Grant Downie had been out of the Pacific Ocean for about 10 minutes when he realized he could no longer see out of his right eye.
The second-generation commercial diver had been deeper beneath the waves than usual searching for his catch — red sea urchins prized by restaurateurs for their uni, or sushi-grade gonads. But the red urchins, which dwell in underwater kelp forests, had gotten harder to find in recent years; each additional foot of depth forced more nitrogen into his bloodstream and upped his risk for dangerous bubbles lodging in his body or brain.
This time, with half of his vision a wall of black, he feared he’d finally pushed his body too far. Though his right eye regained its function 20 minutes later, the 33-year-old decided he was done with such risky dives, even if the decision would end up costing him income.
“I knew that was it for me,” Downie said last March, about seven months after the incident, which took place off the coast of Fort Bragg in Northern California. “I’ll probably go down to 65 feet, but I don’t know if I’ll do that deep, deep edge. It’s getting harder and harder for t... Read more