Wednesday, April 8, 2009

under the sea

Imagine standing around with a group of fit hip college students in your bathing suit. Then stretch on a vey tight, damp, rubbery wet suit, adjusting your flesh to fit its cling. Pull on an inflatable lifejacket, with four hoses and a big metal tank longer than your torso attached: the thing weighs about 40 pounds, and has five different clasps to keep it on. You want to sink to your knees with its weight, even though you think yourself strong. Add a weight belt with another 30 pounds. Then slap a mask on your face, covering your eyes and nose. Oh wait, you forgot, take the mask off, you have to spit in it first so it doesn’t fog up. Snorkel on the side. Squish your feet into two flapping fins. Now take that right-hand hose, put the respirator at its end in your mouth, draw in the dry air with the slightest delay, the slightest catch, frighteningly recalling pneumoniatic breaths. Now, don’t fall over on those fins, make your way to the front of the boat. And, with all that weight pressing on you, with all your senses gone except your cloudy masked vision, your breathing already impaired, jump off the edge of the boat to the deep water 15 feet below. It’s terrifying. Despite so much careful practicing, despite that our rational minds were trying to dryly remind us through the “aaaaa no no no no can’t breathe will sink going to die no no no” of our lizard brains that the thing in our mouths would give us fresh air, we were all convinced we would drown. Two women threw up. A few cried. One man almost passed out. I went mute, dizzy, totally panicked. But then…

The second you start to sink down (thank you, boat boy, for pushing me), the air in your mouth from the respirator is a cool and real presence. You aren’t drowning. And there are bubbles! And it’s so blue! Beautiful bubbles. You have no idea. All the gear is instantly weightless, already forgotten. You’re an astronaut, a bird, your own dream, microscopic. The ocean is so HUGE. The fish – surely they can’t exist? striped, glowing, then one brushes your hand! And the shock of it, this vista so totally alien, which no recording or aquarium could prepare you for, is real and you are in it. It’s like discovering an additional sense, an epiphany, faith. And the coral, the anemones, haven’t even appeared yet. It is so, so beautiful. And being weightless is so, so fun.

As of the end of last week, I officially completed my Open Water Diver scuba certification. My plans to complete the Advanced and then Underwater Photo Specialty certifications (the whole point of starting scuba) were thwarted by an untimely head cold. Another time. I’ll be back. I can’t wait to be under the sea again.

(Sorry, no photos. Next time!)


EEJ said...

I got totally nervous just reading this, but it's awesome that you did it!

~m said...

I am sooo envious.