Saturday, April 25, 2009
In Grand Cayman Douglas and I decided to go helmet diving. There were 2 other people from the boat with us on the excursion. Jozeph from Hungary and Christine from France were both wait staff from the boat who had won the excursion as part of the Disney employee incentive program (BTW, if i haven't mentioned it yet, all the staff name tags had only a first name and country of origin (Disney is committed to having at least 50 countries represented on each ship at all times) so when you referred to any crew member it was almost always by name and country). After filling out medical forms and signing some alarming sounding waivers we hooked up with our guide, Chris, who took us out onto the reef and explained the helmets to us. Each helmet weighs 90 pounds and has a separate airline feeding it from a compressor. You jump into the water, swim over to the back of the boat and they put the helmet on you. Immediately you start down the ladder so that the water is supporting the weight of the helmet instead of your shoulders. I was the first to actually go down as Jozeph and Christine both tried it before me, but shook it off from fear. The ladder descended 30 feet to the bottom. You went down 3 rungs and then stopped to clear your ears. The helmet is only resting on your shoulders, so there is water up to about your chin. It is a cool, weird sensation, but you can't really look down cause then your face would be in the water. The only scary part of the entire thing is that at first you don't know how far apart the rungs on the ladder are so you just feel blindly for them. Of course there is a diver in the water right in front of you, checking on you every few step so you're safe. The one step that i missed, he grabbed my ankle and placed my foot where it needed to be. Step by step you arrive on the bottom where Chris is waiting surrounded by fish. Since the reef is a wildlife preserve, companies like SeaTrek pay to run tours on a certain piece of land. It was roped off and Chris led us around the entire area pointing out various things using hand signs. Being underwater on a reef is amazing. Doing it when you have a degree in marine science is beyond words. I was 2 inches from living brain coral for goodness sakes! We also tried sitting on the bottom and jumping around to experience the odd buoyancy. The guide has food with him to attract fishes and they give some to you so that each person is in turn surrounded by these lovelies. Just remember that sometimes parrot fish can't tell your hand from food! it's just a flesh wound Walking around underwater in a helmet is an experience that i can't compare to anything else, but i do highly recommend it!