Mike Ault's thoughts on various topics, Oracle related and not. Note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are not contributing to the overall theme of the BLOG or are insulting or demeaning to anyone. The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Friday, November 02, 2007

There are many times in life when you just want to give up. It seems no matter what you try, nothing works. It is very frustrating to try, try, try and have your efforts result in failure.
However, let me suggest something, always give it one more try, it may be the one that succeeds, you only fail when you have stopped trying.

Let me tell you a little story. I was diving in a local lake looking to take some underwater shots of the remains of a forest that had been flooded when the dam that created the lake was built. Unfortunately I was violating a basic tenant of diving, never dive alone. After taking a couple of shots I found a fishing rod and reel lying on the bottom. Securing the camera housing to my dive harness with its carabineer I grabbed the rod and made for shore. After a couple of kick cycles I realized the camera, housing and strobe set up, worth about $3000.00, was no longer attached to my harness. I planted the rod and reel butt end into the mud as a marker and then retraced my path to try and find the camera. I feel sick to my stomach as I realize that I have effectively traded a $3000.00 camera setup for a broken $70.00 rod and reel. If I had been diving with a buddy I can’t help but think he (or she) probably would have seen me lose the camera. You can guess what happens next.

The lake bottom where I dive is covered with a foot thick (or more) layer of fine silt, the slightest movement of the water drives the silt into an all-obscuring cloud. Even at the best times visibility only ranges from 5-10 feet. My previous movement through the area had raised a cloud of silt effectively covering my back trail, I could have passed within a foot of the camera and I wouldn’t have seen it. In fact, on that dive, and on two others that day I didn’t find the camera. I have also promised my wife I will never dive alone again after I confess when she delivers more tanks that I was single diving.

I returned to lake whenever I was able, diving with whatever buddies I could find and searching the area where I first thought the camera to be. It turned out I had miss-identified a buoy I used to mark the location, thus I was not able to locate the fishing rod marker or any other underwater landmark I remembered from the dive when I lost the camera. The area had several lines run along the bottom to help divers to navigate to various structures, the lower lake levels had resulted in boat anchors, or maybe malicious divers, cutting some of the lines leaving entanglement hazards in many locations. It was very frustrating diving.

I prayed that God would help me in my search. On my seventh return dive I got completely turned around (with limited visibility and presbyopia making compass headings at times difficult to see) and ended up many yards east of where I thought the camera was located, I came upon a submerged tree top I recognized, then some saplings arranged in a familiar pattern and finally the fishing rod! I immediately surfaced and retook the bearings on two points. Finally I felt I was close. I submerged and searched the area around the pole, unfortunately I didn’t find the camera on that dive, I couldn’t even relocate the rod once again.

In fact, I didn’t find any sign of the camera or the fishing pole during over 5 more attempts in spite of having the coordinates. Needless to say I was getting discouraged. I was checking Ebay for prices for replacements and had asked for quotes on a new system from online merchants. Even a local county’s search and rescue diver unit couldn’t find the camera or the rod. After helping out several times by acting as a surface watcher when I couldn’t get a buddy, my wife had basically given up, I can’t say I blamed her, I was near giving up myself and every time I wanted to go back out to the lake to search it was getting to be more and more of a struggle. A voice inside my head insisted I keep trying, just one more time.

Plagued with doubts I wondered if someone had already found the camera rig, maybe a fisherman had snagged it and really got a catch of the day, maybe a boat anchor had drug it out to deeper water or maybe it was buried in the silt. Still, I had to keep trying, at least one more time. I set a limit on time, if I didn’t find the camera by the 15th of the next month I would give up.

On the way to the lake I ask God for guidance one more time. I waited at the dive site for two hours for my dive buddy to show, finally he arrived and we donned our gear for the dive. While he tried to get his buoyancy adjusted and worked with some new equipment configurations I searched the final area where I felt the camera could be.

Equipped with magnifying lenses inserted into my mask to make reading the compass easier and a sonar transponder/receiver set (one on the dive flag which I had attached at the coordinate point to a log on the bottom and one on my dive harness) to help me stay oriented underwater in the limited visibility I began another search dive. From the best coordinates I had, the ones from the rod and reel when I found it the second time, I began doing sweeps from 30 feet depth down to 50 feet depth working from east to west from the coordinates. I worked slowly and carefully trying to stir up as little silt as possible. 30 down to 50 and back up to 30 each time only moving west enough to just overlap the previous swath of bottom I could see within the beam of my 10 watt HID light. At 25 minutes into the dive, halfway through the fourth cycle (the second return from 50 feet) I see the camera, it is just sitting there on top of the silt, waiting.

Even though I was under water I said through my regulator “Thank you God” over and over again. I grabbed the camera with my right hand in a death grip and using the transponder headed back to the dive flag. After a safety stop at 15 feet I surfaced less than 15 feet from the dive flag. I carefully carried the camera back to shore, handing it to my dive buddy just long enough to remove my fins. A quick inspection on shore showed that in spite of being submerged at a depth of 43-50 feet (the lake has dropped almost a foot a week) for nearly 8 weeks the Ikelite housing has not leaked a drop of water and the sealed battery chambers on the DS51 strobes appear water tight.

After I got the camera, housing and strobes home I carefully rinsed the silt and slime off of the gear and wiped it dry with a soft cloth towel. Opening the back of the housing I found it was dry as a bone inside, no leakage in over 8 weeks of submergence to 50 feet deep. I removed the camera and touched the shutter button, activating the camera that has been sleeping for 56 days, it wakes up and complains its battery is critically low, I pointed it at my wife and took a picture, the sound of the mirror cycling was the sweetest thing I have heard in a long time. I dried the strobes and carefully removed the battery compartment doors, while the batteries themselves where dead (after trying to keep the strobes active for 8 weeks it was no wonder) the compartments are dry and clean. A quick check with new batteries showed the strobes are both fully operational.

Everyone is amazed that the camera was found, most had given up hope.

If I had given up at 5 search dives, or 10 search dives I wouldn’t have found my camera, it took 13 dives over 8 weeks. It also took many prayers and the help of several friends and acquaintances to eliminate areas until the final area where I found the camera was isolated. All told there where over 20 dives that I know of to search for my camera by 5-6 other divers and myself. There may have been many more that I didn’t know of, I was offering a $200-$300 reward for its safe return. Since I found the camera, I am donating the reward to a charity.

Always give it one more try, don’t allow what others say to discourage you.