As mentioned in my 2013 post on Hawaii (Paradise Finally) my younger brother John moved to Hawaii to start a new life, as most haoles do – like the Pahoa hippies camping in the Puna forest, like the Waimea ranchers and the millionaires and slimpickers in Kona, John has snuggled into his niche of Hawaii with the locals of rainy Hilo. He has taken to diving every day, so of course I had to have him teach me as well (too I wanted to learn about it so I could use scuba in my next novel set in India).
I learned diving is not to be taken lightly – you must be in good shape – and there are 5 easy ways to die or injure yourself:
1) you go under 30 feet or more then hold your (pressurized) breath as you go up (your lungs could explode)
2) you fail to pressurize your ears by swallowing or yawn/chewing or closing your nose and blowing lightly, or by going down or up too fast to allow your ears to adjust — this can result in extreme pain and the blowing out of your ear drums
3) then there is of course drowning – doesn’t take long, especially if you are in strong current/tide or too close to surf and rocks and if you panic; best to keep an eye on your remaining air pressure and start back with enough air
4) go too deep for too long, or do too many consecutive dives at depth, allowing too much nitrogen to build up in your body under pressure — when it finally releases at less pressure it can kill you; worst case is you dive deep then jump on a plane an hour later – the resulting “bends” can be deadly
5) I’ll mention the 5th, though it is very very rare if you keep hands to yourself and swim quietly – you could be bit/poked by an angry or hungry fish/eel/turtle/shark/urchin
Speaking of turtles, there are many to be seen all around the island, protected sea turtles, typically 2 to 4 feet in size. They move underwater with great skill and stealth – and they like to rest underwater on the bottom -they can hold their breath up to 5 hours.
On my second dive I got to see John and his friend Bill catch a wounded turtle 15 feet below the surface, and operate on it there, unwinding fishing line from around its neck where over the years it had cut through the skin and the muscle and eventually, as the turtle grew, would have cut its head off. Took them 10 minutes, John holding the turtle from behind, Bill using a knitting hook, needle-nose pliers and his knife, but the operation was a success and the turtle swam off when John released it.
My last dive was extraordinary – I finally stopped worrying about dying (and I had learned to flush my mask of salty water as needed, and equalize my air and reach neutral buoyancy a foot above the bottom). I really enjoyed myself – the extraordinarily colored tropical fish, puffers and angel and needlenose, swimming obliviously around me like colorful birds, the blobs of brown coral sprouting glob-limbs, the huge black urchins waving their spines, a sea turtle veering into my path, ignoring me (what am I to it, this 200 year old beast from the age of dinosaurs?) swimming gracefully on its way to a resting spot in a cave at the bottom of a 30 foot lava ledge under the sea. I’ll be back.
John still strums his guitar now and then. Most of his songs can be found at ReverbNation/johnelse. My favorite is ‘Did I Come Home?’