When the wooden dive boat left the shore in Koh Samui, no one really knew what to expect from this dive excursion way out into the open sea on a cloudy New Year’s Eve morning. The boat captain prepared us for a bit of a rough ride, and off we went passing first Koh Phangan and then Koh Tao to a dive spot between the islands and the Thai mainland which is called “Chumphon Pinnacle”.
The Pinnacle turned out to be visible only under water, as it raises from the shallow bottom (around 30 meters deep) to about 15 meters below the surface. Once the mooring line was fixed to the boat, we headed out to a beautiful dive around the Pinnacle. Many fish, many beautiful corals. A great dive, even not spectacular. When the pressure gauge comes close to 50 bars, I head to the top with my buddy.
Suddenly someone shouts ‘Whale Shark!’ and everyone’s head turns
Floating in the warm waters and reconnecting to the buddies, suddenly someone shouts “Whale Shark!” and everyone’s head turns. There, a fin. Diving back down. I immediately put my mask back on, put my head underwater and follow the large Whale Shark. My giant fins allow me to be faster than anyone else, and I am able to capture some beautiful images with the GoPro.
As the shark glides along, I barely notice that we go deeper and deeper. I am so busy taking pictures and even a selfie with the beautiful mammal that I completely lose track of everything. And then it comes: The dreaded moment when you want to breathe but all you get is a handful of air. And then you notice that you ran out of air in 18 meters of depth.
Not nice. I signal my buddy, who was trawling a bit behind, with the unmistakable sign of running my finger across my throat that I have an “out of air” situation. His questioning looks don’t instill any confidence. Now everything must go fast, and it must work. I decide not to waste time to approach my buddy, make him understand my emergency and maybe get air at some point, but to do a secure but fast safety ascent.
You learn this in diving school: An emergency ascent has to take around one minute for 18 meters of depth.
You learn this in diving school: An emergency ascent has to take around one minute for 18 meters of depth. Going faster would increase the risk of nitrogen bubbles forming in your blood and tissues, giving you “the bends” or in worst case go to your heart. The thing is, the “one minute for 18 meters” sounds good in theory. Try doing that when you’re deep down in the water, surprised by an out-of-air situation. Every second feels like an eternity.
These encounters remind one of the safety principles in diving, and how important it is to obey them at any time. But in any case – the footage is worth it.
I try to go as slow as I possibly can while calming myself down. Eventually, after an eternal journey, I reach the surface, gasping. The instructor looks at me with a shocked face, I confirm all is O.K. Once on board the dive boat, I ask for some oxygen, just for safety reasons. Luckily enough, nothing happened. I didn’t feel anything. These encounters remind one of the safety principles in diving, and how important it is to obey them at any time. But in any case – the footage is worth it. Enjoy the video!
READ MORE: Diving in Koh Samui