Dive guide claims fundamental errors made
Criticism has been levelled at the operators of the dive boat Maria Patricia, along with the Malpelo National Park and the Colombian Navy, following an incident in which five divers became separated from their boat when a current swept them out to open water after surfacing from a dive at Malpelo Island in Colombia.
Australian diver, Peter Morse, was found by the liveaboard Yemay, having spent several hours in the water holding onto a rock.
Two of the divers were found 48 hours later. Colombians Jorge Morales and Dario Rodriguez, were spotted by a rescue plane before being recovered by a boat. The pair, who were attacked by jellyfish, had tied themselves together so that they did not drift apart.
A body recovered more than 100 miles south-east of Malpelo is believed to be that of missing diver Erika Diaz. Dive guide Carlos Jiminez of the boat Maria Patricia, from which the group was diving, remains missing.
In a blog post (http://jamtsisu.com/license-to-kill-lost-divers-in-malpelo/), dive guide Sten Johansson of the dive boat Yemay which rescued Peter Morse claimed that a number of fundamental errors were made by several parties. These included delays in raising the alarm, an inadequate amount of fuel delaying searches and a refusal by the Colombian Navy to adapt its planned search pattern. Johansson also suggests that the dive should have never taken place because of the strong winds and currents.
'The dive guide was supposed to be very experienced if we were to believe the captain,' writes Johansson. 'He was not… He should have cancelled the dive and chosen a safer site… But the worst thing is, and I say this given my vast experience in Eastern Pacific diving, the skiff driver was waiting for the divers in an area where you would least expect to find them surfacing.'
Malpelo, which is located 300 miles away from the Columbian mainland, is considered one of the world's best diving destinations with the opportunity to see schools of silky sharks in their hundreds and large populations of hammerhead sharks. But, as detailed in Douglas David Seifert's recent guide to the Eastern Tropical Pacific in the latest issue of DIVE, conditions can be challenging.
'To dive the islands of the Eastern Tropical Pacific,' writes Seifert, 'one will often be faced with strong currents, to either ride along with as part of a dive plan, or to scrupulously avoid, as part of dive survival. Sometimes a combination of both strategies are required to maximise the opportunities to encounter big marine animals that themselves need not fear currents but effortlessly utilise them. There are currents so strong, so intense and powerful that humans cannot make headway against them and any resistance is futile. Currents that can take the unwary great distances out to sea and way from the reference of the island, or worse, downcurrents that can seize a diver and pull the diver down into the abyss rapidly, forcefully, 100m or more – and beyond the diver’s ability to reach the surface alive again. It is a place for caution and respect.'