Sunday, June 01, 2008
  Dive at Gordon's Rocks

Galapagos Barnacle Blenny, originally uploaded by jedah77.

This is very long, but I like to document stuff for my own memory's sake. So here goes my dive report.

I didn't do much diving in the Galapagos, but this was a memorable one. Chris had warned me that this dive had a lot of current - a lot - and that you basically just descend and find a rock to grab onto, then watch things swim by. The description did not disappoint.

So, we descended, and thankfully there were rocks everywhere so it wasn't too hard to find something to latch onto. A few minutes later, our divemaster, Ruly (nickname for Raul as he was a Raul, Jr.), motioned that we should swim out, away from the safety of the rocks. I followed, but omg.

My buoyancy was so off since I was really struggling with my weighting. See, when you dive in the Galapagos, you gotta wear a much thicker wetsuit than you're used to. I went from my normal 3mm to a 7mm wetsuit, with hood and all.

Diving at Gordon's Rocks
Bundled up! I don't usually wear a snorkel as they very much annoy me. However, on a dive in waters like this, you kinda gotta suck it up and wear one anyway. In case you get separated from the boat or something. (Which also is why I have a whistle and safety sausage, neither of which are part of my Florida gear.)

The more mm you have, the more buoyant you are. Also, the water in Galapagos has very high salinity, which adds even more buoyancy. So you add a bunch of weight onto your belt (or your pockets, in my case) and hope you have enough. On the checkout dive, the panga drivers had lots of extra weights along so they could pass them over to divers who hadn't taken along enough. I had him hand me, like, three weights. I wouldn't sink without them. Since I didn't get any chance to work out the kinks with the weight over the course of the week, I was still trying to figure that out on Saturday's dive at Gordon's Rocks. I had dropped a full 3 lbs the day before, after feeling much too heavy on the dive, and thought that would do it, but I was still too heavy at Gordon's Rocks. Trying to compensate with air in my BC was slow-going, since I didn't want to overdo it. My formulaic add-one-puff-of-air-right-before-I-hit-the-bottom plan from home didn't work there, to say the least.

So anyway, we're out in the water and I'm HEAVY. I am trying to add air but not too much. It's a major struggle to just stay at 50 ft, since I don't want to sink down to the bottom at 70. Also, I'm uncomfortably vertical in this struggle, it seems, and feel short of breath from being sick. Yay.

This is when Ruly points out the hammerheads in the distance. This is cool. I finally get enough air in my BC to hang out without kicking with all my might. This is good.

Then we swim back to another section of rocks. The current is strong, but not THAT bad. I start looking at the rocks in front of me, and realize that lots of the empty barnacles are filled with the barnacle blennies I had spotted in the Galapagos fish ID book from the night before. This makes me very happy as they are ADORABLE. Look at 'em! I love me some grumpy-looking animals.

Diving @ Gordon's Rock
Holding onto the rocks, staring at fish, probably much like the one at the top there. Chris laughed when he showed me a series of five or so shots in a row, since he likes to make fun of me for always looking at the small stuff (and risking something really cool swimming by in the process). "There's you, staring at a rock. This one is of you, oh look! Staring at a rock!"

At some point, Ruly motions for us to follow him again. We start to swim and the current, I dunno, picks up? All of a sudden, although I'm trying to go straight, I end up being swept to the right. I look over and see that I will at least hit the safety of rocks again, and that I'm not being carried out into open ocean. I try to swim straight, but honestly the current will not let me. I decide instead to let myself be carried to the right while trying to swim a little, and know I can pull myself ahead on the rocks.

We hang out for a bit longer. Again, Ruly asks us to follow him with a motion of his hands. This time, as the current is so strong, only a couple of people try to follow him. The rest are creeping along the rocks, not venturing out into the current as they know it is pointless. This isn't small current, the kind you can swim against; this is the kind of current that carries you away. Chris was ahead of me and told me later that even Ruly gave up on swimming and came back to the rocks.

Gordon's Rocks
Gordon's Rocks, from the boat. On the dive, we were swimming around the foundation these peaks.

As we head back in the direction we came from, the current is insanely strong. There were gaps in the rocks, so I would have to let go of them to follow Chris and the rest of the group. In between the rocks, I wasn't swimming so much as BEING LIFTED, like falling. I would scan the rocks in front of me for a good place to grab. I started hesitating when I thought of all the things living in the rocks, which made everything more difficult. At home, I touch NOTHING, so changing my mentality to GRABBING while diving is a big change, and unaccepable when eye-to-eye with the little faces of the barnacle blennies.

Yet, I don't have a choice, so I try to pick the best spot I can without touching anything I shouldn't. While following in the current, I realize that the longer I am in the open water, the faster the current takes me, so I have to grab onto every rock that I can to slow it down. You let go for 5 seconds, you're moving fast; but if you let go for 10 seconds, you are streaming at a frightening pace. Having to grab onto the rocks for dear life sucks, especially after one of them had something that seemed like an anemone of some sort. I pulled my hand back and shook my head and there I decided that I did not like this current. All in all, I'm pretty sure we didn't really do any damage by touching the rocks... These fellas probably just sank back into their barnacle spots and waited 'til our gloves pulled away. But still, it was uncomfortable.

Chris and I sat out the second dive at Gordon's Rocks, as did most of our group. Only something like 6 of the 14 divers went back for a second shot. The English fella sat it out since he and his buddy literally got pulled away by the current on the first dive, and were hopelessly separated from our group. I think it was he that wrote "DIVE OF DEATH" under the Gordon's Rocks heading of the dry-erase dive plan diagram.

Gordon's Rock aka DIVE OF DEATH
The dive plan, pre "DIVE OF DEATH"

I didn't sit out the second dive because I was scared of the current or anything like that. It's just anxiety-inducing to be FORCED to grab onto rocks, when you are so worried about what you're grabbing. If the rocks had been devoid of life, no problem. But I didn't want another 50 minutes of being uncomfortable with what I was doing.

However, I am very glad I got to dive there, to experience what it was like. To experience current that lifts you and makes you feel as you're falling through the water, uncontrollably. It's an experience, for sure.

But wow, am I ever going to be feelin' chill and happy to be back in Florida waters when the ocean calms down, floating nearly upside down so I can stare at a google-eyed fishy that I have found - and no hands.

Thanks for your writeup. I once heard a friend who travels a good bit describing how they had to hold on for dear life on the rocks there and she's an excellent diver. She is a Dr so her Vac time is short and she been to most of the best places. She described the holding on to the rocks in the same way you did.
Hopefully this weekend I will get to dive a place where the current coming up from the cave is the strongest in FL. So strong if you left your head up you get blown away. Much stronger than cork rock at Blue Springs. I'll see how well I handle it. It not the same though as what you did where you can get swept away into open ocean.
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I'm Stacey. I'm a 31(!)-year-old Wisconsin girl living in sunny South Florida. The highlights in my life are my lovely boyfriend, my aloof cats, my adorable/adoring stepdogs, my two lumbering tortoises, select family members, being outside, being underwater, taking pictures, yadda yadda. Stay tuned for lots of babbling!

Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States


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Making a difference

A small boy lived by the ocean. He loved the creatures of the sea, especially the starfish, and he spent much of his time exploring the seashore.

One day the boy learned there would be a minus tide that would leave the starfish stranded on the sand.

When the tide went out, he went down to the beach, began picking up the stranded starfish, and tossing them back into the ocean.

An elderly man who lived next door came down to the beach to see what the boy was doing. Seeing the man's quizzical expression, the boy paused as he approached. "I'm saving the starfish!" the boy proudly declared.

When the neighbor saw all of the stranded starfish he shook his head and said: "I'm sorry to disappoint you, young man, but if you look down the beach, there are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see. And if you look up the beach the other way, it's the same. One little boy like you isn't going to make much of a difference."

The boy thought about this for a moment. Then he reached his small hand down to the sand, picked up another starfish, tossed it out into the ocean, and said: "Well, I sure made a difference for that one!"

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