I Can See Clearly Now…

by Kelsey Lewis

USC students learning scientific diving skills in two-foot visibility on Catalina Island in California. Photo by Jim Haw.

“This must be what swimming through milk is like.”

This thought occurred to me more than once while diving on Catalina Island. The visibility at our dive location, Big Fishman’s Cove, was far from optimal — usually only a matter of inches. Having low visibility not only made my first few dives eerie, but practically impossible to collect any sort of data. While struggling to keep an eye on the transect tape, I could not help but dream of the clear waters of Guam and Palau.

Yesterday my fellow students and I made our first dive in Guam. As we were gearing up, the captain of the dive boat informed us that the visibility at Double Reef would be 60 feet. I had a hard time imagining what a visibility range of 60 feet looked like. But after taking the first step off of the dive boat, I got my answer.

I felt as if I could see for miles. Not only could I make out the sandy bottom below, but I could also see my fellow students diving for the first time. While swimming over the reef, I marveled at the intricate detail of the coral and the vibrant coloration of the fish; both sights I never thought I could witness.

USC students on their first dive in Guam making measurements on a coral reef in 60-foot visibility. Photo by Jim Haw.

Not only did the increased visibility make the dive more enjoyable, but it also made collecting data much easier. My buddy, Addie, and I were able to hover and follow the transect tape with ease. We could clearly read the markings on the tape even from a few feet away, a vast difference from Catalina in which we had to hold the tape up to our mask. We were also able to clearly identify our target species without having to crawl along the bottom in hopes of spotting something through the murky water.

With conditions similar to those of yesterday, I cannot wait for the dives that are ahead. There is so much to see underwater, and with clear visibility I think I just might.

Kelsey Lewis is a senior at USC Dornsife studying environmental studies.

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