100 Feet Under the Sea

It was really cool seeing a turtle during our dive!

As part of our advanced scuba certification training, last Monday, a few fellow med school colleagues and I went on two wreck dives. For me, it was my first time exploring shipwrecks and my deepest dive to date.

At first, the thought of being 100 feet under the sea was a little frightening, and even after entering the water and not being able to see the ocean bottom, my fears grew. But as my friends and I all got into the water together and sank slowly as a team, my fears calmed as we all worked together to make this dive a success and kept an eye on each other. As the sun sparkling from the surface moved further and further away above us , the water below became bluer, darker, and little by little, I could start tracing the oval outline of the shipwreck below us. It wasn’t until we reached the floor of the sea that I realized the magnitude of the ship.

The first dive was to the Foo-Sheng, a Taiwanese Fishing Vessel that was heading towards St. Maarten, got so close to its destination but unfortunately never made it after getting tossed during a heavy storm. It’s crew did not survive and were never found. Today, the ship rests 110 feet below the surface in solitude. Yet, from this tragic ending comes a new beginning, as coral, sponges, fish and other wildlife started taking shelter, turning the Foo-Sheng into a lively new coral reef ecosystem.

Since going 110 feet deep increases the risks of nitrogen narcosis and decompression sickness, we had to plan our dive for 20 minutes total (12 minutes at the wreck), and making a decompression stop at 55 feet for 1 minute and at 15 feet for 3 minutes before ascending to the surface.

The second dive was to a concrete-carrying barge named the Gregory. Like the Foo-Sheng, it was also a natural wreck, and now rests 50 feet below the surface. Today, the ship lays upside-down, and scattered in many parts.

Although I had gotten a little nauseous after the first dive, overall, I thought the dives were really exciting and really enjoyed the experience. We saw a lot of beautiful wildlife and after growing up with the folklore surrounding shipwrecks in stories and movies, I actually got to explore and touch one in real life. Before this trip, the deepest I had ever gone was probably 30-35 feet. This trip is so far the deepest I have gone, and it was surprisingly not too difficult or scary, especially as a group and with a dive instructor.

The regular Open Water Certification will allow one to dive 60 feet, and the Advanced Open Water Certification will allow me to go 100 ft. Although I will get an advanced certification soon, I don’t consider myself anywhere near an “advanced diver,” since these were only my 8th and 9th dives. My friend Chris, for example, has dived a few hundred dives around the world with the regular Open Water Certification and is far more advanced than me. I decided to enroll in the training because I thought it would be a good experience to do with some friends, experience a good variety of different types of diving, and because we had gotten a good deal from Octopus Diving in Grand Case. I highly recommend them if you are interested in diving!

We have two more nitrox dives to do before the end of the semester, and I’m looking forward to the next ones!

These pictures were taken by Michelle from Octopus Diving. Thanks a bunch!