It was reported in the Wiltshire Times on the 14th February that a Bradford on Avon dive instructor made a fingertip search of the Kennet & Avon Canal near the Dundas Aqueduct to recover a handbag from a female canoeist. Apparently the canoeist capsized and her handbag containing valuables sank to the bottom of the canal. Talking of the incident, Andy Webber (48) who runs the Compass Dive School at Dundas Wharf commented:
"I went down in my scuba gear in zero visibility to conduct a fingertip search in clouds of silt and weeds doing U-shaped patterns on the canal bottom.
"Luckily, I managed to find the bag within about 10 to 15 minutes. Julia was a very happy lady when I gave it back to her.
"I have dived in zero visibility before in quarries but I never dived a canal before. It was about two metres deep and very cold."
Catastrophe In The Waiting
Is it just me, or is this just a catastrophe in the waiting?
- Zero visibility
- Clouds of silt and weeds
- Very cold
- Never dived a canal before
And unless something is missing from the media report, there is no surface support. Do we assume this was a solo dive?
As a young lad and having welded a number of butchers' hooks together as a quasi grapple to trawl the bottom of the canal for treasure (shopping trollies and probably stolen bikes), there is no way for all the tea in China that I would get into the water in such a circumstance. The thought of entanglement in such an environment would have be running to the nearest pub.
Public Safety Diver
Surely this dive would constitute that of a Public Safety Diver? Three agencies of PADI, IANTD and TDI offer training for such professional divers. There are different prerequisites for the diver, dive and equipment for diving in such harsh environments, including full face masks, redundant air supply and self rescue.
Apologies Andy, but I am not sure whether you are a hero or a fool?