From the 1892 Edinburgh Medical Journal Dr. James Lowson describes his personal experience drowning.
"All afternoon the hammering of the big seas on the doomed vessel went on, whilst night came only to add darkness to our other horrors. Shortly before ten o'clock three tremendous seas found their way down the stoke hole, putting out the fires, and our situation was desperate. The end came shortly before mid-night, when there was a heavy crash on the reef, and the vessel was lying at the bottom of the Straits of Formosa in under a minute.
With scarcely time to think I pulled down the life-belts and, throwing two to my companions, tied the third on myself and bolted for the companionway. There was no time to spare for studying humanity at this juncture, but I can never forget the apparent want of initiative in all I passed. All the passengers seemed paralyzed even my companions, some of them able military men. The stewards of the ship, uttering cries of despair and last farewells, blocked the entrance to the deck, and it was only by sheer force I was able to squeeze past them. Getting out on deck, a perfect mountain of water seemed to come from overhead as well as from below, and dashed me against the bridge companionway. The ship was going down rapidly, and I was pulled down with her, struggling to extricate myself.
I got clear under water and immediately struck out to reach the surface, only to go farther down. This exertion was a serious waste of breath, and after ten or fifteen seconds the effort of inspiration could no longer be restrained. It seemed as if I was in a vice which was gradually being screwed up tight until it felt as if the sternum and spinal column must break. Many years ago my old teacher used to describe how painless and easy a death by drowning was - "like falling about in a green field in early summer" - an this flashed across my brain at the time. The "gulping" efforts became less frequent, and the pressure seems unbearable, but gradually the pain seemed to ease up. I appeared to be in a pleasant dream, although I had enough will power to think of friends a home and the sight of the Grampians, familiar to me as boy, that was brought into view. Before losing consciousness the chest pain completely disappeared and the sensation was actually pleasant.
When consciousness returned, I found myself at the surface, and managed to get a dozen good inspirations. Land was about found hundred yards distant, and I used a bale of silk an then a long wooden plank to assist me to shore. On landing, and getting behind a sheltering rock, not effort was required to product copius emesis. After the excitement, sound sleep set in, and this sleep lasted three hours, when a profuse diarrhea came on, evidently brought on by the sea water ingested. Until morning broke all my muscles were in a constant tremor which could not be controlled."