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Paul Toomer: Wreck Head



Part 5 – Lost Buddy

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In this article, we will be looking at what has to be one of the creepiest skills on an advanced wreck course, and that’s a lost team mate! Can you imagine what it must feel like to turn around and one of your team is missing? I think it would probably be accompanied by a little accident in the back end of your suit; although I imagine that in a scenario such as this, the lost buddy’s pants will be in a lot worse state.

We will also be looking at staging though, which is a rocking skill as it makes you feel “oh so techie” and is so easy to do!

As with my previous article about losing your line, there should be no reason whatsoever to lose a team mate during a dive. Good use of lines, lights and communications will almost definitely mean that the only time you will use this drill is on your course.

The most common reason for team mates getting lost is loss of visibility.  A silt out in a wreck can be pretty frightening; visibility can drop in an instant.

So there you are, enjoying the inside of some thrilling wreck when you realise someone is gone! Missing. LOST! My first piece of advice is take a few sanity breaths yourself and calm your other team mates down too. We all know that our minds will now be full of trepidation and fear.

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Next, make sure you are all going to stay safe. The only way divers stay safe is by having enough gas to breath. Don’t now go getting yourself into a situation that removes any possibility of you getting out of the wreck yourself. Take a second to recompute your gas schedule based on thirds.

Now you have an allowable maximum search time based on your gas volume. Please don’t ignore your decompression schedule if there is one and don’t go racking up masses of deco unless you can complete the obligation.

If the diver went missing while reeling the line out on the way into the wreck I suggest you tie the line off immediately. This now gives you a final search position, as the diver must be behind you. If you are on a line that is semi permanent (quite rare for wreckers but common for cavers) then you need to mark your position on the line. I use a personalised marker nicknamed a “cookie”. This too gives you a final search position.

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Next, cover all lights; you may actually see the glow from your team mate’s light. If no light is visible, look for signs of movement. Perhaps silt kicked up or percolation falling from the ceilings.

If this still yields no joy then it is time to search. Slowly swim down the line and look for signs of the missing diver. If you find the diver but he/she is off the line down another passageway do NOT rush after them. Keep you and your team safe. Tie yourself to your primary line making a “T”. Also mark the way to the exit with an Arrow marker. I like to tie my “T” into the arrow so my search line does not slide on the primary line.

If you have searched to the limits of your available time and gas it would probably be a good idea to leave the missing diver as many clues on how to get out as possible. Leave the primary line in the wreck. It can also be used by a search and rescue team if needs be. The main reason though is that the diver may find it and make a safe exit using it. Before you leave tie your torch into the line shining its beam onto an arrow marker clearly pointing to the exit.

More often than not, your missing team mate will be waiting outside searching for you, and waiting to see that you are safe. Phew!!!

Now let’s move onto something a little less stressful – Staging! It even sounds techie!

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Staging is a very clever technique actually as it allows you to move through the wreck without having to carry masses of cylinders but also NOT putting yourself at much more of an increased risk. The main point is, that trying to get through very tight passageways and doors with stages on is very difficult. So why not leave them for later retrieval.

We use the rule of thirds for staging as well so management of the stage is easy. Use a third of its volume and then stage it. This means when you get back to it, it still has two thirds of its original volume left. It’s the same principle as all penetration gas rules.

Staging though needs to be done carefully. The cylinder needs to be tied to the primary line so that it can be easily relocated. Because you have used this cylinder to penetrate you sure as hell are going to need it to exit the wreck, so make sure it’s secure. Use the neck piston clip to secure it to the line. Double wrap the line through the gate of the piston clip to keep it static, therefore stopping it from drifting away. Finally, before moving on, turn the cylinder off but leave it charged. You do not want to come back to an empty stage!

There is an unwritten rule in wrecks and caves that staged cylinders are left alone. Can you imagine the consequences of not following this rule?

And there you have it; our episode on lining is at an end. Next time round I am going to look at lights. And let me tell you, dive lights are sexy little beasts so make sure you come back to the Wreck Diving section of in a couple of weeks from now..

As ever, all opinions expressed are my own. I am in no way trying to replace proper instruction. My opinions may differ from agency to agency and instructor to instructor and I do not wish to disrepute any of them.


Paul is the Director of Training at RAID. To find out more about the courses that RAID offers, visit



After living in South Africa for 23 years, Paul moved to the UK, where he discovered diving. Within months of learning to dive he had his own centre in London and rapidly progressed to Course Director before finding his passion for technical diving. Paul is an avid wreck, cave and rebreather diver, and has worked as an Instructor and Instructor Trainer for PADI, IANTD, and TDI. Paul recently held the position of Director of Technical Training for SSI, but moved on when he was offered the chance to co-own and run his own training agency. Paul now holds the role of Director of Diver Training at RAID International.

Marine Life & Conservation

Dive Guides invited to apply for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship



Reef-World’s campaign is helping dive guides in need receive Green Fins environmental certification

The Reef-World Foundation – international coordinator of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative – is calling for dive guides to submit their application for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship.

As a result of the Scholarship campaign, dive guides working around the world – including Brazil, the Philippines, Egypt, Colombia, South Africa, Indonesia and Turkey – have received their certificate proving their status as a Green Fins certified dive guide. Yet, thanks to funding from Reef-World’s partner Paralenz, 149 more scuba diving guides will be able to receive their Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course environmental certification.

Dive guides who meet the criteria (outlined below) can apply for the scholarship at any time through the Green Fins website. To be eligible for the scholarship, guides must:

  • have completed and passed all modules of the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course
  • be able to demonstrate they or their employer are not financially able to purchase the certificate
  • be a national of a country which receives official development assistance from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Scholarship was created in response to feedback from dive guides who had passed the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course and were keen to download and display their personalised electronic certificate but were not financially able to cover the associated cost (£19 / $25 USD). The personalised electronic certificate can be displayed to entice eco-minded guests by informing them the guide has received this vital environmental certification and is aware of how to reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with diving.

Diving related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or run-off from land containing pollutants and plastic debris as well as the effects of climate change, such as rising sea temperatures. The Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course, created with the support of Professional SCUBA Schools International (PSS) and running on their innovative EVO e-learning platform, teaches dive professionals how to prevent diving-related damage to coral reefs by following the highest environmental standards and better managing their guests to prevent damage to the reef.

Sam Craven, Programmes Manager at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re proud to be offering dive guides around the world the opportunity to become Green Fins certified; no matter their background. Both the e-Course and the Scholarship have been a great success so far and we’re delighted to see so many dive professionals demonstrating their commitment to sustainable tourism by taking the course. We urge dive guides who haven’t yet taken the course to consider taking this step and welcome Scholarship applications from anyone who meets the criteria. Together, we can protect coral reefs through sustainable diving and we’d love as many dive guides as possible to join us.”

Dive guides who want to be considered for scholarship can visit to apply.

To donate to the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship Fund, please visit

Supporters who are interested in helping additional dive guides receive their certifications can also donate to Sponsor a Dive Guide.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Go Fish Free this February



There are no longer plenty more fish in the sea! Fish Free February challenges you to help protect our oceans by removing seafood from your diet for 28 days and helping to raise awareness of the issues caused by intensive fishing practices.

Our oceans are in a state of global crisis, brought about by ocean warming, acidification, pollution, and habitat destruction. However, the biggest immediate threat to ocean life is from fisheries. Each year an estimated 1-2.7 trillion fish are caught for human consumption, though this figure does not include illegal fisheries, discarded fish, fish caught to be used as bait, or fish killed by not caught, so the real number is far higher. It is no wonder then, that today nearly 90% of the world’s marine stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. If we do not act fast, overfishing and damaging fishing practices will soon destroy the ocean ecosystems which produce 80% of the oxygen in our atmosphere and provide three billion people with their primary source of protein.

Fish Free February, a UK-registered charity, is challenging people around the world to take action for marine life in a simple but effective way. Take the Fish Free February Pledge and drop seafood from your diet for one month, or beyond. Fish Free February wants to get people talking about the wide range of issues associated with industrial fishing practices and putting the well-being of our oceans at the forefront of dietary decision-making. A third of all wild-caught fish are used to create feed for livestock, so Fish Free February urges us to opt for plant-based dishes as a sustainable alternative to seafood, sharing our best fish-free recipes on social media with #FishFreeFebruary and nominating our friends to do the same.

“Not all fishing practices are bad” explains Simon Hilbourne, founder of Fish Free February. “Well-managed, small-scale fisheries that use selective fishing gears can be sustainable. However, most of the seafood in our diet comes from industrial fisheries which often prioritise profit over the well-being of our planet, resulting in multiple environmental challenges. In some cases, the fishing industry has even been linked to serious human rights issues such as forced labour and human trafficking! Fish Free February hopes to shed more light on fishing practices, create wider discussion around these issues, and offer solutions to benefit people, wildlife, and the natural environment.”

To learn more about these issues and to take the Fish Free February pledge visit

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E-Newsletter Sign up!


This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.  

Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email to book your spot!

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