17 July 2011

Swift water

What starts in a uranium mine can easily lead into a fast-flowing river. When I got involved in caving I soon got involved in cave rescue as well, and the cave rescue team also does swift water rescue. Partially because there may be swift water in a cave, and partially in order to be able to assist the actual water rescue teams in case something big goes wrong. It’s difficult to imagine such a large underground catastrophe that we will need to ask other cave rescue teams for assistance, but one could imagine a big flood, which requires more hands than the water boys can provide. And then we’re back-up!

That’s how I ended up in a wetsuit and a caving suit on the banks of the river Dart on a balmy Thursday night. I didn’t need the caving suit for this occasion, evidently, but it seemed an excellent opportunity to give it a good rinsing.

There's worse places to be on a Thursday evening! Notice the little figures in the water. 

We are paying close attention form the bridge

The Ashburton water rescuers would show us the ropes that evening. They showed us how to drift down a rapid river without getting hurt, and gave some throw line tips. And then we could practice! We had a blast, going down the rapids, being rescued by our friends, only to push off again and give some rescuers further downstream a chance too.

The experts show us throw line protocol

And then we can get into the water ourselves!

Happily drifting down

The river sides were littered with rescuers!

There was an emergency line to catch anyone who would manage to fail to get rescued. But one may be tempted to purposely miss that one too: that would leave one stranded at the nearest pub...

When we had all honed our floating and throwing skills we tried something else: crossing a rapid river in a stable way. There may be times when we have to get a hurt, but still walking, victim over a river, or even one on a stretcher. In both cases it matters that you are stable, and don’t get swept away yourself. And just by teaming up you can turn into some multipede, and a river has nothing on you! Good to experience that.

All these ways to stably cross a river! Notice that the scrum-like formation is good to transport a walking casualty; just place them inside the circle. And the last formation would allow the carrying of a stretcher.
Time flies when you’re having fun, so when we had done all that it was time for a debriefing and the pub. Our instructors were pleased with us, and invited us to join their trainings anytime. I’ll remember that! And this night, combined with the earlier water trainings we’ve had, even got us the qualification of swift water rescuer level 2. Not quite sure what it is but it sounds encouraging! After the next conference (or two conferences) I might see it I can do this a bit more often, and perhaps even get to level 3... that must be more useful than 2!

We had pretty passers-by...

 And the abbey to watch over us.

Dave saw some aquatic vegetation as an opportunity to get in touch with his feminine side!

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