Catastrophic Gas Loss, Cherubs Cave, Queensland, Australia

April 2013

It was our second dive for the day, so naturally in Sidemount tanks I had just over one hundred bar left in each tank. Mark S, Nick K and I headed out for an explore. Nick K signalled to me he was getting down on air so he was going to go back, as I was also getting down to seventy bar in one, and fifty bar in another I signalled that we would come back with him and we turned the dive.

It was at this point I switched to my seventy bar tank and found it was harder to breathe through the regulator than normal. Usually this feeling was a feeling I got when I was getting below fifty bar, but I checked my gauge again and it was at seventy.

Before I could think any more about it, I felt something happen inside the regulator and a rush of sea water came flooding through the regulator and into my mouth. I knew straight away the regulator was out and I changed to my secondary regulator and other tank. I tried a few times to purge the primary regulator and test it again but it was unusable.

I headed back to the anchor whilst ascending. The current had picked up. I performed a safety stop and headed back onto the boat with twenty bar.

What did I learn from this experience? I should have turned the dive earlier. I also learnt I need to check my regulators before I dive them every time. Something you assume is fine if they have been serviced but shit can happen.

I heard of another diver on single tank, coincidently the same weekend having a similar malfunction. Difference is they ended up having a panic attack, nearly dying, having to be saved by their dive buddy and ended up in hospital and that was at the Seaway in ten metres not twenty eight metres.

I hate to think what would have happened had they been in the same depth as me. Diving with two tanks seems unnecessary to a lot of recreational divers, who poke fun at technical divers saying we just take way too much crap with us. But it’s when these things do happen to you, that you want to be able to have redundancy.

If my life depended on it, I’d rather have two tanks than one. Had I been in one tank that day and had a burst o-ring or similar, my entire tank could have been depleted in mere seconds. Do you dive with your buddy just seconds away? Could they get over to you in a current in a few seconds? Would they have enough gas in their single tank to bail you out on the end of a twenty eight metre dive?

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