frosted nudibranch ~courtesy flicker.com
With the return of divers to God’s Pocket, I started thinking about getting in the water myself. I was pretty sure I was unlikely to dive on this particular visit, but Bill, one of the co-owners and our host, encouraged us to bring our equipment so we’d have the option.
The idea of diving up here, in a neoprene wetsuit rather than a dry suit no less, takes me time to warm to. I have been here for a week of diving at least five times over the years, and yet still experience a degree of anxiety about getting in the water. First, it is cold, very cold. Second, there are often currents, occasionally strong ones, both horizontal and vertical, that can steal one’s sense of control underwater. Third, we are often diving sheer walls and the light doesn’t penetrate to depth; it is like diving at night.
I have had transcendent dives and experienced the joy of floating in a kaleidoscope of life and color. I have seen remarkable creatures and immense beauty. I have had frightening and challenging dives, when my equipment and I weren’t in agreement, when it was dark and cold and the currents were strong, and all I could think of was when I could get back on the boat.
Over the years, I’ve made some peace with my ambivalence. I pay attention to how I feel and choose which dive sites I want to experience. The Nakwakto Rapids which flow around Tremble Island, and nourish the extraordinary and beautiful large red-lipped goose barnacles at about 30-40 feet, is a good example. The small island sits at the confluence of three extraordinary ocean currents, noted in the Guinness Book of Records as the strongest in the world. Once under water, you swim against the current in one direction, trying to enjoy the barnacles, and then turn around a point and are swept forward by another current at your back. The dive often culminates by being both pushed forward and pulled up to the surface in water swirling like a washing machine. Beautiful. Exhilarating. Extreme. Once was enough for me.
Bill has a general rule for divers and non-divers alike: always come on the boat. Even if you don’t dive, you will see and experience beauty. When we come in September, we often see humpback whales and bald eagles, and Dall’s porpoises will occasionally draft off the bow of the speeding boat on the way home. You don’t know what you might miss: the rare sighting of an orca pod or a raft of otter in the distance. Being on the surface can be as remarkable as a dive.
Yesterday, I decided to dive in the bay in front of God’s Pocket. It is 20-30 feet deep at high tide so light and tank time wouldn’t be limited. There are wonders to be seen right below the dock here: crabs and shrimp, sea anemones, soft corals, shrimp, sponges, scallops, nudibranchs (colorful creatures that are part of the sea slug, or gastropoda, class), kelp, jellyfish and starfish, to name a bunch. I wrestled into my wetsuit (which was more snug than usual as a result of my year-end weight gain), met David on the dock, and got ready to go. After managing a small series of missteps, my regulator started to free flow. I sat on the dock, fully outfitted for a dive, trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey while David tried to repair it several different ways. I felt discouraged and demoralized by how complicated it was getting ready, by the tighter-than-usual wetsuit, by my helplessness at addressing my technical and equipment challenges. And then the regulator blew out completely under the pressure from the air in the tank.
The broken regulator put the question of my diving on this visit to rest. Determined not to waste my efforts at getting suited up and wanting to rise above my disappointment with the whole situation, I decided to snorkel. I wouldn’t get as close to some things near the bottom, but I had a great view to life on the rocky outcrops as I kicked around. I was delighted to see a frosted nudibranch, which bears a striking resemblance to the Sydney Opera House (see picture at top). I spent some time looking at the array of tiny life growing on the ropes and chains that keep the docks in place: miniscule and colorful shrimp, purple and green kelp, baby scallops, all visited by small tubesnout fish.
Sometimes, you can’t or shouldn’t go deep. Being on the surface, with eyes open and attention focused, can be full of wonder and more than enough.