Saturday, June 2, 2012

Forty Fathom Fish

Ten foot visibility does not lend itself well to photography, so I was forced to dive "naked" today. This is referring of course to how I feel without a camera underwater, not the lack of a 5mm wetsuit and booties, which were completely necessary.

The world felt different 115 feet underwater. Since the visibility was so bad, there was no natural light but it wasn't pitch black. It's more of a greyish color when you're looking down towards the bottom and it looks how I'd expect the surface of another planet to look. And you really feel like an astronaut as you hover weightless and descend. Shining our lights towards the bottom as we approached about 95 feet, objects started to appear. Everything looked grainy and almost out of focus due to the low light and particulate matter floating in the water. When I flipped over to watch my bubbles make their way to the surface, everything took on a greenish yellow hue from the far away sunlight.

The bubbles escaping from my regulator were the only sounds. It's one of my favorite sounds in the world. It doesn't sound like bubbles in a hot tub or even somebody blowing bubbles underwater in a pool. It's more crisp and clean and each bubble seems to make a distinct noise as it comes out of the regulator and rushes to the surface. The only other occasional sound today was David laughing through his rebreather. Since it's a closed-circuit system, no bubbles escape. He took the time today to show me how it works and answer my million and a half questions about the foreign looking underwater breathing device. The large tubes going in and out of the regulator carry air and oxygen in one side and catch each exhaled breath on the other side and scrub out the carbon dioxide. The whole apparatus looks kind of like an astronaut suit or a jet-pack since all that's visible on the diver's back is a shiny box with big tubes coming out of it. The big tubes are also what cause a laugh to carry so much more underwater than it would for an open circuit scuba diver.

The world also looked different at 115 feet in 40 Fathom Grotto because there are all sorts of crazy things on the bottom. Today we explored 2 planes (one has the torso of a dummy wearing glasses in the cockpit), a boat, and an upside down car all around 100 feet.

After our deeper explorations, we made our way up the wall and swam around at 40-60 feet checking out the sand dollars that are millions of years old. It brought back a lot of fun memories of many dives in 40 Fathom when Kate and I first started diving with Harry back in November. On the way up, we also looked at the bedding planes and the unconventional yet appropriate big red STOP sign marking a cave entrance.

By the time we got out of the water it was already 5, closing time for the Grotto. We had the whole place to ourselves and were happily chilled for only a few seconds before stepping back out into the 90 degree Florida summer.

Just as we pulled out of the grotto, we spotted these horses near this duck weed-covered pond that looks like a grassy pasture. There were a few adorable little foals and one white mare (in the middle of the picture) standing in the water eating the duck weed off the surface. If you look closely, it looks like the brown horse on the far left is walking on water!

This is what 40 Fathom would look like if it didn't have air bubblers to keep the duck weed off the surface... which makes me wonder what is underneath the green layer in this picture. Perhaps another great diving spot? There's only one way to find out...

P.S. Despite the number of awesome dives I've done at 40 Fathom Grotto, I realized today that I have no idea what fathom or grotto even mean, and after a bit of research it seems that the entire name is an oxymoron. One fathom is equal to about 1.8 meters or 6 feet. This is an accurate representation of the site because it is in fact about 240 feet deep (I know this from other more experienced and adventurous divers, not personal experience). So this validates the first 2/3 of the name, but the most common definition of "grotto" is "n. 1. A small cave or cavern. 2. An artificial structure or excavation made to resemble a cave or cavern". There are associated caves and pretty significant overhead environments in 40 Fathom Grotto, but it's more of a seriously deep hole in the ground... in no way, shape, or form encompassing the word "small" suggested by the definition. So, basically the name sounds fancy, but it's more appropriately represented and easily understood by a name like "240 foot water-filled hole in the ground". This is obviously a less elegant name for such a fun place to dive. But I digress.

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