Monday, July 26, 2010

Dear Tony...

I have no reason to doubt the nobility of your intentions when you lept into the moving water in an effort to save. It shows you to harbour a fundamental and selfless, if foolhardy, decency toward your fellow human that sets you apart from some of your partisan supporters and colleagues (just read article comments if you doubt me).

However, at the risk that you again encounter a similar situation, I might suggest that you consider taking a Swiftwater Rescue course or at least gain some empirical experience learning to assess and effectively swim in moving water to the point where you are comfortable in it. This will help you in determining if leaping in fully clothed will actually help the person in trouble or simply add to the problem. By the sounds of things you are very lucky not to have become another casualty in need of rescue or worse, retrieval. I can't help but wonder, partly from an experience in which I nearly died, just what the hell you thought you would have done once you reached her?

The smartmoney is on working from shore methodically and carefully and only entering the water when rescuer safety is ensured. However, should you find yourself in moving water and a little scared, it might pay to keep in mind the following.

The basic standard when finding yourself in the fast water is first to not panic. The water is very fast, big and scary, yes. But if you're breathing and floating, you're already partly in control of the basic staying alive bit of your situation. NOW, stop panicking and get your feet up so you can see them poke through the surface, pointing yourself FEET FIRST downstream with your head up looking over your toes. This way you minimise the risks of getting yourself caught on rocks, or strainers (branches and logs submerged just below the surface) because you'll float over them (arse might bruise though), head injury because your feet hit the rock in front you and not your melon, and of having the current pull you under and keep you there because your foot got stuck. Then let the current do the work for you and carry you downstream. Don't fight it, you'll exhaust yourself and die. Use your hands to steer and guide you to safety, but always feet up and pointed downstream. Safety is in eddies and river banks you can safely swim to. Avoid rocks, ledges and falls and the frothy nasty pin you under nonsense at their base, holes, pieces of tree, canoes in fast water (swamped or controlled they act as giant moving logs: bad bad), or the temption to see if your feet reach the bottom. These are the things that kill. Big standing waves are only big standing waves and can be quite fun to float through in a PFD.

Oh, and please have some humility. Don't twitter your attempt at heroism all over the universe. It looks crass and self-indulgent, especially since it seems that you succeeded in little more than getting wet and scaring yourself and probably your loved ones. And all at a time when you're taking heavy flak over some serious idiocy around the Census - it looks bad.

Kind Regards.


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