Shocking sea – survival tales have always surfaced out, but not many might match the sheer scariness of what Harrison Okene went through when a boat he was sailing on off the Nigerian Coast got capsized because of a sudden ocean swell in May 2013. He was performing the responsibilities of a cook on the boat, and was in the washroom when the tragedy occurred. Somehow, he scrambled his way to the engineer’s office on the boat, where a small air pocket awaited him. With absolutely nothing apart from his scanty clothing and the air pocket and an indefinite wait for rescue, he sought refuge there. It was after almost 60 hours of waiting in sheer darkness that he was spotted by a rescue team, with the video of the operation being up for viewing on several news websites now. However, that was only after the divers missed him once!
The science behind Okene’s death defying resilience
Here’s some physics behind the blood curdling story. An average human adult needs about 350 cubic feet of air per day. The air pocket that Okene found refuge in was about 4 feet high. He was under pressure at the floor of the ocean, and his air pocket was roughly compressed by a factor of 4. The air content was hardly enough for him to stay alive for 60 hours. Aggravating the dangers is the possibility of carbon dioxide concentration, which results from human exhalation. However, Okene’s frantic splashing of the water bed would have increased the effective surface area of the water, as well as its absorption capacity, hence keeping the CO2 percentage to less than the fatal mark of 5%.
LiveScience has also written about how hypothermia could have been a life risk to Okene. When the core body temperature of a person falls below 35 degrees Celsius, a condition called hypothermia occurs in which the person gets subjected to extreme confusion, amnesia, movement disorders, and strange behaviors like terminally burrowing for a small and covered enclosure, just like hibernating animals do! However, Okene had the luck to have a mattress within reach, which he used to keep himself above the water level. Had it not been for that mattress, he might not have survived beyond a few hours.
The aftermaths of a rendezvous with death
Okene is a man like he never thought he would be. After his underwater ordeal that made him see death and despair every single moment, he has got himself a job on firm ground. As per a release by CTVNews, Okene is said to have made a statement about how he’d made a pact with God that he would never see the face of the sea again if he were to survive the accident. Akpovona Okene, the 27 year old wife of Okene, has shared with the media as to how he still gets up from his sleep at nights, only to stutter out phrases like ‘the bed is sinking’ and ‘we’re in the sea’.
Okene has himself been dealing with strange senses of survivor’s guilt. He’s been wondering as to why God made him the only survivor of the scary incident, and why his colleagues had to part with their lives. He’s not even been able to muster up the courage to attend the funerals of his colleagues. Superstitions are widely prevalent in Nigeria and that has sown seeds of fear in him, as regards how the family members of his colleagues would meet him.