DIVER Ian Peach has described the shocking moment he surfaced from a dive in shark-filled waters only to discover the support boat was missing.
The 49-year-old from Southsea was diving with friends Martin Hull and Andy Campling off the coast of Mozambique when near-disaster struck.
After a one-hour dive, the group came to the surface to discover their boat had vanished and they were left floating in the middle of the ocean miles from land – surrounded by sharks.
Ian, who works at Coffin Mew in 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, said: ‘On the last day, what happened was a situation that can only be described as every diver’s worst nightmare.
‘We had been diving and upon surfacing the boat was nowhere to be seen. It took a little while to unfold but the penny started to drop that we were in an off-shore site in an open location with sharks.’
The group, which also included their guide and another woman, decided to swim to get away from the sharks – which included fierce bull sharks – after they started to gather underneath and their behaviour changed.
Ian, who is married and has a daughter, said: ‘We were sitting ducks. If the sharks had wanted to take us, they could have.’
They dropped some of their equipment to make themselves lighter before embarking on a tortuous three-hour swim back to shore.
It was very hot – and the group not only suffered exhaustion, but from dehydration and severe sunburn too.
Ian said: ‘It was scary at times. It did go through my mind “are we actually going to make this?” but once we started to make progress I knew we’d make it, even though we had an immense physical challenge ahead – more than 12km swim in open water with equipment.’
They finally reached a deserted beach and they were found by the search party.
Ian said: ‘I can remember swimming for one hour and then I asked the guide what the protocol was.
‘We were told to just keep swimming and the female was struggling so we had to tow her.
‘I had no doubt that we were still in shark-infested waters.
‘One hour became two hours and then three. We kept going and land became closer, we were lucky as the currents were with us.
‘The final hurdle after three hours in the water was to navigate the surf.’
Back on dry land they discovered that the dive had gone wrong due to a combination of changing conditions and human error.
One of the tanks of the boat had come loose and when the person on the boat turned around to tie it back on, he lost sight of the marker buoy, which Ian said was too small.
But he said the near miss has not put them off – and he’s already planning his next trip to the Cocos Island, off Costa Rica, to celebrate his 50th.
Ian said: ‘We have helped one another by talking about it. It has not put us off.
‘If diving is your passion then don’t let stories like this put you off either.’