Diving into
April 11, 2007

I remember when we learned the metric system as kids. If someone would have mentioned ‘7 millimeters’ to me then, I would have
said “That is such a tiny amount!” Funny how 7 millimeters takes on a whole new meaning now when it is involving wetsuits. Let
me just say that 7mm is
a lot. Especially when it is the form of neoprene that is sucking you in and surrounding your body.

I am sure that most people who have a problem with scuba diving have an issue with the concept of breathing underwater with the
aid of a metal tank strapped to their backs. That’s not my issue. That doesn’t concern me.
My concern is being sucked into a head-
to-toe suit that allows my body no room to breathe. I seriously believe that a wetsuit is capable of getting stuck on me making it
impossible to take it off. Oh, the lovely thoughts of a claustrophobic person.

But tomorrow I am going to have to suck it up since the water is
that cold out here. All in the name of hopefully seeing a
hammerhead shark. I had to choose between two different dive sites – one being where the big things lurk and the other being
where colorful, tropical fish such as seahorses are found (I have to admit that it was hard to pass on seeing something that I
loooved as a kid). But I only have one day when I can dive. I opted for the quest to see the big guns of the sea.

I have to wake up early tomorrow to be there at 6:50am. I just need to keep telling myself that no harm has ever been done to
someone wearing a thick wetsuit (why the hell does the water have to be so cold out here???).
I am irrational. I am irrational. I am
… I plan to continue to repeat that to myself tomorrow. I am sure the $130 that I am paying will get me over this really

April 12, 2007

Silly me. What in the world was I talking about when I said I would be encased in 7mm of neoprene? I should have remembered
that I would need to layer
two 7mm neoprene garments on top of one another. Sitting around in 14mm of neoprene. Now that’s
comfortable. I think I gave myself more of a workout by trying to put this whole get-up on. Not an easy task at all. The point was
that it was done and I was ready to dive.

But before that, we had to go in the water with just our weight belt to do a buoyancy check. It appeared that I had enough weight to
go to the bottom of the surface.

Now it was time for the real stuff…

Dive #1

We were near Seymour Island. We descended. I had a hard time getting to the bottom but one of the guys helped pull me down
with him. But then another problem arose. Every time I inhaled, I was swallowing a bit of water. I don’t know many people who
love the taste of saltwater (especially water as heavily concentrated in salt as it is out here) so needless to say I had a problem with
this. I much more enjoy problem-free dives. I wanted to go up but the divemaster wouldn’t let me. He handed me my buddy
regulator. That would be my new regulator for this dive.

We got down to the surface and watched the skinny little eels’ bodies sway with the movement of the water. Then right off the bat
we saw a reef shark swimming away. But then we were treated to something much more incredible – a reef shark hanging out in a
little nook on the ocean floor. We got to be face-to-face with him. My head and his head were literally a meter or so apart. Shouldn’t
I have felt a bit scared? I would have thought…but my only interest was getting a close look at his face. A bit later I saw an adorable
tortuga (i.e. sea turtle) swimming its way through the way. They just appear to float in mid-water – I love it! The last major
sighting was a beautiful spotted eagle ray that swam right below us while we were doing the safety stop. What nice entertainment
to have during our three minutes hanging out at 5 meters.

Dive #2

This dive was done at Mosquera Island – a nice, sandy little island dotted with sea lions. My regulator had been switched out. A
non-problematic dive was just around the corner. We descended and all was good. Within seconds we were inches away from a
stingray on the floor of the ocean. Then a few minutes into the dive a massive ray was swimming upwards. The term ‘massive’
doesn’t even do it justice. This guy was seriously as big as I am. I am still not sure what type of ray it was – I can only say it was
black and enormous. Then the little exhibitionists known as sea lions made their way into our line of vision. They were whizzing by
– back and forth, back and forth – and showed off with a few somersaults and turns. These guys just loooove attention. As if seeing
all of these things wasn’t already good enough, the dive ended about as good as it can possibly get – directly overhead swam a
hammerhead shark! Did you read that??? I said
hammerhead. The day was officially complete. Well, it had to be. I was well below
my 50 bars of air. By the time I reached the surface, I was down to 20 bars. And that was even including the time that I was
sharing my divemasters air (anywhere from 5-10 minutes). You could almost say that seeing these things ‘leaves me breathless’. I
know, I know. Bad joke.

These were definitely not the islands to dive at if you want tropical fish. There were some fish – but nothing really exciting. Just one
puffer fish that deserves a small ‘honorable mention’. But I can get fish anywhere. I was not putting on this garb to see that. The
constriction of 14mm of neoprene was definitely worth my while since when will I ever again be able to see sea lions, a few different
kinds of ray, a turtle and two different kinds of sharks in one day?

In the end, what a great morning. I do have to say that I probably wouldn’t recommend the company I used since I didn’t feel
entirely confident about their care of the equipment. It was fine. It worked. But even one of the dive instructors on-board said the
problem with my regulator was that there was some sand in it and it needed to be taken apart to clean. This made me question
things a bit. If anybody is ever going to dive out here, I would definitely recommend Scuba Iguana. I would have used them but
they were completely booked up for the week. I think that alone says something…

Anyhow, despite all of the incredible things I saw today I think I am hanging up all future wetsuits. I know I said that back when I
went diving in the freezing cold waters of Monterey during my certification dives. But this time I mean it. I really do. ‘Shorty or
bust’ is what I am now saying.
Back to Ecuador.
A sting ray on the ocean floor.
A sea lion floating by.
Baby Jaws???