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Freediver Focus
World record freediver sara Campbell suffered another blow to
her quest to reach the 100m mark when again she experienced a
shallow water black-out on ascent in the latest competition held in
her home town of Dahab. the 7-year-old, who currently holds the
depth record of 96m in the constant weight discipline, was seconds
away from being the first to reach 100m before losing consciousness
on the surface. in a special report, sara campbell explains the
phenomenon and how it is not as threatening as many believe.
the first time i witnessed none of which were in the
a black-out , nathalia least bit painful, traumatic
molchanova was attempting or uncomfortable. so what
60m no Fins in the Blue is that strange physiological
Hole in Dahab. i was utterly phenomenon that causes us to
shocked by what i saw look dead, but wake up smiling
- a seemingly lifeless body just seconds later? and is it safe?
brought to the surface, grey
and lacking all signs of life, but
Firstly, noone has died from
who miraculously after just a
competitive freediving. not
few seconds, started breathing
a single person, not one. the
again of her own accord, and
reason for this being is that we
then swam off looking annoyed
neVer dive alone. the deaths
with the result but apparently
that you may have read about are
un-phased by the black-out itself.
predominantly spear-fishermen,
it seemed that it was as natural a
who prefer to fish alone in order
part of the dive as a pulled muscle
to not have a buddy flapping
might be for a sprinter - certainly
around on the surface scaring
not the near-death experience i’d
away all the fish. Due to the
taken it to be, which, if i’m honest,
lengths of time they have to
had brought me to tears.
stalk a fish, their focus on the
target rather than their physical
three years on, i find myself responses, and often a struggle
in the surprising position to bring a fish to the surface,
not only to hold a world black-outs do occur. and without
record formerly a buddy around to ensure they
held by nathalia, reach the surface and their
but with three airways are clear of the water,
black-outs of drownings happen. However, it is
my own the drowning and not the black-
under out that is fatal.
the black-out itself is actually
a natural response of our
body - yours as much as mine
- to survive. the mammalian
dive response is a series of
physiological changes that occur
to ensure our survival beneath
the water. it starts the minute
our face - and to be precise, the
nerve-endings in our cheeks
- are submerged in water. the
colder the better. this sends a
message to the brain to slow
the metabolism, lower the heart
rate and basically conserve
oxygen having registered the
Coping with
fact that breathing air is not
possible. When you first ever
tried scuba you probably found
it totally counterintuitive to
breathe under water and
found those first breaths really
hard - because your brain was
receiving messages from the
nerve sensors in your cheeks
photo: Fred Buyle that it was perilous to do so.
issue 2 august / september 2009
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