Claire Temple is a student at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is currently studying abroad with ISA in Canberra, Australia.
On June 22nd, I dove the Great Barrier Reef. It did not go as I expected. I’ll preface by saying it was a wonderful day, but a wonderful day with many misfortunes that added to the day’s memorable value.
The day began in high spirits, having a pancake breakfast, reading Time Magazine’s “Women Changing the World”, and listening to Judah and the Lion on my way to the marina. That’s where the panic began.
I realized I didn’t know which dock the diving boat would be, and it was a massive marina with about 8 docks. I was already running behind and began praying out loud, realizing that I need to pray more than when I’m desperate. I feared that I was going to miss out on diving the Great Barrier Reef, my one bucket list item, because of my poor time management and navigation. Eventually, I found the boat in a sweat and we set sail.
I befriended a German diver named Tina. It was special to bond with her over the ocean. I began to feel queasy, but I figured it was because I was overwhelmed right after breakfast and my food didn’t settle. I never got sea sick on my previous dives in 2016. I underestimated my condition. Fast forward to minutes before the first dive. I realized it wasn’t nerves from being two and a half years rusty; I was going to throw up.
I asked the dive instructors where the barf bags are, and they pointed right behind me and instructed me to sit down and look at the horizon. An attractive dive instructor stood next to me and asked, “Another bag, love?” as my beloved pancakes escaped me. He handed me tissues and water and bags casually, making it clear to me that this was common to him. I’d like to say that I felt better after that, but I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach the rest of the day. Some people like to go out with a bang; I like to go in with a bang.
My first dive was a little rocky getting back into it, but the worst thing that happened was mixing up my inflate and deflate buttons and struggling with my buoyancy. It was exhilarating to be back in the deep ocean. I missed the colors, the slow speed of the creatures, and the details of the coral.
The second dive went smoothly until about halfway through, the reason being that I hadn’t used the bathroom since getting on the boat over two hours prior and I hydrated well for the day. I don’t have to describe what it feels like to have to use the bathroom badly. I was mentally saying, “Do not let your bladder take away from diving the Great Barrier Reef.” I honestly felt pathetic.
The third dive was a doozy. I was ready to finish strong. Our dive instructor, Michelle, was pointing out a baby razor fish when it darted into the sand and it surprised her. I smiled, and some water got into my mask. I tried what’s called a full flood, where you press your mask against your forehead, look upwards, and blow through your nose to drain your mask. I mistakenly pressed my mask on the bottom and my mask completely flooded with water. I panicked. My limbs went numb. I was blind underwater. I knew I had to get to the surface to drain my mask, but I knew I couldn’t go quickly from the ocean depth.
It took me about 15 seconds to reach the surface. I had no sense of orientation. Every time I thought I was at the top, I kept going. My arms were flailing around me. I had a tank of air but was still gasping in my state of panic. I learned all about the dangers of “rocket manning” and here I was zooming upward. When I finally reached the surface, I ripped my mask off of my face and another dive instructor and the boat crew asked if I was ok. At least I was practicing my emergency signals. I calmed down, and finished the dive.
Traveling to so many places in such a short amount of time, I’ve felt overwhelmed wondering if I’m truly experiencing Australia. I adopted the quality over quantity phrase “Not here for a long time; here for a good time.”, realizing that my experiences are only as fulfilling as I allow them to be. I’ve had to allow myself time to rest understanding that I won’t make memories if all I can think about is how exhausted I am trying to cram everything into my schedule. Even when the odds have been against me, like bad weather or pancake reflux, I have to bask experiencing all of this.
I feel honored to have been bested by one of the most magnificent ecosystems in the world. It was an amazing day. I will always remember the beauty of the ocean, and the low points were the weights to strengthen my will. Australia is teaching me to enjoy what is in front of me and showing me the end of my rope is much farther than I previously thought.
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.