A Newcastle woman says an Australian cruise line should have been better prepared for inclement weather after a holiday dive in Fiji nearly ended in disaster when a submarine went missing.
Most important points:
- Justine Clark was on a seven-day cruise in Fiji with her two sons
- Their submarine operator lost them almost an hour in bad weather
- Captain Cook Cruises says it has completed a full review and tightened safety protocols
When Justine Clark and her sons Felix, 18, and Max, 20, surfaced from an offshore dive in Fiji on Aug. 14, their submarine was nowhere to be seen.
Ms. Clark, a diver with over 30 years of experience, had booked an afternoon dive at an offshore location called The Supermarket.
Their dive group included an English tourist and the divemaster, who worked for Viti Water Sports, a company outsourced by Captain Cook Cruises.
On the way to the dive site, the weather had deteriorated, but the party went on.
“We traveled in an approaching storm and in open water in what appeared to be a large channel about 20 kilometers from an island,” said Ms. Clark.
After a regulated drift dive of about 40 minutes, she surfaced with her eldest son.
“There was no tender boat visible on the surface, the swell was six feet, it was dark with gray clouds and high winds,” said Ms Clark.
She said their Divemaster was on the surface.
“He was shocked by the events and stated that this had never happened in his 27 years of diving,” said Ms Clark.
Garbage collector to the rescue
The divemaster advised the group to swim to an island they could see in the distance.
“I can’t be impressed with how concerned I was for everyone’s health, sharks and the sense of determination I had to get to the island in a calm manner,” said Ms. Clark.
“The maternal drive in me was something I hadn’t felt since the birth of my first son.”
After about 50 minutes, the divemaster yelled that a small boat was heading for the group.
He advised the divers to inflate their surface marker buoys to be seen.
The rescuer of the group was a garbage collector who picked up garbage in the ocean.
He had noticed the tip of one of the diver’s buoys.
“We all laughed and I blew a kiss to the Fiji who saved us,” said Ms Clark.
Shortly afterwards, the tender boat driver motored toward the group.
“He apologized and told me he was so scared and that he radioed the captain that he had lost us,” said Ms. Clark.
In a written response to the ABC, Captain Cook Cruises explained that the tender boat had blown away from the dive site and that surface conditions made it difficult for the operator to track the divers’ bubbles.
The company said the situation was unprecedented and a full internal review had been conducted, changing “already tight” safety procedures.
“I think it’s very important for operators to be prepared for situations that may be rare, but can still occur,” said Ms. Clark.