It happened to me
The Big Bang
When his equipment failed, Peter Bradley needed all his training to return to the surface
One late summer’s afternoon, my buddy and I went to inland dive site Eccleston Delph. When we arrived, we found
the quarry quiet. ‘The viz should be reasonable,’ was our joint thought.
Our plan was to swim through a cruiser at 16m and dive down the bow, which was at 20m, then return via the same route and head off in a northerly direction to see what we could find.
Everything started as normal. The descent was faultless, as was the turn round at the bow section and the return swim-through. As I was leading the dive, I decided while inside the cruiser to stop and compare the depth reading on our dive computers.
As I glanced back to see where my buddy was, I noticed another pair of divers swimming around the outside of the cruiser. But then my attention was grabbed by the loudest bang I have ever heard underwater – it was like a firework exploding right next to my ear. This was followed by a gushing sound of leaking air.
I looked around to see if there was any air leaking from my buddy – there was nothing. So I looked out of one of the portholes to see if anybody else required assistance – again, nothing was wrong with the divers outside.
My primary contents gauge showed I still had 140 bar in my 12-litre cylinder, but just then I glanced back to see my buddy, who was coming closer with a wide-eyed expression of horror on his face. I finally realised that it was my equipment that was leaking air – I just couldn’t see it!
Another look at my pressure gauge confirmed a rapid loss of life-giving air. The contents of my cylinder were now down to 90 bar and the time between checks had been less than a minute. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that my air was going to be exhausted within another minute.
My instinctive reaction was to get out of the cruiser, which I did with some rapid finning – in the process passing my buddy, who was offering me his octopus. I chose to ignore him in order to exit the cruiser. Once in open water, I checked my gauge, which alarmingly now read 20 bar.
I swapped to my alternate air source – my three-litre pony cylinder. Its contents gauge said it was at 220 bar and remaining stable. ‘Phew,’ I thought. By this time, my buddy was at my side and I signalled that we should ascend with a safety stop at 6m.
But this was not the end of my problems. On ascending, I dumped a little too much air from my stab jacket and I started to descend again. I checked both my gauges again and found my primary empty with a limp hose, but my alternate air source still had 200 bar.
Again, my training kicked in. I have a bail-out cylinder on my stab jacket. Giving this a little crack improved my buoyancy and, with a few more tweaks, I finally stabilised at 6m with my buddy at my side.
On completion of a safety stop, we surfaced together and I used my bail-out cylinder to inflate my jacket. After a surface swim, we exited the water.
When I inspected my hoses, I found the direct feed to my inflator had split next to the metal adaptor fitting on my first stage (this is why I didn’t notice air leaking). I later returned this to the manufacturer for inspection, and the conclusion was that the hose should have been replaced when the jacket was last serviced. This would have been done if they had serviced it, so always get your kit serviced and, whenever possible, get the manufacturer to complete the work.
Train, train and train, because things go wrong when you least expect them to. If you do that, you’ll find that training does kick in instinctively.