Once more unto the breach, dear friends...
Morning has broken, like the first morning. So sayeth Cat Stevens or whatever the fuck his name is now. We’re back to our regular morning dive routine. Wake, breakfast, prep gear, and wait for the radio call from the diveboat. Today we’ll be heading back to the Rhone; it’ll be fascinating for the guys to experience this wreck in the daylight after diving on it at night, a completely different experience. A voice from the ether calls out to us, “Kokomo, Kokomo, Kokomo…” and we’re once again welcoming the diveboat alongside for a journey of discovery.
This morning in the crisp light of day the translucent water beckons in a way its nighttime occult version never could. We are not the only seekers summoned here by Apollo’s chariot. There are a couple of other diveboats on the other moorings, all readying divers for their plunge into otherness. We’ll begin our morning with an exploration of the deeper bow section.
Backroll in and dump buoyancy from the BC, descending like a slow-motion skydiver, spread-eagle and eager with anticipation, losing color with depth in rainbow order (Remember ROY G. BIV?) until we exist in a blue world, only lightly tinged with hints of green and perhaps a bit of yellow-ish. If you cut yourself at this depth, the blood looks like green smoke. I recommend against trying it; the ‘cudas are watching closely.
The night shift entities we visited on our previous Rhone dive are somnolent and the day shift is out and about in the Babylonian hurly-burly of the morning. We ghost along the exterior for a while, then come to a point where we can penetrate the wreck. Single-file, we enter the mausoleum of those who perished here a century and a half ago.
Winding back and forth between the ribs and debris, all softened by a century and a half of marine growth, there is a small sense of claustrophobia which is mostly obscured by the intensity of the experience. Mostly. We spend a considerable amount of time enclosed in this sunken tomb before emerging again into the open water. Fascinating. Moving. Intense. All too soon, especially at this depth, our time is up and Boet gives us the signal to head up for a brief decompression stop before surfacing. We hang on or near the mooring line, looking down at where we’ve been, thinking private thoughts, and feeling private feelings.
Then it’s time to surface, climb the gravity ladder (Are you sure we’re not on Jupiter? Ack!), and rest, drink, and recuperate during our surface interval before our second dive. During the interval, our divemasters try to tell the story of the Rhone. They do their best but, bluntly, they are shallow and callow twenty-somethings and they stumble through it like unwilling actors in a high-school play, chewing and expectorating their lines without feeling or meaning. But it’s alright. I have my own internal narrative and apprehension of what transpired those long years ago and what it means in my greater scheme of things now.
Time flows away, moved along by the relentless current of the Great Temporal River, and we prepare for our second dive. This will be to the same sections we visited on our night dive so the comparison will be direct and specific. From their humble beginnings as newly-certified divers on their first actual dives, Jon and Ben are now old hands, after their week of living aboard a boat, snorkelling and diving. We gear up like pros and drop in.
Here now, revealed by the stark light of day, are the sights which were previously alternately obscured by darkness or harshly illuminated by divelight specificity. A large condenser. An immense boiler. Oversize steamfitter wrenches. A waterpump surrounded by dismembered grating. The aft mast and the long prop shaft. The remains of a once-proud mistress of the waves, now lying beneath that surface, broken and dead, her internals strewn over the seafloor, bow and stern sections akimbo, all the harsh lines, angles, and surfaces of a violent death softened and muted by lush, colorful sealife, extravagant in its promiscuous beauty. Wanton life, bred from death, not to be denied.
Once again, we’ve reached the limit of our stay in this realm. We ascend to the mundane surface world, divest ourselves of our survival gear, and Boed speeds us back to Kokomo, delighting in his post-dive beer.
Feel free, O Gentle Reader, to ignore my tone in these last paragraphs. It’s grey and rainy here after several perfectly lovely days and I’m feeling melancholy. It will pass. Diving the Rhone is a magnificent experience and one which can reflect and amplify whatever you bring to it.
A full rinsing of ourselves and our gear with the cockpit shower and we relaxed into a pleasant lunch aboard Kokomo. With only two more days available for diving, we decided to see what we could organize with BWD, hopefully something on the outside of the islands where we might have a better chance to see the big pelagics. Yeah, that mostly means sharks but it does not preclude rays, turtles, etc. Turns out the BWD is booked solid for Day 9 and only doing some shallow reefs on Day 10. Hmmmm. We’ll hafta think about that. There’s a dive shop right here on Cooper. Let’s talk to them.
I hereby confess, I’m still not completely sure who we talked to and wound up diving with. The dive shop proclaimed boldly "DIVE BVI" but the boats were all labeled "Sail Caribbean Divers." I think we were dealing with Sail Caribbean Divers, so I’m gonna call them SCD. Like everyone else, SCD was booked for the morning of Day 9, however, they were willing to talk about an afternoon dive that day and were not opposed to the idea of diving someplace more interesting, like Wreck Alley, for $80 each. Day 10 was no joy with them either, however (again) they would rent us gear for two dives for $30 each as long as we returned it before 1900 on Day 10.
I believe we have a deal.
And with that, we eased into the evening of Day8, tired but satisfied.