The Ocean Deep – Lena Ng

Its beach is sandy and stunning, marred only by scattered memorials which dot one side of a cliff. Its waters are clear and calm; as a diving spot, it is the most beautiful and the most deadly. Inexperienced divers can lose their bearings trying to find the arch leading to the ocean and are lost forever in the cave. Or they underestimate its depth, develop nitrogen narcosis and drown. It has claimed the lives of over a hundred and thirty divers.

The Blue Hole has its own spin on the mermaid legend: in order to escape an arranged marriage, a girl drowned herself and her spirit lures divers to their deaths. The Bedouin tribes who live in the area avoid the Blue Hole, as they believe it is possessed by the girl’s ghost.

I entered those waters on that fateful day, accompanied by my diving partner, Ryan. It was to be the dive of a lifetime. We’ve been to Bunaken, Indonesia, where orange clownfish hide in the pink arms of sea anemones and watched eagle rays glide past us like silent underwater UFOs. We’ve been to Cocos Island, three hundred miles off of the coast of Costa Rica, where we were surrounded by a school of white-tipped sharks. We’ve recorded over three hundred dives together. But nothing prepared me for this.

It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of having a diving partner. He was the one who, in the end, saved my life.

We had chosen a good day for our dive. The previous day had been too windy, the ocean too choppy for an attempt. Now, gentle waves rolled over the ocean’s surface.  The water was a bright, turquoise blue the color of Mayan jewelry and matched by an unmarked sky. The beach held a few chairs, a thatched hut for drinks, and a faded painted sign reading “Easy Entry” with an arrow pointing the way.

Despite its deadly history, the Blue Hole looks deceptively peaceful; this illusory calm is part of its lure. It can also be a diver’s undoing—I was lulled into thinking all would be well. I ignored the fourteen memorial stones for ill-fated divers—they were inexperienced, they had miscalculated their weights, they hadn’t paid attention to their depths, all factors I thought I had mastered. Young and healthy, I was filled with a blind denial of death, like those who climb past corpses on the summit to Mount Everest. Powered by the foolishness of youth, a warning became a challenge.

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