Central AmericaScubaSouth America

May 12, 2007: Cocos Island

Every time Wilson sees me he says, “Hi Haydee!” And I respond “Hi Wilson!”. Every. Time. I’ve no idea why this started but it’s become routine enough that we do it practically five times a day. If he’s out on the blue skiff and I’m standing on the back deck of the Sea Hunter, he’ll yell it from the ocean, “Hi Haydee!”… “Hi Wilson!” I doubt it entertains anyone aside from the two of us.

Dive #1: Alycon

We like diving at Alycon because it’s deep and there are multiple feeding stations that the hammerheads come close to. Today’s dive had a strong current so it was cold, and because my computer isn’t working I didn’t want to push my decompression time. I stayed on the bottom for about twenty minutes, snapping pictures of hammers and a little turtle, and then began my climb up the anchor line.

Hammerhead at a cleaning station
E joined me at the safety stop, hovering mid-water, until he suddenly turned and began to quickly kick out with his camera extended. After diving with him for two weeks I can read him well enough underwater to know that he had seen or heard something so, without questioning, I swam after him. He has an amazing eye for spotting marine life. When he slowed down I knew we’d missed whatever it was, and he turned to me and made a wavy signal with his hand: dolphins. Bummer. We ascended and climbed into the boat.

The dolphins were still around, though. From the boat we could spot them in the crest of the waves and occasionally jumping out of the water which never fails to make me laugh. Wonderful entertainment, especially since we had to keep the boat tied for a while. For safety reasons both the skiffs – ours and the blue skiff – time our dives together. Neither skiff returns to Sea Hunter until all the divers of the other skiff have surfaced, in case the second boat is needed for rescue or recovery. Today, the blue skiff went to Submerged Rock – a site that’s even further than Alcyon – so we waited at the Alcyon anchor line until Pepe radioed that all blue skiff divers were accounted for. Though the surf was a bit rough and we were being tossed about, we were happy to wait because the sun was out, the two dolphins kept us entertained, and our boat has bonded nicely so we enjoy spending time with each other.

Richard told me an hilarious joke: “There’s a galley full of oarsmen and one day their drummer arrived and said, ‘Men, I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that there will be extra bread and water for everyone tonight. The bad news is that the captain wants to go water skiing.’ ”

Dive #2: Submerged Rock

Wilson, briefing us about Submerged Rock. Warren in the background on our skiff.

Submerged Rock is a lovely site very far from where the Sea Hunter is docked. It was a bumpy ride out there but definitely worth the trip – loads of fish and a lovely reef system. This wasn’t a hammerhead site but, as Lucien later declared, “Is okay not to see hammerheads sometimes.” Sometimes I forget that I used to dive just to look at fish and reefs and I wondered if trips like this and South Africa “ruined” regular diving for me, but this dive proved that I can be delighted with a “regular” dive. There was a huge swim-through filled with schools of snapper and I swam through it at least five times, loving the feeling of being enveloped by colorful fish close enough to touch. Jim – another diver – showed me an octopus sleeping in a crevasse, and Wilson showed me a little crab. I saw a marbled ray and a spotted ray swimming together, but I’d left my camera on the skiff so I have nothing to show for this. I played around the reef and toyed with my weighting system and buoyancy, removing a two-pound weight to see how that effected my swim pattern through the arch – and now I know for sure I’ve been diving with a bit too much weight. Convenient, since we have only one day left!

Dive #3: Dirty Rock

We continued our ongoing love affair with Dirty Rock, this time making a pass at swimming to the pinnacles again. We made it successfully but the current was so strong that we had to hang on tightly to the rocks. Eric has a video of me: one hand gripped to the rock and the rest of me being tossed around by the current. Happy, though. Very happy since we were surrounded by sharks and schools and schools of jack.

Wilson gave us the signal to let go and we all floated out into the blue, hoping to find something fun and exciting. Nothing there for us this time, but I’m loving my newly weighted self – buoyancy is so much easier to control when you’re perfected weighted.

Manta Ray at Sea Hunter

While we passed our surface interval on the Sea Hunter, someone called us out to the deck. A huge pacific manta ray was swimming around the boat, occasionally coming close enough to the surface that we could see it flap its wings. I dashed down to put on my bathing suit for a snorkel swim, but of course it was gone by the time I suited up. Instead I took pictures of the sunset:

Dive #4: Night Dive at Lobster Rock

Our last night dive was at Lobster Rock, though Wilson said it should be called “Crevasse Rock” since all the cool things to see are tucked into little crevasses. I let the photographers go off on their own to jocky for subjects, and instead I followed Wilson around and we poked into little nooks and crannies to see what was hiding in the dark. Each time he’d find something he’d swirl his flashlight in my direction and I’d kick over to peek at what he’d found: crabs, tiny shrimp, skinny eels, scallops, etc. He found a lobster who was carrying a huge pile of eggs in her tail which I never would have seen if he hadn’t shown me. By the end of the dive I’d become an expert at identifying the hiding spots for many of the ocean’s nightlife.

Shark hunting:

Thomas and Claudia told me about their visit to Cocos three years ago, and how they hung a flashlight off the back of the boat to attract silky sharks at night. This was something I had to see, so Thomas rigged an underwater flashlight with an extended line and dangled it in the water, shaking it back and forth to attract the marine life. Eric joined us, and I thought to myself that this would be one of my favorite memories of the trip: the four of us lying on our stomachs on the back deck of the boat, looking hopefully into the ocean and laughing at Thomas’ bicep workout. Nothing arrived but fish and the long string of organic leftovers from dinner which the staff had tossed overboard.

After twenty minutes we gave up and Thomas and Claudia went inside, but Eric and I stayed and watched the phosphorescent show in the water. It was much too dark to actually see the fish, but whenever a school swam beneath the boat we could see their outline through the bio-luminescents that lit up when their space was upset.

We turned onto our backs to look at the bevy of stars in the sky and this is where we stayed for quite some time, talking about our futures, our friends, and the meaning of life until strong winds blew clouds overhead and covered our view.