Cracker by Damian Christie

The day before the day before the day before yesterday, I went diving.

I see the new SFX extravaganza The Day After Tomorrow opens tomorrow. What a wasted marketing opportunity. Surely by delaying it just one more day there would’ve been a whole lot more synchronicity, and a great marketing angle: “The Day after Tomorrow… in cinemas, well, the day after tomorrow.”

Also, before I move on to anything more substantial, what sort of name for a movie is “The Day After Tomorrow” anyway? Why not just call it Friday? A lot less confusing for everyone involved, I suspect.

The diving was great. Despite the weather forecast, which to me proves not only the existence of God, but that he’s having a laff – Friday: Fine... Saturday and Sunday: Thunder, lightning, rain, swells... Monday: Fine – the weather was great. I woke up at 5am, packed my gear and was on the road by half five, destination Poor Knights Island. Well, the Tutukaka marina at least.

A few small equipment failures notwithstanding, everything went smoothly enough. Equipment failures while diving seem to be relatively commonplace, something to do with the powerful combination of saltwater, sand and saliva. Unfortunately, much like on a space shuttle, the equipment is pretty much what’s keeping you alive. In a car, equipment failure means your little handbrake light won’t turn off, or at worst, your car stops. It’s rarely fatal. At 60 odd feet under the ocean, a buoyancy compensation device (BCD) that won’t stop inflating itself can present a real problem. Still, that’s what training’s all about, and I’ve always appreciated the fine job my instructor did in that regard (Cheers Glenn).

The first dive was a little bit of a waste unfortunately. I’m not sure quite why (is there an ENT specialist in the audience?) but I have a bit of trouble equalising. If you don’t know what I mean by that, it’s all about balancing the pressure in your ears with the pressure around you (which increases the deeper you go). Much like going up in a plane, but a hundred times more intense. If you have a cold, or blocked sinuses, or as I suspect I have, small ear canals, then you run into problems. Worst case scenario you can’t equalise, meaining you can't dive, unless you’re prepared to destroy your ear drums. Or like me on Saturday, you have to descend very slowly and patiently, using half your air supply in the process.

Anyway, enough about my constricted passages. Long story short, I got down eventually, even exceeding my maximum allowable depth (very naughty in theory, good in practice, much like drinking at work) of 18 metres by ‘accidentally’ going down to a new personal record of 22.5 metres. That’s 74 feet ladies and gentlemen.

The visibility was brilliant, helped by the cloudless blue sky above and cooler winter temperatures. Describing the wildlife doesn’t really do it justice, particularly with my limited vocab, but it was really, really nice, and really good. And umm, really cool.

Five minutes into my first dive I almost grabbed on to a Stonefish, which was completely disguised as a Greyish Stone with Green Mossy Stuff growing on it. Hence the name, I figure. I was right on it when I suddenly realised that for a Greyish Stone with Green Mossy Stuff growing on it, it sure did look particularly fish-shaped.

The Stonefish is rather poisonous; its dorsal fin consists of a series of venom filled spines. Its poison is described as “severe to fatal”. As one cheery description notes:

“The pain is agonizing and can last for months, with horrendous swelling and dissolution of tissues. Amputation is sometimes required so get treatment early. If not treated, stings can be deadly.”

It’s not aggressive though, and poisoning primarily comes from people accidentally touching it. You’d think there’d be a whole lot less accidental touching going on if it wasn’t so bloody well-camouflaged. It’s kind of an evolutionary Catch-22 really, isn’t it? Surely the venomous spines would be a more effective deterrent if they were fluorescent yellow or something. Someone should really have a word.

On our second dive we went to Blue Maomao Arch, the place Jacques Cousteau famously declared to be among the top ten spots in the world. We jumped off the boat and into a school of hundreds of little jellyfish (celphs, I believe). For those of you who’ve never done this, just imagine jumping into a swimming pool full of ripped condoms, but more pleasant.

Other submarine fauna highlights include my first sighting of a moray eel outside of Kelly Tarlton’s. It was a yellow one, although my dive buddy/cousin Ken also spotted and photographed a mosaic moray, of which he was most proud (all photos will be posted in due course). There was a fairly sizeable short tailed stingray, and a colourful Sandager’s Wrasse, which followed me around like a puppy for about ten minutes, as I’m told they are wont to do.

As my air dwindled, marking the end of the second dive, we began surfacing and paused for our safety stop (five metres depth for three minutes). As we hovered there, mid-water, a seemingly endless stream of blue maomao and demoiselles swam underneath. It was pretty spesh. And cool. Yeah, really really cool.

Special thanks to Ken for being patient with his bumbling oaf of an incompetent diver cousin. Cher cher.