It happened over the course of just a few seconds. Seconds though that stretched to what felt like strands of never ending salt water taffy, long and sticky.
My dive buddy and I were coming up from a great SCUBA dive on a reef in Bonaire. At around 43′ I looked up to see a wonder. The sun was shining down through the last atmosphere and a half of our dive and those rays reflected through the fragile bell of a jelly fish. The light shone through in such a way that it seemed the creature was lit from within.
At the time I didn’t carry a camera (think… pre GoPro… or PG as I’m fairly confident we’ll refer to any date prior to the 2010 release of the GoPro Hero HD system. Just sayin’.) and so I had nothing to distract me as I lost myself in the spectacle of scintillating beauty before me.
We continued our dive and the jelly began to fill more of my field of vision, growing larger and larger. ‘It’s okay’ I reassured myself remembering my open water training ‘25% closer and 33% larger.’
As the growth continued those brief seconds turned from from wondrous to onerous. ‘We are getting too close.’ I began to think to myself.
Okay, easy enough, I just needed to get Doug’s attention and we’d get out of the way. No problem.
I moved closer to my buddy and touched his shoulder and pointed at what was now clearly going to be a jelly for the record books! On the one hand I was thrilled and the other I was getting concerned.
Doug looked up in the direction I was pointing. He gazed for a long moment, awestruck of course.
Then, my understanding of the world seemed to fall apart. Doug looked back at me and shrugged his shoulders.
‘What?!’ I was at once dumbfounded and alarmed. I looked briefly away toward the jelly now clearly the seed of some ‘B’ movie classic that was; no doubt, drifting it’s way to Japan where it would ultimately lay waste to a large industrial complex in Tokyo having somehow grown to even more ridiculous proportions; gaining the power of flight and the ability to cast lightening.
A considerable dilemma for two divers alone in Bonaire!
I pointed again trying to be assertive without too much melodrama. He still didn’t seem concerned.
‘Oh great!’ I thought to myself. ‘Here we are at 43′ staring up at what must be the biggest jelly either of us will ever see as divers and my dive buddy is obviously narced!’ So not only were we going to be the first victims of the impending cnidariapocolypse but even if we survived he wouldn’t have taken any pictures (Doug had the camera).
This was how I was introduced to the practical implications of nitrogen narcosis as a recreational SCUBA diver.
Obviously, I survived the incident and I’m pleased to say that my dive buddy is alive and well.
Divers are almost all affected by nitrogen narcosis if they dive deep enough. The severity and longevity of the symptoms vary not only by person but from dive to dive making predictability difficult to impossible. Cognitive reasoning, communication and decision making are all affected until the symptoms subside.
In the next post in this short series I’ll share how we handled the situation as a buddy team. Stay tuned for ‘Cnidariapocolypse II – 2Narced/2… well… 2Narced!‘
‘The surface interval’s over… get out there and dive!’
© 2014 Stephen Krausse. All rights reserved.