The whale pic reminded me about light bubbles go up when diving… well they don’t always go up!!!
2004 my wife and I had been working all year and needed a holiday and wanted to go diving. We have both been fortunate to have dived in many parts of the world and decided that we would return to the Maldive’s. Both of us had a few trips in the past and the diving on the outer atolls is always special.
We arrived at the resort the week before Xmas and met the dive team, they were great and we discovered that we had some mutual friends in the dive industry. Being a former dive instructor myself and having a partner with 1000’s of dives logged, they promised to show us the very best of the area. 👏
We also met a Swiss couple who were experienced underwater photographers, the six of us dived 2-3 time a day the whole week leading up to Xmas. On Xmas day the dive team had the day off, they promised the 4 of us they would make it up to us the following day by taking us to a special submerged reef.
The following day the staff of the dive base took all the other guests for the morning dive near the resort and the six of us I headed out on a a local fishing dhoni.
The reef was a long way out, on the way we were given our dive brief and it was explained to us that there was a current on the northern end of the reef known to the locals as the washing machine.This current was the reason they did not take inexperienced divers to this site!
It was a glorious day the water was calm and when we arrive at the site we looked over the side and the water was crystal clear and we could see the top of the reef at about 2-3m below the surface. The other 4 were going to do some video filming near the top of the reef to get the best of the natural light and were going to stay together.
We kitted up and jumped in, the boat was going to follow our bubbles and pick us up then return to pick up the others, we were going to be deeper so we were not expected to have our air last as long as those near the surface.
As we broke the surface it was clear to us that this was going to be a very special dive, the visibility was about 30-40 meters and the reef was teaming with fish and the coral was pristine.
We spent a few minutes poking around on the top of the reef then slowly dropped down the side, there were a few big coral formations that were great to swim between, there were a lot of pelagic fish patrolling up and down the length of the reef looking for food. We saw a few sharks and a many rays resting on the sandy bottom of a shelf that ran along the reef. We ventured further from the reef to the edge of the shelf and looked over the edge it was inky blue, it dropped way off. We then moved back toward the reef to where we were expecting to find the washing machine current.
I signalled to Nyree to stay close, we turned the corner and there was only a minor current, we slowly worked our way up to about 12 meters and we noticed that the fish were acting strangely, they seemed nervous and some species that normally stayed just off the reef were swimming between the corals. Then the sand started to move down the reef like a mini avalanche, I though what the hell is going on!
We had been down for about 30 minutes when the current hit us, the visibility disappeared it was like a blizzard. The water flow over my air hose was so strong it was tugging against my regulator I grabbed onto a sturdy piece of corral and grabbed Nyree’s hand. The current was so strong that the coral broke off in my hand, I grabbed onto Nyree’s BCD(Buoyancy control device) and we were now face to face in open water, I thought like with all currents it will weaken as you move way from what is funnelling it. I signalled to her that we should surface then I felt the pressure increasing on my ears, we were going down!
We both added more air to our BC's but the pressure increased again, I thought this is wrong I checked my depth gauge we were at 27m I check my dive computer it confirmed 27m. A few seconds before we were at 12-15m.
We both tried finning up but it did not help, how could this be. I looked at our bubbles and they were going sideways 😳. After a short while it seemed to ease little and we started to ascend, we now had to dump some air so as not to ascend too fast. We got back to about 15m and it came again, back down to 25m, re-inflated the jackets this second wave lasted about 2 minutes, felt like a lifetime. Then it subsided again and I got that feeling no diver ever wants I was having to suck. I looked at my air gauge and I was on about 3 bar!!!I looked at Nyree’s gauge and she was on about 10 bar.
I signalled to her that I was out of air. I realised if the current came again we would be in big strife, it did come again but not as strong, we had to try and get a safety stop and not go to the surface too quickly. When we got to the surface after a short decom stop we had about 2 bar of air between us.
We new something was very wrong, the surface of the water had gone from flat calm to small waves with no pattern just millions of small peaks. Worse no boat insight I tried to tread water to see if I could see the boat I'd fin like crazy and Nyree would try lift me but in our gear it was useless. Fortunatly I was carrying a fluro safety tube, I unrolled it and inflated it and started to wave it around, after about 10 minutes one of the boat boys, saw it and we finally saw the boat heading for us.
As it approached I was relieved to see the others were already on the boat, as they came up to us the boat crew reached out and lifted Nyree clean onto the boat .I told them that they were crazy, the washing machine current was dangerous, they assured me that was never like that before.
About 30 minutes later a small speed boat approached and the 2 boat captains had a conversation in Dhivehi, the 6 of us were transferred to the speed boat and whisked off, all our gear remaining on the dhoni, we had no idea what was going on.
When we returned to the island all the staff and guests were on the beach and the lagoon was a different colour.The phone system was down so no one knew what had happened after speaking to friends who were on the Island that day we new that there had been weird waves. It was only about 6 hours later that CNN via satellite confirmed that it was a Tsunami.
Fortunately the larger group of divers that day were all back on the island when the Tsunami came through.
The wave pattern in the Maldives was different to where the Tsunami hit coast lines because of the many atolls channeling the water.
Below are some pics that were taken by a friend that was at the bar on the Island when the surges came through.
The lagoon drained and filled a few times.
Here are some dhonis on the bottom of the lagon, the outer reef exposed.