06-07-2008, 05:25 PM #1
Horrible Story: More Divers are being stranded lately in these waters(Korea/Aus/Indo)
Alone on dragon island ... How Britons swept away during dive survived their terrifying ordeal
By Andrew Drummond
Last updated at 10:46 PM on 07th June 2008
Three British divers swept away by powerful currents in the shark-infested Indian Ocean told last night how they fought off an attack by a man-eating Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard.
The group were threatened by the 10ft beast as they awaited rescue on a remote Indonesian island.
They escaped its razor-sharp teeth and poisonous saliva, which it spits at victims, by throwing stones until the predatory animal slunk away.
Ordeal: Charlotte Allin and former Royal Marine James Manning
In a graphic account of their 45-hour ordeal, dive instructor Kathleen Mitchinson described how they survived on nothing more than raw shellfish.
She said the scraps of food - and the knowledge that her partner of 20 years was searching for her - were the only things that kept her alive.
Sitting up in her hospital bed, Ms Mitchinson hugged Ernest Lewandowski and told him tearfully: ‘I didn’t give up hope. I’m so happy to be home and that we are all safe and sound.’
Ms Mitchinson had been in charge of a group of tourists who had gone to Komodo Island, the giant lizards’ natural habitat, last Thursday before setting out in a small wooden boat for what was supposed to be an hour-long dive.
With her were a British couple, former Royal Marine James Manning, 30, and his girlfriend Charlotte Allin, 24, and a Frenchman and a Swede.
Meanwhile Mr Lewandowski was diving with another group of visitors at the same spot. When his party surfaced, they were picked up first by the dive boat team.
Narrow escape: The divers had to pelt a man-eating Komodo dragon with stones to drive it off
But by the time the boat returned for Ms Mitchinson’s group they had been carried away by a strong current.
After a huge search involving the Indonesian navy and dozens of local fishermen, a rescue boat spotted the missing divers’ inflated orange and red ‘safety sausages’ - brightly coloured flotation devices designed to attract the attention of rescuers.
They were laid out in the shape of a cross on the rocks of Rinca Island, about 20 miles from where they had gone missing.
The divers are believed to have been in the water for around ten hours before being
washed on to the rocks.
They were taken to hospital - dehydrated, exhausted and sunburnt, but with no serious injuries.
One Indonesian rescuer said: ‘We saw them at the beach. They said they had found a Komodo dragon on the island which was ready to eat them. They had to throw stones to keep it away.’
Mr Lewandowski, 53, who runs a diving school with Ms Mitchinson on the nearby island of Flores, said the stranded divers had spent a terrifying night being buffeted by huge waves.
Safe: Kathleen Mitchinson hugs her partner Ernest Lewandowski
He added: ‘They are very tired and hungry. The hospital has done a great job. Kath’s just really glad to be home - and grateful to be alive with the whole team.’
Asked about the terror of shark attacks, he replied: ‘They talked about what happened above them, not the creatures below.
‘It has been quite an ordeal, but they are all safe. That’s the most important thing.
‘They had a miraculous escape, but the fact is, they are all experienced divers. This was an absolute freak accident. There was nobody at fault.
'They did all the right things: They stayed afloat in the surf and kept together as a group.
‘They grabbed hold of flotsam and jetsam and kept hold of that in huge waves out in the Indian Ocean, which were crashing over their heads.
'They were in dangerous open ocean, the next stop to Antarctica. Most of the time they were totally covered in water.
‘Kath was the team leader and coordinated things, but they all took turns in keeping each other going. They worked as a team, which is one of the things that is vitally important.
‘Eventually, when shallow water was available, they swam towards the shore. They were all supporting each other. Anybody who became a weak link was made to have strength. That’s how they survived.
‘They went with the current, which was the only thing they could do. They kept as close to land as possible and when they could make it to land, they did.’
In her element: Charlotte has vital knowledge of the area where they were stranded
Ms Mitchinson and Mr Lewandowski, who met while diving in the north of England, have lived in Indonesia for 15 years, the past seven on the island of Flores, where they run a dive centre and turtle nursery.
Both are originally from Carlisle. Mr Lewandowski, 53, spent most of his life in Scotland before moving to the Far East.
He said: ‘Kath knows the area very well and they managed to survive by eating shellfish off the rocks, like little abalone, and utilising what they had around them - the sort of food you eat in posh restaurants.
‘They were eating them raw, which gave them energy and moisture.’
When rescue came, the large dive boat which spotted the castaways was unable to enter the inlet and a smaller craft was dispatched to pick up them up.
Mr Lewandowski said: ‘When I received news over the radio, I was ecstatic. I just wanted to hear Kath’s voice again.’
When they did get their tearful reunion later yesterday back on dry land at Labuan Bajo, Miss Mitchinson’s throat was so dry from swallowing salt water that she could hardly speak.
Mr Lewandowski said: ‘She just said, “I’m home safe and sound. I knew you wouldn’t give up on me...”
‘She had no doubt I would be doing everything in my power to find her. And she knew, no matter what, I wouldn’t stop.’
Mr Manning, from Devon, trained as a Royal Marine engineer and has his paratrooper’s wings.
Speaking at the family home near Cullompton, his brother Ollie said: ‘It’s been an anxious wait and we feared the worst when we were initially contacted and told he was missing.
‘James is a tough lad. He can look after himself. He was in the Army for ten years and I knew that if he could get everybody out of the water and on to a reef or beach then he’d be able to use the survival techniques he’d been taught.’
His mother Sally-Ann said: ‘He is physically shattered but otherwise OK.’
Ms Allin’s sister Sarah-Jane, 26, said at her home in Bideford, Devon: ‘We had a call from the Foreign Office at 5am and then Charlotte herself got through at 7am. She sounded tired and shocked but said she was all right.’
Killer: The Komodo has razor-sharp teeth and poisonous saliva
10ft long with a poisonous bite - and always angry
Komodo dragons are vicious and unpredictable predators that have attacked and killed humans.
In Komodo National Park, where the three Britons were diving and where most of the creatures live, there have been eight serious incidents since 1980.
In the most recent - the first fatal attack on a human in 33 years - an eight-year-old boy died after he was mauled by a 10ft long, 15st dragon in 2007.
He was tossed around like a rag doll and savaged by the lizard’s razor-sharp teeth as it tried to snap his neck just as it would other prey.
Even if the boy had survived the attack, he would have died of blood poisoning from the 50 virulently toxic species of bacteria contained in the dragon’s saliva.
Probably the best-known victim of the dragons’ dangerous unpredictability is Basic Instinct actress Sharon Stone’s ex-husband Phil Bronstein.
He was on a tour of Los Angeles Zoo in 2001 and was in the dragon’s cage when the creature clamped its serrated teeth down on his foot.
After prising its jaw open and escaping, he had to have surgery to reattach severed tendons and rebuild a crushed big toe and was given massive doses of antibiotics to combat the poisonous saliva.
Attacks on humans are rare and the creatures, which are notoriously bad-tempered, mainly feed on monkeys, pigs, wild deer and even water buffalo.
A skilled and savage hunter, it is the only lizard species that hunts and kills prey larger than itself, and larger than it can swallow whole.
It can sprint at 15mph and has a keen sense of smell. But instead of chasing its prey, it prefers to lie still and camouflaged before lunging and sinking its teeth into its victim.
Experts say that even if its prey escapes, it will die within hours from septicaemia.
But despite its awesome strength, the komodo dragon is on endangered species lists and is under threat from tourism, poaching and volcanic activity.
About 3,000 live on Komodo Island and other islands 300 miles east of Bali, and there are some in captivity - a clutch of four was born at London Zoo in 2006.
06-07-2008, 06:43 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jan 2008
- Clermont FL.
In 2003 my wife and I were left in the water in Jamaica. The captain went to sleep and drifted one way while the two of us and a guide drifted the other. Two hours later a fisherman picked us up drifting into open waters.The captain never missed us until they radioed him waking him up. Needless to say that was the last time we dove with that shop.
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