Our scuba diving trip to the Bahamas
by Rob Tiller
Sally and I got back on Saturday from a scuba diving trip aboard the Bahamas Aggressor. After a week on the ship, our sea legs are still working — that is, the floor to our apartment has been rolling from side to side. Our ears got a bit stopped up from a lot of time underwater, so we’re not hearing so well, and my poor toes have a couple of bad blisters from hours of kicking with fins. But it was wonderful to be at sea, seeing so many amazing creatures. The pictures here were all taken by me during the trip, except the last one, which was by Brynne, one of our ship photographers.
The Bahamas Aggressor is a 100-foot vessel with a crew of 6 that sails out of Nassau. The ship was, we learned, the oldest member of the Aggressor fleet. It was a little cramped, but had all the necessities, and the various systems (water, electricity, AC, air compressor, etc.) worked fine. Our only real disappointment was the hot tub, which looked inviting, but was unfortunately broken.
Our dive sites were southeast of Nassau, in the Exuma and Eleuthera areas. We had some spectacular sunsets, but it was mostly gray, and cooler and windier than expected. The seas got a bit rough at times, and I was glad I took motion sickness pills. The water was generally around 79 degrees F, and I felt comfortable in a 5 mm wetsuit with a hooded vest. The visibility was usually around 60 feet, though substantially less than that on a couple of dives.
We generally did four or five dives per day, including a night dive. Most dives were a little under an hour. The dive sites were mostly either walls or coral reef structures, with a couple of wrecks thrown in. We saw a lot of interesting sea life, large and small. To name a few, there were Caribbean reef sharks, southern sting rays, groupers, barricuda, jacks, Atlantic spadefish, filefish, queen triggerfish, porcupine fish, grunts, striped burrfish, and various types of parrotfish, along with various angelfish (gray, queen, French), butterflyfish, and lots of other small tropicals. There were, unfortunately, a lot of destructive lionfish. We also saw several green sea turtles, lobsters, crabs, shrimp, and conchs, and various tinier creatures. A few people saw a solitary hammerhead shark, but we missed that one. There was also one octopus sighting, but sadly, we didn’t get that one either.
There was beautiful coral in places, but a number of the dive sites did not look healthy. There was some serious coral bleaching, and also a lot of green algae. We’d been well aware that coral reefs have been dying in many places, but had hoped they would be healthier here. Over all, I found the conditions worrisome.
But we found many beautiful inspiring areas of life. The crew, led by Captain Christy, was young, cheery, and supportive, and our eight fellow passengers were good diving and dining companions. Five were of Chinese or Singaporean origin, and we very much enjoyed getting to know them and something of their culture. Caleb the cook fed his two vegetarians (us) well, and made particularly wonderful desserts.
On some dives we stayed close to the guide, but on most we explored on our own. We had one major navigation snafu. After miscalculating the direction, we found ourselves almost out of air and surfaced a couple of hundred yards from the boat, and so had to be picked up by the Zodiac pontoon boat. Also, on our very last dive, the plan was for a drift dive in strong current, with divers jumping in quickly one after the other off the side from the moving boat. I was the last in the line, and when my turn came, in I went.
Once in the water, I found the visibility very limited (perhaps 10 feet), and I could not see anyone. I assumed the group must be a short way ahead, just beyond visual range, and so I let myself be carried along quickly by the current. It was fun to drift, but after a few minutes, I started to get worried. I finally decided to call it and surfaced after 15 minutes. Rob, the mate manning the Zodiac, quickly spotted me and picked me up, and back we went to the boat. It turned out that everyone else had surfaced 3 or 4 minutes after the start of the dive, and they were getting worried about me. As happens at times, I had marched to a different drummer. It was good to be back.
Between diving, eating, and sleeping, there wasn’t a lot of time for other activity, but I did finish an interesting book, The Social Leap, by William von Hippel. It’s a science-for-non-scientists account of how evolution shaped homo sapiens and their social systems. Von Hippel explores differences between hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies, and brings into focus simultaneous opposing strong forces of cooperation and competition. I wish he’d been clearer about what was well-established science (which much of it was) as opposed to creative speculation, but he throws out a lot of intriguing ideas. He suggests looking at fear and unhappiness as essential to our species, in that they keep us alert to danger and lead to progress. He views our inability to live in the present as both a gift and a problem, and notes the usefulness of meditation.
On Saturday, we had a direct flight from Nassau to Charlotte, and then drove home to Raleigh. We talked a lot about the week, and started to kick around where to go for our next big diving trip. Maybe the Red Sea. We also enjoyed listening to a new-to-us podcast called Aria Code. Hosted by Rhiannon Giddens, each episode has a panel discussing a famous opera aria from musical, historical, and psychological points of view. We especially liked the episode on love at first sight in Puccini’s La Boheme.