To do that you’ll need a lot of equipment and some lessons on how to dive the deep ocean.
For us this happens in Phuket, Thailand with a Swiss German instructor named Marcelo.
We begin our Open Water course in the classroom, then the pool. But nothing can really prepare you for the ocean.
On my first dive, the visibility wasn’t great and I was still learning to navigate the weightlessness of being underwater. For most new divers, focus is lasered on the mechanics. Do I have enough air, am I sinking too fast, is my dive buddy in sight, does he have enough air, is my second regulator within reach.
I’m not quite taken by this experience yet. I can barely wrap my head around the fact that I’m 30 feet deep underwater, the surface barely visible where I am.
But then, the ballet began.
Ahead of me, I see a massive school of fish, forming one big ball, swimming in swift, synchronized movements. So uniform is the dance that it’s hard to see the many fish for the one shape they’re making together. I feel like I’m in a supersized, IMAX movie in 3D.
Over the course of 5 months, we would dive about ten times. Each time, the sea sickness got a bit better, the buoyancy a little bit more undercontrol and so, the ballet got easier and better to watch.
In the Philippines, off the island of Panglao, the dance was about the colour. Clear visibility, glowing corals, neon fish.
In Hawaii, it was the shark and the giant turtle. White tip, resting on a reef, we were told ahead of time that this kind of shark is harmless. Still, the nerves got going as we watched it move the way we’ve seen in so many documentaries and movies, swaying side to side in an S formation. In my head, the theme from Jaws played without prompting.
The giant turtle was the size of a small car, slow to paddle but surprisingly lightweight. I guess underwater, we are all a little less burdened.
These shows are worth the price of admission, though the ticket can be a bit steep.
During our Open Water course in Phuket, Marcelo reminded us constantly of the dangers of straying, losing focus, not paying attention to details. My training in TV local news will not help in this regard.
During one test, taking place in the deep ocean, we had to fill our masks with water in order to demonstrate how to empty it. One must stay focus enough not to breathe in the salt water through the nose or panic at the thought of being sightless underwater.
Another, required you to manually inflate your BCD or buoyancy control device while treading water. If you’ve ever been in the ocean, you know it is never quiet or calm on the surface. I swore I was going to drown as the weight of my equipment dragged me down, the treading leaving me without enough breath to fill my life jacket.
In this moment of drama, I’m convinced that Marcelo is refusing to save my life. You have to do this or you fail the course, he told me. He also reminded me that I wasn’t really drowning. He held me by the arm as I struggled, breath by breath to inflate my device. When I finally passed the test, I lay restless on my life vest, wondering to myself yet again .. why am I doing this.
But then, I remember the ballet.
The show is worth the price of admission, for underwater, there’s a kind of wordless poetry. Like a metaphor for life, the ocean is choppy only on the surface. Go deep and you’ll find silence, calm and order.