Mudjimba waterman Phil Burke has suffered two shallow water blackouts and describes the process as peaceful though deadly.
Mudjimba waterman Phil Burke has suffered two shallow water blackouts and describes the process as peaceful though deadly. Contributed

Spear fisher's near-death dive experience

MIKE Daniell would have died peacefully without fear or struggle according to an experienced waterman who has twice suffered shallow-dive blackouts.

Phil Burke was in charge of a rescue boat during Saturday's search off Old Woman Island which ended tragically with the discovery of Mr Daniell's body on the ocean floor.

The Mudjimba SLSC member, who used to dive professionally, said shallow-dive black outs seemed to occur within 10-12 feet of the surface as the diver rose from greater depth.

"You just seem to go to sleep," he said of the experience.

"It's almost a soothing sensation. There's no fear or panic. It just happens."

Mr Burke described coming to from a shallow dive blackout as like having been asleep for a while.

The former Fred Brophy boxing tent fighter said it could also be like coming to from a knock out without the headache.

He said spear fishing was not an adrenalin sport and was more relaxed and meditative than many people would think.

"The best policy if you are repetitive diving is to have a spotter on the surface per person," Mr Burke said.

"With a spotter you can get them up quickly, pull them out of the water and in 10-15 seconds without doing anything breathing just re-starts."

He said the brain simply switched off due to the lack of oxygen.

People normally use only 30 per cent of the oxygen in each breath but there are techniques that allow divers to recirculate air already in their lungs so they can use more.


Mark Visser is put through a gruelling fitness test at Sunshine Coast University under the watchful eye of Ava Kerr and Lab technician Stephen Bishop.  Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
Mark Visser studied breathing techniques as a means of overcoming his fear of big-wave hold downs. But he says when spear fishing the bottom line is to always dive in pairs with one up spotting and one down. John McCutcheon

Big wave surfer Mark Visser, who learned breathing techniques as a means of survival and to overcome fear, now has the likes of the SAS, US Navy Seals, Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Kai Lenny and Tyler Wright as clients.

He created and has run courses for the past eight years that help not only to increase the time people can hold their breath but also to understand the signs and signals and to recognise when themselves or a buddy is in trouble.

Mark agreed with Phil that divers needed to work in pairs with one partner down and the other on the surface spotting.

He said a large percentage of spearers did it perfectly but like the surf, complacency could invade.