Night Dive

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The snorkeling trip we did during the day was pretty cool, but I had never even heard of going out at night before.  So we booked the trip with the same company and headed out well after dark to see what kind of things wander the reef at night.  We each had wetsuits and powerful flashlights to allow exploration, and our guide was a cool English guy who new a lot about marine life and made sure we didn't miss anything.

Jaws ruined my life when I was a kid and open water has always made me nervous.  Take away the bright lights and colorful creatures, and it's absolutely ominous in the sea.  But instead of being consumed by panic, I was immediately at ease and in awe.  We saw tons of urchins, strange fish with giant eyes, an eel, and a baby octopus smaller than my hand.  Watching it propel itself through the water and toward my mask was easily one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  I'm definitely not saying that I've done so much that I'm not longer impressed by each new place and experience, but there are very few moments that immediately impress upon you that they are rare and exciting and unforgettable.  Our guide said he had been diving almost daily for a decade and he'd never seen a baby octopus.  We were all enthralled.

We also saw the largest lobsters I've ever seen, and a myriad of oddities.  We ended the dive with something we had been excited about the entire time, and which I had been experimenting with throughout the night: we turned off our flashlights and glided our limbs through the black sea to activate the phosphorescent algae in the water.  It lit up in an electric blue and looked like a thousand tiny specks of tinsel flashing into being from the nothingness.  I just kept doing loops and flailing around in the spectacle, giddy like a kid on Christmas or a drunk monkey at happy hour.  I didn't exit the water until everyone was already in the boat and threatened to leave me behind.

Here's a portion of a piece I'm working on for Koh Phi Phi:

I floated in the inky blackness, swimming in an abyss seemingly infinite in depth and possibilities.  I rolled onto my back and unknown constellations swiveled into view, crisp and luminous even through the water and sky that separated us.  There were no city lights to steal the heavens, and a blanket of stars spread out before me.  I spun, once again plunging my masked face into the darkness. I clicked on the large underwater flashlight which hung weightless in my hand and a spotlight pierced the void, calling into existence towers of coral and swarms of sea life.
The traffic that bustled below us was vastly different from that of a daylight dive. Razor-teethed barracuda lurked in the shadows, opportunistically using our lights to catch glimpses of potential prey.  Lobsters the size of Big Wheels trucks cruised along the edge of the limestone cliffs protruding from the island. Spiny sea urchins littered the sea floor, a minefield ensuring that divers keep to the surface and don't linger too long in a world that is clearly not their own. I glanced ahead and found some new creature dancing animatedly in my path.  It floated toward me in the tunnel of light, and as it approached I was startled by recognition.  Even when only a few inches across, an octopus is an unnerving sight in the open water.  It was just a foot from my mask and its hue shifted slightly from pink to red as it investigated this strange intruder.  Each time I moved away, it would quickly jettison itself with amazing fluidity and close the gap.  For several minutes we danced like this, and I was embarrassed by the fear that gripped me as its tiny tentacles came too close to latching onto my mask.
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nrvaughn on

as usual....and I get tired of saying it.....your eloquence amazes me and I almost feel like I was there....I really like the piece you are working on in the end....very surreal...thank you

sissylow on

dream dive
I hope I swim amongst phosphorescent algae before I die. Lovely piece you have crafted here my dear sounds like a dream. -emily

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