Back Into Darkness

Here’s the thing about the ocean: it is where life probably originally arose, but it is also an extremely destructive power.

According to the NOAA, the average ocean depth is 12,100 feet. Recreational divers aren’t supposed to go beyond 130 feet, so we are barely wading, really. And even these scant depths aren’t meant for us. When we dive, we are merely visitors in that realm trying to survive. And anything we bring with us must be built to withstand the crushing weight of the ocean’s power.

A good example is my camera, which is built like a rock and encased in a heavy housing. Or my flash, which is similarly built like a vault.

But today, when I reached the ocean floor, 73 feet down at Cut ‘n Run, I discovered that my flash didn’t work. So I spent my first dive worrying about what was wrong and why it wasn’t working. It had worked flawlessly yesterday.

I made do without it, and still saw some amazing things. Like this lettuce leaf slug.

Or this banded coral shrimp.

Back on the boat I got my things in order as a first priority. Then, once I had a free minute I sat down with the flash and unsealed the battery case. A few drops of brown water came out and there was some corrosion on the battery terminal.

I dumped the batteries, fearing a flooded strobe, but nothing came out except four AA batteries and a few more drops of rusty water.

So I cleaned and dried the case and the batteries. Carefully, I reinserted them. They were good for one more activation of the flash. This didn’t reassure me, so I found new batteries and the flash woke up and worked flawlessly.

Relieved, I was left thinking that I just barely missed disaster on that one. There was a small leak that didn’t flood the system, but caused some corrosion and maybe shorted the batteries.

Just to be careful, I put some desiccant in the battery compartment and shelved the strobe for the rest of the day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try again.

The rest of the day I dove with either the onboard flash or natural light. Cut Through City was another deep dive, so the lighting was more what you’ve seen from me in the past. But since I’ve been doing more up-close stuff lately, the onboard flash got most of the job done.

I’ve noticed that divers like to know the creatures they are finding, and the reef is full of animals. Fish are obvious. So some of the marine invertebrates like shrimp and crabs. Even the very slow-moving sea cucumber and starfish are animals. If it moves, divers do a pretty good job at identifying it.

Divers aren’t nearly as good at identifying other marine invertebrates, however. Sponges, corals, and tunicates are all animals too – they’re just sessile; they don’t move much. I guess they’re very American in that sense.

We tend to pick up a few names of things like brain coral or staghorn coral. But other things are just classified as “a tunicate,” “a sponge,” or “a coral.” Perhaps they throw out the term, “gorgonian.” In fact, they do such a poor job, I’ve picked up the bad habits and have misidentified some things.

The micro-mode on my camera has me paying more attention to these beautiful, delicate creatures, such as were affixed to this mooring line. Maybe I’ll try to become the sessile guy.

After another 5-hour sail (and nap to avoid seasickness), I took photos of creatures of all types during our last dive at Barracuda Shoals.

This was my favorite dive so far.

The reef is healthy and not overgrown with algae the way many of the other reefs here are. It was a lovely dive.

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