It felt a bit like the moments before you fall asleep. I was angry about the damage this was going to do to other people. Then there was nothing.
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View image of Chris Lemons on the sea bed Credit: Dogwoof. It took around 30 minutes before the crew of the Bibby Topaz were able to regain control and restart the failed dynamic positioning system. When Youasa reached Lemons on top of the underwater structure, his body was still. Through sheer will, Youasa dragged his fallen colleague back to the bell and passed him up to Allcock. When they removed his helmet, Lemons was blue and not breathing.
Instinctively, Allcock gave him two breaths of mouth to mouth resuscitation. It was only a few days later that I realised the gravity of the situation. Nearly seven years later, Lemons is still perplexed as to how he managed to survive for so long without oxygen.
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Common sense suggests he should have perished after so long at the bottom of the sea. But it seems likely the cold water of the North Sea may have played a role —around m ft down, the water was probably below 3C 37F. Without the hot water flowing through the umbilical cord to heat his suit, his body and brain will have quickly cooled.
View image of Oxygen masks on a plane Credit: Alamy. If you lower the brain temperature down to 30C 86F , it can increase the survival time from 10 to 20 minutes.
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If you cool the brain to 20C 68F , you can get an hour. The pressurised gas that saturation divers usually breathe may have given Lemons an additional chance. When breathing high levels of oxygen under pressure, it can dissolve into the blood stream, giving the body additional reserves to draw on. Divers are perhaps the most likely people to experience a sudden loss of their air supply. But there are many other situations where the oxygen supply can be cut off. Firefighters often rely on breathing equipment when entering smoke-choked buildings, while high-altitude fighter jet pilots also use breathing masks.
At the less extreme end, a lack of oxygen — known as hypoxia — can affect many other people.
Mountain climbers experience low levels of oxygen when they are on high mountains, a condition which often has been blamed for accidents. When levels of oxygen drop, brain function can suffer, leading to poor decisions and confusion. View image of Diver being filmed trying to find his way in the dark Credit: Dogwoof. Patients undergoing surgery will also often undergo mild hypoxia , which is thought to impact their recovery.
It is thought to be the reason why people report seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in near death experiences.
Children and women are more likely to survive because they are smaller and their bodies tend to cool much faster — Mike Tipton. Lemons himself survived his time without oxygen unscathed. He found only a couple of bruises on his legs after his ordeal. But his survival is not unheard of either. Tipton has examined 43 separate cases in the medical literature of people who have been submerged in water for long periods. Four of these recovered, including a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who survived being under water for at least 66 minutes.
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The training of saturation divers like Lemons may also be inadvertently teaching their bodies to cope with extreme situations. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology NTNU in Trondheim have found that saturation divers adapt to the extreme environment they work in by altering the genetic activity of their blood cells. Oxygen is carried around our bodies in haemoglobin, a molecule found in our red blood cells.
View image of A diver's helmet Credit: Dogwoof. She and her colleagues believe this might be a response to the high concentrations of oxygen they breathe while underwater. It is designed to make submitting notices of alleged infringement to us as straightforward as possible while reducing the number of notices that we receive that are fraudulent or difficult to understand or verify.
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