10 tips on diving survival

As with all leisure sports, diving has its dangers, and those who participate in diving should always take extra care. Drowning is still the main cause of fatalities amongst divers. The following steps could help in ensuring that your diving experience is problem-free and enjoyable:


  • Remember to equalise your ears and sinuses to the water pressure. When descending, pinch your nose while your mouth is closed and try to exhale. When ascending, a simple swallowing manoeuvre will equalise the ears. This quick process will avoid serious injury to the middle ear.
  • Plan your dive. Dive tables stipulate how long a diver can remain at a specific depth, including the time that a diver needs to decompress when they return to the surface.
  • Make use of the 'Buddy System'. Never dive alone. By having an accomplice, you have assistance available when it is needed.
  • As part of your planning, have diving emergency response and contacts at hand. Arranging diving medical coverage beforehand is also a very advisable safeguard.
  • Remember that air, when compressed, is used far more quickly underwater than on the surface. Once again, plan your dive.
  • Educate yourself on what can happen to you underwater. Keep in mind the principle known as Martini's Law. For every 15 metres a diver descends, it is equivalent to downing a Martini on an empty stomach. This is because nitrogen becomes narcotic under high pressure, and can interfere with brain function, which could eventually lead to serious repercussions.
  • When diving, keep in mind that the ascent should never be faster than the tiny bubbles beside you when you make your way to the surface – approximately 9 metres per minute. Doing this allows nitrogen to seep slowly from the body.
  • Never hold your breath up to the surface. Air in the divers lungs double in volume as he/she moves from two atmospheres to one. Holding your breath with full lungs can rupture bodily tissue. Keep breathing rhythmic.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and yourself, and remember that after 50 metres underwater, there is no light.
  • Finally, be responsible, relax, and take your diving experience step-by-step.


In a nutshell, all obstacles that could occur during a diving expedition can be serious, and quickly become life-threatening. It is strongly advised that a registered diving medical practitioner should examine all injuries.

(Health24, June 2008)

Source: Jos Beer, Safety and Training Manager, Cape Diving (Pty) Limited

Source: Last Breath, Cautionary Tales from the Limits of Human Endurance, Peter Stark, Chapter 9, Bubbling from the Bottom Up, The Bends

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