Chicken Rock -‘The Island Connection 7’
Chicken Rock doesn’t figure in Sarah and her police partner Penny’s thoughts when they go on an advanced drift dive. However, they are separated from the other divers by whirling currents and find themselves lost at sea in a thick mist. Their only chance of survival is to get to Chicken Rock, a tiny reef surrounded by vicious tidal surges and whirling vortexes. Can they survive the experience? Meanwhile, at The Foundation, Joseph Adebayo has broken the rules and his punishment is to spend two weeks in solitary confinement. But Joseph is tempted by a possible escape route that is more dangerous than he can imagine – as he discovers when the water covers his head.
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She stopped and looked to her left. Then she blinked, pushed down her mask, and looked again. The mist was rolling across the sea in great clouds but, between the clouds, she thought she had seen a high tower. If that were so, it could only be the Chicken Rock lighthouse.
Penny followed her gaze without saying anything and suddenly, there it was, about one hundred metres in front of them, but they were being relentlessly swept past it by the strong current. Sarah shouted, “Swim Penny. Swim for all you are worth. It’s right there.”
Both women found a new resolve, but the tidal flow was fighting them every second and they were no match for it as the lighthouse began to slide away to their right. Yet many extremely strong and complex currents met at Chicken Rock – a criss-crossing of thundering waters, forever merging and parting. And without realising it was happening, they were being swept in a wide circle that looked likely to take them close to the jagged rocks. “Keep going,” Sarah yelled, “We can do it.” And suddenly, without knowing how, Penny was in front of her, being dragged through the water like a piece of lightweight flotsam by a massive whirlpool.
Sarah was dragged along too, both by the whirlpool and by the buddy line attached to her wrist that linked her and Penny together. She struggled to try and catch up but she was rolled to one side over the edge of a huge upsurge on the outside limits of the vortex. She was bowled over by the angry, churning waters and knew she wasn’t going to make the rocks: the spinning waters were pulling her in to the centre and down. Then her sideways progress was halted with an abruptness that made her gasp. She found herself held solidly in place with the whirlpool pushing the swirling waters over her face.
When she managed to lift her head enough to gasp a quick breath and look above the churning water, she could see that Penny was gripping a small outcrop of rock with just one hand. Her other hand, the one with the buddy line attached to her wrist, was outstretched towards Sarah who was being relentlessly sucked towards the centre of the maelstrom. Sarah kicked her legs as hard as she could with one last massive expenditure of energy. Centimetre by painful centimetre, she seemed to make progress towards the smaller woman. Then a wall of water pushed her backwards towards the heart of the whirlpool and she went under.
Sarah couldn’t breath. She thrashed beneath the surface, choking on the icy cold water and trying desperately to reach the surface. She clawed at the water and forced herself up, but the vortex had a different plan for her and pulled her back down again. Just as she thought she must inhale, her head broke into the daylight and she gasped for breath. Penny was still holding tight to the rocks with one hand.
“BCD,” Penny screamed. “Inflate your BCD.”
The buoyancy control device, worn like a vest, was normally inflated from the air tanks that Penny and Sarah had jettisoned. Sarah grabbed the manual mouthpiece and took a deep breath, just as she was sucked below the surface again. At the same time that she blew the full contents of her lungs into the tube, she kicked as hard as she could with her legs, knowing that her life depended on it.
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