Leaving Great Barrier Reef
Our night dive was spectacular.
We had little glow sticks — pink and blue fluorescent tubes — attached to our regulators to follow other divers; blue for instructors, pink for divers. One by one, we plunged into the dark waters and followed glow sticks and torches of divers already in the water. Our hand torches were small plastic flashlights with cords around your wrists. We’d been cautioned not to shine them at other diver’s faces since the bright light would temporary blind them.
The reef was inky dark until we flashed torches around and saw glowing eyes peering at us from crevasses. The reef’s colors are muted at night. When a torch passed a school of tropical fish, all you could see was a flash of blue, silver, or yellow.
Sound seemed to be accented at night, possibly because our vision was limited. The aspiration of divers seemed louder at night as were the quirky squeaks and pings you hear underwater. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take cameras on our night dive. The only piece of extra equipment we carried were hand torches.
Real life Alien
The eerie experience of diving at night reminded me of the movie Alien. One of the scariest parts of the movie was following the crew prowling through the dark cavernous ship, searching for the deadly alien creature while streams of water dripped from above and creaking noises and flickering lights amidst the dark shadows.
No doubt about it, the next time I see Alien, I’ll think back to swimming in the reef at night, a real life science fiction experience.
Early morning deep dive
Our third day began with an early morning deep dive, our third adventure dive to 30 meters. We started early so we could get in two more dives that morning before we departed the reef.
At 6:30 AM, we descended hand by hand down a tow line, then dropped it and let our weight belts carry us to the bottom, just shy of 30 meters. We cleared our ears several times as the pressure built.
Affects of deep water diving
On the bottom, we circled our instructor kneeling in the sand who was going to demonstrate the effects of deep diving. He first pulled out a collapsed soda bottle which had been crushed flat under heavy pressure.
Next he took a tomato from a plastic bag. On the surface, the tomato was red; at 30 meters, it was green. In our pre-dive talk, he explained that the sun’s UV rays are blocked when you descend in the ocean. Red is the first color that disappears, then yellow, orange, green, and blue. At the ocean’s depths, the only visible color is black.
The last deep water experiment was a demonstration on the brain’s ability to calculate. He did an exercise where he held up his fingers; we were to hold up fingers to reach the number 12. We all passed, but a couple were slower than the others.
Diving at greater depths puts more nitrogen into the bloodstream. In pre-dive lectures, we had been told the critical need to ascend slowly, making safety stops every two or three meters to let the nitrogen leave our bodies.
After our morning deep dive, we ascended slowly, watching our CBD‘s computer which recorded our depth, time, and compass directions back to our boat. When we reached the tow line, we continued ascending slowly to the surface.
It had been an incredible early morning. Bobbing on the surface, all we could see were puffy white clouds in the blue sky, the sun rising above the horizon, waves rolling over the reef, and our boat.
Return to Cairns
After two nights and three busy days, our instructors untied anchor lines, retrieved the dinghy, and the captain fired up the engines. We were headed back to Cairns. We returned with mixed emotions, exhausted after nine dives, but exhilarated by living on the boat for three days, enjoying amazing tropical weather, experienced the incredible reef, and meeting interesting people from around the world.
But the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef were not over.
As we sailed back to Cairns, we saw amazing cloud formations. Summer in Queensland (December through March) is monsoon season. Storm clouds build over the mainland then drench the landscape in warm rains that come in the middle of the night or anytime during the day.
We’d already experienced monsoon rains in our week in Cairns. Watching the clouds building on our return, we knew we’d have heavy rains that evening.
Time to relax
Breaking down our gear
Our instructors briefed us that we were responsible for getting our equipment cleaned, dismantled, and stored for the next divers. We washed our masks, fins, snorkel and stinger suits in tubs with a cleansing solution, dismantled regulator from tanks, washed CBD’s, and stored everything neatly. Clean, safely maintained equipment is critical for safe diving.
It was sad, knowing that our diving and snorkeling adventures were about over. But what we’d learned and experienced so much over three exhilarating days, meeting interesting Europeans, seeing the magnificent reef, and having the experienced Pro Dive team advising us.
I’ll also never forget the gentle feeling of the our boat bobbing at night while we slept.
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Next: Herberton, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland
As many of you know, I also write mysteries and romantic suspense novels.
I recently published my first international thriller, Thirteen Days in Milan, which is available on Kindle as well as other ereaders, tablets, and smartphones.
I’m back in Europe for the summer to hire a translator and to research my next book which will also be a thriller based in Milan. I’ll be posting soon from Milan, Stresa, Zurich and other locations.
I have a few posts on another blog, Anatomy of a Thriller, where I write about the process of researching and writing an international thriller. I’ll add more posts there as well.
Please share these links with writers or readers who might be interested.