Diving with unicorns

We’ve all read the horror stories and we all know about mister Murphy. However, this past weekend, I had a visit from the monster himself.

I was diving with an Ocean Reef full face mask (that I think kept me alive), on a two cylinder sidemount setup. The dive commenced as normal and everyone got down to 25 meters. I confirmed all my divers were present and then performed my usual standard checks and a gas switch from the one cylinder to the other. Within seconds of switching, I could feel a sudden change in my mind and my body was not happy with what I was breathing! I didn’t understand much as both cylinders were filled with normal air and no funny gasses were involved. I immediately switched back to my original cylinder and my mind switched back at the same time. I did a quick self-assessment and all checked out.

I stayed on this cylinder for the first 15min of the dive which would be the deeper part of the dive. I surveyed my surroundings, checked my divers and I even got to film a couple of sharks. Then, I had to switch cylinders. Within seconds of the switch, the unicorn swam by. I was tripping like a capie on tik and every breath felt like someone was hitting me with a hammer full frontal on the head. The unicorn tried to eat a pink elephant and I managed to switch back to my first cylinder again. My mind was still spinning but I was able to get a grip on myself and paused under an overhang to regain my composure.

I checked the time and I realised I did the switch to the second cylinder and back again in under a minute. In that short time, I was convinced that all of that just happened. I handed the reel over to another diver in the group (a DM) and signalled him to lead the rest of the dive.

Back on the boat we checked the air and it didn’t smell strange. We analysed it again to confirm it’s air and it all check out! We couldn’t find anything funny with the air or the cylinder. The owner of the cylinder thought that it might have been standing around for some time when I asked the dive centre to investigate.

Was the cylinder filled just before the compressor had a filter change? Was I the lucky one to get the last bit of air through the filter before it was changed and left unused for 6 months? We will never know. What we do know for sure is that it made me see a unicorn.

What did we learn from this?

#1 – The full face mask allowed me to breathe without dropping my regulator out of my mouth or worry about mask clearing while I was a bit disorientated.

#2 – The sidemount setup gave me the option to pick between cylinders and I could complete the dive on the good air and skip the bad.

#3 – And the BIGGEST lesson learnt from this…unicorns likes chasing pink elephants!