© 2016 Lindsay Cope

Night Diving

Imagine absolute darkness. The lightless, shockingly empty void is a velvety thick colorless black. That is what the ocean can be like, at night. It is not empty, however. In fact, it is filled with activity. Floating amid the obscurity light erupts from bioluminescent plankton. As you agitate them with strokes through the water column, they appear as if you alone are creating stars; millions of little momentary stars.

I went on a night dive, a right of passage for any diver, as a requirement for my advanced certification. I was nervous. The ocean at night is terrifying, thanks to the opening scene of Jaws. It is mysterious. The reflective surface twinkles with innocence and nonchalance against the moonlight. I was never fond of night swims in the ocean, and yet here I was, wading into the rocky shore area, mindful to avoid the sea urchins that migrate to the shallows at night.

Equipped with a dive light, I had the power to illuminate the depths. We swam out to the barge area at Twin Rocks (San Teodoro, Mabini, Batangas, Philippines). I had been instructed that upon their signal, I would be required to swim in a 10 meter triangle… alone. Another requirement for my Advanced Certification. At the signal, I started to swim with a cautious confidence. I counted my kick cycles and minded my compass, carefully scanning my surroundings with my torch. I reset my compass and followed my bearings, and again counted my kick cycles. Again, I reset my compass and followed my bearings, but as I turned to line up the lubber line, I noticed I was a bit deeper than I thought because the slope I had been hovering had suddenly become steeper, more like a wall. I then got nervous, did I screw this up? Now I am alone in the dark. I swam along the direction indicated by the compass; my dive master had snuffed his torch so I could not locate him in the darkness. As I was thinking about how I could have possibly messed up the simple navigation, I lost count of my kick cycles and was trying to figure out how I could have messed it up. Then I saw Alfie, and I was relieved. As I turned back toward the direction I had come, I saw that I was tailed the entire time by the dive master candidate who was joining us!

Once my “solo” navigation was complete, I was relaxed about the dive and enjoyed the submerged darkness. Bioluminescence, nudibranch, scorpion fish, ribbon worms, crabs, and all the weird worms and odd swimmers/floaters that emerge in the obscurity of the ocean at night.


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    I have just been scuba plunging a few times, however they were all in the daytime. My auntie’s going to take me on a night plunge soon (alongside different jumps) however I’m somewhat anxious. It appears to be so spooky and puzzling! Is it terrifying?

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    The main reason I love night diving is for the adventure, you don’t know what it may happen or what you may found below the water surface. In the past years I’ve taken a lot of pictures of the marine life which I store on https://dive.site along with all my diving logs. It’s cool that I can also search new dive spots or even add my own.

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  32. Abby
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    Hi Lindsay! I am in the process of applying for the Peace Corps in the Philippines and was wondering if I could get your email to ask you more about your experiences! My email is as524215@ohio.edu. Thanks

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