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Dylan Gartenmayer, a 22-year-old spearfisherman, had no idea that his last dive on January 19th would be a matter of life and death. Gartenmayer had been diving with two other experienced divers off the coast of Florida when the powerful Gulf Stream current swept him away from his 20-foot boat, where the other divers were watching for him to surface. Gartenmayer resurfaced after a few minutes, but he could no longer see his boat and the other divers couldn't see him either.
Despite the fading daylight and poor sea conditions, Gartenmayer kept his wits about him and swam to the shallow part of the reef that was marked by floating mooring balls, which he cut free and lashed together to make a flotation device. Throughout his hours-long ordeal, Gartenmayer kept his speargun with him, in case it was needed to fend off bull sharks and other predators.
The incident became a media sensation after a video shot by a cousin of Gartenmayer’s family was widely circulated. It showed him clinging to three rubber mooring balls in near darkness, waiting to be rescued. The video went viral, appearing on CNN and countless other media outlets.
The two other divers who had been out with Gartenmayer that day called the Coast Guard with his last known coordinates and, after an extensive search, Gartenmayer was found safe and sound. However, in the days following the incident, the other divers received criticism for not doing enough to find him.
But, as Gartenmayer himself has pointed out, they did call the Coast Guard and they were uncomfortable navigating at night. An unaware diver may drift far from the vessel due to the different currents that can be found at the surface and at the bottom. Additionally, in the area where Gartenmayer was diving, the depth changes dramatically, which can also contribute to shifting currents.
Ultimately, Gartenmayer’s experience is a reminder of the risks associated with diving in open water, and the importance of taking necessary precautions. It is also a testament to the power of the human spirit and the determination to survive in the face of adversity.