A Dive on Storm’s Night
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

October 11, 2010

We wait for dark. It has been raining all day. Our first two dives went well. The underwater navigation and peak performance dives were fairly easy tasks to complete 50 feet under water. But this seemed different. I’m here with the Dive Locker, a dive shop based out of Vancouver finishing up my advanced course.         

Buddy!

 A night dive; to swim into darkness for the first time, has me on edge. The rain is falling and the wind is picking up. A front is moving in, but the advance certification requires us to wait for dark before we dawn our equipment once more. We’re at Whytecliff park on the north shore of Vancouver BC in Canada. Cold water diving has it’s own challenges; more insulation, more gear, more weights. I wish I could say I feel like a fish or seal in the water, a creature graceful and at home but I am just a visitor in these cold waters. I don’t belong naturally. My body is not designed for a walk under water, but the tools are hear and like a visit to a distant plant, I can now visit this alien world where gravity acts as background noise and the two dimensional life-style of the surface no longer applies. Life can come at you from all directions, the thick median of water presenting with a completely different set of rules to that of air.

            It is finally dark now and as I dawn my dry suit, tank, regulator, and lights we walk down to the waters edge. There is a large surge with the water line reaching the trees. The logs that acted as unmovable inanimate objects on the beach earlier float like toothpicks in the surf. This will be different. We quickly pass the rolling logs into waist high water where I sit in the cold water to put on my flippers and mask. My instructor mentions the change in conditions; a front is moving in. Should we still dive? My senses are heightened. The five of us must stick together on this one. “Stay calm, remember your training, and stick together.” He says. We swim out 100 ft. where we plan to descend. We go over the plan to swim along an underwater wall, stay together, and our different signals that we will use. Then I push the button on my BCD, and as the air flows out into the night, the water comes over my goggles and I descend into the darkness below.

            I breathe deeply through my regulator; water is coming into my mask, I see lights below me, I shine my light down onto my depth gauge. It is hard to make out with the water in my eyes; I feel the pressure push in on my suit. As I settle on the bottom, I try and clear my mask, but water keeps flowing in. It is dark, it is cold, I naturally don’t belong here and I can’t see. I feel the stress building.

STOP. Breath, slow down, relax. Clarity seems to flow back into my head pushing the stress out. I signal to my partner that something is wrong, then shine the light onto my face and close my eyes from the bright light. I feel her fingers working at my mask, pulling the hair from the seal. I clear my mask of the cold water and open my eyes. We have lost the other 3 divers but I can see again. The water still flows in, but slowly now. I can clear my mask every so often, but where are the other divers? We shine our lights around into the darkness, nothing but the floor extending out into blackness. My partner and I press our lights to our chests plunging us into absolute darkness. As the darkness envelopes us, a glow shimmers ahead of us, faintly. We both signal to swim to it and we set out. My eyes are attracted to a few sea pens, white and orange, swaying in the current, silently pulling out small particles of food from the dark water, feeding all the time. The light gets brighter; they must be over the rock. We swim over a ledge, the 3 of them spotting us. They circle their lights to signal “ok?” We signal back.

Now we are off into the deep, the five of us, close. Our lights flow over crusts of algae, a crab shoots into the dark, a lingcod sits against the wall quietly, still. All I hear is my own deep breaths and bubbles as I exhale. We are on the wall now; there no longer is a bottom to see. The depth below us drops some 600 ft. to a place we cannot go. I stay close to the wall using it as reference. I add a bit of air as I start to sink, turn my shoulder towards the surface to release it if I rise.

            We’re now at 70 feet and my goggles are still filling up. I try to pull them tight, but my hood slips half way off my head, a burst of cold envelopes over the top of my head. This is not ideal, but I decide to leave it, better off not messing with either piece of equipment further. Why am I doing this? Is this supposed to be fun? I feel my heart beating.

Then it happens. My light falls onto a creature in the dark. A squid suspended in front of me. The other dive lights fall onto this creature as well, gently ruffling its mantle or head; a dark black eye looks at us with equal curiosity. It is the size of my hand, not too big, a juvenile. It is this moment that the stress of the darkness, my gear, and the storm above all disappear. The little squid gently pushes water through its mantle slowly going up and floating down, suspended out in front of all of us as our beams illuminate this gently pale nocturnal creature. A moment of balance and tranquility seem to settle within the thick space between us. Then it shoots off into the dark effortlessly.

Going back along the wall, the current pushes us towards shore; I only need look at what is coming as we float along for the ride. I rise over a cable covered in small organisms orange and red, filtering the water as it and I pass by. Our air is getting low and we must leave this alien world to return to our own. Back on the surface, the wind is stronger now, a real storm is upon us and we make a swim for shore. It feels good to get out of the water, back to the life I know.

I am happy with having kept calm and collected over the dive; I know the experience will aid me in my push to earn my dive masters accreditation for diving is more a challenge of the mind than anything else and the reward; a gentle squid, from another world, its world, floating in space in front of me. Even though we are just visitors to the world at sea, I feel lucky to have the chance to see a world so different from our own on the surface. It may all exist on earth, but when life lives on a completely different set of rules, it indeed presents itself as something completely new and unique from that of what I know and if that is not alien, I beg to offer the question, what is?

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