Cozumel, Mexico, is known for drift diving with vibrant reefs, sea life, and a variety of dive sites featuring sheer walls, underwater cliffs, and a labyrinth of coral swim-throughs, with great dives to be enjoyed by all.
This day was no different. We boarded our small boat with eight divers, our divemaster and dive captain. It was a partly cloudy morning with gentle winds, and small swells of about a foot, at most. On our way to the dive site, we obtained a quick dive briefing from our divemaster. The captain slowed the boat down, everyone geared up, and we dropped over the side of the boat to enter the water.
My husband, Ken, and I paired up with his brother, Randy, who was a new diver, on his first ocean dive trip. Tiny camera in hand, Randy was excited and descended quickly. Ken and I kept pace with him, frequently checking depth and time as Randy signaled he was “okay” and took numerous pictures. It’s always fun to watch new divers experience their first ocean diving, but it can be a risk to dive with them as well.
Today’s dive profile was moderately deep, although most of our group hovered around 50-60 feet at this juncture, and a few stayed at 80 feet. Before I knew it, Randy was at about 95 feet, snapping away with this camera, so Ken and I descended towards him and signaled for him to come up slowly, grabbing his arm gently. We started to ascend.
Our divemaster motioned to the group to come together so we could enter a swim-through in the reef in a single line at about 75 feet deep. Randy and I were at the end of the line, with Ken right ahead of me. Randy started to ascend too quickly, still fidgeting with his camera, so I decided to stay right next to him at about 50 feet and not enter the swim-through. I tried to signal Ken below we were going to level off and watch everyone proceed through the swim-through and come out the other end of the reef a few feet ahead.
I saw Ken just beneath us, looking around for us before entering the swim-through. Ken was not wearing a dive hood to protect his bald-shaved head. As he started to enter the reef opening, I caught his attention as he looked up and saw us, and the sharp coral sliced through his bare head, and he jerked.
At 75 feet underwater, light does not fully penetrate water, so color is absorbed the deeper you descend. Hence, blood is green and not red at this depth, and Ken was utterly engulfed in what looked like green ink. I swam frantically towards Ken, motioning to Randy to level off as I latched onto Ken’s BCD, beginning our ascent. We completed a quick safety stop, and Ken was calm but looked confused, shrugged his shoulders, not sure what the green substance was all around us.
The divemaster was still leading our group through the swim-through below, so as Ken and I swam to the surface after carefully making our safety stops, I looked around for our dive boat. Several boats were huddled together in the distance, their captains chatting away about 100 yards from us. The Captains were waiting for their divemasters to “shoot a bag” – inflate a surface marker, which signals the captain to pick up drift divers at the end of the dive – and Ken was now covered in bright red blood, so much so that he could not see well.
I pulled my whistle off of my BCD and blew as hard as I could. All of the dive boats started their engines and headed our way; I’m sure seeing the pool of blood in the water and blood gushing from my beloved’s head was an obvious sign that something was awry.
Ken was pulled onboard our boat by the captain and his head was wrapped in a T-shirt as an attempt to stop the bleeding. Ken instructed me to retrieve his brother, so I descended quickly, located Randy, and we made our safety stop before surfacing.
The divemaster and rest of the group eventually surfaced and boarded the boat, and we made it back to shore safely.
Ken’s head was disinfected, and the only “bandage” I had on hand that was substantial enough to cover his wound was a sanitary napkin, so we taped that on his head to keep the bleeding in check. We’ve never laughed harder!
We were able to finish our dive trip, and fortunately, Ken did not require stitches for his lacerations. Man, we were blessed! A simple accident could have turned fatal, especially with our new diver in tow.
And I learned that it is very wise to travel with plenty of sanitary pads on a dive trip.