Wednesday, May 19, 2004

(Dive, Dive, Dive)

Today we are in Barbados. My original plan was to go in some caves here that are supposed to be really nifty. However, we had a boat drill that was going to happen at 10:30, which pretty much ruined THAT plan. I decided to take a sunset sail tour instead.

When I got to my muster station for the drill, I noticed water pouring down the outdoor stairwell, and assumed that they were cleaning the deck. It turns out that it was an incredible downpour, heavier than any I have seen on the ship so far. Since the muster stations are outside, they had us all meet at temporary muster stations marked by scraps of paper with our numbers written on them. This, of course, caused quite a bit of confusion, really prolonging the drill.

Seeing as how it was pouring out, I decided that a sailboat tour wouldn't be the best choice, so I changed it to a submarine tour. The meeting place was just off the pier after lunch, so I rushed through lunch to get out to it. They were around a half-hour late leaving, and when we got there the earlier group was late getting back. All in all, I waited for around an hour and a half to get on. It had stopped raining by this point, but was still really overcast. On the way out to the sub, we had a short training session on how to use the life vests on the boat, and then how to use the aircraft ones on the sub. They also had what looked like a Coke can with a lid. When you take the lid off, a mouthpiece pops up, allowing you to safely breathe during smoke, along with a hood for your head (which I am pretty sure isn't for the smoke, I think that it is so that you don't see and panic as you die). I am pretty sure that an emergency on the sub wouldn't be solved by the smoke masks and life vests, but as long as it makes people feel better . . .

We weren't at a great angle to shoot it, but here is a picture of the sub surfacing with the earlier group. It is quite a process to tie up to a moving sub with a moving boat. They also have a chase boat that attaches to it, and the water was pretty rough, the guys who drive the boats are really good (as well they should be, doing this twice a day all year).

We waited for the group to get off the sub, and we boarded it. I was impressed, it was really nice inside with pretty powerful air. It is powered completely with batteries, yet they still provide a powerful air conditioner, stereo, and a number of unnecessary electrical conveniences. The sub barely surfaces, so by the time we sat down we were already about ten feet under. It was cool looking up at the bottom of the boats tied to each side of us. I was surprised, the chase boat had zincs on the rudders and other parts of the boat, but not on the propeller shafts.

Once we were all on, the sealed the two entrances and started submerging. They said that the company owns subs in some areas that take people down to 1,000 feet, but the area that we were in was pretty shallow, the deepest that we got was 150 feet. Since the light tends to dissipate the lower you go, this wasn't a bad depth. The water here is clear enough that you can still see really well. I had to adjust the camera to be darker, as on automatic the images were too washed out. I took several pictures, but quite a bit more video. Neither really does the trip justice, but you get the idea. We drove around for a while while the guide pointed out different species of fish, turtles, and coral. There were a couple of bathtub corals that were huge, but I couldn't get a good picture of them. There were lots and lots of fish, of course. The fish were extremely comfortable around the sub, I presume because it is there so much. I never got a really good shot, but there were some really big fish that looked like sharks (but weren't).

We finally started heading off of the reef to deeper waters where there was a shipwreck. Since I was taking video of the whole thing, I don't have any pictures (although if anyone wanted one, I could take a still from the video). The videos are gigantic and have some of the narration of the guide. I have removed them from the web, as I had run out of space. :( If anyone wants a copy, I can get it to you or make it temporarily available for download, but the main one was 25 mb.

Well, that's about all for now. I am uploading pages as I write this, and they are going PAINFULLY slow. I am becoming tempted to leave here and go to another café, as I really don't have this much time. I am not off today, and want to get back in time for lunch. It was really slow last week too, but all of the other weeks it has been really fast. I may have to switch to one of the other four places here if it doesn't get better next week.