Wednesday, 26 May 2010


You hear stories about people overcoming adversity, never giving in and admitting defeat; the injured lads from the Gulf War, amputees among them, scaling mountains in the name of charity spring to mind. I'd put my mate Dave up there. He suffered terrible injuries to his lower legs after falling asleep at the wheel of his car at 19 years of age, and now hobbles around with the aid of a cane (I hope you don't mind the Lieutenant Dan comparison, Dave...but he didn't let it beat him, either) . Rather than sit in a wheelchair and become a bitter man (as I would probably do, sat in my garden bursting kids' footballs that came over the fence etc) he decided to just carry on regardless; he learned to dive at 27. He wears webbed gloves, as his legs cannot propel him...he just uses fins for balance and direction, rather like a rudder. I admire the lad's bottle...diving is too much for many able-bodied people to get their heads around. His accident seems to have made Dave pretty fearless, certainly underwater; he goes off on his own, and confessed there were two occasions on one of the wrecks in Truk where he'd lost his way and couldn't remember the way out; frightening enough with a buddy, simply terrifying on your own.

I gave Dave the moniker Slick after he popped up from one dive covered in oil. Having investigated the ceiling of an engine room after believing he'd seen a mirror, he soon realised it was 60-year-old gunk. Hilarious for us, not so amusing for him...but it came off eventually. It was due to Slick that our so-called-guide was named Drop Tank. We'd asked him to buddy-up with Slick, as I dived with Helen, and the two Aussies dived together. After losing Slick inside one wreck, he went looking for him, removing the drop tank from below the boat and swimming with it as he searched (the drop tank is a tank of spare air, suspended 5 metres below a dive boat for emergencies...standard practice in wreck-diving, as people sometimes get lost and need the extra air to complete decompression...otherwise it's The Bends for you. To remove it is potentially dangerous.) On this dive, myself and H had over-cooked things a little, building up a fair bit of decompression and cutting it finely as regards having the air to flush out the nitrogen coming up. I was amazed to return to the boat to find the tank gone...luckily H had used a fair bit less air than myself, so we shared until it was time to surface.

To say I was pissed off with Drop Tank is not putting it too finely; myself and H had already given up on his wreck "briefings", kitting up as he gave them and disappearing with a wink over our respective sides of the boat, and hitting the water before his second sentence. Might seem a bit rude, but I've no respect for someone with no professionalism when it comes to being a working diver.

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