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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Another Diving Story Involving Cary Practically Soiling Himself

Time for another quick diving story.  This one is about another one of those moments when I almost soiled my wetsuit.  It ended up being something I’ve never experienced since but would love to again.

I’ve written about Catalina Island in these pages before.  It’s a fantastic place to dive and one of my favorite spots in Southern California.  It’s also a place where the conditions can change drastically from day to day.  I’ve been underwater and seen the visibility go from 30 – 40 feet to less than 10 feet  in the space of a single dive.  I’ve also been under the surface and come up to find waves much larger than when I went in and wind that made getting out difficult at best. 

Catalina Island has recently had its share of Great White sightings.  I’ve never seen one while diving there, but there are more than a few reports about them being sighted along the coves around the island.  In a Discovery Channel special on the return of Great Whites to Southern California they actually got footage of one cruising the bottom while one of the show “hosts” was swimming on the surface next to one of the cliffs.

Keep that in mind as you read this story.  One day, a friend and I went diving in Catalina and it ended up being the clearest that we’ve ever seen it there.  Visibility was literally 80 feet or more.  It was beyond amazing!  We swam along the bottom, through the kelp beds and then as things got deeper, we decided to come up to the surface and get our bearings.  We ascended up to the 15 foot mark and hovered while we waited for our bodies to decompress a bit. 

As we sat there, we noticed a giant school of bait fish at the same level we were at.  They were about 20 – 30 feet away and just hovering there like us.  The light from above was reflecting off them and it was kind of like watching a giant ball of squirming tinfoil flashing in front of us.  It was incredible.

All of a sudden, every single one of them left!

In fact, the school split in two, with one half shooting off in one direction and the other half going the opposite direction. 

The time between that happening and what happened next was less than one second but it was one of those instances in my life where time slowed to a stop.  In my head, I knew two things.  First, the only reason those fish would scatter like that was if there was danger.
The second thing I realized was that they could swim way faster than me.

My thoughts went to the obvious.  I immediately looked for sharks.  Later, when we were on the surface, my diving partner would confirm that he thought something similar.  Instead of coming from below though, the threat was coming from above and it was awesome.  
Like a jet fighter, a streamlined shape came streaking through the water leaving a trail of bubbles behind it.  It took a moment for my brain to register what I was seeing.  It was a cormorant.  It had hit the water at full speed trying to pick off one of those flashing, silvery fish but they’d been too fast for him.  We watched as it made a graceful arc and headed back to the surface.  That’s when we realized we were surfacing also.  We’d been caught up in the excitement so much; we’d failed to maintain our neutral buoyancy.

The closest I’ve seen online to what we actually saw that day can be found about :28 seconds into the video above.  It was incredible.  I’ve been on almost 100 dives and one of the greatest things I ever experienced came from the sky.  Go figure. 

This is the part of the blog where I usually say something about my book The Wash and how you should pick it up.  I don't see any reason to change that strategy now.  You can find it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  You can also find a handful of other things at my Amazon Author's page.

Until next time, enjoy!

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