An Update on Harrison Okene, the Accidental Aquanaut

A couple of years ago, ExplorersWeb did a story about Harrison Okene, the Accidental Aquanaut. It was an astonishing survival tale. Okene was a cook on a fishing boat off the Nigerian coast, when the craft sank. The others on the boat perished, but Okene managed to find a bubble of air in the sunken boat. There he sat, for over two days in the dark, until divers came to retrieve the bodies. They were astonished when this ghostly figure reached out and touched one of them. He was alive.

They brought him slowly and carefully to the surface. Harrison Okene had just weathered an astonishing ordeal.

This was 10 years ago. What has happened to Okene since then?

For years, he relived his time beneath the ocean through recurring nightmares. “When he is sleeping, he has that shock, he will just wake up in the night saying ‘Honey see, the bed is sinking, we are in the sea,’ ” says his wife.

Too afraid to return to the ocean, the former cook on a fishing boat took a chef’s job on dry land. But he was unable to put the event behind him. So he decided to face his fear head-on.

Becomes a rescue diver

In 2015, he returned to the ocean. This time, to become a qualified diver.

It wasn’t a hobby that Okene wanted. Rather, he was motivated to become a rescue diver, to save the lives of others who found themselves in desperate straits underwater, as he had been.

Now Okene is an IMCA Class 2 Commercial Air Diver. His Facebook page has become an unofficial search and rescue tribute feed. Here, he expresses passionately how he wishes for changes in safety at sea. His YouTube channel has more than 2,000 subscribers.

Some people in those emergency situations survive. But it’s those who don’t who leave the deepest mark on Okene’s conscience.

Many journalists have reached out to Okene since his rescue. Discovery Channel made a short documentary about him.

Okene knows that he is very lucky to be alive. He does not take that for granted.

Chasing Dreams Travel

Alex Myall is a writer for ExplorersWeb. She has been writing about exploration and historical expeditions for four years. Previously she wrote about the human body in relation to exercise for publications and websites based in New Zealand. She also wrote modules for the Zealand Certificate of Exercise, Level 4. Based on Wellington’s South Coast, New Zealand, Myall is a full-time mother of two young girls, an enthusiastic trail runner, and a fanatical traveler. She also owns and operates a small travel agency.