We just passed 300 feet and are now venturing deeper than I have ever dived before. My daughter and me lay on narrow benches with our heads into a glass dome looking out on the bottom. Between us, on a small seat, sits the driver of the submarine. He has total control over the surroundings with depth, direction and sonar images on his multiscreen displays. Far above us on the surface, a small boat follows our movement. We have wireless communication with the surface vessel.
Before we entered the submarine we went through a small course on how to handle emergency situations in case something would happen. How to run the sub, create lift, communicate with the surface and to use the breathing regulators under our seats.
Outside the glass dome I see the ledge we follow disappear and a steep wall continue down into the dark blue. We stop and watch three huge Lion Fish hovering over a small hole in the reef. Bruce, the pilot, explains that the invasive Lion Fish becomes bigger and are in greater number down here than up on the reef.
This research submarine is designed and produced by Nuytco of Canada. It arrived here 5 years ago and has since done over 1700 dives. With this sub the scientist have found over 12 species of fish never discovered before. If you look closely on the picture of the sub, you see hoses going into a glass bucket. The hoses do two things. One is purging small amounts of anesthetic at the fishes they want to collect and the other is sucking the sedated fish into the bucket. Then starts a long journey to the surface. They bring the fish bucket slowly to deep scuba depth of about 200 ft, there it stays to adjust the depth for a long while. Divers feed them and bring them more and more shallow. In the end it is safe to bring them over in a tank in the local aquarium. The fish is more sensitive to the light and temperature in the water than the pressure and 95% of all the fish they collect survives this treatment. They are studied for a while before they find the way into the public Aquarium.
We get a call from the surface vessel. “Life support status”. Bruce goes through a list of numbers and reports back, then we continue for a while until we reach 535 feet of depth. I have no idea, but it is probably Norwegian Depth Record for a 12 years old girl? We joke about it and laugh. The temperature inside the sub is a lot colder and when we start the ascent the hull becomes moist on the inside.
We stop over two small shipwrecks at about 200 feet. One of the wrecks where sunk on purpose to serve as a dive site. It landed right next to another wreck totally unintentional. What are the odds for that?
On the way back we stopped at a large sea fan. In shallow water they never reach this size, but down here, far from the wild waves they grow in peach and become huge. This one is probably 5 feet across.
We pass a couple of large barracudas and find a guideline in the reef taking us back to the substation. The trip ends with a little trick they made us do when we arrived. They made us do art on regular Styrofoam cups. They had our cups hanging in a net on the outside of the sub on the entire trip. The enormous pressure deforms the cups and we get them as souvenirs to bring home.
If you ever go to Curacau, I highly recommend this experience. It is not many places in the world you can do this. It was an extremely professional trip with Substation Curacao and a very interesting day under the surface.
Outside images courtesy of Substation Curacao.
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