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The Danger and Allure of Diving Blue Holes

Part 2 Dive at Your Depth

Every diver has heard the phrase, “plan your dive and dive your plan.” Participating in technically challenging deep dives is not right for a novice or untrained diver. As appealing as the allure of the deep blue of blue holes might be, if you are a weekend warrior who is out of practice, you should give this kind of dive a pass.

Diving is a sport that demands that you keep your skills sharp and that you always take full responsibility for your own safety. After initially being certified, many divers make the mistake of believing that if they dive with a reputable dive company, they can rely on the divemaster to take full responsibility for the successful outcome of a dive. That could be very wrong.

Dangers of the Deep Blue

From Belize to Dahab in Egypt, “blue holes” have developed a reputation for being particularly dangerous because many divers exploring them have lost their lives trying to pursue that deep peace.

The cliff facing the Blue Hole of Dahab, the so-called Diver’s Cemetery, is adorned with poignant plaques detailing the names of divers who have lost their lives attempting this beautiful dive. It is a stark reminder to everyone that diving out of your depth, diving unprepared, and not respecting the water may have dire consequences.

Cave diver

Why Do Divers Die in Blue Holes?

Blue holes are deep dives that require more technical skills than an open water certification. Once divers pass a certain depth, the risk of nitrogen narcosis increases, and it is easy to become disoriented. Deep dives can also trigger a cascade of issues, such as increased oxygen use, oxygen toxicity, impaired decision-making, and ultimately drowning.

The Tragic Indiscrimination of Nitrogen Narcosis

The effects of nitrogen narcosis generally begin to be felt when a diver passes about 30 meters, the depth to which your advanced underwater certification permits you to dive. Nitrogen narcosis is indiscriminate as it can and will affect all people, regardless of the number of dives they have made, the expense of their equipment, and the confidence they have in their own skills. A tragic example of this was the drowning death of Yuri Lipski, a skilled Russian-Israeli dive instructor. After an uncontrolled descent, Lipski, likely disoriented from nitrogen narcosis, removed his regulator and drowned.

Planning for a Memorable Dive

Diving a blue hole does not need to end in tragedy. I have been able to dive the Blue Hole in Dahab twice and find it to be challenging and worth the effort, but we must learn both from unfortunate events and from successful dives. I want every diver who enters the water to dive responsibly. Prior to your dive, understand your and your dive buddy’s limitations. As a team, agree with certainty that your skills match the dive that you are planning. Calculate decompression limits and air requirements, including the amount of air needed if a buddy breathing event arises.

It is only after planning how to avoid the worst that you can confidently enjoy the best.


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