Posted 3-04-2003
The sun burns down on my back, turning my wetsuit into an oven. I trudge down the jetty, the tank weighing me down, pulling me backwards. My boot slaps on the wooden boards of the jetty. The harsh cry of seagulls adds to the noise. My head begins to complain. Again, the slap of a boot, the other this time. My legs start to wobble under the weight of the tank. I give up, and try to lower the weight to the jetty, but it thuds down, missing my toes by a few centimetres. I take a deep breath and look back to the shore. I'm way more than half way out: probably only twenty metres to go. A seagull shrills again. My head returns the cry with a stab of pain.

 I bend over and grab the scuba vest by the shoulder strap. I straighten, and continue lugging the weight down the jetty. My boots continue to slap on the jetty as I trudge along and I soon fall into a rhythm, which while undoubtedly stupid looking, gets the job done. My shoulder starts to ache as I get closer to the end of the jetty and the stairs at the end. Gradually, my shoulder becomes numb and I drop the tank to rub my shoulder. Looking back to the shore I sigh again and continue plodding along, now dragging the tank behind me.

I finally reach the stairs and breathe a sigh of relief. I slowly descend the stairs being careful not to let the tank overbalance me. My foot hits the platform at the bottom. It is high tide, and the platform is under a few centimetres of water. I sit down and let the water cool my legs. My feet slide over the edge of the platform and I wait as my boots slowly fill with the cool seawater. I smile at the feeling and pull on the vest.

Checking the pressure in my tank one last time, I slip into the water and let the ocean swallow me up. I begin to sink slowly, and within moments I can feel the water pressing in on my ears. I work my jaw and feel them pop, then check my depth metre. 7, 8, 9,10. I let some air into my vest and level off. Spending a few moments of fine-tuning, I get the air level right. Weightlessness sets in. The only movement I can feel is the light rushing of the waves on the surface above. I kick a few times and revel in the feeling of the somersault. I look down and notice the school of fish passing below. Emptying some of the air from my vest, I allow myself to sink slowly down to the seabed. I let a little more air into my vest half a metre above the sand and allow myself to hover.

The fish, startled by my descent, slowly begin to swim by again. A larger fish swims up to me and begins to nibble on my wetsuit, jest below my elbow. I pivot to look at it and it starts, flitting away from me. Moments later it slows and turns, then slowly makes its way back to give me a closer inspection. I laugh lightly as it comes back cautiously, and a stream of bubbles launches itself toward the surface. The fish slows again and begins swimming around me, inspecting the intruder from every angle. I hold out my hand to it, and it flats back a few metres, then approaches again. It swims up to my hand and turns side on to inspect it. I move my hand slowly along its side, being careful not to startle it. The scales seem so strange underwater, very different to the roughness of dry scales. A large school of smaller fish swim by, startling my observer and sending it streaking away along the bottom.

Disappointed, I fin my way further out towards the seaweed garden. I let myself sink again and the roar of ascending bubbles fills my ears. My fins touch the ends of the weed and I rotate myself so I am horizontal. When the weeds are but a few centimetres below me, I balance the air in my vest and start finning along the top of the garden. The tidal bore is insignificant down here and I can fin along with ease. I feel the water working its way through my hair as I fin along quickly and I smile to myself again. I slow down and stop, checking my air and depth. Fine. I notice a small rise in the middle of the seaweed with nothing growing on it. I fin over and lower myself onto the sand. I spread my limbs across the aquatic sand hill and gaze out across the huge expanse of seaweed. In the distance I can see fish flitting around in the seaweed. I smile sadly to myself. So much life down here. I've seen almost every fish this area has to offer. Though I'm still yet to see a Leafy Sea Dragon. I continue to peer into the weeds, hoping against hope. But I know it's useless. One would have to pass right in front of me or I'd never see it. I flip over onto my back, balancing on my tank and look up at the sky. Distorted as it is by the waves and the wind, it somehow seems so much more beautiful.

Chris Prior 12RBD

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