It’s your own little world diving into a volcanic crater
I knew my dive weekend was going to be fun when I found out we’d be diving in a dormant volcanic crater in Utah.
I knew it was going to be really fun when our instructor told us about the exotic, heat-stunted wildlife below the surface: soft-shelled turtles, miniature crocodiles and a gang of tiny seacrabs.
We all got really excited to learn we’d be rappelling – with all our equipment – over the rim into the 93-degree water below.
Scuba diving is nothing if not about variety. I’ve admired neon orange garibaldi in the cold ocean water off California, swam with dolphins off Baja California, photographed Christmas tree worms in Cayman Brac, wandered down the hallways of sunken ships and felt my way around a scuttled airplane in the zero-visibility waters of Aurora Reservoir.
One expects to hear such tales when someone mentions “scuba trip.” But throw the word “Utah” into the sentence, and you’ll get baffled looks.
Such is not the excitement one expects in Utah. The last time I had such excitement in Utah was getting through the state unscathed by local police – but I’m not sure I can talk about that yet. Statute of limitation and all.
Alas, my scuba instructors were merely joking about the rappelling – actually a good thing, considering the last time I “rappelled” off anything was at the Breckenridge rec center’s rock wall.
After my descent, they created a “liability waiver” for anyone even wandering near the wall.
Ends up they were joking about the underwater wildlife, too. Oh, it was there, all right – in plastic form. It gave us something to look for, and later, at, as we circled the crater in search of our advanced certifications.
I’ve only been diving for a couple of years, but I feel more comfortable deep beneath the surface of the water than I do on land.
It’s your own little world down there, whether you’re exploring steep walls at 130 feet or chasing barracuda at 35 feet deep, as I did in the Cayman Islands last year, mistaking the carnivorous fish for my dive buddy. I thought he looked a little more smiley and a little less bug-eyed than I remembered from topside.
On the first of four dives into the crater, I explored the steep walls that descend 65 feet beneath the earth. I moved the turtle to disorient other divers. I put the lobster and the crab in a compromising position.
Once I had the geography of our hourglass-shaped cavern staked out, I settled into my own little world – a good place to be when you’re actually in Utah.
In my own little world, I swam fast and hard, like a dolphin. My dive computer didn’t like this at all, beeping mercilessly at me in an attempt to get me to stop working so hard.
I sunk to the bottom and backed into a crevice to watch the beginning class above me. I did somersaults at 50 feet – again, angering my dive computer – and passed through imaginary kelp forests.
In my own little world, I swam with colorful fish – parrotfish, butterflyfish, garibaldi. I floated on my back – the only time my computer stopped beeping – and watched my bubbles rise to the surface some 45 feet above me.
My instructor corralled me for my second dive, informing me that I was here to learn how to navigate in the dark, not do somersaults and freak out the other students by playing dead at 50 feet. He questioned my mental status, monitored me for nitrogen narcosis.
For the rest of that day, I swam in what I thought were squares, based on my flawed math skills and their subsequent miscalculation in my compass. With every leg of the square – some of which had six or eight – I’d wave to the turtle and wink at the lobster and crab. My computer beeped away.
But mostly, I swam in huge circles, imagining where real lobster would be hiding, where parrotfish would be blowing bubbles in preparation for the night and wondering how bored everyone above ground must be because they weren’t down there with me.
It’s your own little world, deep in the water beneath the earth. Next time, I’m taking my climbing harness.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at
(970) 668-3998, ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org unless
she’s deep beneath the ocean blue.
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