Lessons from a broken mask and a bloody nose

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They had just anchored their boat at the wreck of the Maple Dawn near Christine Island in the Georgian Bay area. Suddenly, diving the wreck was no longer the priority of Paul Darnbrough and Mike McAllister, both members of the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association.

Paul had donned his mask and fins and did a proper “giant stride” into the water. “I did not do a face plant. I did have my hand gentle over my mask as I have hundreds of times before.”

But his impact with the water would be totally different than any of his other dives. “It just felt like a million pins were being stuck into my face.” His mask had exploded. His bloody face confirmed it.

Mask

Image credit Paul Darnbrough

“I can only assume (in this situation) that a person’s eyes automatically close,” said Paul. “I guess I had the sense not to open or rub my eyes right away. It seemed to take about a minute to surface.”

He remembers ripping the mask off his face. “I was in a bit of shock and was puzzled until I opened my eyes and saw the remains of my mask. I remained calm and swam to the rear swim platform and called out to Mike ” He responded instantly for Paul’s yell for assistance.

“He was shocked to see my blood-covered face. I rinsed my face off and that is when Mike informed me I was bleeding pretty badly from the nose bridge. It looked worse than it was in the water.”

Mask

Image credit Paul Darnbrough

Once his injuries were assessed Paul put on his backup mask and gear and went for a “great dive.”

Paul’s mask was a three-to-four-year-old Hollis M1. He loved the mask and does not hold the company responsible. Hollis sent him a new one.

“But I do want to let people know it did happen to me as well as others from different brands.

“I kept pretty good care of the mask. It was not left in the sun. It was in shade and in a case. I took it out and rinsed it off a few times before putting it on and jumping into the water, so temperature shock is highly unlikely.”

While a broken mask may be unusual, it happens and Darnborough has three messages he hopes will help other divers.

  1. I was extremely lucky and fully aware. Even on the best of days things can go south fast.
  2. Stay calm in all aspects of your dive from jumping in to standing on the deck after the dive.
  3. Please remember to properly clean and inspect your gear on a regular basis.

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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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