|After 30 years, an assignment to write about her backyard leads to a renewed sense of adventure|
I had become mired in office work, and hadn't really been diving much in Grand Cayman except with students. I figured I had seen all that Cayman had to offer.
Heavenly Tableau A pair of gray angelfish pose in front of a richly colorful reef scene
Photo By Cathy Church
January 31, 2003
Now, I dive for a many reasons: to relax, to see something beautiful, new or exciting, or to teach. On this day I did not do anything new or exciting. But I saw plenty at a site I have actually dived over a hundred times. In truth, I had a great dive because I was judging it through the eyes of Michael Bleyzer, a photo student of mine who was using his new Nikon D100 SLR digital camera in a Sea and Sea housing. I would point out subjects that Michael and I hoped would be pretty on film, and voila - each scene appeared in the small camera monitor in all of its glory and color.
To top it off, I dropped into a crevice that I usually ignore, and there was a swim-through perfect for black-and-white photography. I actually felt a surge of renewal.
|For our last dive, Michael wanted to dive a reef I have scoffed at for years, but down we went. We had several subjects on his list. I spotted a rock beauty (top of the list) posing in a lovely lair surrounded by red sponges. Starting from farther away, Michael took a photo, looked at the digital monitor, made the needed adjustments and continued working in closer and closer. In my 30 years of diving in Grand Cayman, I had not noticed a rock beauty staying put in such a nice setting.|
January 23, 2003
Although I didn't know it at the time, my regeneration in retrospect had begun eight days earlier at the media breakfast for the 2003 inductees to the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. It had just ended when Jean-Michel Cousteau, one of the inductees, said he wanted to go diving. The board of directors (including me) and the inductees all had to be back early to prepare for the induction ceremony, but Ron Kipp, also a board member, said he could arrange a boat for the six of us through Bob Soto's Reef Divers.
Although I didn?t know it at the time, my regeneration in retrospect had begun eight days earlier at the media breakfast for the 2003 inductees to the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. It had just ended when Jean-Michel Cousteau, one of the inductees, said he wanted to go diving. The board of directors (including me) and the inductees all had to be back early to prepare for the induction ceremony, but Ron Kipp, also a board member, said he could arrange a boat for the six of us through Bob Soto's Reef Divers.
With the help of my husband, Herb, and my staff, I was on the dock in time.
The boat captain chose a great site, Orange Canyon, that I had been to hundreds of times - I could dive it in my sleep but the group was having a good time, and I would at least enjoy time with friends. Rather than swimming right to the areas I frequent when shooting or helping students, I stayed with the group. That's when something broke through for me.
Actually, changes in the reef itself spurred the excitement of discovery. I began to realize that I had not seen some sites for dozens of years; others I certainly had not explored around every coral head, along every ridge. Some that were once dull now had new growth.
This new realization is why I later so enjoyed the perky rock beauty with Michael, because although I had seen rock beauties and red sponges, I had not seen them so well together and had not expected anything on what I thought was a poor dive site. On this dive we ended up on a rubble flat, where I watched two fabulous mantis shrimp excavating their burrow. Not a common sight.
Cayman's corals, like most of the world's hard corals, have been hard hit by climatic changes. A few years ago, just after a period of bleaching, some of the reefs looked pretty dull. Now colorful encrusting sponges, such as the red boring sponges, have moved in. They look gray to the passing diver, but with a flashlight or strobe, they light up to a brilliant red to red-orange. They are prettier than coral. In time they will bore into the coral so much that the next storm will have an easier time knocking the dead coral head over, and then there will be a new place for the next generation of corals to grow. It is a lovely continuum. Just like the lush growth from a heavily pruned shrub it looks bare at first, but becomes beautiful in time. This is what I had just found and, although it snuck up on me, my dormant desire to explore Cayman underwater came back in force.
PS: The story was finished, and I took a break to talk to an excited diver, Bob Roman, who told me that he enjoyed lying on the hardpan 10 yards offshore at Sunset House, watching dozens of sailfin blennies. Well, sailfin blennies have been on my list for far too long. Gads, I have swum past them hundreds of times without stopping. I had no idea that they were right by the ladder.
That clinches it. I am quitting today's office work and going diving.
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