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The Most Dangerous Dive?

October 10, 2014

Non-divers always ask me what was the most dangerous dive I ever did. They are unimpressed with stories of diving CCR on the wrong set-point or surfacing on a strong current miles from where the boat might be. They want something that they can relate to and last year I did exactly that.
Imagine being grabbed by a huge five-metre long stripy tiger shark that swims off with you. Well, that's exactly what happened to me. Luckily it grabbed me by my tank so I wasn't injured and it dropped me after a very long sixty seconds or so.
I was at a shark feed at Tiger Beach, Grand Bahama. There were a great many lemon sharks present and three or four tigers prowling around. The tigers moved quite ponderously but unrelentingly while the lemon sharks competed vigorously with each other in the slick of chum smell emanating from the bait-box hanging under the boat.
One of the bigger tigers has developed a predilection for grabbing anything metal and there have been several cases of expensive camera rigs being grabbed and swum off with before being unceremoniously dropped. My tank was probably included in its apparent mania for collecting metal.
That would have been scary enough, as I was picked up and carried off, but it happened a second time about twenty minutes later in the dive. It was obviously so dramatic that other divers watching refused to do the next dive at that site.
What do you do when a huge predatory fish grabs hold of you and swims off you. You let it! There's not much you can do. I tried to be as passive as possible while I assessed the situation. I'd felt the thump when it grabbed me but the first thing I had to do was try to determine if I was injured. I wasn't and I'm too old to panic.
I counted myself lucky that those teeth had grabbed me by my tank rather than my flesh. However, what could have been a brief punctuation in my diving career took on a greater significance this year when one diver from an operator that uses mv. Shear Water went missing.
They were evidently doing this same dive at dusk and remember night falls pretty quickly at those latitudes. The diver, John Petty, an American chiropractor and underwater photographer aged 63-years, went missing. At the time of writing, only the diver's mask and BC had been found.  When divers go missing, many theories abound as to what happened. Maybe this man was also grabbed by a tiger which swam off with him, but un-noticed by the others in the dark.
The result is that he might have panicked and drowned in the process, or was unable to find his way back to the group of divers when he was eventually dropped and was lost at sea, or even sustained a fatal bite and died from loss of blood.
The buckles of his BC were found to have been released. Sharks can't undo such clips but if, like me, he was being carried by his tank, he might have had the presence of mind to climb out of his kit to let the shark swim off with it. He may then have simply been disorientated in the dark, or hurtled to the surface because his weights wee integrated, causing lung damage, or even swum off alone and got lost without a shark being involved at all. The ocean is a big place to look for a missing diver in and we will probably never know the truth.
You can read about this adventure with a shark and many others when my next book is published. I'm working on it at the moment and I expect it to be available in the Autumn of next year, in time for Christmas. You can be sure I'll let you know when it's available.
Happy Diving - John Bantin

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