Monday, February 28, 2005

Last month in Antigua I did a two-tank SCUBA dive. The first one went down about 75 feet, and even that deep, the water was crystal clear all the way to the bottom. Our dive leader spotted a sting ray, half covered in the sand, and chased a flounder across the ocean floor. We saw a nurse shark -- you can actually reach in and pet them as they rest underneath the coral. But I wouldn’t try that with the moray eels gaping out of their holes. Or the giant crabs hanging on beneath the rocks.

Oui, ze lobster, she is an elusive creature... You see eet hiding zere? Non?"

By far, the scariest thing are the barracudas. They’re not terribly huge, but thanks to a slope on the top of their head and a maw filled with razor sharp teeth, the little bastards look like they’ve got a menacing scowl. And they don’t move. While the rest of the sea life sways with the ocean -- the anemones, the parrot fish, the giant groupers, and us humans lugging around our metal-tank lungs, we’re all rocking to the beat -- the barracuda remains motionless: "I don’t dance, motherfucker. But get closer and I’ll show you my flesh-ripping rhumba."

Let us look under ziss bit of coral. Les poissons, les poissons?

One of the things I love about SCUBA diving -- the relative quiet. Hearing very little except my Darth Vader inhales... and then the rumble of bubbles as I exhale. If you hold your breath, it’s nothing but the sound of the waves gently brushing everything back and forth (except that fucking barracuda). Oh, but don’t hold your breath as you ascend, or your lungs will explode, and that would ruin the silence.

Come out, you succulent crustacean. Don’t be shy, mon amie...

One of the things I hate about SCUBA diving -- being in the boat just before and after dives. Out a few knots, even in the calm Caribbean, the swells are nauseating on the surface. I have to stare out at something stationary -- the horizon -- as the other divers come up and start asking, "Hey did you see that beautiful school of tangs?" I tell ‘em unless they wanna see what I had for breakfast, please don’t talk to me ‘til the boat starts moving again.

Ahh, zere you are! Eet ees hard to see you in ze sacre bleu.

The second dive was only 35 feet, so I was able to bring my cheapo disposable underwater camera (it’s waterproof up to 50 feet). Saw some great stuff, but unfortunately, the shots just didn’t come out that well. A few of the other divers had excellent 5 megapixel digicams, with plastic encasings that allowed them to take pictures even on the first dive. I wonder if theirs looked good, or got "blued" out, too.

And what ees ziss? A leetle remora swims avec our dive leader, thinking eet ees a shark. Oh, you silly sucker fish!

Photos or not, it’s an experience you never forget.


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