We just returned from a trip to Alor this week and were greeted by some bad news that hit us hard, our friend and well known deep diving specialist Ben Walzinger had not surfaced after a dive in Pemuteran, Bali. A search was conducted and no trace of Ben has been found in the days since.
Ben was not a just any diver, he spent his whole life and focus on educating divers and in particular instructing deep diving on multiple gases. Ben was an expert in the true sense of the word. In typical German style he knew every technical details of deep diving and taught it in a most professional way, making many friends along the way.
We met Ben when he moved to Tulamben from Thailand, and we hit it off straight away. Mostly because our conversations were always about the ocean and diving. Ben knew Dawn & I as the "youngsters" mainly because he was two or three years older than us, and together we spent many evenings talking into the late hours. His sense of humour kept us laughing and we jibed each other constantly. He liked to be called Uncle Ben or Big Ben but we knew him as Deep Ben.
One day at Seraya Secrets dive site, we had just finished diving and Ben was nearby preparing to dive with his student. He approached us quietly so his student didn't hear. He wanted to borrow my jet fins and boots, as he had left his behind at his office and didn't want to embarass himself by having to drive back to Tulamben to get them! He took the fins & boots and went diving, we then made up a humorous brief dive checklist for him on a piece of cardboard and placed it under the windscreen wiper of his dive van. Every Time we crossed paths at dive sites after this, we would remind Ben " Don't forget your fins and boots". He told me a couple of years later that he still kept the checklist as a reminder, as he had never before forgotten them!
Well Ben, that day never came. I can now imagine you at 85 meters (the planned depth of your last dive) looking out across the very reef you had described to us over dinner not so long ago. A reef that until recently only you had seen at such depths. A pristine deep reef that lay untouched with no signs of human interference.
On this dive something went wrong, it was Uncle Ben's dive number 7,702. With tanks slung under each arm and two on his back, Ben descended. But the boat man waiting on the surface waited for four hours and Ben never ascended. It is highly possible we will never know what went wrong. I do know that Ben was doing what he always loved - diving deep.
I often find myself looking into the deep, gazing down over the edge of a deep drop-off. Imagining what is down there just out of my reach. From now on, when I gaze over the edge it will remind me of you Ben, because I know you are down there somewhere. You had told us your home was in the sea and now you are home.
RIP - Ben Walzinger 1956-2018