A note from Adreno:
On June 1, 2015 Steven Saylor went missing while spearfishing off Pilbara in Western Australia. Thanks to Steven for sharing the below story so that others may learn from his experience. We’re happy to be gearing Steven up with an ADRENO float and high-vis float rope and hope he never has to go through something like this again!
Adreno Spearfishing would like to offer the following tips to all divers:
- Always use a large high-vis float so you can be spotted
- Be extra cautious on choppy days where there’s lots of current
- If you have someone in the boat, try not to anchor so that the boat can get to divers quickly
- Ensure that you and your dive buddies know the direction of current and basic navigation
- If you become separated, put something large like one of your fins or float on your speargun and wave it in the air – this will be much easier for others to see at a distance, especially in a bit of chop
- Never dive alone
On the 1st of June around 11am a couple of mates, my sister and I went out diving to Delambre, which is around 20 km off Wickham in Western Australia. The weather wasn't very good, the trip was rough and we didn’t reached Delambre until around 12pm.
I was the first to jump in but immediately recognized that the current was dangerously strong, so we moved to a spot at the front of the island that wasn’t as bad. After a couple of hours everyone was ready to head home as there wasn’t much happening, but I hate going home empty handed so I pushed them to continue trying different spots.
We anchored up and jumped in at a spot that had produced for us a couple of weeks earlier, but my mate stayed on the boat feeling a bit sick in the average conditions. I jumped in without a gun to have a quick look and immediately spotted a big bluebone, so the guys quickly passed me my gun on its own. I missed the shot. Reloading on the surface I didn’t notice the current taking me further and further from the boat, I was just thinking about the fish I had missed!
By the time I looked up I was a good 50 meters from the boat. I started to yell out to my mate who was sick on the back of the boat and I could see him yelling at my brother in law in the water telling him to get out because I had drifted. I could see them pulling the anchor in, but by then I was so far away, a good 150 meters away screaming, yelling for help! It was about 2.40 pm. The tide was ripping out, the waves were getting bigger and bigger, dragging me so far away… And that was it. I couldn’t see anyone, and I knew no one could see me.
The first thing I did was ditch my weight belt to try swimming against the current, but it was too hard. I decided to relax and let it take me, hoping the guys would follow the direction of the current.
An hour had passed and I could see my boat looking for me, as well as another mate who was out diving from his boat. By about 4pm I could see helicopters, rescue boats and police boats all out searching for me – but the place everyone was looking was on the other side of the island! I soon realized my only hope was that a helicopter searching the whole area would spot me.
I'd been swimming for hours and could see everyone still looking for me – yelling, screaming just hoping anyone would hear me at all. The sun was starting to set when finally a helicopter was coming my way! I began waving my arms and it slowed down as if it had seen me… But then it took off. I was gutted, exhausted, crying and screaming. To top things off, when I put my head underwater I spotted a large Tiger Shark circling me. I couldn’t take it and just closed my eyes for a minute and when I opened them, it was gone again. But it definitely gave me a little kick to keep swimming!
Night came but the full moon gave me a little bit of light. I was terrified though, it was honestly the scariest night ever swimming and swimming, I thought I'd never make it back. For a while, clouds went over the moon, but with the extra darkness I was able to see Rio Tinto’s wharf lights, and from there I knew which lights belonged to Delambre. So I swam as hard as I could towards the lights!
After swimming for hours and hours I did it, I finally reached land! I just lay down and cried with relief and joy! My legs were so sore from cramping for hours, I was freezing and out of energy, but I got up and walked to the southern beach side.
I sat there for hours, yelling and screaming to my mates and rescue teams, who I could still see searching. I tried everything, but nothing worked. Exhausted, I shut my eyes. When I woke up it was still dark, but I couldn’t see anyone searching so I dug myself a hole to sleep in, hoping to prevent the wind from hitting my cold wetsuit. I knew by now that I was going to be fine, but the worst thing of all was thinking about my family and friends who wouldn’t know what had happened to me.
It felt like forever waiting for the sun to come up. Finally, it was light enough and 100m to the right of me I could see a boat going passed! I turned my wetsuit inside out so it was red and jumped and waved – they spotted me! I cried in joy and relief. By the time I got on the rescue boat I could see all my mates on their boats coming over, it was the best feeling with lots of hugging and cheering all around!
I was missing for 16 hours in total, and it took me 7 hours before I made it to land and spent the night on the island. Hopefully by sharing my experience, others can avoid having a similar accident!
Story: Steven Saylor