Raising the Dead: The Incredible Story of Extreme Diver Dave Shaw

Yesterday, on the way home from work, I got sucked in to a captivating, gripping and heartbreaking story about extreme deep sea divers entitled Raising the Dead: The Incredible Story of Extreme Diver Dave Shaw. It was one of those articles that I simply couldn’t stop reading.

While diving at Bushman’s Hole (a remote sinkhole in South Africa), at a depth of more than 800 feet below the surface, Dave Shaw was testing out the limits of his rebreather. Here’s what happened next:

There was no time to waste. Every minute he spent on the bottom–his VR3 dive computer said he was now approaching 886 feet–would add more than an hour of decompression time on the way up. Still, Shaw felt remarkably relaxed, sweeping his light left and right, reveling in the fact that he was the first human ever to lay line at this depth. Suddenly, he stopped. About 50 feet to his left, perfectly illuminated in the gin-clear water, was a human body.

The body turned out to be Deon Dreyer, a young South African diver who had blacked out at Bushman’s Hole some ten years prior. After a brief attempt to dislodge Dreyer’s body, Shaw slowly resurfaced and made plans ot go back and retrieve Deon on another attempt.

There are so many interesting aspects to this story. The differences between “open-circuit” gear and rebreathers is fascinating, in and of itself. And while I knew of the dangers of diving (and getting the bends), I had no idea there were so many other dangers present.

… oxygen can become toxic, and nitrogen acts like a narcotic – the deeper you go, the stupider you get. Divers compare narcosis to drinking martinis on an empty stomach, and, depending on the gas mix you’re using, at 800-plus feet you can feel like you’ve downed at least four or five of them all at once. Helium is no better; it can send you into nervous, twitching fits. Then, if you don’t breathe slowly and deeply, carbon dioxide can build up in your lungs and you’ll black out. And if you ascend too quickly, all the nitrogen and helium that has been forced into your tissues under pressure can fizz into tiny bubbles, causing a condition known as the bends, which can result in severe pain, paralysis, and death.

Like I mentioned, this one’s a heartbreaker… so be warned. It’s a fascinating, albeit sad, glimpse into the world of extreme diving.

The article is, IMO, formatted poorly and difficult to read online. I’d recommend using something like Instapaper (if you have an iPhone), or Readability.

Other articles that pulled me in, and I simply couldn’t stop reading:
Move Over Jobu, Meet… Shabu: 72-Hour Party People
The Peekaboo Paradox
The White Lobster: Found Cocaine and the Economy of Bluefields, Nicaragua
The System – Article about ZT Online, a Money-Centric, Chinese MMORPG
Ronald Mallett – Physics Professor, Son and Secretive Time Traveller
Going Under: Fascinating Article on Drug Addiction Among Anesthesiologists

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. It’s a bit older, but the book “Shadow Divers” is a pretty compelling deep water wreck diving book. The writing is somewhat sloppy and some of the details have since been argued (there’s even a “shadow divers: exposed” book now) BUT – it’s a pretty cool read anyway.

    Ben Reply

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