Since my seven-day scuba package at the Small Hope Bay Lodge was just about up, I decided it was time to take the ultimate plunge. Earlier in the week, I’d broken my standing depth record of a pitiful 65 feet by upping it to 90. And then came 110, then 130 and, finally, I dove all the way to 140 feet. But like any addiction, once you get a taste of the goods, you gotta have more. Not to say that I took the decision lightly. But as I realized during my previous deep dives, if I followed my trained underwater professionals, stayed calm and paid attention to my time and air, it was pretty much smooth sailing, er, floating.
And unlike at some scuba sites around the world, where going for distance doesn’t necessarily have any aesthetic or experiential benefit, it's quite the opposite case with Andros Island. Why you ask? The Andros Wall, which begins where the ocean floor ends, is a vertical drop-off where the continental shelf plummets down to 6,000 feet into the Tongue of the Ocean. No, I didn't add an extra zero to that figure by mistake. And I was about to fly head first over the wall and down to an ice age shoreline to see the great wonder of the world for myself.
Under the expert tutelage of Small Hope Dive Master, Amanda Lee, my dive buddy Mark and I were as ready as we’d ever be. The process was amazingly simple: Descend to the edge of the wall and drop fast as hell till we reached a delightful sandy alcove. Without letting Amanda’s fins out of our eyesight for even a second, we made it from 0 to 185 feet in less than two minutes.
Borrowing the standard scuba analogy that diving is like being in outer space, arriving on the underwater beach seriously felt like landing on the moon. It was absolutely other-worldly. And then, thanks to a touch of nitrogen narcosis (aka "getting narced"), which is pretty much guaranteed at this depth, I felt delightfully silly. Without getting into the science of it all, I'll just say that I always felt in complete control, thus allowing me to simply enjoy the temporary "martini effect." All day leading up to the dive Amanda warned us that if we saw the elusive chicken fish, we were narced for sure, so when she pulled a pre-hidden rubber chicken from the sand and waved it in front of me and Mark, we knew we were tipsy.
My nitrogen-induced deep thoughts were swiftly interrupted by Amanda who motioned that it was time to begin our ascent. "Goodbye strange space world. I’ll miss you," managed to eek out of my brain just before we hit 135 feet and I returned to normal. Well, relatively speaking anyway!
After such a seriously mind-blowing experience, the only thing to do back at the lodge was throw high fives all around, grab a seat at the outdoor bar and brag about going 185 feet to anyone and everyone within earshot. As we re-played the events of the day, Amanda mentioned an article that Esquire.com ran earlier this year called "60 Things Worth Shortening Your Life For" and guess what was ranked number 30? Narco Diving in Andros Island!
And I have to say, I thoroughly agree!
· Andros Field Trip [Jaunted]