May 24th, 2009

After diving this spot for 3 days in a row, I’ve had the chance to speak with a lot of locals who have been diving this place for years.

You’ll read in my previous post that there was a dive master who was new to the spot and very apprehensive about it.  I thought she was over reacting, but I’ve spoken to some locals who made me think twice about the place.  Firstly, to clear up some myths, the drop off is only 600 meters (not 2000, but plenty to kill you ten times over).  This place is 600 meters deep and then it goes to a 10 meter shelf and then eventually to an island.  When the moon is full, the tides change drastically.  This means that the 10 meter shelf will drain into the 600 meter abyss.  It will also flow up from the abyss onto the shelf.  What does this mean for divers?

It means that you might be 20 meters down and see your bubbles begin to go down instead of up.  This is a sign that you are being drained into the abyss.  To prevent certain death inflate your BCD (Buoyancy control device (the Jacket that you wear that you can inflate and deflate with air)) and kick towards the surface.  The isn’t a current in the world that can prevent a BCD full of air from reaching the surface.  But that’s the the hard part.  The hard part is not shooting up the surface like a rocket as the air in your BCD continues to expand as you get closer to the surface.  Also, if you shoot up the surface too quick you will get “the bends” as well as a possible popped lung (very bad).  This scenario is a lot like inflation in the economy, It’s preventable.  The Fed raises interest rates and boom, the economy slows down.

Now there’s the High tide scenario.  Where the abyss pushes up onto the shelf.  This is a lot like the concept of deflation in the economy, It’s very hard to stop.  The fed can’t lower interest rates any lower than zero and a diver can’t deflate their BCD any more than empty.  All you can do is face down into the abyss and kick for your life.  Remember, this is to prevent from hitting the surface too fast and getting “the bends” or even popping a lung.

But all of this is only during the full moon and remember, I was sick in Koh Phaniang during the last full moon.  My dive instructor today was from Western Australia and loved to “dive in the blue”.  This is where you dive far away from the sea wall and your only reference point is the sun shining down from above.  That is, IF you have clear enough water to see the surface.  He told us today that we would be doing a little blue water diving, that’s where you can see the biggest creatures.  If you are at all clostraphobic, please don’t read on.

So there we were, swimming away from the sea wall.  The visibility was good, about 30 meters, but we swam at least 50 meters away from the wall.  All around us was dark blue.  Look left, Blue. Look Right, Blue.  Look up and it felt like we were 1,000 feet down (we were 100 feet).  And now we wait…….. Hopefully a 15 foot hammer head will happen to pass us bye.  I’ve got to admit, this was the most scared I’ve been in all of my diving.  Much scarier than a night dive.  There is only one reference point and that is up.  And up isn’t exactly obvious.  All I could think of was that my guide does this all the time and knows what he is doing.  I have to tell you, I wanted to hold his freaking hand until I could see the wall again.  I looked up and saw minuscule ripples at the surface.  Ten minutes of that was enough.

We got back to the wall and eventually up on the boat.  I chatted with him about why the island of Sipadan is now a military base.  He said it’s because of the pirates.  The Philippines are just a few hours away and they don’t want any of the pirates to start consistently praying on the dive boats.  Consistently?

He told me a story of years ago before the military base.  A group of divers were under water as a pirate ship approached.  The dive boats have 400 horse power so they can out run the pirates, but they can’t just leave the diver.  So the captain of the dive ship drove around in circles at full speed while banging a wrench to the steel hull of the ship.  This lets the divers know there is an emergency and time to come up.

The divers scrambled on the boat just in time to get away from the pirates.  Not every boat was this lucky.

And to think that my dumb ass was considering hiring a boat to take me across to the Philippines for a day. There is danger here, but not with the locals.  Unfortunately, all the divers don’t go more than 20 feet away from the dive shop, the bar, and the Internet cafe.  They are all intimidated by the people here, which is a shame because I find them very kind and harmless.

Also on the fishing with dynamite front, there is a new law.  You are to be shot on site if caught.  Yikes, a little harsh, they mean business.  Another no no is fishing with cyanide, yep people really do it.

I’m still working on getting this damn video online.  I think tomorrow is going to be the big day!

2 Responses to “Sipadan Secrets Revealed”

  1. Mom says:

    The biggest consolation that I have when I read your very scary posts is that you have to have lived through it in order to post it.
    I trust your judgement. But BE CAREFUL!
    Love,
    Mom

  2. Vish says:

    Awww, you have a sweet mommy Alex