Wrolf's Wreck presents:

Blowing Up

Another Cautionary Tale

With special thanks to James Tyrell of the Jacobi Medical Center; DAN; and Capt. Hank Garvin, Capt. Janet Bieser, and the crew of the Wahoo.

So there we were on a beautiful late May Saturday diving the U.S.S. San Diego on the Wahoo.

Environment is typical North East wreck diving, running out of Captree State Park on Long Island. Weather is unusually good - very little wave action, moderate wind, lots of sun.

On the first dive I had a great time. Hit the hull at 70', did some light penetration, then went around the stern behind and below the prop shafts.

Currently I am diving with:

The second dive was when the problems started. I had one pair of my tanks in the shop for hydro and O2 cleaning (so that I can convert to nitrox.) Unfortunately my tanks were not back from the hydro, and so the store had lent me steel 72s.

I knew that I needed to take some weight off my belt to compensate for the difference between steel 72s and aluminum 80s. I even discussed it with people. But I forgot to actually do it.

So back in I go, radically overweighted. When I get to the top of the hull, at about 70', I have some problems. I bang into the anchor line, which knocks my Jersey up line off my tanks. I put this under my arm, but them have some problems with buoyancy. I get this sorted out, but do not realize that the the reason I am finding it so difficult to move forward is that I am so top heavy.

This is when I should have aborted the dive.

I then dropped on down to the sand at 100', to continue my dive where I left off. Shortly after I reach the bottom, it is time to switch regulators. On switching to the second reg, the first one started freeflowing.

After completing the switch, I tried reaching for the first reg. The air was blowing it around behind my back. While reaching for it, I flipped legs up, and ascended uncontrolled to the surface.

At the surface I was unable to get my head up. One of the mates, assisted by one of the other passengers, came out to get me. After puncturing my suit, I was still incapacitated because my weight belt had slid around my neck. With the loss of bouyancy I started gently dropping back down. I managed to shed some gear, and they towed me over to the boat.

On the boat, I was treated with oxygen, and watched like a hawk for symptoms. Fortunately I had none - as I said at the time, "I feel less tired now than I usually do."

Over the next few days, my usual post-dive fatigue did not abate. On Wednesday morning I went to see my doctor, who called DAN. The DAN physician said that although my fatigue was probably due to the trauma of the experience, if he had me there at Duke University he would put me into the chamber to find out.

So like a dutiful diver I hop into a yellow cab to go up to the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. The Director of Hyperbaric and Undersea Medicine there, James Tyrell, took great care of me. He walked me through the Emergency Room admitting (making sure that I did not get lost among the major trauma and cardiac emergencies); took care of all the insurance paperwork; and then was my personal chamber attendant (since he'd used up all his other DMTs earlier in the day.)

Before we had even completed our descent, my symptoms disappeared. I was quite astonished. I really did not think that this was the problem. I thought that I had some sort of lung problem, not DCS.

I completed a full U.S. Navy Treatment Table 6. From the moment that we started the descent, my fatigue was gone. Other lesser symptoms got better each day - so far, it looks like I do not need another chamber ride, and will be completely recovered within a few days.

I would like to thank James Tyrell and the other staff members at Jacobi Medical Center for taking such good care of me. I would also like to thank Capt. Hank Garvin, Capt. Janet Bieser, and the crew of the Wahoo, for saving my life.


  1. Would not have happened if I had a properly adjusted my weight.
  2. Would not have happened if I had a BC.
  3. Should have aborted the dive when the first thing went wrong.
  4. If you cannot seem to go forward as fast as you usually do, then you are improperly weighted.
  5. Should have gone to the chamber sooner.
  6. Might not have happened if I had manifolded doubles.
  7. Neon lime green fins are a good signalling device.
  8. DAN Master Insurance is a good thing. Much better than any of the others.