Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Dip in the Aegean

I’ve not been below the waves for most of a year. Sitting on the edge of a rib, bounding across the surface of the Aegean between sky and sea blue, I am all anticipation. Back into the routine of kitting up, checks, all OK signalled with thumb and finger and down we go.

Water rushes into the ears, with the accompanying dulled sense signalling entry into another realm. Just like that the mind switches and relaxes, enveloped in weightlessness. Down, equalisation, down, equalisation.
The Mediterranean no longer has the animalian wonders of other seas, over fished-for so long, but you just never know. Twinned with the calm other-worldliness of diving, it is this sense of the unknown, adventure and surprise that has solidified my addiction.
Eighteen meters down and across to a vertical wall. We are circumnavigating a small island in the middle of the Cyclades. The mind concentrates on the small flora and fauna, investigating anemones, fish, sponges and little sea-worms filtering the sea with dangling arms. Pleasant surprises. Two protruding antennae give away a lobster poking out of one whole. An angry looking moray eel guarding another. Every so often my mind trips out of the moment and contemplates how odd it is to be in this alien environment. Then something of interest draws me back and it all feels so natural.

A large cleft in the rock to the right and a three meter wide tunnel opens up. In we go. Up it leads, torches showing up gold fish. Careful breathing to control buoyancy, I branch off to explore a side tunnel. A squeeze, the walls close-in as I progress. Some tiny shrimp distract me from a tinge of claustrophobia. Always easier to go forward then backwards in all this gear, caution eventually halts me. I back-up, but was sorely tempted by the unexplored cavern ahead. Next time.
Back up the main shaft, gliding over submerged stalacmites, ten meters on and the surroundings open up into a large enclosed space. We are in the island. A safety stop searching nooks and crannies and I surface into an airspace at the highest echelon of this submerged cavern. I lie on my back, stare at the stalactites and listen to the echoing trickles and splashes.
Back under and across to the other side of the cave, the scene is stolen by a large entrance back out to the open sea. A vast porthole into another world, bursting in bright blue and transversed by a shoal of fish. Out and down deeper. A large abandoned net sprawls from wall to the sea-floor, slowly being colonised by small things of the deep. A small revenge against the savage destruction of this sea by man.
Most of the larger fish long-gone, there is little reason to search out in the blue in this sea, so I concentrate back on the intricasies of the sea wall. A dozen different types of small fish and then my gift goodbye. A scorpion fish no longer then my index finger lies motionless on an outcrop of rock. Only with my torch can I detect its vivid red colour and spines.
Timeless, yet gone in a moment. Slow ascent to the silhouette of a boat and the shimmering sparkle of the sun.
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