Lost at sea: a review of the medical, physiological and psychological factors of prolonged immersion

Heather Massey, John Leach, F. Michael Davis, Vicki Vertongan

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Abstract

In most countries, immersion represents the second most common cause of accidental death in children and the third in adults. Between 2010 and 2013, 561 deaths worldwide involving recreational divers were recorded by the Divers Alert Network. Consequently, there is no room for complacency when diving. Being lost at sea is a diver’s worst nightmare. In 2006, a diver was lost at sea off the coast of New Zealand for 75 hours. It is unprecedented that, after such a long time immersed in temperate (16−17°C) waters, he was found and survived. His case is presented and utilised to illustrate the many physiological and psychological factors involved in prolonged immersion and what might determine survival under such circumstances. We also briefly review options for enhancing diver location at sea and a few issues related to search and rescue operations are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-247
JournalDiving and Hyperbaric Medicine
Volume47
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Keywords

  • immersion
  • hypothermia
  • physiology
  • psychology
  • environment
  • diving incidents

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