Facing fears


November 23, 2011 by NH

There was a beautiful show on SBS last night about a couple of cave diving researchers, who are in the process of mapping the Yucatan Cenotes, Mexico. The footage they shot was magnificent. I can’t talk about the beauty of the caves here – I just can’t do it justice. Do a Google image search and take a look for yourself.

That show got me thinking. It made me consider how linear our lives are.

There’s nothing like being suspended in a three-dimensional world, moving up, down, literally floating in space, pulsing with something much, much bigger than yourself. There’s nothing like it.

I love diving. Diving means freedom to me. Some of my best memories are snippets of sounds and sensations, of feelings. The contrast of deep blue against a blur of bubbles… the rip of air as I suck on my regulator thirty metres below the boat… turning-turning-turning in three-hundred-and-sixty-degree loops a foot above a friend… a hand on my arm — a warning — and a finger pointing into the murky distance, to a shark…

I love diving. But it terrifies me. There are much, much worse things than sharks to be scared of.

My scuba diving instructor told me a story one evening after a long day of spectacular diving off Julian Rocks, near Byron Bay. I wondered then, and have often wondered since, whether he told me his story as a warning – as a cautionary tale – or whether he just sought to shock me.

A couple of divers had entered a ship wreck in Sydney Harbour and had not surfaced. My instructor was part of a group that went in after them.

The bodies were located deep within the ship, beyond the touch of sunshine. Without a torch, there was no light, and no way of navigating out of the wreck.

He told me that when the bodies were pulled from the water, the divers’ fingernails were ripped and bloodied from where they clawed at the rusty roof of the vessel. There were scratch marks gouged into the ceiling, right near an exit. The batteries in their torch had failed and in the darkness, they couldn’t make their way out.

They drowned.

Those divers in the Yucatan face the same fate. They know it. It could happen to them.

Yet they dive, and they see things none of us will ever see. They pull themselves through cracks and they touch the skulls of the dead and they see heaven.

The story I told you has haunted me. I think about it when I’m under the water, when I’m free and there’s no ship, when I have light, and air, and the choice to surface if that’s what I want to do.

Yet I want to dive the Yucatan Cenotes. I want to see it, and hear it, and touch it.

I want to escape gravity and fear and I want to fly.


One thought on “Facing fears

  1. Sunday says:

    Wednesday, I have never been diving for the fear of the reasons you listed, but feel so at home in the water. I think I want to see and feel your world. Added to my to do list.

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