It had always been on my wish list to take a deep dive in to an ocean, barring gears of any sort. On an early Sunday morning in January, I was able to quench this thirst along with a thirsty group of divers. After about an hour of chivalry out in the open sea, I was reiterated by the fact that water remains THE force among the five elements. With over 70% inside and outside us, it’s no wonder she rules. In this weekend outing section, I’ll take you through a trip of a life time in to our very own Bay of Bengal.
Preparations started as early as the beginning of the week and there were feverish calls from participants asking how safe it is to venture in to the sea. My answer had always been a confident ‘very’, with the crew that’s taking us in mind. After about 150 registrations, 60 were shortlisted as the group is expected to be small. The Sunday morning came and I was up early to receive and manage the group at the scheduled pick up points. It was 6 AM (for the uninitiated, including me, to see the sun rise on a glorious Sunday) and every one made it before time and I was able to read a tensed anxiety on their face, eagerly waiting to see what the sea had to offer. We started towards the boarding point at Kovalam where the 7 boats were expecting to take us to the sea.
First things first; Life jackets were given to us and we wore it before boarding the boats. It gave a sense of safety and we geared up for whatever lay ahead. After loading up all the boats, ensuring everyone had their leash in full safety, I boarded the last one and we started our journey with much oomph. The Sun was ready too and was lazing at the horizon waiting to wake the city. In the next 30 minutes, we were about 5 kms in to the sea and the shore we boarded from looked almost a distant haze. The most wanted word for the whole group now was JUMP and so did all the 30 of us. Yes, we were in the sea, floating on the safety of our life-vests. A group of non-swimmers were a bit reluctant initially but with all activity on the water, they braved it and jumped in. The water was peaceful and still with mild waves pushing us back and forth. The vest held us above the water and did a great job of saving us but made it pretty difficult to move around.
In less than 10 minutes, a group of us found this uncomfortable and we were back in the boat to get the vest off. With a peer check among us and with a mild warning from the crew we dived from the boats. A feeling of elation and anxiety gripped us but we thoroughly enjoyed the vest-less dive. I was able to feel the difference between the sea water and our regular stream water during our treks. In the still stream water, we were mostly in control and know what happens to us but with these waves, we were entirely at the mercy of the sea. But strange enough, it felt comfortable as the waves kept us from sinking too soon. To get a feel, I swam around the boat and afar. With no knowledge what lay underneath, I felt a strange comfort and let the waves do the splashing. Remembering the great under water cam works on our NGC and Discovery channels, I took a deep dive only to see nothing but eternity beneath. All other boats lay still and our boat was moving away from them. It was because our boat was not anchored and with no hold, any object is bound to move and the waves get to decide where. After a bit of paddling, I swam from boat to boat listening to shrills of joy and screams of elation. There were group snaps taken by people on boats and we had a great time swimming around for the next hour. The crew men called up signaling the end of the delirium and we reluctantly boarded the boats. The engine revved up and we slowly started moving towards the shore.
For the next 30 minutes, the crew filled us with all the sea-stories from their memories starting with the Tsunami. I was surprised to hear people who were in to the sea for as long as 30 kms away from the shore during Tsunami made it safe home. I understood it was the shores that took the most beatings when the waves lashed as high as 20 meters; it was the rubbles that caused the most damages; In short, it was a shear display of the power of the mighty water that washed lakhs of us away. Facts after facts from the crew, we shared nervous looks among us; the place we swam and dived in was almost 100 feet deep! The place was visited by sharks from time to time which are as long as the boat itself. The very crew that took us to the sea and back had never stayed in the waters as long as we did. Also, there was this fact about the sea changing colors from green to deep transparent blue during summer and this attracts varieties of fishes to the shore for preying on smaller fishes that stay close to the shore.
Fishermen for life, they told us, following Tsunami the sea had never been the same and it had grown all the more unpredictable but they had praises for the met department (the department we all know of as someone sitting on an executive chair saying it’ll rain the next day, which we can bet our last paise with to go out trusting it wouldn’t) that warns them of the cyclones, thunderstorms and even Tsunamis, which in their case do happen as predicted. Technology (and India) have come a long way. Time to part with the sea, to thank her and to say our tense goodbyes. Just before 50 meters, we had another chance to dive in and reach the shore. With no questions asked, did we dived in and swam to the shore in the next ten minutes. Another life time experience as I was close to the shore. The waves were really ferocious and lifted me like a rag doll and hurled to the shore. With sand grains in ears, mouth, nose and all over, I looked back and felt like a minnow before a bewildering giant. With a secret little chuckle, she said: You all go around the world to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, yet you pass by yourselves without wondering. How true!
Write up by Vasanth G.