Confessions of a Poor Buddhist
Howard Cunnell, Lion's Roar.


Extract from 'Forty Metres Down', from The Picador Book of 40 (2012)


Forty metres down in the cold, dark Baltic Sea, off the Hel Peninsula, Poland, feels as deep as forty miles. This is a dive into non-existence. The blackness that surrounds me is so complete I don't experience it as water, but as absence. Somewhere nearby is a World War Two German E-boat. Just moments before I'd swum straight into it, but now I can't find it again in the consuming darkness. I forget the wreck, the reason I'm here. From all directions the cold spears right through me, numbing my lips ? exposed and clamped down on my regulator's mouthpiece ? and biting into my gloved fingers. I need to get me and my buddy Nick out, but I'm fighting a feeling beyond panic. An increasing disconnect. A remoteness from everybody I love up on the surface world. My girlfriend and children seem impossibly far away. I know that if I just give in, accept this remoteness and stop this struggle in the dark, then the terror will be over, and I'll be gone. The first clear thought in a long time: I might not make it out of here.

More than ten years have gone since that dive in the Baltic, but it's never far from my mind, especially when I get together with Nick. I'm sure we don't always mean to talk about it, but after a few beers, and if there's no one else around, it's likely we'll go over it once again. There are obvious reasons why we do this. We are divers, and divers love to tell stories about dives that go wrong. and no dive could have gone more wrong, unless we hadn't come back.