Throwback Thursday: Salps, Underwater Poetry, and My First Technical Dive

Los Angeles, California: Salp Chain on the Eureka Oil Rig

There are few joys in decompression. Tech diving is often great, but deco? A necessary evil. Sure, every so often there's a Zen moment, one where I can bask in the silence of my rebreather and hover weightlessly, the countdown on my dive computer a point of meditation. But for every moment like that, there are countless more where I'm freezing, or my drysuit is leaking, or where the ripping current has me holding the line for dear life while my body flaps like a flag in a hurricane, or where the bubbles of divers beneath me keep forcing me towards the surface. Or where I'm just plain bored.

Or maybe all of those things at once.

Catalina Island, California: Cyclosalpa affinis salp near the wreck of the Infidel

Back in January, I dove this magnificent destroyer wreck off San Clemente Island called USS Burns. At 270 feet, the dive mandated some serious deco--75 minutes, to be exact, of which about 30 was at 20 feet. And boy, did I get cold on that 20-foot stop. We had a line set up under the boat, running its 65-foot length at a depth of 20 feet. Ostensibly, the purpose of the line was to spread out divers on their 20-foot stop to avoid congestion on the anchor chain. I used it to swim laps.

It began with 30 minutes left on the decompression clock, when I figured I'd lap the line just to warm up a bit. Bow to stern. Stern back to bow. I glanced at my computer: that took 5 minutes. So I should be able to do that 5 more times before my obligation was fulfilled, right? And the exertion would keep me warmer. And I'd have something to do.

These are the kinds of things I do to entertain myself on deco. The underwater equivalent of pacing, I guess.

Of course, the title of this post is "My First Technical Dive," and obviously my first tech dive was neither in January nor to 270 feet. My first tech dive was in (I think) 2010, on a wreck called Spiegel Grove in about 140 feet off Key Largo. But I was just as bored on what was probably only 10 minutes of hang time (clearly I had NO idea what I was getting into).

So I did what any normal person would do: I wrote a haiku.

Los Angeles, California: Salp Chain on the Eureka Oil Rig
One of the only fun things about decompression is when you're just hanging there on the line in blue water and pelagic critters come floating by. Salps and jellyfish in particular are very fun to come across. But when nothing shows up, and you're alone with your thoughts and your boredom, even bubbles, as they expand on their way to the surface, sort of resemble a jellyfish.

A jellyfish made of (about 5%) carbon dioxide.

Catalina Island, California: Cyclosalpa affinis salp near the wreck of the Infidel

I'm thankful to have had my wet notes in my pocket so that I could put soft lead pencil to waterproof paper when inspiration struck. Do people actually use these things for legitimate communication? Mine are full of bad poetry and ridiculous drawings.


Of course, the decompression haiku was just the beginning in what was to become a legacy of bad underwater poetry. Most recently, two limericks (here and here) about the ornate ghost pipefish have graced the pages of this blog.

You're welcome.
IMG_7156Catalina Island, California: Corolla spectabilis (Sea Butterfly) pteropodLos Angeles, California: Salp on the Eureka Oil Rig

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