The videos prepare you for the worst, the instructor prepares you for the dive, the panic prepares your concentration, the excitement prepares your anticipation, and yet nothing can truly prepare you for the quiet, pulsing energy of breathing underwater. The barnacle crusted line leads downward toward the dark, sandy bottom. Equalizing the pressure against your ears as you swim, the calmness begins to envelop your body. Nothing is heard, nothing is spoken. Senses become acutely aware of new surroundings and sight takes over since none of the others can actually help you here. Fish swim naturally in unison, ocean plants sway on the tide, clams rhythmically open and close, but none are concerned with the wet-suited intruders. We quickly become a part of the landscape.
The population underwater is akin to walking in NYC, small spaces quickly filled by passing bodies. There is always enough room, since fish swim out of your way instead of through you. Coral is the big resident on the seafloor though. There are so many and they seem so popular. Fish nibbling their skin or fish swimming through their legs, they are the party/keg/cocktails of the sub-aquatic. Nothing can happen until they arrive—which is why they are so important to reef life. They are under threat and need help to survive past the next 50 years of global expansion. We should all support the causes of reef protection to ensure future generations can enjoy them: http://marinebio.org/oceans/conservation/organizations.asp
The initial shock of breathing underwater wears away before long, whereby you begin to feel a part of the ecosystem. You start imagining how hard it would be to catch your dinner down here. Light shines through in transparent rays of glistening sunbeams, providing a small reminder of life’s provider. Particles of marine life are pervasive in this section of water; they drift like snow falling in a windless storm.
Floating weightlessly, hearing only your recurring inhalations and the peace that 15 meters below the surface knows, we swam like flying fish, bubbles oozing out of us in calm ascension. We turned left, and out of the murky dusk, through the floating, snow-like detritus, a shape emerged. It was large and dark, with railings. Soon, a gun turret was visible above the deck and we were swimming next to a sunken US warship.
The algae had grown into each corner and fish had found a new party/keg to hover around to tell their nautical gossip. It was not huge, nor ancient, nor battered with the markings of a sea battle; it was merely a vessel the US could do without, and they had gently sunk it into a suitable place on the delicate reef for visitors to enjoy. It was a fine addition to the environment, and seemingly popular with the locals—a good sign. The last of four wonderfully tranquil dives had ended on a high note, leaving us with a healthy, natural buzz that no drug can aspire to reach—the humbling high of knowing you are just a small fish in a colossal pond.