.
Several years ago Tom Hains a previous member of the club who moved away from this area, questioned the safety of diving in these local caves. It was not possible to measure the value of his wisdom at that time.
Many members have been very close to the immediate families of the deceased. The risk involved at this time in making another exploratory dive is unknown. The possibility of raising public indignation no matter how slight an accident that might occur, can also be anticipated. All these things tell us, even though we are very anxious to know, that we should discontinue further investigation for the present time. The State Police would have to sanction further investigation in this cave.
We have received many kind letters of encouragement. We are very grateful for the cooperation we have received from local Fire Dept's, Civil Defense and Rescue Squads. The newspaper and radio have been understanding. Above all we thank the State Police and their diving team for the support that was so important.
We will continue to try and maintain a record of good service to the local communities and above all follow safe practices. If there are any suggestions or criticisms about this report or further information needed, do not hesitate to contact us.
William S. Parker Vice-Pres. U.C.D.C.
13 North Manheim Blvd. New Paltz, NY
The Actual Report from William S. Parker Followed by Press Releases:
Posted on Wed, Apr. 28, 2004
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - A recreational diver forgotten at sea by a boat
crew drifted five hours in the ocean and prayed "God, I don't want to die"
before a teenager aboard a century-old tall ship spotted him and fellow Boy
Scouts pulled him aboard.
Dan Carlock, 45, was left in the ocean by his scuba diving group Sunday and
drifted for hours about seven miles offshore. He noted the time of day on
his small, waterproof writing slate and took photographs of himself to
document that he'd made it to the surface.
And he worried about how his parents would react to his death.
"God, I don't want to die," he prayed. "I want to be saved. I need your help."
Carlock recalled his Boy Scout survival manual: Stay calm. Think methodically.
The spacecraft engineer for Boeing Satellite Systems and three dive buddies
entered the water at about 8:45 a.m. Sunday, but Carlock had problems
equalizing the pressure in his ears and he fell behind. He tried following
his partners' bubbles, but he lost them.
He decided to end the dive after 15 minutes, but he was 400 feet down
current from an oil platform where the boat was anchored. He blew his
whistle to attract attention.
"I figured when the dive was over they would realize I was missing and come
looking for me," Carlock said.
But they never came. The boat left and headed for a shipwreck site six
miles southeast of the entrance to the Port of Los Angeles, Coast Guard
Petty Officer Collin Croft said.
Five hours later, crew trainee Zack Mayberry, 15, stood watch on the stern
of the tall ship Argus, which was full of Boy Scouts returning to Newport
Beach from Santa Catalina Island. The ship had changed course because of
Mayberry saw something in the water and grabbed his binoculars: About 150
yards away, Carlock's head was sticking out of the water. Mayberry handed
the binoculars to a friend.
"I wanted to make sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me," Mayberry said.
The friend agreed someone was helpless in the water.
"Man overboard!" they yelled.
Carlock screamed a joyful "Yeah!" and pumped his fists in excitement.
The San Diego Boy Scout troop had drilled the rescue procedure the previous
day and the rescue operation began. A small motorboat was sent to pluck
Carlock from the sea and he was brought aboard.
Coast Guard officials Tuesday said they were investigating why Carlock was
found 11 miles from the dive location where Ocean Adventures Dive Co. of
Marina del Rey reported him missing, Croft said.
Sundiver skipper Ray Arntz reported Carlock missing from the second dive
location at 12:03 p.m.
The Coast Guard, the recreational diving instructors, Long Beach lifeguards
and Los Angeles City Fire Department personnel searched for Carlock near
the second dive location until learning of the rescue by Boy Scouts.
Arntz told officials that dive master Zacharias Araneta had accounted for
all the divers before leaving the first location, Croft said. Ocean
Adventures Dive Co. owner Steve Ladd said he was trying to figuring out
Croft said he is determining if safety rules were violated.
"The Scouts definitely saved this man's life," Croft said.
Jeffrey M. Lane, Diving Engineer, Florida State University, Academic Diving Program, 315 Stadium Dr. West
Tallahassee, FL 32306
FROM THE DEFUNCT MAGAZINE
Click HERE to Send E-mail to Deep-Six
Deep-Six Home Page
THE FOLLOWING WAS PUBLISHED IN THE LATE 1950'S OR EARLY 1960'S:
Click HERE to Send E-mail to Deep-Six
Deep-Six Home Page