With the help of eight boats, Whale Watch Kaikoura and the Wings Over Whales, and the quick response of the coastguard searching for me, I was found safe and well. Once again thank you for your help and for doing such a great job. I have made a small donation of $200 to New Zealand Coastguard. Andrew Russell-Ward In a letter to the coastguard
A man plucked from the sea off the Kaikoura coast at Christmas made a donation to the Kaikoura Coastguard to express his gratitude.
Andrew Russell-Ward, from Britain, wrote to the coastguard to thank its staff, along with Whale Watch Kaikoura and Wings Over Whales, for their help with the search.
Mr Russell-Ward said he got into difficulty during a solo dive on December 28.
The dive itself was successful but when he surfaced, he could not find the dive boat due to the undercurrent and choppy sea.
Worried he was being swept out to sea by a rip tide, he inflated his diver signal marker and started to fin backwards parallel to the coast, measuring progress by keeping in sight a point on the cliff.
"Due to my training as an ex-Royal Navy diver, I was very aware of secondary drowning and kept my mask and regulator firmly in my mouth," Mr Russell-Ward said.
"One thing that was quite amazing was I had dolphins circling me. All I can imagine is that they knew something was wrong and were there to protect against any predators."
Mr Russell-Ward tried to make himself tall in the water but knew he would not be able to swim to safety against the tide.
After about an hour-and-a-half on the surface, he managed to spot a Whale Watch Kaikoura boat between himself and the shore.
"I waved at the boat using the inflated signal marker but at the same time tried to conserve my energy.
"Luckily the boat saw me and turned and headed towards my direction."
Within minutes, the boat had reached Mr Russell-Ward and the crew threw a line and life ring to him.
"It was a big relief to be on board. If it wasn't for the co-ordination of the coastguard, the whale tour boat would not have been sent as far down the peninsula as that.
"I had been picked up 4km away from the point where I started the dive."
Kaikoura Coastguard president John Macphail said Kaikoura tour operators including Whale Watch and Encounter Kaikoura were very good at responding when called upon in rescue situations.
A call had been put out on all channels calling for anyone able to help with the search and in this instance a Whale Watch boat responded.
The boat had been out on a tour with passengers on board, he said, which made an exciting experience for them as well as a good result for Mr Russell-Ward.
Mr Macphail said Mr Russell-Ward had indicated he planned to return to New Zealand and was keen to join the coastguard as a volunteer.
- The Marlborough Express