Friday, July 02, 2010

'Oh man, look UP you guys!'

On Jay’s second dive I volunteered once more to snorkel around the both of them to assist in anyway I could while taking video and stills. I had already been out snorkeling for about an hour when I saw the two of them being boated out to the dive buoy directly to the front of the hotel. I was way down the coast to the east over 500 meters away when I spotted them. I pushed my camera up around the top of my arm so that it floated behind me and began to swim out to the buoy. After ten minutes of steady flippering I arrived at the side of the boat as they were still trying to tie off. I kicked over to the rope permanently tied to the buoy, grabbed it and tossed it to the boat man.

Dive-master Don was surprised to see me, “Where’d you come from? I didn't think you were going to show.”

Grabbing hold of the dive boat’s side rope I pulled the snorkel from my mouth, “Have faith brudah. I TOLD you I’d be out here. Hey, when you’re down there look up every so often and I’ll show you which way the buoy is by swimming towards it.”

I told him that because the last time Don and I had tried to swim from the buoy the plan had been to make our way back to it to practice safety stops while holding on to the buoy’s anchor chain. But that never happened since we got lost trying to find our way back. As I said in an earlier post, underwater navigation is tough.

The boat had been tied up for only a few minutes when four slender local boys in their early teens suddenly showed up. I was quite impressed to see them since we were in water over 40 feet deep and at least a hundred meters from shore. Yet there they were without fins or snorkels, horsing around as if they were in the deep end of a pool. They had a cheap rubber child's ball like you’d find at any department store, but they were using it more to throw around than as a flotation device. For a while they came over to the boat and held on to the sides for a short rest. Otherwise, they had to continually kick their feet and push down with their hands to keep upright with heads above the water.

“Jenny, did you bring my mask I hope?” I heard Don ask his girlfriend.

I was shocked; Don had forgotten his mask. They had no choice but to head back for it. Considering how obsessed with detail he is I was amazed that such a thing could happen. Anyway, they were back in ten minutes. I stayed by the buoy until they returned. During the wait I saw a dumbell shaped yellow fish with dark stripes hanging around on the buoy chain about 10 feet below me. I took a few stills of the strange looking thing hoping to identify it later; but as of now, still no luck. Leave a comment if you know what it is.

It took the two of them a few minutes to get their scuba gear on and squared away. From my position in the water I set up to take a video of Jay going backwards off the resort's dive-boat for his first time ever. Years before, in his scuba diving past, he had gone off large boats where the diver simply steps off the back. Don was on the other side and flipped in out of my sight. It was Jay’s turn and I had the cam on video. Splash! It didn’t go as I expected.

“Hey Jay, I got the whole thing on video!” I informed him.

“Okay, it will demonstrate how NOT to do it,” he said joking.

His only mistake was not fully committing. Instead of a backward flip he had flopped into the water on his back. I asked Don about doing it that way and he said it should be avoided as it could damage the vest and regulator. Take a look at the video on YouTube.

Jay wasn’t even sure if he would be able to make it down to depth, so bad was the congestion in his head; but, he was determined to give it a try. Don told him to use the buoy chain to control his descent while his ears slowly cleared. Viewing the YouTube of Jay trying to go down, you’ll see how long he holds on barely allowing himself to descend. By comparison, Don heads straight down with hardly a pause. In fact, you’ll see him do it twice; the first trip down he realizes that he’s forgotten his gloves. I spotted it right away and knew he’d be back up for them; no one dives in the tropics without them. Anyway, he flippers his way back up past Jay, retrieves his gloves and then heads straight back to the bottom after a short pause to show Jay that he’d forgotten his gloves. It always makes me jealous seeing him able to do that. And no, he wasn’t showing off; he’s just never had to worry about clearing his ears like those of us that are Eustachian tubally-challenged.

On his first attempt, Jay cannot take the pain. He let’s go of the chain, fills his vest with air and pops back to the surface for relief. Don sees what happens above him and comes up as well. I was sure Jay would not go back for another try, but he did. This time he works through it, gets his ears to mostly clear and finds the bottom.

For the next hour I follow the two of them from above. Watching through my mask, several things strike me as fascinating—for instance, I thoroughly enjoyed the sight of their bubbles released from their regulators—millions of them, from micro bubbles, up to giant ones more than a foot across. The big ones are round on the top and flattened at the bottom as seen in this video and in the others.

I also took a lot of bubble photos as they completely envelope me in a weird feeling bubble cloud, especially the ones coming from very deep. The deep source bubbles are cold compared to the surface water and as each bursts in their hundreds against my skin it feels deliciously cool and stimulating. Strange to think of now, that those bubbles are the exahalation of my friends' breath. Ewwwww.

Diver-Don took them east along the edge of the drop-off and then, surprisingly, considering Jay's extreme stuffiness, they headed north going downhill into the deeper depths. I was happy for Jay that evidently he was able to clear his ears to the point that he was able to go deeper even than 50 feet; I knew this since they completely disappeared from my vantage way above. (Don’s dive computer recorded the exact depth they reached at 74 feet). I continued to follow them by staying with their bubbles streaming upwards from their unseen beginnings far below.

After several minutes the bubbles started to quickly move back up the hill. I looked downward intently but still could not see the two divers producing them. Finally I spotted them far ahead of me, way in advance of their own bubbles.
Directly below I saw Don continuously check his wrist compass and I was impressed that he appeared to be heading back in the correct general direction toward the boat and buoy. But then he made a drastically wrong course change and started to move away from the buoy at a 45 degree angle to the west.
Oh man, look UP you guys!

I tried getting their attention by slapping the water hard with the palm of my hand. They couldn't hear it; neither of them ever looked up. Don had completely forgotten about my offer to help keep them on track. He later said he became so focused on Jay and on the dive that he completely forgot about me. It never even occurred to him to check his “up.” And, not being much of a snorkeler himself, he couldn't imagine that I would be able to stay up there for all that time anyway. It reminds me of what Navy Diver Tom claims, that the brain, for whatever reason, operates at only 75% down there; although I'm sure Don would never admit to something like that.

Don and Jay began to noticeably increase their swim speed after Jay pointed out that his psi gauge was approaching red. It only made things worse, as they were completely off course at that point and heading away from the boat only now at a faster pace. Don finally called it when he saw that they were way too shallow to be anywhere near the buoy, plus Jay’s air was too far gone to safely continue anyway. So, up they came. It was frustrating seeing it all happen below me and not being able to do a thing about it.

Poor Jay, he was able to get his ears mostly cleared to get down to almost 75 feet for that one dive, but for the next two or three days he was unable to continue to dive. Aurally speaking, it laid him low. I felt bad for him because over the next couple days Don and I had some of the most outstanding underwater adventures that we could have hoped for. More on those dives soon…
By the way, click on the bubble pictures especially. They are amazing at full size.

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