World Record Diary — Part VIII

Saturday, July 12th, 2003

The wind was almost still this morning as I stretched on the balcony with my breakfast protein shake. As usual, Paul and Gilles returned from breakfast around 7:45am, Paul to grab the dive bag and camera, and Gilles to keep me company getting himself organised for another quarter of an hour. We made our way down to the boat at 8am. We have almost all the divers here and the boat is much more crowded than in the first couple of weeks on the shallower dives. We left the dock promptly and by 8:40am I was in the water beginning my warm-up while the divers had a briefing upstairs on the boat. The rope was straight with little up-and-down pitching due to much calmer sea, at last. In the last 10 minute countdown I yawned repeatedly. I felt calm, but not that calm! At zero I packed a little, but much less than I have been, and left the surface quickly. Taps at 70m/230ft so I placed my hand on the brake, ready to slow the sled. My right ear was slow to clear, and twice I had to tip my head to the left to help the Eustachian tube open. Then Andre tapped to signal I was just a few meters from the bottom. In a total descent time of a minute and ten seconds I reached the bottom of the rope, at 105m (344ft), and without any hesitation I reached up to make my first pull on the rope. My hand swiped but grabbed nothing. It startled me a little, and the divers a lot. I swiped again, gripped the rope and pulled calmly away from them. Just over 30m later I stopped pulling and began to kick strongly for another 30m. Soon after hearing the 50m taps I switched again to pulling up the rope, and noted that it was unusual not to see the flashes of Phil’s strobe taking pictures around 40m. As I pulled and glided towards the surface I traveled faster and faster as my lungs and suit re-expanded, past Phil then joining Paul. Around 10m from the surface, I stopped pulling and floated like a cork to the surface. Another good dive, and I felt strong. The total dive time was 2 minutes and 56 seconds, so the ascent time was a minute and 46 seconds.

The divers, who were in pairs at 105m, 70m, 50m and 20m had a long deco ahead of them — the deep pair are now into more than 2 hours of deco — so I had time to do some teaching. I gave Patricia my fins and weightbelt and took her camera from her. While she got comfortable descending to around 20 feet and swimming around, I helped her with her breathing and snapped some pictures. The sea was lovely again today. Endless blue. Once again we were visited by a massive wahoo. At first glance it’s size and movement led Paul and I to believe it was a reef shark, but as it’s grey shape got closer (with it’s mouth wide open!) we could see it was a wahoo as big as me! From a couple of meters away we could see it’s stripes and incredible strength. The divers on the deco bar got a good view of it too, as well as an inquisitive barracuda.

The staff at Guiseppe’s are very tolerant of us. This afternoon we descended on them, assuming our regular table, which basically takes over a third of the restaurant, just as they opened the doors. Then, like a swarm of locusts, we hover around the buffet piling our plates like only hungry divers can! Phil eats more than the rest of us combined, I think, and I have no idea where he puts it all!

The video team met again in Brien’s room and I headed off for my nap. At around 3:30pm I did a live interview on Scuba radio and then a few minutes later a long interview for the Miami Herald, which will probably run on Wednesday of next week. The journalist, Sue Cocking, has been following my progress for a few years now and is a keen supporter of freediving. It’s always a pleasure to talk to her and to know that she will write good things about our sport.

The other notable thing that happened today is that Gilles, who relocated from Comfort Suites a couple of days ago, finally moved his all of his dive and video out of our room! For more than 2 weeks we have not been able to see the floor in our room, because it was simpler for him to leave his gear here than carry it back and forth from Comfort Suites. He had a couple of nights in a room in the French Village here at Beaches, which is still a fair distance from the dive shop, but now, at last, he has a room next to us. And his stuff is gone from our room! He still seems to spend a lot of time here though……..but we love him anyway!

The last 2 divers arrived from Canada, Pat and Mike F. So, at dinner we had all the team members that Beaches are hosting around the table. After dinner all eight of us piled into the minivan and headed for a local watering hole called The Tikki Hut where John and his band were scheduled to play at 9pm. Some of the other divers met us there and we caught a few of the band’s numbers and had a couple of drinks. It’s absolutely great to have all the divers here at last. After Paul and I had a boogie on the dancefloor, we headed back to the hotel, leaving a few of the divers to a later night.

Sunday, July 13th, 2003

Now we are a full team and there was barely enough room to move on the boat. We had a few guests as well, one of whom was the General Manager of Beaches, and seeing as the resort is hosting the event, we were eager to impress him!

Our journey to the site, kitting up and preparation all went according to plan and the water was relatively calm but beautifully clear. Brien remained on the surface today to film the preparation of the divers and my submersion and re-emersion from the deep. He used one of the life-rafts from the boat and floated off the bow to get a good view of all the action.

During the 10 minute countdown I was tossed around by waves a few times as the wake from passing boats passed us by. I was calm and relaxed, ready to see if I was capable of swimming back from 109m/358ft. Just after 4 minutes was called, as I was deeply inhaling and deeply exhaling, allowing the waves to rock me back and forth, Paul tapped me on the shoulder and told me the dive was aborted. He said he didn’t know why, but that one of the divers had used the underwater communications system to call it off. We had to wait a few minutes for John to surface before we could find out what the problem was. Not all the divers had begun their descent, but the ones that had returned gently to the surface to await instructions with the rest of us. Those divers underwater tapped their metal sticks to confirm and acknowledge an aborted dive. Soon John was telling us that during his descent with Andre, Andre began to experience equalization problems and got held back. After a couple of minutes trying to clear his ears, John decided to give him the signal to ascend and at the same time gave us the signal to abort. Signs of stress began to show as Andre angrily insisted he could have made the descent, but John believed that too much time was lost and he could not guarantee that the two of them would have been in position at the end of the rope by the time I arrived, and therefore could not ensure a completely safe dive. It was the right decision to abort and I was not at all upset. What gave me a bigger problem was the shouting match that ensued at the surface. Anyone who knows me knows that only something physical will ever stop me from attempting a dive, such as weather or the inability to equalize. There is only ever one occasion that something mental will stop me from diving, and that is if there is not complete harmony within the team. This has to be something that everyone wants to do and is happy to do with the rest of their team-mates. So a verbal fist-fight really made me lose focus and wonder why I was making everyone do this! After a couple of minutes (I ducked my head underwater behind the life-raft!) it was agreed that I would begin another 10 minute countdown and the divers would descend again, with a back-up option in place in case Andre had trouble again. All throughout my breathe-up I reapeated in my head "it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen" and I told Paul that I would simply "do my best". He knows me well and he knows it took all my strength to begin again. When the surface was clear of divers around 3 minutes I opened my eyes and realized we were good to go. At zero I took my final breath and left the surface, still repeating "it didn’t happen" in my head. Determined, I flew down the rope. When the taps came at 70m I barely slowed the sled as my equalizing was going well. Around 103m Andre tapped to signal my arrival at the bottom of the rope. Almost instantaneously as the sled hit the knot, I reached up and made my first pull away from John and Andre. They began to sing to me — Crocodile Rock again and not exactly in tune with each other, but at least they were working together again. I pulled strongly and passed the divers at 90m singing Rule Britannia. It made me smile and I sang along in my head. Around 80m I began to kick and was soon at 70m where the divers were singing a Van Morrison number. I certainly had a lot to listen to down there! But of course all I wanted to hear was the taps at 50m to let me know I was only 165ft from the surface, and it wasn’t long until they came. I smiled at the divers I could see in the distance and kicked a bit further until my legs burned with lactic acid. Around 40m I began to pull again and my natural buoyancy carried me further with each tug on the rope. Soon Paul was there in front of me at 20m and I knew I only had to pull a couple more times before I could just glide to the surface. I knew that Brien was filming from the boat so I made a point of positioning myself so I would come up directly facing him, and it worked. I popped out of the water and give him OK signals with both hands before catching my breath. It was a good dive. It was certainly tougher this time and I had a couple of contractions on the way up, but it is the deepest I have ever gone so that was to be expected. The descent was quicker than yesterdays dive (to 105m which took 1:10), it took a minute and six seconds. The total dive time was 3:04. It’s about what I expected but there was some bowing in the rope because the boat was starting to swing, so that meant I wasn’t able to swim up via the most direct route.

I was able to take 30 minutes or so to rest before the guys prepared the sled for some drops to 30m so they could film some cutaways and stuff. The divers were all hanging around the deco bar as I went up and down a few times and then we began the task of getting it all out of the water. For the first time Paul had rigged up what we refer to as the "deep tripod" which is what we mount the deep camera on so it can film my arrival at the bottom on the sled and thus we don’t have to ask one of the divers to take on the extra task of filming. For this first dive with it however we just sent the empty Gates housing, leaving the camera on the surface, to make sure there was no flooding. Gates Underwater Products makes awesome housings and the housing came up nice and dry as expected. Just as soon as all the gear was out of the water I signaled from the surface for all the decompressing divers to move well over to the port side of the boat so that another boat could pull up alongside of us to pick up the Beaches General Manager, Jeremy, who had an afternoon of fishing ahead of him for his day off.

A little over 2 hours after making their descent, the last of the divers climbed aboard the boat and we headed back to shore. I began to worry about the vibe on the boat amongst the team now that the dive was done. I stressed that another fight would develop and the team would fall apart. Paul tried to put my mind at rest and get me to forget about it, saying the guys would sort themselves out and that John, as team leader, would make sure they all knew the effect that disharmony has on my psyche. We all ate together at lunch and it seemed like I was the only one worrying about it. I guess it’s a big difference in the way that men deal with things like this versus the way women do!! Or I just worry too much, I don’t know.

I took a loooooong nap this afternoon — about 2 hours — and it was tough to wake up from it. When I did I wanted to rush down to the computer room to upload diary entries and photos onto my site, but we weren’t able to go online in the end. So we just chilled out for a couple of hours before dinner at 7:30pm. John and his wife Jay joined us so we were 10 around the table. We had been invited after dinner to the home of a gentleman that was a guest on the boat this week, who has an amazing collection of telescopes and a full sized observatory for checking out galaxies and planets up to 4 billion (yes, 4 billion) light-years away. It was AMAZING! It was a nice way for the team to spend time together in a different environment, and our host was very gracious in inviting us into his beautiful home and showing us the moon up close. You should see his pool!!! And there were 4 local "potcake" Turks & Caicos dogs full of personality ready to play with us all. The team were at peace with each other and I was at peace in myself. A good day and a good dive.

Monday, July 14th, 2003

We began the morning with static training as usual. The sky was cloudy and the wind was blowing — for once I actually got cold! Kevin trained with me and did a personal best, just shy of 4 minutes. I just did 5 minutes today but would have preferred to do more, however I didn’t feel like I had any energy to fight contractions. So I turned my focus to training Dave and Brien. Their approach is very different which made it interesting for me. I am always very inspired by new students.

After a quick breakfast I went to Mark’s house (our new friend with the stargazing hobby and all the telescopes) as he had offered me his office to go online. I managed to get a lot done, despite the distraction of the dogs to play with, uploading my diary and images onto the site. A group of the guys we on a road trip to do some filming of this beautiful island while I worked and then came back to get me in time for lunch. We grabbed burgers and texmex food at Arizona’s with some of the rest of the team and then went our separate ways again — me back to the computer again.

The evening began with our appearance at the weekly manager’s cocktail hour around the Iguana pool. Then we moved on to the sushi bar for some appetizers. The guys were on good form, joking around and generally getting along very well. And enjoying the eye candy around the resort…… We grabbed some more to eat and then watched the dancing going on up on stage — it’s always fun to watch people behaving the way they would only behave on vacation! Paul and I didn’t stick around for long though, as bed was calling!

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