For our fourth day of diving, mother ocean is again in an unusually placid mood. We know her tantrums will return all too soon but for now, we are caressed by her gentle motion.
By late morning the sea surface is almost glassy and it's our turn to dive. The boat pirouettes on the surface in search of our dive site, a submerged rocky pinnacle. Red pixels swarm onto the depth sounder display confirming its location and after another circuit, the shot line is set.
Geared up, I'm 80kg heavier and barely able to walk.
The ocean's cool embrace is a welcome relief and I immediately begin my descent.
The others are slow to follow and I wait for them, impatiently, at 6 metres. The stragglers join us and the descent proper commences.
Turquoise turns to grey as the bald rocky top of the pinnacle materialises. We pause there briefly at 25 metres before continuing on down a steep rocky staircase.
A haze in the water marks the thermocline. Beneath this is the good oil: the cold clear nectar of deep diving. From out of the gloom a deep blue vista crystalises.
This is a world distinct from the waters above. Creatures of this zone seldom mix with their shallow water relatives.
The good oil: the cold clear nectar of deep diving
Scarlet, magenta and violet coloured splendid perch covort with pink mao mao. Far from the turbulence of the shallows, gorgonian fans, black corals and finger sponges stretch out their long delicate arms in search of food.
Nitrogen and helium are squeezed into our tissues and we can be but brief visitors here. On reaching our planned bottom time we immediately begin a steady ascent up through the clouds of mao mao and demoiselles.
Scarlet, magenta and violet coloured splendid perch covort with pink mao mao
Decompression is our pennance for those precious minutes spent at depth. It is dull but until we've served our time we cannot escape the ocean without risk of torturing and maiming our gas saturated bodies. Thankfully, decompression is concluded unevetfully amd we're free to re-enter our home environment.
Finger sponges stretch out their long delicate arms in search of food
On the way home, a distant blemish on the ocean's surface alerts us to a pod of frolicking dolphins. They swim beside the boat and several beautiful animals are soon riding the boat's bow wave. Beneath a glazed surface the dolphins twist and roll around eachother at ever increasing speed as Noel ups the throttle. Briefly, they're smoking along at 18 knots but can't sustain this for long and peel off one by one.