My dive log - n°3 - The one where I almost died of being cold

Dive #166

Pain de Sucre - Marseille - 1st Apr 2012

Dive parameters: max depth 23m, dive time 32mn (shortest dive ever?)

After moving to Marseille last year, I thought I would check out the diving in the area. So I found a nice dive club to be part of, went swimming a few times with them, and then decided to go down with them. Diving in the Med is very different from diving in tropical waters. Just to state the obvious, the water is freaking COLD, for a starter. A lot of people I know here dive in dry or semi-dry suits. In the winter, it can get down to 13 or 14 degrees. And in the summer, the bottom is still around 20 degrees, generally.

And the marine life is not tropical either. There are stuff, but you know, nothing comparable to warm seas.


Anyway, so I decide to give it a try, and man was I completely unprepared. I don't have the sort of gear it takes to handle 14 degrees' water. So I decided to pile whatever I could find on my body to keep warm. Which was one hooded top, then my 5.5mm wetsuit with the extra little neoprene vest inside, and then on top of that a 7mm shorty with a hood. Plus 5mm socks. Call me the onion woman. I could barely move, in all that neoprene. I sort of felt warm on the boat, wearing all this. That sensation did not last very long, let me tell you.

So we get in, and just the water getting into my suit makes me shiver. My watch says 16 degrees on the surface. And I start swearing at myself, thinking that really, even to get some nitrogen in me, this might not be a good idea.

It turned out to be one of the worst dives ever. First, I am carrying far too much weight, as I thought I needed that much to make all that neoprene sink, so I don't feel very comfy dragging my stomach at the bottom. I can barely move with all these suits on, I wear a double hood and just turning around my head is a pain in the bum. And second, I am unbelievably cold. Freezing, more precisely. The water at the bottom is 14 degrees, after five minutes in I can feel my body screaming at me and telling me to get the crap out of here. And I suck air like a baby cow. More than half a 12L tank in these 32 minutes, that's what it took to keep me alive.


I probably saw some stuff under there, but I can't remember any. All I could think of was "OK, we said 30 minutes, it's been 15, soon this is over". I also acted like an idiot and did not ask to come up. Which is silly, really, but it was my first dive with these guys and I did not want to spoil their fun.

Of course, since I did not know what to expect, I did not plan very careful either the part where I exit the water and I am almost as blue as the ocean. I could barely climb on the boat, since my body was not functioning very well anymore. So they pull me in, help me get undressed, then look at me and set up the "save the newbie" plan : cover me with a big coat and a wollen hat, give me warm tea, two people sit on each side of me to protect me from the wind.

That hot shower I had when we got back was one of the best ever in my whole life.


(and this is what I look like when diving there in the summer, when the water temperature is somehow decent. Please note the hood and the thick wetsuit. Summer, right.)