July 26, 2006

Snorkel Notes

I wrote to my friend Robbie recently, describing my snorkel routine:
I've got my quick snorkel routine down like NASCAR: Today out the door at 5:06.GEAR: towel, sunglasses, keys, a few Euros for a cortado just in case, Speedo, flip flops, fins, gloves (the big revolution in snorkelworld this year), mask and snorkel.? Out and over to Codolar Cove where I've built a little stone hut for fishes and octopus, two walls and two large slabs for a roof.? It's out in the middle of the sandy seafloor like a drawing on clean paper.? Fish love it.? I'm working on the perfecting it for octopus.? I've tried to chase a few over, their skins changing dynamically match their surrounds, jets of ink to cover their getaway.? ?It's like playing in the best aquarium in the world.? Back to the house by 5:37.? I'm going to try to maintain this twice a day, and a night snorkel with flashlights once in a while.??

Well, I haven't fully realized the dream of "twice a day", a more accurate account would be "nearly once a every day, except for when I am in the terminal phase of a painting". The best gym in the world.

But I still have a month and a half to make the dream come true.

The big news in the snorkel world here is the recent upgrade in my gear...

Belt and lead weights. Two kilos will take me down with a lot less effort in the buoyantly salty Mediterranean water, Kiko and I estimated six to eight meters in a recent expedition. I can still float easily with my snorkel above the water but now my back end is lower and once I'm down, I can easily hover over the seabed. Once there, I get the visceral knowledge of the ability to stay down, that the previous feeling like an irrepressible cork is definitely not there anymore... that to reach oxygen, you have to deliberately work to propel yourself upward through the immense cerulean to indigo endless three dimensional cataract of the sea... or else stay down there forever. But no worries my friends, I keep the belt's quick release buckle in mind as I kick up with my bubbles to the surface.

What am I seeing? Down deeper, there are not as many octopus as in the shallower depths. Not the big shrimp Kiko spotted yesterday in the rock face of Cap Tossa. Definitely not the mussels and lampas (kind of like little abalone) that live on certain frothy rocky surf. There are still schools of fish, but not as thick and varied as they are closer in to shore. The fish are bigger,and more wary, though.

Snorkeling closer into shore in the shallower water, I have a P.O.V. directed decidedly away from the horizon. Looking toward the bottom in the hovering position, you see field and not the figure. Just as on land or anywhere, when your eyes are directed above or below, the horizon line disappears and I've been thinking recently of how the figure disappears along with it. In the polarity of figure and field, where image as objects to be depicted in the picture plane, there seems to be something about the horizon line that is connected in a hard way to the figure. I think of one of the rules of perspective rendering that the horizon line always intersects with the eyes of figures in the field. Things get more interesting when I kick down vertically, holding my nose to equalize the pressure in my ears, and the horizon line is upside down with the seabed in a new sky looking for all the world like storm clouds in an intensifying gradiated blue. It's like that game we played when we were kids: we watched someone's mouth speak upside down. Didn't we all do this? You cover the rest of the face and isolate the lips, maybe you painted eyes and drew a moustache? Let's call it a Ren? Margritte effect, making the familiar strange. The scene is so arresting that I have to remind myself to avoid smacking my head on the rocky bottom.

Diving deeper restores the horizon to the snorkeling experience. And while I don't necessarily want to see another figure (a big shape means some man eating creature, an experience I constantly brace for, looking for the bigger shadow to flicker in the deep. That's called the "pucker factor" ), I'm usually alone down below since Kiko's ears were perforated when he was a young Catalan, playing a game called "let's carry huge rocks as we walk into the deepest part of the seabed as we can". Sounds like fun! But it must be hard to equalize your ears with a squeeze of your nostrils when you're holding a sizable boulder like kid Neptune. Therefore Kiko keeps to the surface where he has become a specialist on the sea life that thrives on the frothy wave thrashed rocks.

Last note: check out the new knife. It's a "Diablo Technisub", more of a tool than a fighting knife. I like the pragmatics that disposes the romance of the usual pointed blades that are designed more for savagely drawing blood than the practical mundane tasks that one would actually need a knife for. Serrated edges, chisel tip, fishing line cutter and two wrenches for what i don't know. I mean with my new Technisub, I can still do a good job gouging out the eyes of that shark that might get too mouthy for its own good.

Posted by Dennis at July 26, 2006 5:18 PM

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