by Kirstie Jones, environmental studies major
I stood on the dock staring down at the 60-degree deep blue waters of Wrigley Cove on Catalina Island. On my back was a 50-pound SCUBA tank and around my waist a 20-pound weight belt. I couldn’t quite believe that I was going to take a giant stride off the dock into the water with 70 extra pounds of weight on my body. When my turn came to begin my first dive in open water I checked that my BC was inflated and made a “leap” of faith into the cold water (though it would be more accurately described as an ungraceful stride as leaping is not something that is advisable in SCUBA gear).
Once my group was in the water it was time to descend to the bottom to practice some SCUBA skills under the watchful eye of our instructor. As I let the air out in my BC and the surface closed above my head, the visibility quickly deteriorated and the only sound that could be heard was the slow, even echo of my own breath. I glanced over to my buddy as we planted our knees on the sandy bottom, and she was a blurry shape in the blue green brown fog that surrounded us 20 feet below the surface. We gathered in a circle to practice some essential skills such as removing and replacing our masks and retrieving lost regulators.
As I waited for my turn to practice these things, I began to relax and take in my alien surroundings. I could barely see the circle of other divers that were with me but I was intrigued by the thousands of tiny particles of sediment that floated past me in an underwater blizzard. To distract myself from the frigid water, I tilted my head to watch my bubbles as they left my regulator and made their way up to the lighter blue above me, and as I looked forward again, a single twirling strand of seaweed crossed in front of my mask like a tiny underwater dancer. I was shocked at the ability for the underwater world to be so captivating even when I could barely see the hand in front of my face, and I can only begin to imagine what it will be like to dive on the crystal clear reefs of Guam and Palau.