A Tale of the Unexpected (Okene Harrison- Underwater Sailor)

North and South Atlantic Ocean

North and South Atlantic Ocean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tale of the Unexpected – Womb of Despair 

By Veronica Nkwocha

*Update

The unborn child growing, tranquil and awaiting its birth has no concept of fear. It is in the perfect home designed especially for his needs. A cocoon of love and nurture, very different from the ‘womb of dread’ Okene Harrison found himself in.

On the 26th of May, the tugboat he had been working in along with 11 others in the Atlantic Ocean had just capsized, and he was trapped alone in a pocket of air just 1.5m by 3m. Its wreckage 30ft underwater.

“The 470-tonne boat was towing an oil tanker for oil giant Chevron when it went down 20 miles off the Escravos region of the Nigerian coast.”

Would he be rescued? How long would his stay last? Would the air be sufficient to keep him alive?

As with a birth, he wouldn’t perpetually reside in his new home. The end of his ordeal would have been something he wanted but dreaded at the same time, it could go either way.

He was rescued sixty hours later but lost his colleagues. His rescuers have been praised for their bravery. A delicate effort as his body had normalised to the pressure underwater.

According to US Navy Salvage Officer Patrick Keenan “After spending two days at 30 meters of depth, he had become saturated, meaning his body had absorbed all the pressurized gases and equalized with the surrounding water pressure. Bringing him to surface from that depth, and after having been saturated at 3 or 4 atmospheres, could easily have killed him.”

I found the story of his rescue very hear warming and tinged with sadness for those who lost loved ones. I can imagine the intricate nature of the ‘birthing’ of Okene Harrison, every care taken to ensure one of life’s happy endings.

*Update: Here’s are links to interviews with Mr. Harrison:

I was there in the water in total darkness just thinking it’s the end. I kept thinking the water was going to fill up the room but it did not,” Okene said” http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/12/nigeria-shipwreck-idUSL5N0EO20320130612

“… I was the one who touched the diver, I touched his head and he was shocked. He was searching and I just saw the light, so I jumped into the water. As he was shocked, he stretched out his hands. I touched him.” http://thenationonlineng.net/new/news/the-untold-story-of-chevron-boat-mishap/

“They told me all the others had died and I cried because I thought I was the only one who had been trapped in the boat”, his voice cracking. Despite suffering from nightmares and peeling skin, daily helpings of his favourite banga soup dish – a fish and palm fruit soup – have helped him feel much better, he said. He is planning to write a book on his experience.” http://africansweetheart.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/sailor-harrison-okene-describes-his.html#.UbmUGfnVCn8

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