The one that didn't get away

Trip Start Jan 20, 2010
1
37
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Trip End May 20, 2010


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Flag of Italy  , Campania,
Thursday, April 1, 2010

We went diving off the coast of Sorrento today. It's an hour boat ride out to a marine shelf that is reported to have all sorts of beautiful fish. Not a coral reef but an upswell that is supposed to attract a lot of deep and exotic species since it's bringing up all sorts of food from the undersea trench.
The weather wasn't bad---at least there was no wind---but the temperature could have been a bit balmier. The last time I'd dove was in Southern California, over 20 years ago, so my mind was going through the refresher course we'd just been given so I could remember "Breathe, Rock, Fish, Don't Die, Don't Die, Breathe, Don't Die, Don't Die." (a tip of the hat to Jerry Seinfeld for all those who remember that routine).
Before the boat ride, I bought a throw-away digital underwater camera from the dive shop. Who would have thought they made such things? And why go through all the effort of making a disposable camera digital and giving it a lousy lens? So you get the pictures about the same time you get out of the water, but then you look at the blurry images and wonder just what you were taking a picture of. Trouble is, the colors come out great, but the clarity is about as good as if you'd used the Photoshop Blur filter. Take a look at the photos to see what I mean.
Anyway, my traveling companion and I, along with four other divers speaking French and Italian, loaded on our gear after the boat stopped out in the middle of the Ligurian Sea. Tank, check, regulator, check, fins, check, mask, check. They gave us dry suits, which I'd never used before but really wanted to, and I had been smart enough to wear some fleece pants and top, so I was at least going to not freeze out there. My traveling companion looked svelte and poised for an underwater James Bond thriller movie while I appeared to be ready to fall overboard and sink to the bottom of the underwater trench.
The swells were a bit more than I like, but here we were so we pitched back and forth across the boat and made our way to the back of the boat and the diving platform. Got to get back to those exercise classes very soon; must remember how to use my thighs for balance.
Since I'd chosen not to wear the issued gloves nor hood, the gash I obtained on the way to the diving platform probably cut a bit deeper than it would have otherwise. I'd stuffed some tissue for my runny nose in a pocket (yeah, where is the logic of sticking a tissue in a mesh pocket on a dry suit, really? Is't it just going to get wet really quickly when you get in the water?) so I used the tissue to stem the bloodflow. Probably not a good idea, and I'm sure I should have said something, but everyone was busy trying to get into the water and our dive master spoke only enough English to let his annoyance be known, so I just held my bleeding hand and queued up to get in the water. 
Our first dive was going to be a drift dive, which means you get in the water at one spot and the current carries you to another spot where the boat is supposed to be there to pick you up. Obviously you stay underwater the whole time so it's always a big surprise when you pop out of the water and look around, hoping that the boat is within visual range and not just a possible dot on the horizon.
My traveling companion, who everytime I looked at the theme from Thunderball came to mind, seemed quite keen on heading downward once we were both in the water. We were instructed to stay as a group when descending and during the subsequent drift part of the exercise. 
My descent was troubled by my runny nose from an allergic reaction to something blooming in Italy, which means clogged eustacian tubes, which means difficulty in equalizing pressure which means, well, slow descent. So I was quickly forty feet above my diving companions as they descended down the anchor chain.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw something big, which I thought at first was just the underside of the boat forty-something feet above me. But it was moving faster than a boat at rest should, so my brain decided that it was the boat underway. Then my brain used outline recognition processing and decided that the shape above me was a shark. Then my brain went to sleep.
The brain could go to sleep because the hypothalamus took over things. It sent an amazingly strong shot of adrenaline into my system and increased my breathing to the point of watching the needle move slowly toward zero on my air indicator. My limbs began kickiing out in fairly spasmodic motions and I suddenly felt like I could safely descend as fast as I wanted to. There was some confusion when the brain briefly checked in and asked if it was safer to swim up toward air or down toward my companions. Then the brain went back to sleep.
I headed down, since swimming on the surface with a shark in pursuit didn't seem like a good thing. And I figured maybe if there were a bunch of us, the shark wouldn't want to get too close. So I kipped downward and grabbed the anchor chain, pulling to increase the speed of my descent. I kicked. I could see my companion another twenty feet below me, but I was gaining. The other divers must have gone off somewhere else already.
I didn't look back but I could tell that my toothy buddy was still with me. I pulled and pulled. Closer and closer. Kick, pull, kick, pull. By my own estimation I'd probably run out of air just as I was getting to the anchor, but by that time I could probably buddy-breath with my traveling companion on the way back up. At least that was the plan that the not-good-at-planning hypothalamus came up with.
I was obout then feet away from my companion when she turned and looked up in my direction. Her eyes grew big and she exhaled a large bubble around the edges of her regulator. I just kept pulling and kicking. Kicking and pulling. Then the shark ate me.
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Comments

Lyndee on

You're mean...I don't like this story.

Steve on

Yeah, the shark didn't make out so well, eating all that synthetic material, but he is doing better today.
Check the date of the post: April 1?

joaniemom1 on

not funny. 11111111111111

Mary on

My boring life is starting to seem very appealing.

John R. Allen on

At least your "traveling companion" saved the camera!

Ginger on

Oh my, Helene. I just sat down and read the entire blog. I just don't have the right words to tell you how happy I am for you and if it weren't so petty how jealous I am of your adventure. Raise a glass for your friends in the States.

heleneandsteve
heleneandsteve on

So happy to hear from you. Always a glass if wine raised and ready for my friends. Miss you much.

Hostels Valencia Nest on

Nice adventures indeed!
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