Darwin’s Arch. The photographs of the arch are known across the world. It is also the location of all our dives today. It is renowned for its schools of hammerhead sharks. The divers on the boat are all excited about finally seeing these unique sharks.
The 15 divers have been divided up into two groups. One group is called the dolphins and one is the sharks. We are in the sharks group along with R from Washington DC, K from Texas, P and A from Vancouver and I and R from Munich. The dolphins comprise of four Russians, two from NYC and two from Moscow, a Belgium, a Chicago “copper” as she likes to call herself and a New Yorker.
The dive deck is divided in two halves, sharks on one half and dolphins on the other. With 8 on our side, there is lots of room to move and gear up. We each have a specific station where our tank and BCD sit and below is a basket to keep the small stuff like booties, mask, gloves and dive computer.
About 10 minutes before the slated dive time, we start to gather on the dive deck to gear up. This involves checking the percentage of nitrox and psi of gas in our tanks and recording these on a sheet. We hook up our octopus and make sure straps and buckles are ready to go on our BCD.
Next we wrestle on our 7 mm wetsuits. This was a big chore until one of the crew suggested we wet the inside of the wetsuit legs and arms, wet and soap down our legs and arms, and VOILA! how easily greased legs and arms slide into the wetsuit.
Then come gloves, dive computer, weight belt, BCD with tank and mask around our neck ready to put on. With 7mm wetsuits, more weight is required than our regular 3mm wetsuits we use in the Caribbean. I am using 14 pounds of weight in a belt. Add that to the weight of the tank and other gear and that is a lot of extra weight to hoist around. Each time we perform this ballet of donning gear, we get faster at doing it as the routine becomes familiar and well-practiced.
Once we are all geared up, the panga (zodiac) pulls along the side of the mother ship, and with help from some of the very strong crew, we gingerly step from the boat to the panga and sit on the side. Fins are passed over to the panga in a basket and then handed out. We don these right away. Cameras are handed over next and we are ready for the panga ride to the dive site.
Once at the dive site, we put on our masks, the dive master counts down 3 – 2 – 1 – GO! and we all back roll into the ocean at the same time. Sort of like the navy seals. We descend quickly and regroup on the bottom.
We search for the elusive hammerheads over 4 dives and are disappointed when we find a scant few at Darwin’s Arch.