I WAS AT 82M IN THE CAVE WHEN ALL THE LIGHTS WENT OUT.
My buddies and their super-bright HID lights had just disappeared beneath a wedge-shaped boulder, when it struck me that my back-up torch was looking distinctly weedy. As I turned the bulb to face me, it simply faded away, giving me just enough time to check the position of the line before being engulfed in blackness.
Oh dear. This is my Kristin Scott Thomas English Patient moment.
The fact that my lovely HID light had pegged it within 5m of the cave entrance should have served as a warning. A broken wire in the cable - possibly the result of being pitched about on desert dirt tracks in a pick-up truck - had done for it.
A more sensible person might have decided to call the dive, but when you're on a two-day off-road expedition in the middle of the Sinai and your team are gagging to go, it's pretty much unthinkable.
Between us we have enough light to fill Wembley stadium. Each diver has two torches that will survive the 100m-plus planned depth, plus backlit instruments. And we're diving in a team of three, so there's lots of light around. What could go wrong?
I hit the backlight on my VR3. A reassuring blue glow surrounds me. It's amazing how far a tiny amount of light goes when you're in total blackness. I now know that I'm at 77m and I can move up to my first deep stop. If Kevin Gurr was here, I'd be kissing his feet. Immediately after mugging him for his torch, of course.
The blue glow turns off after a couple of seconds, so I flip the slider on the master handset of my rebreather to activate the backlight briefly and check my progress to my first deep stop.
Decompression can be a drag at the best of times, but when you're alone in a cave with no torch, it seems interminable. I'd love to just continue up and find my way out, but computer says no!
The consequences of getting bent in the middle of nowhere aren't worth contemplating, so I hang in the darkness, counting down the seconds. Every now and then I flip on my handset for reassurance.
After all, I tell myself, diving in total darkness is no big deal for UK divers. Dive out of Dover and you won't be able to see your torch when it's turned on, so there's no panic if it goes out.
At this point, the alarm goes off on my rebreather. I pick up my handset and the words "AP Diving" appear. Fond as I am of the company, I was hoping to see some information about my ppO2.
This is not good. Do I feel that Jesus is with me? Do I think I might die here? Absolutely not.
What I think is that if you dive with boys who are more interested in their camera and video equipment than in you, you'd better be able to look after yourself, whatever happens.
Why didn't my mum give me that kind of advice, rather than banging on about the state of my bedroom and the hemline on my jeans? Fortunately, while disappointing my mum was standard, disappointing my cave-diving instructor is unthinkable. Survival
That evening, as the sun goes down, and the Bedouins cook dinner over an open fire, I realise to my horror that I have to sleep out here on a manky mattress.
Tomorrow I'll squeeze my way back into the cave through a 60m window in the reef wall, but tonight the thought of insects crawling over me as I sleep is too awful to contemplate, and I retreat to kip down in the Landcruiser. It's caves 0, cockroaches 1.