"Sharkwater" filmmaker missing
February 1, 2017 8:20 AM   Subscribe

Rob Stewart, "Sharkwater" filmmaker, is missing. Canadian filmmaker and marine conservation activist Rob Stewart, 37, is missing in the ocean after a difficult dive in the Florida Keys on Tuesday, Jan 31. Stewart is best known for the multi-award winning 2006 documentary Sharkwater (trailer).

An experienced diver, Stewart vanished at 5:13pm on Tues Jan 31. His family reports that after a 70-metre deep dive near Islamorada in Florida's Upper Keys, Stewart may have passed out in the water after surfacing. Stewart is outfitted with a rebreather, a closed-circuit breathing apparatus which scrubs carbon dioxide from the diver's exhaled breath and re-uses it, thus creating no bubbles to scare fish. He is also wearing a drysuit, which unfortunately hides body heat from sensor equipment, hampering last night's overnight searches. Time is critical and search efforts are currently underway.
posted by spraypaint (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"It's extremely rare that even experienced divers are qualified to do that kind of dive," Stewart's sister said.

"The other fellow who was on the same final dive appears to have lost consciousness when he surfaced, so it might have been too much diving in a certain window. It's hard to speculate."

Two failures. That's some pretty strong indication of very poor diving practice.
posted by srboisvert at 9:06 AM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

It certainly doesn't look good. That was a pretty deep dive, especially for the third dive of the day. And I've done a little diving in the Keys and wonder why he needed a dry suit, which can further complicate things. Like everyone else I hope he's ok, but am not optimistic.
posted by TedW at 10:13 AM on February 1, 2017

Very sad news.

It's pretty surprising to see 2 divers passing out at the same time.

Since nobody mentioned the 2nd diver being transporter to a recompression chamber I'll assume this wasn't a rapid ascent/DCI problem. Could be bad gas (CO or other contaminants in the gas), a problem with the compressor or residues left in the bottles from a previously faulty compressor could cause it. Or it could be mislabled bottles with the wrong mix in them, or somebody really screwed the pooch when packing the sorb in the scrubber (or plain forgot to change it).

It's a CCR dive so there's a lot more things that can go wrong than on OC, if they ever figure out what happened to the surviving diver it might shed some light on what happened to Rob. But it's certainly not looking good. A scuba vest in not a PFDs it's not designed to keep your head out of the water so if he passed out on the surface he can drown, and if he's underwater....

I wonder if he intentionally went back underwater... because with a dry suit + the wing on the CCR there should be ample buoyancy available and once it established it's hard to lose it. Did they drop their camera while rescuing the other diver? (I assume that upon surfacing they'd clip to a line/themselves to make sure it doesn't happen)

And about the drysuit, he's probably using it because a 30 min dive at 230ft means a total dive time of about 2hrs with the decompression stops, so that's quite a long dive especially with 1h30 of stops (you're not swimming so you get colder) and anyway at 230ft your wetsuit is crushed and not providing much warmth. Once you're used to them drysuits are quite easy, and don't contribute much to task loading.
posted by coust at 10:30 AM on February 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Here's a guy who got lost off New Zealand in 2006 and floated alone in a wetsuit for 75 hours, then was found sunburned, dehydrated and delirious, but healthy. Fingers crossed for Rob.
posted by spraypaint at 11:38 AM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thread at scubaboard.com
posted by scottatdrake at 12:45 PM on February 1, 2017

Rob is a personal friend. He and I became friends just as Sharkwater was completed and beginning to show. He flew down to Key West, did a viewing and we talked and talked. See, after the viewing I said to him, Sharkwater is too good, you're going to be the spokeshuman for the sharks.

He said, no way. It's one film. He's a filmmaker first and foremost. He has other films he wants to make. The next day we went snorkeling at the reef with sharks. Great times.

Over the years we've had good dialog. I'm down in Key West and messaged his buddy/collaborator offering every bit of help I can muster. Being here since I was one, I can muster.

And Rob's sort of amazing. If he doesn't pull this off, I'll be heartbroken. But if anyone can, it might be Rob. God, I want you to know I'm praying and crying but praying mostly. Regardless of both of us being busy most of the time, I love him a lot. In any case I can't even believe I'm writing this. Jesus please please thank you please
posted by Mike Mongo at 8:46 PM on February 1, 2017 [13 favorites]

but you know what even if he doesn't turn up gone I want you to know I kind of always suspected he wasn't from here like maybe he just went back home
posted by Mike Mongo at 8:52 PM on February 1, 2017 [8 favorites]


Unfortunately Rob'a body has been found underwater approximately 300ft from where he dissapeared.

posted by coust at 5:11 PM on February 3, 2017

I'm sorry for your loss Mike Mongo
posted by thelonius at 5:15 PM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

The timeline makes it sound as if they had made a decision to not search underwater until all hope from a surface search was exhausted.
posted by Flashman at 6:07 PM on February 3, 2017

Flashman, I can understand that. After a few minutes the chances of recovering him alive after discovering his body underwater were very very slim/non-existent, better start searching at the surface where there are chances he's alive if you find him. 230ft is significant depth to be diving to, you'll be incuring significant decompression obligations, with the risks that come with it, shorter time windows to respond to potential problems and narcosis issues unless you're using helium. So before you send people on a risky body recovery you make sure he's not drifting on the surface (which would have been a much happier ending).

It still sucks.
posted by coust at 7:41 PM on February 3, 2017

Thank you, thelonius. I have only one thing to add and it is this. Rob died after doing exactly what he has ever wanted to do for most of his life and most certainly for the past ten years.

For the past ten years, since Sharkwater, Rob had the best life imaginable. He pursued his passion while at the peak of his physical talents and abilities, he spoke before a hundred thousand people or more upon a subject he loved dearly, and people heard and listened to what he had to say. His contributions, which do not die with him but instead take on a larger meaning now because his message and the message of his work is complete, have had an impact on the world and our future.

People remember Steve Irwin for so many good things but I want you to know what has always made him a hero to me is he died doing what he loved best in the world. What brings tears to my eyes as I write these words is now I have two heroes like that. And the other one is my friend Rob Stewart.

He died doing what he loved best of all in the world. I can think of no better legend than that.

Nonetheless, remember, sharks are not the enemy.

posted by Mike Mongo at 8:54 PM on February 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

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