Tuesday, February 16, 2010

18,995 Miles Traveled

Feb 14, 2010
The Maldives
Clear, Hot, humid

Thoreau is quoted by Andrea Barrett in Voyage of the Narwhal: “It is not easy to write in a journal what interests us at any time, because to write it is not what interests us.” Normally, I would never begin anything with a famous quotation, but because we are reading Narwhal for this class, the statement seemed appropriate. Nonetheless, I must disagree with it. As I lay out under the stars tonight and our dive masters played Maldivian music on a guitar and mini bongo, all I wanted to do was write a poem to completely convey the moment to all of you readers. But again, I must disagree. This would be a terrible idea because none of you would want to read anything I wrote ever again. These last two days have been especially difficult journaling days because the experiences I’ve had are so precious and amazing that I work very hard to accurately depict them in writing. Sloppiness would be a travesty.
Today, we did another two dives. The first one was even more wonderful than yesterday’s dives, and I felt very much at ease (which was reflected in my air consumption). We swam around a coral pinnacle, and the moment I descended I was surrounded by thousands of fish on every side. Then I looked down and saw a nurse shark, then a white-tip reef shark, then turtles, and I was in a complete fantasy land. We drifted along with the current, and again, I felt like a poem was in order. Everything I could say about diving has already been said, because I feel like the wonder accompanies the ability to inhabit a new part of the earth uniformly overcomes every oxygen-breathing being that has the opportunity to exist for a short period of time underwater.
What I can say is that our second dive really challenged me and was a useful exercise in keeping calm. Going down, I immediately knew that the visibility and current were not ideal. Up till this dive, there was excellent visibility and the current always worked in our favor. I struggled to keep up with the dive master and breathe deeply as we swam against the ocean. I felt myself becoming increasingly anxious, and my plastic mouthpiece was tearing off. I fought to keep my regulator in my mouth when the current was pulling it away. Finally, I put a finger on the coral and switched to my secondary regulator, which worked fine. I couldn’t focus on the fish, I only focused on breathing and staying composed.
After half an hour, the dive master signaled for us to go up, and without me seeing, Tim signaled that he was out of air. The dive master pulled my secondary regulator out of my mouth, despite my serious apprehension. I stuck my damaged primary into my mouth and held it in, while Tim pulled me up like a buoy, destroying our 5 meter safety stop. He floated as far above me as possible while I kicked as hard as possible to stay down. Finally, we surfaced. I napped the rest of the afternoon, had dinner, and am now back on the island.
Another dive tomorrow!

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