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Undercurrents a danger to commercial divers

Commercial divers have very dangerous work environments. Each dive could result in a fatal encounter with marine life or an equipment failure that puts them in jeopardy.

Another risk for commercial divers is undercurrents. These currents form naturally to maintain the delicate balance of nutrients and heat beneath the water. They sometimes are referred to as "undertow." Strong undercurrents can sometimes pull experienced divers off course and cause them to panic.

What are undercurrents?

Undercurrents are like small but powerful separate rivers or streams within the larger body of water. You can often feel the water change temperature around the edges of the undercurrent, alerting you to their presence. Other times, you can visibly see that there is a marked change in the appearance of the water.

The water with an undercurrent may appear to be still or have slight ripples moving beneath the surface. During the daylight hours, you may be able to see a change in the color of the water or detect debris fields moving along rapidly. Most undercurrents are no more than 100 feet in width.

What should you do if caught in an undercurrent?

The first thing to remember is not to panic. If you are diving with a tank, you have a supply of air with you. But the strength of the current could possibly rip your equipment from you. You could also collide with underwater structures or moving debris. The bends is another hazard you could potentially face if your body pressure changes too rapidly.

Swimming parallel to the current can take you eventually out of the fast-moving stream. Divers can take off their weight belts, inflate their buoyancy compensators and spread their legs and arms wide to slow down their ascent to the surface.

If you wind up with the bends or other injuries from a diving accident, you should learn all you can about your rights to seek compensation for your injuries and damages.

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