by Emily Holmes
Our first dives here in Guam today were dives of contrast in the best possible way. One giant stride into the clear tropical water revealed the joy that is 83°F water and 80-foot visibility, but even before my descent into the wondrous blue water, the changes from Catalina were more then conspicuous. It seemed almost as if I had stepped out of reality and onto a movie set for Jurassic Park or LOST.
Dolphins jumped and twirled in the boat’s wake while flying fish soared in front of the bow as we sped to the dive site. As the boat anchored, the group’s excitement soared, and we gleefully went through the motions of the usually arduous task of suiting up for the dive. But even that task was made easier by the warm sun. Wetsuit and hood were traded in for bikini and sunblock, and the usual 20-pound weight belt was swapped for a much more manageable six.
Today’s task was simple: lay 100 meters of transect tape, swim along it, and collect both invertebrate counts and substrate information at 20-meter intervals. This familiar assignment, however, was anything but humdrum. With the usual obstacle of poor visibility removed, I was no longer wasting time losing my buddy (who may have been no more than a foot away in Catalina for all I could see) or blindly counting creatures along the tape (the foundation for erroneous data).
Even the number of creatures visible was astronomically bigger. Holothurian (sea cucumber) counts went from a barely three per transect segment in California to an easy 15 or more out on Guam’s Gun Beach. Throughout the dives, I couldn’t rid myself of a sense of adventure and excitement, and one glance at my somersaulting and giddy classmates revealed that these sentiments were not uniquely my own. Each time someone saw an interesting creature we’d pool together to watch and take pictures, and there was no shortage of cool things to see. I saw eviscerating sea cucumbers, the venomous crown of thorns, the infamous lionfish, and everything in between. As the air in my tank dwindled down and my dive came to a close, it was with great reluctance that I climbed out of the magical underwater world to the air above, incentivized only by the knowledge that I get to do it all over again tomorrow.
Emily Holmes just finished her freshmen year in USC Dornsife. She is pre-med majoring in Health and Humanity with a focus in global health and a minor in theater. She is from Evergreen, Colo. and loves all things outdoorsy, from skiing to SCUBA.