4: Buddies You Have To Watch: The buddy with poor sense of direction
This will probably not be fatal to you, though it may be to them; but buddies with poor sense of direction do exist, and if you have one you should study where you’re going twice as hard as if you were solo – once so that YOU know where you are, and once so you can convince HIM, if necessary, at a moment of crisis.
Example 4.1: Little River
Everyone knows how to get into Little River. You go down the entrance shaft, round the corner, along the passage and then down the chimney to the lower, 95 foot level. Once, I and my buddy were larking around in the room at the top of the chimney before going down, and I signalled him to lead on. To my astonishment he started to go back along the passage towards the entrance from which we’d just come: just a few seconds of hey-isn’t-this-cute at the top of the chimney had been enough to scramble his sense of direction, though he’d been there MANY times before.
Example 4.2: Fatality at Orange Grove Sink
They went their separate ways. He survived, she died. She must have gone “against” one or two line arrows, but was not persuaded to turn around until it was too late.[This incident was reported to me as an anecdote so I’m not as certain of the details as with the others. But it sounds sadly rather plausible.] A boy/girlfriend pair entered upper Orange Grove cave system, went along to the junction half way towards Challenge Sink, and turned right, then jumped off left again at the Martz Offshoot.
When they returned to the jumpoff the girl was totally confused about which way was out and wanted to turn LEFT instead of right, which does not lead to air. The boy argued with her in divers’ sign language but she was perhaps panic stricken, and certainly not about to turn RIGHT unless physically forced to. They went their separate ways. He survived, she died. She must have gone “against” one or two line arrows, but was not persuaded to turn around until it was too late. There are not huge numbers of line arrows in that passage..
Example 4.3: Orange Grove again: More confusion.
Another small incident at the junction half way from Orange Grove to Challenge. I was with my buddy, the buddy in front, and I noticed she’d gone past the jump, which we had planned to take. Signalling, I swam up and to the right to the jumpoff line, which is not at all far. Pointing at the new line – which was just out of sight from my buddy – I did NOT manage to get my message across. Trying to signal more clearly, I incautiously stirred up a cloud of silt. So she got out her safety reel on the grounds that I was just disappearing out of sight of the guideline into a cloud of silt, and was clearly lost. Glad to see a reel coming at me I tried to get her to put it on the jumpoff line but she wouldn’t – it being her absolute policy that “that ain’t what safety reels are for”. That confused me a bit because I hadn’t noticed it was a safety reel not a jump reel. After a few seconds of this standoff I got out a jump reel of my own and ran it from the jump back to the main line. Wrong way round but still, a continuous guideline back to air. My buddy wound up her safety reel. Off we went and enjoyed the side passage.
But on returning to the jumpoff, my buddy had been sufficiently confused by the earlier nonsense that she thought “out” was to the right not the left. [This illusion is consistent with the line arrows because you’ve got “out” arrows pointing both ways at that point, being exactly half way from Orange Grove to Challenge.] Unknown to me, as I swam back out of the side passage and turned to the left ahead of her, my action in turning left not right provoked a sudden surprise, and presently a change of orientation as she realised I was right. We discussed this afterwards – I was surprised at how much confusion had been happening without my being aware of it – and basically put it down to experience. But in terms of what I learned, it was to trust a buddy’s sense of direction a NEGATIVE amount – assume things will be THREE times as confused as when solo unless you’re very, very careful.
The experience of arriving by mistake, confused but alive, at Challenge Sink due to navigation errors, is one I do not wish to have. Though I know at least one diver who has done it, coming from the other (Olson) direction.