I think I might qualify for an honorable mention by the Darwin Awards . The honorable mention is granted to those who have failed to receive the actual award due to survival but are up and coming to in the competition to win one soon. The Darwin Award is granted to individuals that remove themselves from the gene pool (kill themselves) in such an idiotic way, that their absence is likely to significantly improve the quality of the human gene pool in regards to intelligence.
Much has happened since my last regular blog on the beautiful island of Upolu/Samoa. Gaylyn has summed up some of it an article (Call to Action). In this article I will concentrate on the events that occurred at our last visit to To Sua – the beautiful Ocean Trench on Samoa.
To Sua is an ocean side park that attracts a lot of tourist and locals – probably the sightseeing hot spot on Upolu. Apart from blow holes, rock pools, cliffs and most beautiful gardens it features 2 big vertical holes of between 10 and 30 meters of diameter and about 12 meters depth, that contain a mixture of fresh water and ocean water. The two major holes are connected by a tunnel and there is also a dive thru connection to the open sea. Our marina neighbor Chris had invited us to join him to visit the place once more and this time we had heard of the swim through cave and taken goggles so that we could give it a try. Failing to take flippers might have been the first in a series of mistakes.
You have to negotiate a steep and slippery ladder to descend the last 7 meters to the pool that horrifies anyone who dislikes heights and is a serious barrier for little children or people with disabilities. Once in the pool I inspected the swim through cave from the outside and seeing the bodies of people inside noted, that it is a rather shallow dive of not more than 4 meters to where you can take a breath. Obviously there was a cave in the middle that was easy to reach and allowed you to take in air. After taking a deep breath I dove down and headed towards the cave.
Anyone who has been diving knows that when wearing googles your vision is restricted. You see mostly what is in front of and below you. Looking upwards requires an effort that involves taking your head all the way back or even bending your back backwards. When swimming swiftly it will reduce you speed to get you to rise to the surface. Also in water that is not perfectly clear it is hard to judge distances correctly.
Starting into the cave I saw the light of the ocean in what appeared to be not too much of a distance. Drawn by the light I totally ignored what I had learned about the cave being only 4 meters away and swam towards the luring shine without ever bothering to look up. It took a while until I noticed that the end of the tunnel was not as near as I thought – it never crossed my mind though to stop and just rise to the surface even when my diaphragm started to twitch indicating that I was seriously running out of air.
I arrived at the surface of the ocean on the last of my breath an in a state of panic. My last thoughts before surfacing were about how long I would have before lack of oxygen would take me out. Not even then did I grasp my mistake. Instead I worried about Gaylyn and Chris, knowing that I was most probably the most skilled free diver of the three of us in terms of being able to hold my breath. When Chris surfaced half a minute later he was totally relaxed. He told me about the huge cave inside that runs for most of the distance of the passage. Obviously there is more to being a skilled diver than being able to hold your breath.
I still was so terrified by my experience that I decided to climb the steep face of the cliffs to return to the pool the dry way, rather than have another go at the cave. This turned out to be another most stupid decision, because I almost wet myself climbing the steep and slippery rocks.
Now this could be the end of the story. But obviously one serious panic and another fit of fear climbing the cliffs was not enough for the day. Back in the pool Chris told Gaylyn how easy it was to get to the cave. He had just crawled along the ceiling of the tunnel until he found air again. Gaylyn who had wisely stayed out of the cave so far decided to give it a go. Watching her go in from the outside I noted with horror that she was crawling away in the wrong direction. She was not going towards the blue light of the ocean but into some remote corner of the cave with no guaranty of finding air. Luckily Chris took off shortly after her and I was hoping he would take care of things.
Later it turned out that Gaylyn had been lucky enough to end up in a tiny cave with enough air to breathe. Seeing someone dive in she thought it was me again and called out thinking I was making the same mistake once more. Instead she heard Chris answer from the big cave and eventually found her way to meet him there.
Conclusion: Sometimes we forget that we are not 20 any more. Sometimes we even forget all the lessons we have learned since and also to stop and think when things do not work out as expected. On this day I have come close to drowning in the abundance of air only two meters away from me. I seriously think this would have qualified me for the Darwin Award had I not survived. As my substandard genes remain in the gene pool I will have to make another attempt to receive the award.