I went back and forth about publishing this story or not…. I didn’t want to give anyone the impression that what I or “we” did was acceptable or something I would recommend or condone by any means! It’s more of an amusing story I’ve told in the past and a tale of caution on pushing your limits when scuba diving. So now you might be thinking what does a nursery rhyme have to do with diving? We’ll get to that.
Back when I lived on the island of Oahu I stumbled across a dive shop one day and decided to take scuba lessons. I’ve always loved the water since I was young; it seemed natural to me. I started out as an open water diver to advanced, then boat, night, deep, rescue, etc., the list went on. One of these days I’ll find the disk with all my dive photo’s, until then digital wins this round.
Since I was getting qualified to dive, hubby did too. His interest wasn’t along the same lines as mine, so open water was enough for him. Some time before my Divemaster qualifications were complete we, decided to take a weekend trip to the Big Island (Kona) with a couple of friends of ours. The main reason was to do a night dive with Manta Rays in Kona.
We booked a two bedroom condo, if I remember correctly and decided to head out to do a shore dive first. There was site we heard about called “City of Refuge” which was known for being a great place for shore diving. Parking and walking out to the water’s edge was a bitch in full scuba gear, but we all managed. Besides the coral and turtles the channel dips straight down into something from the movie “abyss.” So…someone came up with the bright idea of doing a “bounce.” I assure you it was not me, but like an idiot I went along with it. Matter of fact we all decided why not, it would be an achievement to say we hit 200 feet; yeah right! Let me stop here and give you a bit of history on diving at “the city of Refuge.”
Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is a United StatesNational Historical Park located on the west coast of the island of Hawaiʻi in the U.S. state of Hawaiʻi. The historical park preserves the site where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (one of the ancient laws) could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge or puʻuhonua. The offender would be absolved by a priest and freed to leave. Defeated warriors and non-combatants could also find refuge here during times of battle. The grounds just outside the Great Wall that encloses the puʻuhonua were home to several generations of powerful chiefs.
Starting to get the picture? They do not say “kapu” for nothing! Otherwise it is a great place for snorkelers and divers alike. Plenty of fish, eels, and other aquatic species to see, including the “humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa,” try saying that a few times. A.K.A. in “haole” terms its known as the Triggerfish; the state fish of Hawaii.
Most divers enter the water at “Two Steps.” Do not be mislead by the name, there’s some pretty sharp lava to overcome; or you can opt. to enter near the boat landing. Coral on both sides and a channel leading out towards the ocean. Once you reach the end of the channel, like I stated before….its Abyss-ville (easy 200-300+ depths). Let’s imagine for a moment, a diver happily going along the bottom of the ocean/coral, waving at Mr. Green Turtle floating by, and bam out of nowhere the end of the earth. The slope….nothing but a few strands of something or another here and there and darkness. We all look at one another with the common underwater “OK” hand signal, ready? Sure, I’ll crap my wetsuit if I make it back look!! Down we go….
Didn’t seem that bad a first, all four of us together…dive buddies and all. 40 feet…..50 feet…..60+ feet; that is where hubby gives me the, you go ahead I’ll wait for you here note on the underwater memo pad. No biggie I got my other dive buddies next to me…..
70 feet…..100 feet, 150 feet…(did I mention we only had 1 tank)! Not sure when, but after about 180 feet or so I start feeling kind of funny. In dive terms we refer to that feeling as being “narced.” The proper definition would be impaired judgment while scuba diving due to nitrogen narcosis; I copied and pasted this definition to put it more plainly:
Due to its perception-altering effects, the onset of narcosis may be hard to recognize. At its most benign, narcosis results in relief of anxiety – a feeling of tranquility and mastery of the environment. These effects are essentially identical to various concentrations of nitrous oxide. They also resemble (though not as closely) the effects of alcohol and the familiar benzodiazepine drugs such as diazepam and alprazolam. Such effects are not harmful unless they cause some immediate danger not to be recognized and addressed. Once stabilized, the effects generally remain the same at a given depth, only worsening if the diver ventures deeper.
Yup, that would be about right! I’d never experienced that before to my recollection (not underwater anyway)….. We were almost there, and I foolishly told myself no turning back now, while picking up speed with only about 10 more feet to go. I began to sprint past my other two friends starting to panic….watching my dive watch hit the 200 feet mark and FLIP…back to the surface I WAS heading…so I thought! My brain, eyes and watch simultaneously had other ideas. In my NARC’ed stage, I was looking at my dive watch (the one on my wrist) and instead of seeing the gauge that indicated my current depth, all I saw was my MAX depth. Wait…what’s going on here, I’m moving my legs, heading upwards, fins going like a motor on a speed boat and I’m STILL at 200 feet??? What the hell!! Then the panic really sets in…..end of the road for you I’m thinking. Don’t know how, though I managed to get a grip and tell myself I had to calm down!
Mary…Had…A…Little…Lamb….little lamb, little lamb, who’s fleece was white as snow…everywhere that Mary went….
DON’T ASK, to this day I have no clue, where that came from?? Still going up the slope, and BOOM I notice the correct numbers slowly appearing on the watch. At about the same time I saw hubby come into focus at around the 60 foot mark. I can say at that time and place, I have never been so relieved to see a person before. If I wasn’t wearing scuba gear, I would have resembled an octopus the way I attached myself to him. He could see something was wrong, but I couldn’t exactly tell him underwater, so I had him head up with me to about 30 feet to “decompress,” for as long as I could, before going to the surface. Worse than being narced is getting the bends, which I would have likely had, if I shot directly up to the surface.
We all had a good laugh over my life saving nursery rhyme than; but out of all the MANY dives I done since, I’ve never forget what could have happened!
As I said a cautionary tale…..DIVE SAVE!!