Dive #26 - Rich Torkington's Dive Log
Copyright 2010 Rich Torkington Mesa, Arizona

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Bottom Time to Date:

19h
1m


Dive Info:

Dive Start:
9:00PM

Bottom Time:
62 minutes

Maximum Depth:
31 feet

Safety Stop:
3 minutes

Beginning Air:
3000 psi

Ending Air:
1900 psi

Weather Conditions:
Night breezy 80F

Surface Conditions:
Calm

Surface Water Temperature:
80F

Bottom Water Temperature:
78F

Visibility:
60 feet
26
TITLE
* * * *
July 8,
1998
SALT PIER
BONAIRE, N.A.
NIGHT SHORE DIVE
 
Linda, Mercedes, and Myron (buddies)
Rich
Orange encrusting sponges and an arrow crab on the pier pilings
Photo by Myron Johnson in Bonaire 1998 
Dive Journal:

Lo and behold, it is time to dive again - what else would we do?! We load our gear and air tanks into the van and head south through town, emerging again onto the flats south of the airport. It is a twenty minute drive south, out of town and out into the darkness of the salt evaporation fields, accented only by the moonlight. We finally arrive at the pebbly beach next to the Salt Pier around 8:30PM.

The moon is almost full and rising to the east. A strong warm wind is screaming over the condenser pools and out to sea. Except for an occasional car on the beach road, there are no signs of people for miles. In the darkness stands the structure of the Salt Pier, a foreboding structure that rises up darkly from the gloomy flats. The mountains of salt appear bluish in the moonlight. A look seaward reveals the ramping pier towering up and out over the inky waters. The tee-shaped terminal is adorned with a few lights that stare down into the ominous blackness. This is definitely one of the spookiest places I've ever seen, and we are planning a night dive here!

We suit up, and Linda again elects to don a 3 mil hood for added warmth and protection. During the suiting up process, an air tank lands on Mercedes' foot, and she is in acute pain for several minutes while we try to assess the severity of the injury. Fortunately, it seems that Mercedes has suffered a bruise only, and after some discussion we decide to proceed with the dive.

Entering the water, we negotiate the slightly rocky bottom. The footing is not difficult, but a bit intimidating with no visual cues. As the most experienced diver and navigator, Myron is definitely in charge of this dive, and, once submerged, we obediently follow his lead from the shore out to the first set of pilings. We are all using our dive lights as we go. There are a great many long-spined black colored urchins everywhere, making the sea floor look like a spiky garden. From one set of pilings, it is a long distance to the next set, maybe 20-30 yards, and it's impossible to follow the course visually. We follow Myron and the compass nearly due west and slowly make our way from piling set to piling set in around 25 feet of water, examining various sites as we go.

Soon we discover great clumps of brilliantly colored orange cup corals attached to the pilings, with their polyps filtering food out of the night currents. In our dive lights, these corals practically glow like neon lights. On the bottom, we discover a sharp-tailed eel snake writhing around on the sandy floor. Several big tarpon patrol the fringe area around us, and I catch sight of another one of my night buddies, the greater soapfish.

A night dive like this one can certainly be an eerie experience, but especially so once you start thinking about it. Here you are submerged in an inky aquatic atmosphere, deprived of air except for a tank on your back. Visibility is restricted to a portal strapped to your face, your peripheral vision is blocked. The water is increasingly chilly with each minute of submersion. You hang desperately onto the thin beam of a dive light, which penetrates no more than 20 feet into the blackness. Beyond that you have no information - anything could be out there. It's real easy to get disoriented at night. Up is usually where the sunlight is, but at night you must look for other clues like the plane of the bottom or the direction of air bubbles. One second you are giving some attention to a fish or an eel, the next second, in a tiny wave of panic, you see that your dive buddies have all moved on and you can barely see the glow of their dive lights, if at all.

Nearing the end of the main pier section we stop. We're at a 30 foot depth and we can make out a diffuse glow evident from the pier lights, a hundred feet above us. Both girls signal that they are getting cold. We turn around and slowly make our way back along the bottom, this time using our compasses to swim due east back up the beach slope to shallower waters. After more than an hour in the water, we finally surface, then swim back north again to the nearby beach area. Myron has done a superb job of navigation.

Emerging from the water, finally walking, I again survey the scene, the moonlit flats, the howling breezes, the haunting surroundings. The dive has been very mysterious to me and yet extremely stimulating. It's been spooky and yet totally invigorating. It's as if a challenge has been met and conquered. The warm breeze quickly removes the chill of the water and on the ride back to the condo I feel great! Maybe I am just relieved!

We spend an hour or so cleaning gear, returning air tanks, and then we all get some much needed sleep.

More
Dive
Info:
Fins:
Mares Avanti Quattro
Computer:
U S Divers Matrix
Tank:
80 ft3 Al
BCD:
SeaQuest Spectrum 4
Dive Type:
NIGHT SHORE
Body of Water:
Caribbean
Mask:
U S Divers
Protection:
3mm shorty
Regulator:
SeaQuest
Spectrum XR2
plus Oceanic
Slimline octopus
Weight:
8 lb
Water Type:
Salt
Video Equipment:
None