On Monday night, July 25th, 2011, I journeyed to a magical place that I never knew existed.
I’m going to preempt the thought that is forming in your head and just let you know that it did not involve even one single hallucinogenic drug.
No this experience was completely unaltered by chemicals. What I did was a nighttime SCUBA dive in Taejongdae, Busan. Even though I’ve dived at Taejongdae 4 times already it is, as may not surprise you, quite a bit different at night. The whole SCUBA experience was largely the same, all the basic equipment from my previous dives, minus the hood and gloves as the water has become considerably warmer since May. The main additions to our equipment repetoire were tiny LED flashlights that we attached to our wrists via lanyard, and some colored glowsticks tied to our tanks so we could identify each other underwater (yellow for experienced divers, blue for my buddy and I).
The actual dive was pretty amazing – visibility was high compared to our May dives (up to about 3 or 4 meters) and the waves were very small, making our surface swims quite manageable. Once we’d gone down (as in less family friendly activities) things got a whole lot more interesting. For starters, it was pitch black. The sortof all encompassing, inky blackness that makes you feel like the broken hull of the Titanic is going to suddenly loom up in front of you. While I wasn’t confronted by Leonardo’s creepy outstrecthed arms from the bow of a ship that sank in a much deeper part of another ocean, I was occasionally caught off guard as huge rocks would materialize out of the darkness ahead of me, forcing me to go up and over or around them to avoid banging my head.
You may be asking yourself why I wasn’t watching where I was swimming; basically its because I was too busy looking at all the fish! We saw two octopus, one of which was missing two of its legs. Losing two legs would be catastrophic for a persons mobility, but those damn lucky octopus have 6 more to replace it. Saw lots of little fish swimming around, which weren’t super cool though they did have some nice blue color on their bellies if the flashlight beam hit them just right. One of the most prevalent fish down in the depths was a tricky little fella. I sure wish I bothered to look up the names of these fish before I wrote this, but since I’m a lazy asshole I’m just going to describe it to you instead (and probably poorly at that); It had a carp’s head and two long fins on its thin, almost eel like body. It laid flat on the sand bottom, half buried and totally still. If we disturbed it it would take off and swim a few feet before settling down onto the bottom and sort of vibrating for a second to re-bury itself. These things were really cool and we saw 3 or 4 of them.
Another really noteworthy fish we saw had some pretty neat defense mechanisms. It was just a tiny little thing, shaped like a frisbee being rolled on its edge. It was blue and white, but its most distinguishing feature was a black spot on its side which looked like a big eye. I know this is a defense mechanism of some sort (thank you, Discovery Channel) but can’t tell you exactly how it would help if the fish found itself under attack. I also sported some nice looking spines along its back which looked fairly prickly.
While submerged I also spotted a hermit crab, scurrying around under a shell that looked pretty big (he definitely wasn’t in danger of out growing that shell any time soon), and an eel, which darted out from between two rocks to eat some weird looking thing right before our eyes, which was awesome to witness.
Although all the sea life was pretty awesome – we definitely saw about 4 times more life than on all our previous dives combined – I want you to forget about it for a minute while I regale you with a tale of the coolest thing about night diving in Busan. All throughout the dive site there were particles floating in the water, so small they were invisible to the naked eye. My dive instructor refer to these particles as phosphorescents. Basically they are tiny algae that float around inert until they are disturbed by a sudden strong current (like the type generated by kicking your fins or moving your arms) or contact with a body part. When triggered they light up, like a tiny firefly and glow brightly for 1 or 2 seconds. In pitch black water the affect this has is absolutely unbelievable. Basically your whole body shimmers and the water behind your fins glitters as well. Some of you may know about how vampires from the Twilight series tend to ‘shimmer’ when exposed to sunlight (instead of melting or dying in any number of other hideous ways like a real vampire should – Ugh it makes me want to retch just thinking about it). Well imagine that shimmering effect, but underwater and in the middle of the night – and about 80x cooler. At one point we all stopped and settled on the bottom for a few minutes and turned off our flashlights. In the total blackness we all started waving our hands around and created a mind-blowing light show right before our eyes. Seriously cool stuff.
Well I’m going to wrap up this SCUBA related entry here. My good friend Tyler just arrived from Canada last night for a 12 day visit. Expect one or two blog entries over the coming week and a half detailing our adventures, as well as a guest blog entry, written by Tyler, about being a tourist in South Korea (or anything else he feels like writing about, I’m not about to restrict the guy creatively).
Until then have a great day, week and month – and while you’re at it take up SCUBA diving so you can experience the second coolest thing you can do in the ocean at night.