Mapping the limits of the soul: every school a symphony, every diver has a halo

AKA meeting King Neptune.

There are times when I feel that I have overstated things with the title of this series. Then I think through how much I have seen and grown in this past month. And I ponder the fact that what I have seen and had the opportunity to think on is comprised of such unique and rare experiences. I feel like I have covered a lot of ground in a huge number of directions on this journey; the journey is growing into the title!!

Today, we did our last dives and bid adieu to Baker Island.

I am sad to see it go!! But I know that the next destination will be full of its own unique charms and adventures!! Let’s do this!!

This morning, conditions were not good. The wind was blowing 25knots and gusting higher. Seas must have been at least 10 feet. On the sea, the weather comes to be of paramount importance, and this morning it was against us!!

We launched in a little baby orange boat. While conditions on the surface were bad, once on the bottom, it was calmer even though the water was ‘cloudy’ from the turbulence. Cloudy is a relative term!! Back on the mainland (any mainland) today would have been the clearest day you could remember!!

Towards the end of the second dive we were buzzed by two mantas!! They were no more than 5m (15 feet?) from me!! So graceful! So elegant!

Here is a picture Cristi got of one of them:

On that dive I also finally got an answer to the question ‘how do turtles keep such clean shells?’ I mean, they should be overgrown o a huge degree with algae etc, but they aren’t. Today I was surreptitiously watching a green turtle as it wandered by when I saw it park it on the reef. It was soon approached by a few algae-eating fish who cleaned its shell nicely!!

It was even cooler, because at that time I was being courted by a cleaner wrasse who wanted to clean my fins!! Synchronised cleaning jamboree!! The wrasse was chasing all the other fish away from me!! Until it couldn’t find any fishy skin to clean, and then it headed off all sad. Sorry little dude!

In good news for economists of capitalism, I have finally identified something infinite with which they can justify their tragic models!! It was a school of blue and yellow (both colors electric of course!!) fish that went by me today. It took literally five minutes for them all to swim by!! They came streaming out of the nebulous blue, divided into two flows of fish, which then collided with the reef, and like molten metal flowing around contours in the reef (such a complex topology!!) they swam on, reforming, tributaries flowing into a common course as they swam back into the blue beyond 30m down the reef. It was amazing!!

Every school of fish is a symphony as they bend and flex and twist and turn, in harmonious synchronous movement or in a discordant chaos of directions redefined and relayed, fin strokes out of beat. What a glorious gift!

Today I continued thinking on the halo that surrounds every large organism here. There are schools of small fish like you wouldn’t believe. They like to be near large organisms as we offer a calmer microhabitat. However, they never really trust the large organism not to crush them, attack them etc. So every time I see a school of small fish, while they look uniformly distributed to me, they are in fact stacked up in a startled cloud right outside my halo (I guess this would technically be called flight distance?). I will get a photo of this before I am done, but it has been a frustrating endeavour so far!! But it is this halo of frenzied fish flight that gives so much of the dynamic to the fishy symphony!! Oh how I love my halo!! Oh how it dances! The angels never had halos to match mine!!

Update: Hazing for induction into the league of shellbacks started yesterday, but I have taken down that part of this post as have been asked to keep what happens during this ceremony secret. Like what happens in Vegas. Sorry!!



~ by maoctopus on March 18, 2012.

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