The first dive of my new career was a disaster.
Not only did I drop the very object I’d been sent in to recover but while searching for it ran out of air. The job was to recover two clam cages that were bolted to the anchor chain of a navigational buoy so an environmental scientist could take monthly samples. We also had to clean the cages of unwanted marine growth before putting them back. A simple enough task: shallow, calm waters, I just needed to know how to use a spanner.I’d been in Hong Kong just a week. It was six months since the course, six months of failing to find a single days diving in the United Kingdom. Sixty-five CVs I’d sent out and had three replies stating they now had my name on file. Fat lot of good that did me, I wanted to show the world that this ex-paratrooper wasn’t going to be beaten down by civilian life. I got to Hong Kong with two hundred quid in my pocket and a commercial dive qualification that found me work within three days of my arrival.
Complacency was what caused an appalling first dive. There was no lifeline attached to me, no down-line attached to the job, nor a messenger line to allow the people on board to assist in hauling up the cages, it was just a matter of, ‘go in and get it.’ So with the boat tied to the buoy I jumped in, swam down the chain, links a foot long, unbolted the first cage and brought it to the surface. There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ at this point, mainly what if I’d had even a few dives under my belt. There was no rope thrown to me, and none of the ropes mentioned above to assist. I let go of the chain, was immediately taken by a worsening tide that had come out of nowhere, sank like a rock and made bottom in 40’ of water.
I was naïve enough to think I could find the anchor block attached to the chain of the navigational buoy so stomped around in the seabed mud for a while until my cylinder was all but up. It is nil visibility in Hong Kong’s waters. I could not leave bottom carrying the cage so left it there and made the surface on my last breath of air.