Contingency 1: Sharks, sharks, sharks!
It was 1999, one week into my training course, and I was squished inside a life raft with 16 other trainees, top-to-tail, like sardines, listening to Darren, one of our SEP instructors. “There has been only one successful ditching in the Atlantic, just off the Dominican Republic coast, where it’s thought some passengers and crew survived impact,” he was telling us. “But it’s believed they were then killed by sharks.”
His voice echoed around the hangar: killed, killed, killed, sharks, sharks, sharks.
“Rescuers found rafts,” he continued. “Inflated. Empty. No survivors. Now, can you imagine how difficult it would be, after landing in shark-infested waters, with 20ft waves, to get, say, a hundred passengers safely onto one of these rafts?”
Pretty difficult, it turned out. Darren was teaching us to use the slide raft. We had to practice erecting the shelter awning and learn how to repair a tear in the raft using the array of clamps, plugs, and pumps found in its supplementary survival kit. And the oars, we discovered, were not just for paddling: according to Darren, they could also be used to fend off sharks. “A good whack on the nose should do the trick,” he said.