Monday 21 October 2013

Attack of the Imaginary Toilet

Divers exiting the Inland Sea tunnel
Went back in the water yesterday. Even if it was only Lake Ellerton, it was wonderful. The diving instincts haven't rotted completely, the diving equipment hasn't stopped working, and I still love my drysuit. I'm sure that eventually the novelty of getting out of the water and being (mostly) dry and warm will wear off sometime, but not yet. I really, really, don't miss being cold and tired after my dives.

I also heard a funny story from one of my dive buddies, who's an instructor. We'll call him C. C was over in Malta some months ago with another instructor, D, and another diver taking the "Tec 50" course in deep diving with technical gear - we'll call him C2. C, D and C2 were planning to dive the Stubborn the following day, a WWII submarine that sits off the Maltese coast at around 55m. As such, it's well out of my range (40m max), but the three divers were planning to do this as a technical dive with decompression stops.

50m is regarded as the point at which pretty much everyone will have some level of nitrogen narcosis, although the extent varies from person to person. "The narks" are when the increased amount of nitrogen in your bloodstream from breathing compressed gas makes you feel as though you're drunk. Since you take in more gas at depth (the increased pressure at depth compresses the gas, so you're breathing more concentrated gas the deeper you go), narcosis is a risk for deeper dives. It's not actually harmful in itself, unless it causes you to do something stupid, but the effects vary from person to person, in much the same way that some drunks are Happy Drunks, others are Angry Drunks, and some people are Sad Drunks.

Because of this, C2 wanted to do a dive to 50m to see how the narcosis would affect him. They set out from the Inland Sea in Gozo towards the Azure Window, a dive where you swim through a natural tunnel in the rock, and come out over a seabed that drops down to about 50-60m. From there you turn to the side and swim along the coastline towards the Azure Window (see picture).

C, C2 & D completed the swim through and descended to about 50m. C checked his compass, pointed towards the right direction, and set off. After a minute, he looked around to check for the other two, and saw C2 swimming off fast in the opposite direction. C and D went after him, retrieved him, ascended to allow the effects of the narcosis to dissipate, then finished the dive.

When they were back on the surface, C2's first words were: "Did you see the toilet!"


"There was a toilet."

They looked at each other. It's not unknown for divers to encounter sunken toilets from shipwrecks, but this dive doesn't have one.

"No, there was no toilet."

"There was a toilet! It was chasing me and snapping its lid at me! That's why I swam away!"

It turned out that C2 had overdone it the night before, and spent a fair part of the previous night hugging the toilet bowl. Apparently this left a sufficiently deep impression on his psyche that, as soon as he hit 50m, he felt he was being attacked by an (imaginary) toilet. (Author's note: I wonder if he actually saw a moray eel? They swim around opening and closing their jaws, as it's how they breathe...)

The tale of the Savage Toilet is now passing into diving legend. When I'm in Malta in two weeks, I shall be checking to see if it's there.

No comments:

Post a Comment