Eyeglass Assist

Solomon Islands Project


Title: Diving accident

Location : Ninigo Atoll, PNG

Year : 2009

Living in such an isolated place, one of the keys to survival is resourcefulness. The people use whatever they can find to survive or to make their lives a little bit more comfortable. Fish are an important part of the diet of the local people, essentially being their only source of protein. Spear fishing is one of their preferred methods of catching fish, however of course one needs reasonably sophisticated equipment to do so : - swim fins, diving mask and a hand spear. The swim fins are ones that they usually find washed up on their beaches that are broken and they manage to repair enough to make them useful again; the spears they fashion out of a piece of wood with some metal prongs bound to one end and a piece of old inner tube from a car tyre for the sling part. The only other item needed is the mask. Again having to use what they have available to them they make masks using a piece of glass from a window louvre which they mount in a piece of inner tube they cut to fit their face. The glass is secured into the surround using coconut fibre and a carved piece of wood. A strip of inner tube is used to make the fastening strap around the diver's head.

One day a couple of years previously our friend had been out spear-fishing with one of his family in their dugout canoe. The main issue with using glass from a louvre for the glass of a mask is that it is not tempered glass, that is when it breaks it doesn't shatter into many small pieces, such as in old car windscreens and thereby making them less dangerous. Louvre glass is just like any other sheet of glass and breaks into large, very sharp shards.

On this particular occasion the seas were quite choppy in the lagoon and our friend dived down to spear a fish and upon his return to the surface the canoe has rocked badly causing it to strike the glass in our friend's diving mask. The mask shattered and a shard of glass almost severed his entire nose. Keep in mind that this place is 140 miles across open ocean from the nearest hospital. He and his friend had seen a large foreign motor yacht anchored in the lagoon, a very rare sight in this remote part of Papua New Guinea, and with his nose hanging from his face he and his friend paddled over to see what assistance they could provide. It is difficult to believe but the motor yacht was being charted by a group of doctors for a diving holiday and they were all plastic surgeons. That's right plastic surgeons. So with a minimum amount of fuss they were able to sew his nose back into place. He still bears a very prominent scar of what occurred but nothing compared with what it would have looked like if they hadn't been there .

One of the surgeons wrote an article in a diving magazine about this incident and somehow our friend had obtained a copy which he showed us to prove to us that it really did happen. Was he lucky or unlucky ? A lot of both I would say.


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