Carl Spencer dead after dive on Britannic

Dec 2, 2000
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From The Independent

British diver dies in Greek filming incident
A British diver died on an underwater filming mission exploring the sister ship of the Titanic, Greek Government officials said tonight.
More at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/british-diver-dies-in-greek-filming-incident-1690499.html

Comment: It was Carl Spencer who, as some of you may recall, has been involved in several expeditions related to both the Titanic and the Britannic. He was the man who found the conclusive evidence of the mine which sank the ship and was the first one to film an open watertight door inside the Britannic's wreck.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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From The Gaurdian:

Tributes paid to diver Carl Spencer, killed filming Titanic sister ship
The British diver who died making a film about the sister ship of the Titanic was a "legend" with unrivalled skills, friends and colleagues said today.

Carl Spencer, 37, suffered an attack of the bends while making a documentary about the Britannic, which sank in the Aegean Sea in 1916.
More at http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/may/25/deep-sea-diver-carl-spencer-dies
 
Jan 14, 2001
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What a tragedy! Carl will be missed not only for his -legendary- diving skills but most of all for his kind personality. My thoughts are with the family. R.I.P.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Don't be too surprised to see a lot of attention focused on the rebreather which Carl used on that last dive. Something went wrong and he did an emergency ascent and it went wrong enough that he didn't stop to decompress. His is the third death in as many weeks where this exact same rebreather was being used.

It may only be a freaky co-incidence...that sort of thing happens...but only the investigation will bear that out.
 
J

Jeff Brebner

Guest
In my reading it seems diving accidents are rarely well investigated. Coroners don't usually really understand the technology and tend to put it down to drowning.

Rebreathers are finicky technology. They can do amazing things, but the potential for disaster and the rate at which they occur seem worrisome. If an air tank fails, you're out of air. You can grab your buddy or a spare air source and move on. A rebreather can abruptly give you a fatal chemical cocktail.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I need to amend that to three deaths in one week. At least that's what one article I read asserted. Coroners may not be all that interested but don't be too surprised if a few lawyers are sniffing around hoping for some fresh game.
 
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For obvious reasons I cannot go into details regarding an official investigation which is currently underway. However, I know that the expert witness for the court -appointed by the Greek authorities- is a very experienced diver who is highly familiar with the equipment necessary for this kind of dives. For this reason, I am more than confident that this tragic event will be very well-investigated.

Michail,
 
J

Jeff Brebner

Guest
I hope it is well investigated. There are always lessons to be learned that could make things safer for future divers.

In Dark Descent (Kevin F. McMurray) a coroner blamed a death on the diver's tank valves being closed. When told that the valves had been closed AFTER the accident to preserve the contents for testing the coroner said, "What difference does it make? The guy is dead."
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>For this reason, I am more than confident that this tragic event will be very well-investigated. <<

That's good to hear. In the meantime, I'm going to take the very wise advice which Parks Stephenson posted in the THS forum and refrain from any further speculation on this matter, and keep Carl's family in my thoughts. The Titanic community lost a good friend, but his family lost a husband and father.
 
Nov 29, 2005
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Michael,

I have been fortunate to call Carl a friend ever since we met on the Titanic 2003 expedition, and I have been deeply shaken by his loss.

I am also well aware of the facts concerning all three of the diver fatalities you mentioned in your post. Be advised, each of the divers was wearing a different model of rebreather, each made by a separate manufacturer, and in none of the cases has a cause of death been conclusively determined. In at least one instance, the model of rebreather was incorrectly reported by an Internet "news" site, along with equally incorrect and gratuitous remarks about high profit margins, for no apparent reason other than to mislead grieving family members, and maybe a few plaintiff's lawyers, who may be searching for answers.

Nobody knows for sure what caused these divers to tragically lose their dives, whether it was equipment failure, diver error or just plain bad luck. However, the family members do read these forums, and rank speculation or inappropriate discussion only adds to their grief.

There are three families who have lost loved ones this week, as well as hundreds of divers who have lost dear friends. I would ask that everybody keep this in mind when they are considering what to write in their posts.

Thank you,

David Concannon
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Be advised, each of the divers was wearing a different model of rebreather, each made by a separate manufacturer, and in none of the cases has a cause of death been conclusively determined.<<

And predictably, the newsies got it wrong.

>>However, the family members do read these forums, and rank speculation or inappropriate discussion only adds to their grief.<<

Which is why I'm stepping away from all of that. It's enough for me to know that a serious investigation is being carried out by people who actually know what they're doing.

David, I hope you'll accept my condolances on the loss of a good friend and I'll extend the same to any of their family.
 
Nov 29, 2005
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Michael,

Please excuse the sharpness of my earlier post. This has been a long week.

I get really angry when I see outright lies posted as truth, for no other reason than to stir up controversy or increase traffic to a web site. The fact is, these accidents will be thoroughly investigated, with no stone left unturned, and only after the truth is known will it be appropriate to discuss what is learned.

In Carl's case, some of the most knowledgeable technical divers in the world are sitting in Greece, trying to determine exactly what happened to their good friend and expedition leader. They want answers just as much as anybody else does, and maybe more so. It is absolutely inappropriate to speculate from afar, without being aware of even the most basic facts. It is also disrespectful to the family and to the deceased, and it is inconsiderate.

I am not saying you have done any of these things Michael. My only point is that all of us should be considerate before we post.

Best regards,

David
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Please excuse the sharpness of my earlier post. This has been a long week.<<

No problem. Under the circumstances, it's understandable.

>>I get really angry when I see outright lies posted as truth,...<<

And rightly so. Doing things like that causes nothing but trouble, for no good reason, and which causes a lot of harm.

>>I am not saying you have done any of these things Michael. My only point is that all of us should be considerate before we post. <<

Mmmmmmm...I regret that I'm not immune to the temptation to shoot from the hip, although I try to acknowladge or at least avoid repeating the mistake once it becomes obvious. I would hope and encourage everybody else to do the same.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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I met Carl Spencer a few years ago and was shocked when I read these bad news on Monday, 25.05.2009 in the Greek newspaper.

I feel sorry about what happened and of course to his family. It is a lost for us but a much heavier one for his wife and children! I think David Concannon is still right about what he writes!
 
Nov 29, 2005
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The following tribute was prepared by Kevin Gurr and Leigh Bishop, Carl Spencer's good friends and comrades on the Titanic 2003 expedition. This is posted with their permission.

*****************************************

Carl always introduced himself as ‘Just a Plumber from Dudley’ to anyone he met in the diving world. Carl, Leigh and I laughed at our ‘handles’, the Plumber, the Fireman and the Diving Instructor. My memory blurs trying to recall the amount of times the three of us were together on some boat or in some bar laughing at the day’s events.

Who was Carl Spencer? My first real meeting with Carl was in 1997 ironically after my Britannic expedition. He explained his ambition was to dive the wreck. That ambition became a reality very quickly.

Carl seemed to have boundless energy. What ever he dreamed up just happened. One dream turned into a lasting contact with James Cameron and the three of us chatting in a bar in a London Hotel — very surreal! The contact with James led to the Carl, Leigh and I making a trip to Titanic. Carl and I spending 12 hours locked together in a MIR submarine, a life-changing experience that wouldn’t have happened to us without Carl. In fact, as I think about it, Leigh and I agree, there so many ‘that wouldn’t have happened without Carls’. From freezing our back sides off 400 miles above the Arctic Circle, playing with 2 Navy mine sweepers, looking for the midget submarine X5, to an amazing 2 weeks spent sailing around Vanuatu with Carl, Vikki and Ben watching volcanoes erupt in the fading evening light.

Carl always had a plan. There was always a next event and you just knew it would happen at sometime.

His generosity to others was just natural. He was never gregarious or overt he just quietly helped where he could.

Carl was a unique individual in the diving industry. There was no take, it was all give. This was possible because there was no ego to fuel. He always doubted his abilities which made him a very humble individual deep down, which in hind-site was always ridiculous. He was constantly genuinely amazed when the next contact became a reality ‘Kev I can’t believe it. I am talking to the European Space Agency and I’m just a bloody Plumber’.

Outwardly, for someone that didn’t drink you would swear he did. Dive trips were a constant round of laughter and humorous ridicule for anyone present. Often pointed inwards, Carl would make as much fun of himself.

As a diver he was among the best. Like so few he listened and learned. His projects were meticulously organised with safety being paramount. Diving was more than a passion for him. He was one of the few modern Explorers in an unforgiving environment akin only to space exploration. Eventually, sadly, like so many explorers he paid the price for his endeavours.

As family men we often discussed the risks involved in what we did. While there was always a healthy respect in the background, Carl was always confident in his ability and would have stopped in a heart beat if he doubted anything or thought he was putting his family at risk.

I was always impressed with Carls’ love of his family. Where ever we were he would find a way to contact home. We even discussed trying to do a Sat phone uplink from 2 ½ miles underwater on Titanic via the MIR’s comms system ‘how cool would it be if I could phone Vikki and Ben?’

Obviously Carl's loss will affect may people. His family will bear the brunt of this but the diving industry whether they know it or not will also suffer, Carl would have gone on to do many extraordinary things.

As for the rest of us his friends and dive buddies, I am sure we all feel the same - at a loss is an understatement. There will be many long discussions into the night, many drinks passing hands, in some cases tears but in many cases laughter.

And this is how Carl should be remembered, with as many good memories as possible, with as much laughter as possible.

The last time I saw Carl the flash bugger landed his helicopter in a field near my house. As he was about to take off several hours later and after discussions about the impending Britannic expedition, film work and space flight he again reminded me he was ‘just a Plumber from Dudley’.

I didn’t believe it then and I am sure Leigh and I never will.
 

Jason D. Tiller

Moderator
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Dec 3, 2000
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From the Telegraph:

Carl Spencer

Carl Spencer, who has died aged 39, was one of the world's most accomplished deep-wreck divers and led several high-profile explorations of famous wrecks, including that of Titanic; he was killed in a diving accident during an underwater filming mission exploring Titanic's sister ship, Britannic.
For the rest, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/5401913/Carl-Spencer.html
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Thank you for posting that, David.

Although only a recreational diver, I'd known of Carl for years through following his explorations of deep wrecks. I was well aware of his reputation as a superlative technical diver, but it wasn't until I joined the Britannic expedition and my brief interaction with him that I became aware of what a truly gracious and kind person he was.

We communicated via email and he mentioned his familiarity with the National Maritime Museum and some Australian wrecks such as the M24 Japanese minisub. As busy as he was when I came aboard on Saturday, he still took the time to give me a warm welcome. The following day, the morning of his final dive, we chatted some more about the museum and some specific projects such as the Bluebird. He was very busy and eagerly anticipating that day's dive objectives, but I have the impression he took time to talk with me to put me at my ease as it was the first time I'd met most of the dive team in person.

Hearing more about him during the remainder of the expedition from his friends and colleagues made me regret even more that my acquaintance with him was so brief. It is difficult to really comprehend the magnitude of his loss for his family, friends and colleagues - and also for all who value exploration and discovery.