One Sunday night ago on Nat Geo Wild, a special aired called “Okavango Underwater”. I spent some time underwater while exploring the Okavango Delta in northwestern Botswana in July, 1979 with five companions. A freak incident put our lives in dire jeopardy.
Our outboard stalled in a papyrus forest. I tilted the motor to see if the prop was clogged, but it was clean. Was it electrical or fuel? Maybe the carburetor was clogged. It happened once before. As I detached the top half, an o-ring flew out into the water. Oh, that’s just fabulous! We tried to fashion a new o-ring by twisting a strip of plastic bag and wedging it in the groove. I pulled the rope to crank the motor and gas spewed out. A faulty o-ring caused the Challenger shuttle disaster. We had no barge poles. We were 50 miles from the nearest village, sharing the swamp with herds of hippos everywhere and millions of crocodiles. We hadn’t seen another boat in five days. We had no control over the boat in the current and there were no islands nearby. What’s left? Start diving to the bottom! It was ten feet deep, covered with black, decaying vegetation. The boat and the papyrus cast a shadow. How far did the current carry the little black o-ring?
With snorkel and goggles, we systematically removed and sifted plant matter from where we believed the o-ring lay. Two of us had the task – I and a rugby team mate. One searched while the other watched for crocs and hippos. Each dive lasted about two minutes. It was exhausting, holding our place and swimming in and out of the zone. About 45 minutes later I was hanging on to the side of the boat, gasping, when I saw a hand come out of the water holding the o-ring. We inserted it, cleaned the spark plugs and the engine started. Not twenty feet to the side of the boat was a huge croc in the papyrus. He was stalking us.
We prayed that morning after breakfast for protection. A small rubber ring was the difference between life and death for six people. What were our chances of finding it? I and my son (he was 12 then, but a doctor in his 40’s now) are alive today because my teammate, Duncan, gave all he had to save us. Duncan’s God stretched out His hands to save him, and Duncan reciprocated. We got back to civilization three days later. Talk about two helping hands!
What’s in your hand to save someone in distress? Join your hand with ours in the Knights. We’ll get it done in tandem.
Membership Director for the St. Bonaventure Knights of Columbus Council 12240
For more info. on the works of the Knights of Columbus visit www.kofc.org