The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Beyond The Picket Fence

Sherryanne De La Boise
(her great grandparents were life-long residents of Stronghurst)


We left Raja Ampat and are in open ocean. Tonight is the elegant Captain's Dinner. When told we are in whale shark territory, I remember the wonderful spotted whale shark swim in Mexico (several articles ago, ahem) and sign on to scuba. Endangered whale sharks are the second largest fish. They eat tiny, tiny organisms (fine by me). Only five of us are doing the plunge: a photographer, two marine biologists/dive masters, and two tourists. No celebrities. That should have been my first clue not to go. > Diving in open ocean has the risk of a down-draft current as well as a "Finding Nemo" current that took turtles for hundreds of miles. As a safety, we're to hold a line attached to the ship, tightly. Very tightly, they repeat. 650' of line is needed to reach 100' depth. The line is clipped to our chests. That should have been my second clue not to go.

We cannot step into the water directly from the vessel, as there is a risk of being swept too close to the engines. So, three rubber boats are moored together and tied to the vessel to create a launching point. The last time I saw this was during a polar plunge in the Canadian Arctic Ocean. That was so cold that I don't remember any of it. I remember jumping in. Guess the cold made automatic survival systems take over, as I reportedly did not swim, but instead flew out of the water and into a bathrobe, back on ship. This is my third clue, but this water is the same 82 degrees as the swimming pool back home.

We start a slow descent. I am like an old elevator: glug, glug, glug. I fidget with my gear to get all those pesky air bubbles out that a traditionally built woman is bound to acquire. I pop my ears and take a couple of readings on my dive computer. And, I observe the habits of the other divers. Some people have the oddest routines.

Next to a coral reef, you can gauge depth. In the open ocean, there is no reference point. If I did not wear a wrist-watch dive computer, I would have never believed our depth.

Yet at 77', there was a thermo line, where the water temperature changes, like in the deep end of a swimming pool. The ocean was pleasant, then suddenly it dropped to a cool 74 degrees. We vote as to whether to continue. The current has picked up. We might be entering the oceanic conveyer belt where the elusive whale sharks might be travelling. It is hesitantly unanimous. As we descend, there is a square jelly encapsulating a small pink worm whose many cilia legs are pedaling furiously.

It will be the only thing we see.

Five minutes at 100', with poor visibility and nothing illuminated by our torches, we start the ascent. We will be teased by those who did not go. The celebrities, Vixen Vicki, and Widow Wilma have all been to the salon to prep for the Captain's Dinner, starting in 18 minutes. They're having adult beverages with my husband, as I go dripping past.

"We'll save you a seat at dinner, honey," drawls the Vixen.

Back in my cabin, I towel dry my hair, smear on a coat of makeup, jump into a long dress and pull on a beautifully styled wig! Off I go to extract my husband from their tentacles and find us a better table.

ThThis is my dive journal typically and after today's dive: