I wrote this when we got back from an early morning free-dive last Wednesday. A rare pleasure.
“This morning I dived with a loggerhead. The turtle was missing a chunk of its shell. On its right hand side a shark, I assume, had taken a bite out of its shell and left its flipper intact but withered. We had been diving at Tunnel. I had taken three dives and was concentrating on relaxing under water, minimizing effort without concern for depth, and finding the point at which my buoyancy would become neutral and I would hover in the water column while excerting no effort. I had not yet found that depth. My buddy Max swam through the tunnel. As he swam, I spotted the turtle in response to Alex’s cry. Max surfaced, we turned and followed the turtle. He was perhaps five feet long. Perhaps 250 pounds. Perhaps 80 years old. We trailed it. Max asked if we could dive down. We could. I was concerned that as we dove, the turtle would startle and flee. Accelerating in to the obscurity where the visibility in the blue diminishes. But the loggerhead is not a fast swimmer, and it did not scarper. All 11 of us trailed the turtle. Maxey, Max, Peter, Alex, Ben and I dove and dove as we followed the turtle into deeper water. As it continued to swim, a dive required the active effort of forward, as well as downward travel. On the surface, we remained active between dives to stay with the turtle. There was no opportunity to cultivate that purity of patience and relaxation that I had set out with. The turtle kept us with him. We dove, and swam beside him. His fins coming in to sharper focus – the small claw on the flippers. The girth of the neck. The action of the front fins, the size and brightness of the eye. The length of the dives. We must have swum with the turtle for perhaps 30 minutes. Long enough that the turtle had to surface twice for air. He slowly made his way towards the surface, followed by the attendant ramora. As the turtle came towards the surface, the light that seems to fragment into columns, radiating from a point on the surface, brought the turtle in to cleaner focus. Others of our group could dive and have a moment under water. A rapid exhale, a large bubble a moment at the surface and the turtle dives again. At 40 ft, swimming beside the turtle, close enough to touch.”