How Often Do Scuba Divers Get Left Behind?


Scuba divers sometimes wonder what would happen if they get left behind like in movies such as the Open Water film that came out in 2003. In which, two scuba divers get left behind in the open water. In the movie due to a miss count by the divemaster, the divers are left behind to survive sharks and other problems.

After seeing such a movie, you might just be a little paranoid that it could happen to you. On the other hand, you have probably already scuba-dived several times and it has never happened to you. So, how likely could that happen to you in the future, and if it did happen what should you do?

In his post, we are going to see whether getting left behind is something you only see in movies or if it is something that really happens.

Read more on common questions asked by beginner divers

Reasons Why Divers Gets Left Behind

There is a number of reasons a scuba diver might get left behind. It is true that there is no risk-zero. Some divers get left behind every year. If you are not being cautious, it can happen to you. But it is also true that the dive teams have procedures to prevent this.

diver in the water

They have a checklist of every person in the boat. Before leaving, the checklist has to be completed.

The three most common reasons this can happen are.

  1. The divemaster incorrectly counts the number of divers onboard the boat. Given the ok to the boat to leave.
  2. The divers surface down the current of a boat and are unable to reach it. The boat is not able to get them because of other divers in the water.
  3. The boat driver or divemaster doesn’t do their job properly and ignore the checklist.

You should choose a reputable company to go diving with. There are other risks than getting left behind. For example, having insufficient air just happens way more often.

What To Do If You Get Left Behind?

If you end up in the unfortunate position of been left behind, you need to not panic. Here are some things to remember if you get left behind.

Stay Calm

The hardest tip but the most important one is stay calm. In the majority of the cases, the other divers will figure out that they forgot someone and will come back.

Use Your Safety Tools And Signalling Devices

The best to survive and get identified from distance is to use your signalling devices. They are made for this situation, so please, use them.

dive boat

Every Boat Is Your Boat

In the movie Open Water, the characters do not call a boat because they say it is not “their” boat. If you get left behind, every boat is your boat. Call every boat you see!

Make Sure You Have The Right Equipment

It is important to bring the proper equipment when going scuba diving. There is a lot of choice in terms of what tools are from SMBs, whistles, and torch’s that can all help turn a bad situation into a story to tell.

Here is a run through some of the tools you should consider bringing.

Bring A Torch And Whistle

Having a torch comes in handy if you get separated while on night dives or if you are diving in poor visibility. A small torch is useful to get the attention of the boat and makes it easier for the boat to find you at the surface.

Most if not all divers master will carry a torch in daylight dives when doing fun dives for pointing out a particular fish, or to get another divers attention or signal the boat.

The whistle is another useful tool. Like in the film Titanic (1997) with Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet where Kate uses the whistle to get the attention of the rescue boats.

The sound of a whistle is loud and very effective and travels a lot better than the human voice.


Use Delayed Surface Marker Buoys (DSMBs) or Surface Marker Buoys (SMBs)

The delayed surface marker buoy (DSMB) and the Surface Marker Buoys (SMBs) are inflatable buoys that every diver should have as it is a standard part of divers equipment that is deployed when the divers are getting ready to surface.

Getting the diving cert covers the use of SMBs as part of the training. Using the SMBs is simply as unravel and inflate them with your regulator.

This inflates a brightly colored sausage tube that helps boats to know that divers are going to surface and for the boat to see you on the surface.

Surface Marker Buoys

Bring A GPS Tracker

You can get a GPS Tracker, this is a simple personal locator beacon such as the McMurdo FastFind 220 for example. The idea is that you press the distress button in an emergency and a boat will be sent to find you.

These GPS tracking devices are becoming more a part of the dive equipment especially in areas with strong currents and other challenges.

Wrapping Up

Finally, in rare cases, scuba divers do get left behind but if you choose a reputable diving company and make sure you have the right equipment, it will be extremely unlikely that it will happen to you. If it does happen, remember to stay calm and use the tools you have to get help.

And that’s it for now! I’d love to know if this guide on how often do scuba divers get left behind has helped you. Let me know if you have any questions and let me know if there is more to add.

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How Often Do Scuba Divers Get Left Behind

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