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threat to divers. I was never happy about the use of spears fitted with the explosive
device known as a powerhead. I've seen them used and they are deadly ... not the
sort of thing you'd want to see in the hands of an inexperienced operator.
21 Panic
When I was in the scuba industry we undertook a special study of inquests into
diving accidents. We soon learnt that it is a mistake to ask: "What was the
cause of the accident?"
The question assumes there was a single cause. Experience shows that most
accidents have multiple causes. Something goes wrong but nothing untoward
happens unless something else goes wrong. One thing leads to another. All too often,
panic sets in. Panic is the big killer because when you panic you lose control.
You can even panic when nothing goes wrong. In diving that's most likely to occur
when you don't feel at home in the water. My advice is simple: "If you don't feel at
home in the water ... don't dive." You are the best judge of how you feel. Don't let
anyone tell you otherwise.
Good dive schools allow you to have a familiarisation experience in the pool before
you enrol for a full scuba course. There is usually a small charge which is subtracted
from the cost of the course if you decide to go ahead. If you decide that diving is not
for you then you have found out without putting yourself at risk.
I vividly recall one incident when a couple of my divers panicked when everyone
else was having a carefree time . We were diving on a small, pyramid-shaped reef
near Townsville. The reef is one of the many hundred that make up the Great Barrier
We left the dive boat and swam across to the reef, which sticks up abrup tly from the
sea floor. Once there, we encountered an extraordinary congregation of batfish. I'd
previously seen them in ones and twos. Now, I was seeing them in thousands.
Batfish are roughly the same size and shape as the business end of a tennis racket.
They have small round mouths and look anything but threatening . But, on that
particular day, some of them clearly resented our presence . They milled around and
bashed into us. I found the whole thing amusing. The fish were almost certainly
congregating for a sex orgy. The aggressors were probably males, overcharged with
testosterone and programmed to attack anything that got in their way.
Then, I saw that two of my charges were showing signs of panic. I should have
been keeping a tight eye on the m but there seemed no reason for concern. I grabbed
one as he was speeding for the surface but was unable to prevent the other from
making an over-hurried ascent. To my relief, he had remembered to breath out on the
way up and seemed to have suffered no injury. I signalled and a dingy came and took
the two frightened divers back to the boat.