What Lies Beneath
Thought I would kick this off with a story I wrote about my first dive in 2008. I can still remember that first ocean dive and thinking, ‘Yep, I’m hooked.’
‘Look down!’ That is the first instruction as soon as I hit the water, and I look down to see a dark shape gliding smoothly beneath us. A stingray, fairly large, amazing and gentle in its movements for something so big. I smile, but you can’t tell because the respirator is in my mouth. My buddy, much more comfortable in the water removes his and breathes a ‘wow’ in our general direction, then shoves his head back into the cold water to follow its movements again. It’s a special feeling, that we all saw something so beautiful, that we could talk about later. And even though that’s a common sight under the wharf, it will still continue to amaze me every time.
While I wait at the surface for my turn to descend with the divemaster, the others slowly disappear into the murky grey depths. The visibility is so grainy, that even when under, the others become blurry when they get even just a little ahead of me.
Touch down. We flurry the sand away from our landing place with our fins, and watch as baby stingrays vacate the area so we can kneel. They vary in size, some small like my hand, and all a patterned grey/brown. At their young age they haven’t developed barbed stings yet, but even if they had they are a docile creature not to fear.
We kneel in a circle, eyes glued to our instructor as he demonstrates skills for us to complete. We do each skill in turn. So many things to remember!
Then came the Blue Groper. I didn’t expect it to be so blue, or so large, or so sociable, but the he was all of those things and more. I first notice it when it is right next to us, slowly following, watching us sideways out of a glossy deep eye. Its body is bright, each large scale defined, and what looked like scars across one shiny side. Puppy-like and pushing at us. Perhaps wanting us to produce some snack for him!
Buoyancy was becoming easier, and we plane smoothly along together, watching as the ocean floor environment changed. Higher here, lower there, tiny corals, then sea grasses with leatherjackets hiding amongst the fronds. Then rocks, with sea urchins like well placed mines in the cracks, and fan worms retreating with a swish as we pass quietly overhead.
Suddenly barnacle encrusted pylons loom out of the edges of our vision, rising regally to the elusive surface. Sometime in our underwater venture we have turned back around to face the wharf, and at that moment I realise just how poor my navigation skills actually are.
Finally and with regret it is time to ascend. There is one final trial though…And I thought getting the wetsuit ON was hard work!
(Pic – Blue Groper)
(Logbook – Merimbula Wharf, Aus.)