jueves, 28 de enero de 2010

350 Feet of Mystery

Summer dive in the Caribbean waters of St.Thomas
License: Open Water Diver. Saturday July 28, 8AM:

   First mate to the captain aboard the diving vessel "Day Off" finishes his last passenger call on his check list. Minutes later, the vessel disembarks away from the exotic dock provided by "Hotel El Conquistador", Marina Lanais, at the city of Fajardo. 

The frothy six foot vessel and its fifteen crewmembers or more, say fare well to the island of Puerto Rico, the vessels diesel engines start to growl, emotions and feelings start to spur among the passengers.

   We headed out on this adventure with Jhony, my scuba instructor from Blue Dolphin Scuba , also there were  other diving schools such as Scuba Dogs and Extreme Divers making this voyage. So there was another vessel with us, and it was exactly the same as ours. Onboard, it seemed like we all had our minds focused on the same thing. And for some, it was certainly a spiritual one, and there was only one thing in hour mind: Diving at two exotic locations that "we knew ", only could be provided by the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Our first location was an abandoned shipwreck that leveled at ninety feet deep at the bottom of the ocean floor, two miles away from the "Porpoise Rocks", south if the island of St .Thomas. The second one was a frothy five feet dive; the site was formed by a coral reef, full of marine life and cave formations.

   In order to get in the mood before the dive, most of the passengers onboard the diving vessel socialized among them selves; also, it was a means of collecting valuable information to prolong their dives in a better and more enjoyable way. For most of them, sharing their experiences was more than a way of getting self composed for their descent, those were moments of sharing intense feelings, feelings that at some point glanced at their vests, their masks, and at their fins, stares that finished mooring over the ocean waves, stares that at the end, brought them joy in a breath of ecstasy.

   I will start by sharing some moments during my first dive. It was over the shipwreck "Wit Concrete", a gasoline vessel that, according to tales… succumbed to the forces of hurricane Marilyn in 1995. It was a descent that lasted approximately more than half an hour.

"Day Off "was moored into the shipwreck's hull. So, I went down behind the group using the anchors rode.

   As I decompressed and verified my depth using the gauges that my manometer console provided; it was only then that I realized how impressive this dive was going to be. Then, I reached more depth, of thirty feet approximately. Very focused then, I moved my eyes around to discover the reality of what I was about to see at this site. Everything was covered by a great blue color that, I will have to call "Power Blue." It paled everything around the site, then, the three hundred and fifty foot vessel started to show itself.

   Enjoyable visibility at this site was only clinched when you reached over the fifty foot depth mark. In addition there was a slight under sea current carrying along some sediment particles and of course… the three hundred and fifty feet structure. From my perspective it lied at the abyss; it was sunk at the ninety feet mark on the ocean's floor. What do we have here? Well, for me, it seemed like a "Mystery "scene, I felt like I was trespassing an unexplored world.

   This experience was very intense for me, and I can recall that I felt very pleasant being there.

   When I reached the forty feet mark, I had to tighten my grip to the rode, the underwater current pressed on me again like it did often during the descent, subsequently I stared in the way of my fins, just to realize… that my diving crew was hovering almost like in a waltz rhythm over the shipwreck's top platform. Small bubbles fled out from their backs, seeming to look like small pieces of diamonds that swirled their way up to the surface. Finally I stared to visualize more marine life. "I made it ", I said to myself, feeling more comfortable, I found life.

   After decompressing at forty five feet, I felt like letting go of the anchors rode, and I did, slowly glancing over the wreck, I thought for a moment about the importance of wearing diving gloves. It was an impressive experience, it roused in me a feeling of discovery, it was an abandoned structure rotten by time but rescued by every sort of marine life. Comparing this dive to a reef spot location, this was a completely different experience.

   A whole football field long or more, that's the wreck's length of three hundred and fifty feet, if you put it in other words, very exiting. And, as I was floating on top of the stern (back of the wreck) I also realized that the center of the ship was out of my site due to the ocean's deep blue colors. I t was a tempting space that invited you to get into. I decided it wasn't such a good idea to go in to explore down to the bow (front part of the ship), the bow seemed to disappear in the blue colors of the abyss.

   Slowly I glanced ahead, sliding into a metal structure that seemed to be a storage room, or maybe it was the lower part of the ship's commanding post.

   I passed through doors that lead me into a darkish room; at the end I could see the rear structure of the ship and into the open deep blue ocean. Inside the dark room a couple of "Black Jack fish "the size of two baseball gloves each, awaited for my entrance. I felt like a cadet in front of the two captains; floating statically they seemed to stare at my slow journey.

  I joint my hands under my belly moving my fins very slowly, almost like in a slow motion. I finally glanced out of the room, making it to the outside at the end of the stern. At this point I could see all the way down on to the vessels propellers and up to its platform where the dark room lied; maybe it was thirty or forty five feet in height. Very calmly, I made my way to the side of the wreck; maybe I was ten feet away from it, looking at the size of the ship and gazing over the marine life that covered it, wondering.

   It was about at this moment that I decided to join the group. At this time almost all of us ascended to the fifteen feet mark, therefore making our required five minutes decompression stop. All of us at this point grabbed on tight to the anchors rode, for some moments we battled the slow underwater current that suddenly made its presence.
Safely on board and without any one hurt, we called this dive to an end, and for me, it was an excellent dive!

   Our next diving location was situated at just one mile from the island of St.Thomas, very different site when you look at the shipwreck's location; wich was situated two miles away from shore.

   My dive buddy made the descent at this site, and soon enough we were claiming it as an "Exotic clear water paradise of color and marine life".

    The dive site was formed by a coral reef; its base was around one hundred and fifty feet wide, and it had a height of maybe forty five feet. Small one foot waves formed at the top of the reef that made it out to the water. On one location I passed under a coral reef arch that formed just in front of me. When I made it to the other side of the arch, my diving buddy was waiting for me, pointing me to some direction filled with ecstasy. It was a swirl of bright colored fish that tumbled from side to side at constant speed; it gave the impression of vibrant energy and multicolored life. It was very impressive, and we enjoyed this dive site for about twenty or thirty minutes.

   Diving is great, what a gratifying day of recreation. Finally we packed our gear without any set backs and without any one hurt. It was really a nice moment to end our submarine adventures for the day, and it was another excellent dive. Then, our diving vessel journeyed to the island of St. Thomas.

   Once we got there, and just in front of the dock, we enjoyed a delicious meal made out of grilled chicken sandwiches at "The Green House" restaurant. We also rested for some minutes, and it was there where I felt like filling out some more details on my diving log.

   Our vessel made its way in front of the afternoon's sun set, and it was a comfortable voyage as we headed east just like the waves and the wind.

    Well, regarding me at this moment , I chatted with my buddy about my experiences this day , at some point I just relaxed tuning into my portable disc player , staring at the stars, and, at some moments just staring at the bioluminescent lights that poured out of "Day Offs" hull.

   Going back to the diving experience, I will have to accept the importance of the logistics that involves having all of the correct gear for a dive like this. Out of this diving expedition, I also learned very important things such as; verifying that I have all of my recognition equipment for emergencies under, and on top of the water. And no less importance is to practice the ventilation of the expanding air inside my buoyancy vest, in order that I may not have any unexpected ascensions to the surface. It was my eigth and my ninth dive, so I think it went along very well for me, although I recognize I can do better for up and coming expeditions.

   Diving is a very exciting thing to do, and you can enjoy it just as much as you enjoy any other recreational sport with any other person. The island natives and the underwater marine world will always be your buddies, preserve them.

Under Water Photography courtesy of: Ocean Sports Divers/ facebook.
                                                                My dive School: Blue Dolphin Scuba / facebook.  

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