July 8th, 2004

My life is so dull.

My coworker Lippold just sauntered into the office with a week's growth of beard and one heck of a tale to tell. He'd been on a dive boat in the Bahamas. That's already pretty cool. But it gets a lot more interesting.

First of all, one of the other divers on the boat had a freak accident that he was lucky to survive. He was clearing his ears while swimming upwards (I don't dive, but I understand this is a no-no), and got an air embolism in his brain which paralyzed him. There's supposed to be a emergency helicopter service in the area, but it was already busy, so they had to take him by boat for hours to the nearest airport, where they could fly him back to the states. Lippold says that what happened to the guy is so unusual that there's like one previous documented case of it in the medical literature. After a couple of days in a decompression chamber, the guy is supposedly OK; Lippold says his doctor told him he could even dive again, as long as he quit smoking.

That's pretty exciting, but it gets better. Lippold says he expected the trip to be over after taking the victim back to the airport, but they went back to the reef. Lippold went snorkeling off, he says maybe a quarter mile from the boat, and he found a shipwreck. A previously undiscovered wreck, the HMS Southhampton, known to be in the area, but so hidden by the coral that it hadn't been found, even though the captain of the dive boat has been looking for it for 30 years. A wreck that, according to the records, may well have a significant amount of treasure on board. Lippold says he seriously considered blowing off coming back to his job to stay with the wreck, but ended up coming back.

To quote Tom Lehrer, "It's people like that who make you realize how little you've accomplished. It is a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years."