Flashback: Over 100 Below

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Seth Bienek (Creative Commons)

By Sydney Sketoe, Staff Writer

About two years ago, I actually went into the ocean for the first time. No, I don’t mean I went to the beach, I mean I went about 40 feet under water, if not deeper. My dad, ever since he was young, has always wanted to scuba dive. Me? I thought it was cool but wasn’t exactly passionate about it nor super-duper excited. Certification for diving was done some weeks prior to the trip to Cozumel.  I remember fondly how we left the  hot soup air of Houston to arrive in just a couple of hours in a place that was very bright and sunny..

We went on several dives but my favorite dive was one of the most beautiful yet scary dives I’ve been on: The Santa Rosa Wall. We zoomed a few miles out from the resort to open waters and resilient sun. After gearing up we jumped into the water and started our descent towards the wall. At first, there was sand and some dark splotches of sea sponge. I vaguely remember my dad tugging on me about the depth, starting at about what? Fifty? I can’t recall exactly the number but it was a deep dive. It wasn’t long until we came upon the massive reef on a giant rock wall which was spiraling with life that seemed almost otherworldly to me. This feeling was confirmed when at some point I looked behind me—there was nothing. Nothing but empty blue for seemingly miles on end. After that I made sure not to look again out of fear of getting sucked up into the blue void. The reef was dense with sea sponge and massive overhangs that had branches of coral sticking out as if they were trying to touch you.

As we swam among the fishes, my dad and I were hovering next to each other when we exited a tunnel of the wall, and saw a sea turtle for the first time.My dad was watching the turtle when I saw some other divers go over the reef and I thought it was our diving group. Well I ended up being completely wrong as they were a group of  advanced divers going who were going to a depth that was over the limitation of our group. And I went over that limitation by a long shot. I was only supposed to descend to a maximum of 100 feet, but  I went down maybe an additional  ten or twenty feet.  I wasn’t even aware I had done so. A dive master from that group had to literally drag me away from their group and take me back over the reef to be with my designated group and my partner- dad. My Houdini act must’ve almost given him a heart attack or something because the air in his tank went lower than usual in mid-dive. He had to resurface while I still wanted to dive a little longer so my new partner was the dive master. He took us to the Santa Shallows where he showed us some sea creatures that were out. Scary or not, the eels were adorable in the way they’d open their mouths and peek out of their little cubby holes. Not that far away from them were little horse fish that’d just gracefully flutter against the sand. I remember looking over and in the distance  I saw a big spotted eagle ray just glide on by where one second it was here then next, gone. The whole experience was a magical event, exploring the otherworldly place of the deep sea.