Sunday, April 29, 2012

Calm before the storm

In Perhentian with my fellow DSA swim instructors today, I had my second big test in scuba diving. (The first was in July 2010 when I survived a panic attack inside a shipwreck.

 Today we did our last dive of the day at the Perhentian light house. We began our descend at around 5.30pm. 

 Towards the end of the dive, while underwater, we noticed that it was getting dark very quickly. We also saw a few light flashes. We thought some people were taking photos. 

 We did our 5 minutes safety stop, and as we were coming up, I looked up and saw lots of raindrops. I thought, uh-oh, this is not good! 

 True enough, it was raining heavily up there. No, it wasn't just rain, it was a full-fledged storm! The waves were 3-4m high! Those flashing lights we saw earlier were actually lightning bolts! 

 I felt like I was in a bad dream. It really looked like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie. 

A single bolt of lightning even struck very close to one of my friends. We were caught in a storm at sea. 

Our boat was nowhere to be seen. 

We did not know where we were. We looked around and could see nothing but gigantic waves. 

We shouted for help but quickly realised how futile it was. 

 I tried taking off my mask once but the rain was so heavy, I had to put it back on again. 

 There were five of us. Three including me were swimming instructors. The other two were new divers. Both girls. They were quiet. One of them was so new, it was only her second leisure dive after becoming certified. 

 I was scared (too). I had a lot of confidence in my swimming ability but this was my first taste of what the forces of Nature could do to Man. We are no match. Really. 

 If this was how I was gonna go, I thought, at least I'd die doing something that I liked. 

 But we did two right things straight away. The first was to remain calm. 

The second was to huddle together for moral support and to maintain body heat. I learnt this during BOSET (basic offshore safety training for oil and gas workers) last year. 

 We learnt afterwards that this was a freak storm which nobody saw coming. The last time it happened in Perhentian was about 10 years ago. 

 Our dive master Jamie asked if anyone had a whistle. None of us did. 

 For a while there, we were not quite sure what to do. Our BC jackets were fully inflated and that allowed us to bob around in the rough sea without using much energy. 

 Then, our boat came back. It was a bit of relief, but not for long because we then realised the boat was of no help as it was rocking violently. It would've killed anyone trying to get onto it. 

 Jamie then saw some lights. 

"Listen everyone. We're going to swim back to the jetty!" he said. It was then that we realised we were some 300m away from shore, so there was hope. 

We stayed together and swam on our back, all the while conserving energy. 

We sang songs to keep our spirits up. 

At one point, I developed a cramp in my right leg but was able to resolve it quickly. 

 We finally reached the jetty after what must've been an hour swimming in the sea. 

The whole incident took some time to sink in. But now, every time Jamie, Chow Wei, Chow Kuan, Shanice and Geraldine see the Perhentian light house, we can smile and laugh about it. 

I call our group of survivors the Lighthouse Family.


Post a Comment

<< Home