Dying diver's diary of her final hours

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TOKYO - A Japanese diver who was swept out to sea last Saturday kept a poignant record of the last 48 hours of her life in the water, including the several occasions when she was nearly spotted by search teams, before she finally succumbed to exposure, writes Terry McCarthy.

The diary of despair of Toshiko Nakanishi, 33, was still attached to her flotation jacket when her body was discovered on Wednesday off the tropical island of Palau in the western Pacific.

Ms Nakanishi had gone diving with four other Japanese tourists and a local guide. Two other bodies have been recovered and the search for the other three is continuing. The tragedy apparently began when the divers had completed an underwater drift, but were unable to rejoin their boat when they surfaced because its engine had broken down and it was stranded some distance away from them.

Palau is regarded as one of the best diving locations in the Pacific, but is known for its strong and treacherous currents.

The record kept by Ms Nakanishi was written on a water-fast plastic tablet used by divers for communicating under water. Her record revealed that as she and her companions floated on the sea's surface for two days, they saw at least three aeroplanes and two ships, although they themselves were not spotted. Planes from the US and Japanese air forces, along with a dozen ships, were combing the area where the divers had gone missing.

Ms Nakanishi's diary starts with an entry at 4.30pm on Saturday, 5 February, about four hours after they had finished their dive, when she writes that she observed a plane flying overhead 'but it didn't notice me'.

It goes on: 'Evening. Peleliu (island) is not close. I can see a neighbouring island.

'After dark, I saw a big ship - two minutes. Around a near island, a flashing light.

'Sunday 6 February, around 5.30 in the evening, a plane flew close, but it didn't notice me.

'Monday 7 February, around 11.15am, a ship and an aeroplane come to the right and the left . . . I saw each for about two minutes . . . it is close . . .