‘There are two divers in the darkness, heading to the nether world…Everything happens very slowly in the nether world / Immersion, immersion, we close the gates./ We venture into uncertain depths. / Immersion, immersion, we go vertically into the drift. / Immersion, immersion, lower and lower toward the heights, where there’s only the last light of the day, where there reigns a dark feeling of excitement. / Strange glowing creatures, so far away from the common and ordinary.’
Translation of excerpt from Jorge Drexler’s ‘Mundo Abisal‘ (Abyssal World)
If SCUBA diving during the daytime is like going to another planet, SCUBA in the nighttime is like going to another universe.
The night dive was a favorite for us all. We boarded the dive boat around 6 PM, just as the sun was setting, and arrived at the dive site right as the day’s remaining light slipped past the horizon.
Armed with a flashlight, I assumed the standard boat-entry position. This time, it was pitch-black for the first few seconds in the water, until I switched on my light.
Amongst the vast black abyss, the only things we could see were the objects illuminated in the direct beams of light we were shooting from our flashlights. Without a continuous view of the reef or the use of peripheral vision, each sight was a complete surprise, as we never knew what to expect when we aimed our photon handguns in a new direction.
Part of the thrill of the dive was the sensation of being in such engulfing darkness, which was combined with the already surreal alterations of the senses that occur while diving: weightlessness, near silence, and lack of smells. Together, we were deprived of almost all normal bodily sensations, which has an interesting effect on the mind.
The other part of the thrill was the things we did see with our lights, which were distinctly different from what we had seen during our daytime dives. For one, there are different, nocturnal animals active at night, like shrimp, squid, lobsters, and octopi, which hide in holes in the reef during the day.
We also saw some animals which we had also seen during the day, like fish, sharks, and rays, but they acted differently at night, mainly because they were resting, and not moving around so quickly, making it easier to see them for longer periods of time.
During our 45 minute dive, we circumnavigated a medium-sized reef. The sides of the reef had a decent slope to them, making it wall-like in that we could swim up and down and along the side of it and see different things from different angles.
As we were swimming above some loose plant-debree next to the reef, Stephen spotted what we had all been hoping most to see: an octapus. He shined his light on it in a slow, circular pattern, our signal for getting each other’s attention.
A few of us noticed, and watched as the octapus moved its 8 legs across the ocean floor toward the reef. Once it had noticed us, it began to do its signature dance, as our divemaster called it, changing colors, pulling its legs inward, and covering itself in a shell-like position with its flexible skin.
About halfway through, our divemaster instructed us to turn off our lights, after which we followed him around the reef for a few minutes. At first, we could barely see eachother, but eventually our eyes adjusted and we could make out shapes and some colors within the otherwise pitch black surroundings in the dark ocean.
Toward the end, we saw the one and only sea-turtle any of us had seen during all 9 dives. It was a quick sighting, as the turtle gracefully swam across the reef in the opposite direction from us, too swiftly for us to follow it into the darkness.
When we got back on the boat, we were all giddy with excitement, alternating between speechlessness and saying things like “wow” or “holy shit that was so cool!”