Sunday, September 7, 2014

Report from the Reef 2014

I had begun to think we might never SCUBA dive again.  The last dive we took was in 2011 which I wrote about in this post.  In 2012, we had a dive scheduled, but my spouse had such severe back pain that we had to cancel--that was one of the events that let me know how bad his back had gotten.  In 2013, we were buying a house, moving, and selling a house, so we missed all sorts of opportunities.

But yesterday, we finally went again.  Our dive buddy has a son who just got certified, so he's eager to go.  A friend of our dive buddy is also certified and wanted to go too.  So, at 6:15 yesterday morning, we loaded up the car and went down to Key Largo. 

We go down to John Pennecamp State Park for several reasons, but the most important might be that our dive buddy can get us a good deal with a dive operation down there.  I also like diving in a place where no one will be fishing.  It's a protected area--not as protected as it needs to be, as there are still too many boats and divers, humans and their objects which stress the reef.

The reef is already stressed by global climate change:  higher ocean temps and more acidic seas.  Yesterday, as in 2011, we swam with the jellyfish, huge, blue moon jellies.  Once we sank to the bottom, they didn't bother us, but we couldn't get back to the boat without going through swarms of them.  I was glad I had my wetsuit on.

Our first dive had some issues.  My spouse sank and then came right back up.  We could tell something was wrong, but we didn't know what as he swam back to the boat.  We shouted, and I made the diver in distress signal, waving my arms over my head.  I was pleased with how quickly the boat crew acted, although they didn't need to come save him.

We're still not sure what happened, whether it was equipment malfunction or panic or some dehydration issues or a mouthful of saltwater . . . probably a combination of all.

The remaining dive buddies including me finished our dive and came back to the boat.  It was a good dive, but the second dive was better.

My spouse borrowed a regulator from the boat's stash, and he tried again.  And happily, the second dive was a success.  I had some trouble descending, but the boat's mate swam out to me and said, "Put your feet down."  And for whatever reason, I finally made it. 

We swam amongst all sorts of beautiful fish.  At one point I looked out and there was a shimmering curtain of yellow fish, as far and wide as I could see.  The reef looks healthy, as do the fish.

In some ways, that health is an illusion.  Or, if not an illusion, it won't last much longer.  We are all living on borrowed time on this planet, but coral reefs have less time than most of us. 

I live in hope that they'll survive and adapt and learn to thrive in new conditions; it's the hope I have for all of us. 

In the meantime, I hope to keep diving and visiting this amazing ecosystem. 

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