Ever since I had become a certified scuba diver I had been itching to get back into the water. The main reason being was to feel as comfortable down in the depths of the ocean as a shark. I don’t know why scuba diving has such a nerve-wracking effect on me. To be down there, below the surface, swimming along the ocean floor with creatures that those Earth dwelling humans above don’t get to see is remarkable, there really is nothing like it. But, there is a black ball of fear that sits in the bottom of my stomach and slowly, slowly the content of the ball starts to seep out and spread through my veins.
Maybe it’s the thought of all the things that could go wrong? Nitrogen narcosis being one of them. Maybe it’s the fear of my mask filling with water and the worry that I won’t be able to clear the water out, even though I know how, and I would be blind at the bottom of the ocean. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fear of getting lost from my buddy and being alone under the sea. Whatever it is I am determined to fight the nerves and obliterate that ball of fear to nothing but specks of dust. Because being able to discover a part of the planet that is so untouched, and so vast and mind-blowing, is truly incredible. And I will, no matter what, become as natural underwater as Jacques Cousteau. With that in mind I signed up for my next dive, and my first real fun dive in Amed, Bali.
I’ll admit that I knew nothing about Amed. Normally I research each destination I travel to but I had decided that in Bali I would be more spontaneous and just go with the flow and see where I ended up. So when I found out that near Amed, the area of Bali I had never even heard of, there was a shipwreck diving spot, this was of course the place I wanted to explore. Scuba diving a shipwreck is on my ever growing bucket list but I had never expected to be able to do it so soon, as such a novice. The Liberty Wreck, however, is very close to shore and perfectly accessible, even for snorkelling. The USAT Liberty was a US army cargo ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine during World War II, off the coast of Lombok. It was then intentionally beached at Tulamben where, when the ever present Mount Agung erupted in 1963, it was pushed back into the ocean by the lava flow from the volcano. For a history lover, such as myself, this was just too good of an opportunity to miss. So I pulled on the wetsuit, and my BCD, and wobbled down to the shore with a heavy tank of oxygen on my back.
I had never done a shore dive before. Luckily, the water was calm and I was able to shuffle myself back into the ocean without any issues. Fins on, regulator in, I descended into the unknown. It was strange to be back underwater; however any nerves were soon washed away when a blue spotted stingray welcomed me to his world as I reached the ocean floor. And so I started swimming, dive master at my side guiding my way. There was nothing but an empty aqua void in front of us until, out of nowhere, a massive, dark shape towered in front me. And this was the moment, the real WOW moment underwater that I had been waiting for. It was, without a doubt, one of the most incredible things I have ever seen, and I have seen some pretty incredible things! It blew my mind more than coming face to face with Mount Everest, and the highest mountain on the planet is some tough competition. If I had been able to talk, which is unfortunately not possible underwater, I would have been speechless. Truly, speechless. The lack of verbal communication is the only drawback when scuba diving, you can’t shout to get the attention of your dive buddies when you see something wondrous, or share in the ecstasy when you are in the moment, until you get back on to dry land. Under the sea communication is through sign language and wide, excited eyes. So, internally screaming with joy, I ventured further, swimming around the hull to inspect the coral that has made this ship their home and the marine life that has migrated there.
It wasn’t long before another dark shape appeared, this time above me. A round, black disc, not as grand as the ship but still as fabulous. It was a turtle, my first sighting of these modern day dinosaurs underwater. Again the excitement consumed me and I almost spat my regulator out, which is not really something one should do underwater considering the fact that without it I am cut off from my oxygen supply. I managed to compose myself and keep the very tool that was keeping me alive in my mouth as I floated underneath the real life Crush, watching him glide so elegantly, silently calling out to him ‘Dude, this is totally awesome, dude.’
Crush swam off into the void, I presume to find Nemo and Dory and go off on a little adventure of their own, while I approached the part of the dive my dive master had warned me about on dry land. ‘Just stay calm and follow my lead,’ she said. It was time to go inside the ship, yes that’s right, to swim inside it. A ship that had been underwater for fifty three years, a ship that was part of one of the biggest wars in history. Surprisingly I was calm, totally calm, as I swam through metal that held a thousand untold tales, through gaps and holes that were once rooms that people lived, breathed, laughed and possibly cried in. In fact, since the moment I had first laid eyes on USAT Liberty I had been as comfortable underwater as an Orca. Mission accomplished.
Back on terra firma I was as giddy as a school girl who had just met her favourite boy band. The only word that I could repeat was wow. Wow, wow, wow! Because there is really no other word in the English dictionary that can describe the indescribable magical adventure that I had just experienced.