Today was one of the scariest yet most wonderful days of my life.
Today describes life in a single day.
Today explains how one moment can be filled with absolute terror yet other another can be filled with joy beyond belief.
Today explains why I travel and all of the lessons that I learn in life through travel.
Today started at 5am when I woke up in a dark hostel room and pulled myself out of bed. I quietly creeped around as I got ready. I snuck out at 5:30am to walk along the beach to the dive shop where they had breakfast and coffee waiting for us-the sun just beginning to rise.
As the sun came out me and the other scuba divers headed to the boat to begin a day that I will forever remember. As we walked there, I exclaimed, “were going on an adventure!” Little did I know how right I was.
Our first stop was three hours away by boat to the famous and world-renowned blue hole. It used to be a fresh water hole in the middle of the ocean. The sink hole eventually flooded and is now a strange mix of water currents with different temperatures. Because of this, there is very little life in the blue hole. If you go down deep enough though, there are a lot of sharks including hammerheads. It is an extremely dangerous dive to do, due to its depth and the fact that at certain points you are under caves.
After a safety briefing, we jumped into the ocean and began our decent. At thirty meters (as deep as I technically should have only gone with my scuba license) the guide asked everyone if we were feeling comfortable. If not, you were to head back up to the surface instead if going deeper down into the blue hole. I was feeling great and eager to continue on so went along with everyone – sinking deeper and deeper.
At this point you had no choice but to continue with the dive because it was unsafe to go up because of the deep depth that we were at and the fact that you ran a high risk of getting the bends if you went up too fast.
I noticed that my mask was fogging up so I decided to clean it. To do this you fill your mask with water, tilt you head back and blow the water out the bottom of your mask with your nose. I hadn’t had to clean my mask underwater in years and so it was the first time in a long time that I tried it. It didn’t work. Now I had water in my mask. So I tried again but it filled with even more water. I wear contacts to see and if they get wet they fall out of my eyes. I did not want to lose my sight deep below the ocean.
I panicked. I quickly tried again- now my mask was completely filled with water and everything was a blur. I started freaking out and kept trying with no success.
As I was trying to clear my mask of water, we were sinking deeper and deeper into the blue hole. At about 120 feet deep we began to lose light. With my mask filled with water, everything went dark and I could now only see the red blur of a diver beside me.
I tried to grab the dive instructors attention but I couldn’t see if he was facing me. I made the underwater hand gestures signalling that I had a problem with my mask but I couldn’t see or hear anything.
I had no idea if anyone even saw me.
In my mind all that I could think about was that I was now under the caves in the blue hole so I couldn’t go up, the instructor was swimming ahead of me farther and farther away and everyone would follow him and swim away too. The idea of being trapped blind and alone 120 feet down in the blue hole filled me with fear.
My survival instincts kicked in and I quickly reached out to the red blur beside me- grabbing them then tapping on my mask with angst and fear to signal my problem. I knew that the red suite would go get help so I tried to wait patiently but it felt like an eternity. I figured that our scuba guide was too far gone by now. Anxiety took over. It was the most terrified I had ever felt in my life.
At this point, my inner voice started speaking to me: “Tessa.. You need to calm down. The important thing is that you have oxygen. Don’t panic because that will use up your oxygen more quickly. You need to calm down and take a deep breath.”
As best as I could I tried to surrender to my fear. I closed my eyes, focused on my breath, and waited in darkness as I floated with hope that someone would help me.
Finally, I felt the hands of another diver grab me. A huge relief poured over me the moment I knew I was not alone and lost deep below the ocean.
The diver tried to clear my mask of water using his extra oxygen source. I opened my eyes. There was still water in my mask – I could see him through the blur of water. “Shit!” I thought “What if we can’t get the water out of my mask?!” I would have to be led through the ocean blind.
He took the mask off of my head and put it back on again. I closed my eyes to not let my contacts float away as he blew more oxygen into my mask. The water was emptying. He attempted a third time and put the mask back on my face. I could see!
Never have I been so thankful for my sense if sight in my life.
You can only be that deep for so long before it becomes unsafe and you run out of oxygen – so immediately we had to forge ahead. It was hard for me to continue on because I was still in shock. I really wanted to hold the hand of someone so that I would know I was not alone. However, I was traveling solo and didn’t know anyone well enough to do so.
Instead I used the wise words of Dory from Finding Nemo, as motivation; “just keep swimming.”
And I did- around the blue hole and all the way back up to the shining surface.
That dive gave me an overwhelming appreciation for life and for Mother Nature. On the boat everyone was asking me what had happened down there. The girl in the red wetsuit said she had gone into a panic too as she swam after the instructor and tried pulling his fins to get his attention.
We still had two more dives that day. I debated if I had the courage to get back into the water. The other dives were nowhere near the depth of the blue hole and I decided that I wasn’t going to let one situation ruin my love of the ocean.
When the time came for the next dives, I jumped back in the ocean and I am happy that I did. On the next dive three sharks swam with us the whole time – it was amazing! You would be looking at one shark and suddenly another one would swim right under you. On the last dive we saw sea turtles, sting rays and amazing varieties of fish. The beautiful colours of the fish and tranquility of the ocean life actually helped to calm me.
In one day my life had gone from absolute terror to unimaginable joy.
Read about what it’s like to swim with sharks.
On the way back, I was sitting on the boat drinking a rum punch, thinking about how I this day could not get any more insanely beautiful. Suddenly, I saw a pod of dolphins!
We stopped the boat and watched them jump and play in the turquoise waters. I didn’t even reach for my camera, I just sat there in wonder, soaking in the moment – thankful to be alive.