Rapture causes both physical and psychological symptoms. Some divers have ripped off their wetsuits in panic; their internal thermostats short-circuit and they can sense extreme heat when in fact they are experiencing deathly cold. At 30 m, you would begin to feel mania, a grandiosity which affects your concentration. At 50 m, hallucinations. Some divers experience uncontrollable laughter. For others, terror.
My deepest dive was 100 metres. And what I was about to see, what I was about to experience, will haunt me to my final days.
What happened is the reason I don’t dive anymore. I became an instructor because I thought it would be less risky, that I could get as close to the water’s edge without dipping my toes in, but it’s like dangling a bag of heroin in front of a recovering addict. When Ryan accompanies the students into the water, I turn my back to them and hold my breath. It takes all of my willpower not to follow.
In the time of explorers, sailors didn’t have a name for this syndrome. Instead, they created a legend which described mermaids luring divers to their deaths. Creatures who used their beauty and songs to trick men and drag them to the bottom of the sea.
It’s not to be scoffed at. It’s a myth grounded in truth, which leads to my unhappy confession.
My last and deepest dive was in the Blue Hole, north of Dahab, Egypt, off the coast of the Red Sea. It is a sinkhole, an underwater cave that has formed a natural arch, a twenty-six metre tunnel which connects it to the ocean. Think of it like a teapot of water (the sinkhole) immersed in a swimming pool (the ocean) with the spout from the teapot connecting its water to the pool’s surface. The floor of the sinkhole deepens in increments, with shallower floors leading downwards, like stairs on a staircase. At its deepest point, it has a depth of one-hundred and thirty metres, deep enough to kill all but the most experienced divers.
The Blue Hole is divers’ Mount Everest. We dive it because it is there. It’s a chance to accomplish a feat symbolic of man’s ability to overcome his limitations, to declare physical superiority and spiritual maturity among intrepid adventurers driven by incalculable hubris. Like Everest, the Blue Hole is a graveyard for those who accept the challenge yet fail to conquer its rule. Thus, it is also known as the Diver’s Cemetery.