Title: Caribbean reef magazine
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00100862/00001
 Material Information
Title: Caribbean reef magazine
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Publisher: Caribbean Footprints
Place of Publication: Maraval, Trinidad & Tobago
Publication Date: April-June 2010
Copyright Date: 2010
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00100862
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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South Caicos' Deep Blue

Conserving Tobago's Reefs

Lion of the Sea

Truth about the Spine

Dive Expedition Lessons

Cover Photo by Jim Catlin
Boulder Brain Coral photographed
in South Caicos

2 www.caribbeanreefmag.com





Publication Design & Layout

Copy Editor

Contributing Writers

Caribbean Footprints Co. Ltd.

Ife Smenkh-Ka-Ra

Cheryl Ng Foon

Arielle Aberdeen
Jim Catlin
Tadessa Harper
Diana Vernette-Melville

Pawl. "Ir "

www.caribbeanreefmag.com 3


Arielle Aberdeen is a 20 year old Advanced Open Water diver
and Trinibagonian resident, fairly new to the world of diving.
She is currently stuck on land as she completes her law degree.
She is in a love affair with diving, the ocean and yoga while
dreaming about combining all three. She is eagerly awaiting
semester break when she can get her fins back into the water.

Jim Catlin 27 years old, Dive Master and Tropical Marine
Scientist from London in the UK. Began diving in 2001 in Fiji as
part of a marine conservation expedition and have since dived all .,..,
over the world, from Egypt, Thailand and the Solomon Islands to
Tobago in the Caribbean. At present I'm working for the School
for Field Studies as a Dive Master/ Research Assistant on South
Caicos in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

"i Tadessa Harper is an avid, non-fiction novel reader, traveller, and beach goer.
She is a native Trinidadian who moved to the United States at the age of 11,
where she attended University. A graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technolo-
gy, she enjoys trolling the streets of New York and London discovering what each
city has to offer. Tadessa is thrilled to be a writer for Caribbean REEF magazine,
writing about her experiences learning to dive in the Caribbean. Tadessa and her
dog Francois now reside in England.

Diana Vernette-Melville is a young marine zoologist and environmen-
tal advocate. Throughout her life ,she has been actively involved in
numerous environmental organizations and projects. At college, she re-
searched extensively on marine macroflora and macrofauna in seagrass
beds in Tobago. Although she is Trinidad born, Diana resides in the sis-
ter isle of Tobago, working in the field of environmental protection and
management, education, awareness and advocacy. Free-spirited, Diana
is also an avid nature-seeker, SCUBA diver, freelance environmental
writer and poet. At every available opportunity ,Diana escapes to Trini-
dad to spend time with her two parents and her younger sister, Cindy.

4 www.caribbeanreefmag.com



beter, fnr, sronger,
proven g lotal e kper ence
Pigial media soti for nex generation b&hness
communicaton, oSo f our eqpernence icicude
thosane& of project, on owebsdes dowed bh million
srerq month
(e'll help Improve qof sales, randing and customer
(&it as online: www.swayo.com
&naW sale e@sc zo1 coin
Caribbean: l-969-62q-6B-2
Surope; +44 (0)209123 2450


At the beginning of 2009, at 24 years old, I wanted to
embark on a new challenge. I pursued a Reef Con-
servation SCUBA scholarship with Coral Cay Conser-
vation (CCC) in Tobago. After making extraordinary
friends and experiencing some of the most exhilarating
diving experiences with CCC, I was left craving for
more underwater adventures.

Eventually, I observed that most magazines with Carib-
bean content made only token mention of Caribbean
and Latin American reefs (one or two pages if so many).
The lack of informative reef- related issues became
frustrating and it was then that I recognized the need
for a publication that deals with marine life and the vol-
unteer work of countless conservation groups within
the Latin American and Caribbean regions. I jumped
right in and discovered so many unknown gems in our
corner of the world.

After learning about marine conservation through
CCC, I felt the need to encourage others to learn more
about marine life. Now I am proud to be the Managing
Director of Caribbean Footprints Publishing Co. Ltd,
and publisher of Caribbean REEF Magazine.

Caribbean REEF Magazine is an ONLINE magazine. It
will be published quarterly and contain articles which
cover dive destinations in the Latin American and Ca-
ribbean regions. This publication explores the marine
environment, and how to protect and enjoy it.

The magazine strives to highlight the hard work by
volunteers and conservation groups. It is for the div-
ing buffs and those who wished they could dive but
never had the guts to jump in. Caribbean REEF is for
the young, the old and those interested in discovering
the unknown in the underwater world.

I hope you enjoy our first issue; let us know what you
think of it by writing to us or visiting www. Caribbean-

Publisher and Managing Editor

6 www.caribbeanreefmag.com

www.caribbean reefmag.com 7



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3. The Catacombs 'An explorers dream!!'

The Catacombs is situated on the East coast of South Caicos and
really is an explorer's dream. The upper reef flat at around 50ft
comprises of an intricate network of channels and trenches carved
into the rock and encrusted with hard and soft corals. Openings
and large crevices can be found disappearing down into the reef
at every turn, adding to the anticipation! Following these channels
East, leads quickly to a precipitous drop-off descending to 120ft; it
is here that the real exploration begins!

Large schools of horse-eye jacks and creole wrasse circle below as
you descend past impressive sheet coral and barrel sponges inhab-
ited by a whole host of reef fishes, including Stoplight parrots, Blue
Chromis and large Cubera Snapper.

Conforming to the characteristic spur and groove formation of this
region, the wall itself gently undulates back and forth, enticing you

12 www.caribbeanreefmag.com

.,. 4 "

into a plethora of cave passages, swim-throughs
Most of these entrances start between 100 and
directly back into the reef wall. Some may end a
ity will tempt you further. As these passages win
explorers are rewarded with the remarkable exp
ing from the darkness and into the welcoming lif
reef flat where they began their dive. A truly me
ter adventure!!

For more information about diving in South Caic<
with Debbie Manos and Ollie Been at Salt Cay Di
tails can be found below.

Dive operator Salt Cay Divers
Website: www.saltcaydivers.tc
Email : scdivers@tciway.tc
Phone: 649 241-1009
Fax : 649 946-6940



and overhangs.
1lOft. and lead
Druptly; the major-
d slowly upwards,
erience of emerg-
;ht of the shallow
morable underwa-

,s, get in touch
vers. Contact de-

www.caribbean reefmag.com 13

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CONSERVATION CORNER // Conserving Tobago's Reefs

Can you tell us a bit about the conservation proj-
ect going on at CCC Tobago?

Coral Cay Conservation began work in Tobago in
March 2007 after initial collaborative efforts with
the THA and the Buccoo Reef Trust (BRT) follow-
ing the Caribbean -wide coral bleaching event of
2005. With support from the UNDP, the Tobago
Ecosystem Mapping Project (TCEMP) is provid-
ing baseline ecological data on the current status
of coral reef, mangrove and seagrass ecosystems
surrounding Tobago. Increasing awareness of To-
bago's marine resources is also an important aim
of the project, as well as building in country capac-
ity through training and education of Trinidad and
Tobago nationals.

What is the state of Tobago's coral reefs?

Initial findings from the first two years of data col-
lection are mixed. Hard coral cover has dropped
significantly on the Caribbean coast from 22%
in 2005 to 16% in 2008, most likely as a direct
result of the bleaching event. The good news is,
given time and well-directed marine and coastal
management, it may be possible for Tobago's coral
reefs to return to 2005 levels. The most encourag-
ing data showed that the reefs around Speyside

(Tobago's diving hotspot) remained mostly unaf-
fected by the bleaching event. The significantly
higher levels of coral cover and fish biomass found
here mean that protecting this area in the future
will be of critical importance!! For more informa-
tion and further explanation, check out the annual
TCEMP project reports at www.coralcay.org.

What exactly was your role at CCC?

My role as Project Scientist involved co-ordinating
the marine survey effort and ensuring that the
quality of the collected data remained as high as
possible. This could be anything from helping to
train volunteers in marine species identification to
organizing and planning the logistics for the up-
coming survey dives. I also communicated and
maintained relations with our in country project
partners. Organizing and running the scholarship
programme was also an important part of my job.
This involved arranging for two TnT nationals to
join the programme every four weeks.

Why did you decide to volunteer to become the
project scientist at CCC?

When I was 18, I volunteered for a marine conser-
vation diving expedition to Fiji and haven't really

looked back. Since then, I tried to gain as much
experience and as many qualifications as possible
so that I could eventually apply for a job with an
organization such as CCC. It was 10 years in the
making and definitely worth all the effort.

What was life like in Charlotteville for 6 months
and interacting with the local community?

I loved living in Charlotteville. It's a small To-
bago village but has the most picturesque set-
ting imaginable and a certain country town charm.
The people were great and very hospitable and
the pace of life just as I had imagined the Carib-
bean would be. Saying that, when something
needed to be celebrated ,it was done in style and
the town came alive. Some of my best memories
are from the Charlotteville Fisherman's festival;
great times I'll never forget! Working with the local
communities in Charlotteville and Speyside was
a little daunting at first. As an outsider, you are
very aware that people may think you are telling
them what to do, or how to live their lives. Gradu-
ally, as we continued to work with local schools
and became more familiar to the community, it got
easier. In Spring 2009, we held a marine conser-
vation march through Speyside that was attended

by over 150 people and involved 4 local schools. It
was great to see this level of support and showed
us that with hard work and persistence, progress
could be made.

Tell us what it is like to be underwater?

Diving to me is the closest you can come to space
exploration, without paying Richard Branson a
small fortune! The feeling of weightlessness is in-
describable until you've experienced it for yourself.
When I'm diving somewhere new, I feel like an
explorer on the edge of the known universe, every
overhang, rock face or swim through can reveal
something new!

What was some of the most interesting marine
creatures you encountered in Tobago?

Tobago has a rich and varied array of marine
creatures; there's something new to see on ev-
ery dive if you look closely enough. Some of the
most interesting marine creatures I encountered
included the Slimy Doris (Dendrodoris krebsii), a
large species of Nudibranch found only occasion-
ally across the Caribbean. Spongy Decorator Crabs
(Marcocoeloma tripinosum) were also amazing,

www.caribbean reefmag.com 17

- V

CONSERVATION CORNER // Conserving Tobago's Reefs

although very difficult to spot. They are extremely
well-camouflaged, covering themselves in marine
sponges to avoid predation. Seen on a night dive
in Speyside, these crabs prefer the yellow tube
sponge due to its abundance in this area.
Manta Rays, Dolphins, Caribbean Reef sharks and
Nurse sharks. I think Manta Rays (Manta birostris)
were the most humbling of all. For such large
animals (up to 22 ft. across), they are so graceful
and just beautiful to watch. One minute they can
be cruising slowly past you, the next they are gone
with one flap of their wings. So agile and fast for
creatures of that size!

What were some of the best dive spots and
memorable dive experiences in Tobago?

Sisters Rocks off the Caribbean coast where I had
one of the best dives during my time in Tobago.

An enormous shoal of silvers sides had gathered
in the shallows, creating a ceiling of flashing sil-
ver fish as the sunlight shone through them. They
moved together like a swarm of bees, changing
shape at an instant to avoid Barracudas hunting
them from below. Just an incredible sight and one
I'll never forget. There are also Japanese Gardens
and Bookends in Speyside had to be my favor-
ite sites. There's also a great dive on the eastern
point of Man 0 War Bay where it opens to the
ocean. Huge submerged boulders, steep rock walls
and a massive variety of fish species make this a
must for any diver visiting Tobago.

What were you able to take away from your time
at CCC?

Some great friends, some great memories and a
real sense of achievement from the work we did.



SThese underwater beauties are
more dangerous than you expect...


Perhaps sometime in the future, you may go fishing,
snorkeling, or even SCUBA diving in and around our
beautiful Caribbean seascape. It is possible that dur-
ing one of these activities, you may encounter a crea-
ture which you never encountered before. It will be a
beautiful fish, ranging in size from about 6 tol4 inches
long, with distinctive reddish- brown and white verti-
cal stripes that strongly resemble the patterning on a
zebra. The fish is usually seen hovering around coral
reefs and near rocks and crevices near the shore and
further out at sea. But do not be fooled by its beau-
ty. This fish has highly venomous fin spines that can
produce extremely painful puncture wounds on its
victim. The animal of which we speak has a name
that lends to its highly predatory nature, as it is well-
known for consuming many other organisms living
in the oceans. This fish is the Lionfish (Pterois voli-
tans), and it may be soon coming to the seas near you.

Lionfish are native to the Pacific, and therefore not
found in the Caribbean at this time. However, be-
cause of the aquarium trade in Florida and their re-
lease from these aquariums during previous hur-
ricane events, these animals have been sighted
throughout the entire Caribbean in Florida, the Ba-
hamas, Bonaire, and even Venezuela. Therefore, it
is only a matter of time before the Lionfish invades
your island's waters, if it hasn't already done so!!

Lionfish are voracious predators that will eat native
species of fish and crustaceans in large quantities. They
are equipped with venomous dorsal ventral and anal
spines which they use to maim their attackers, includ-
: ing humans. These fish have a high reproductive rate
all year round, and it is expected that their numbers in
the wild can become quite large if uncontrolled, as they
are not known to have any natural predators. Lionfish
grow at a fast rate and are able to outgrow other native
species with whom they compete for size and space.

www.c aribbean ree fmag .com 21

REEF AWARENESS // Lion of the Sea

Non-native marine fishes such as the Lionfish can
pose a major threat to marine fisheries, habitats
and eco-system function across the Caribbean.
Increased reports of non-native species and the
successful invasion of lionfish in Atlantic wa-
ters have proven the need for early warning and
rapid response to confirmed sightings. Therefore
if you do spot the lionfish on one of your out-
ings, DO NOT TOUCH IT! If you must handle
the fish to remove it from your hook or net, it is
recommended that a gaff be used or a thick pair
of gloves. If you happen to be stung by the lion-
fish, immediately immerse the wound in water
as hot as you can tolerate for fifteen minutes and

seek medical attention. Most importantly, if you
encounter this creature, whether in your country
or not, please contact your local Marine Affairs
Department immediately and provide the respon-
dents with the information that they need to aid
in combating the spread of this beautiful stranger.

22 www.caribbeanreefmag.com

Your AD should 1e er' .

To advertise with REEF
Magazine email :-

As glorious as the sea may
be, it is not for the faint of
heart. With its beautiful ar-
ray of corals, fish and algae, it
can also prove to be a place
of unforeseen accidents and
potential perils. The sea is an
extremely dynamic environ-
ment, one that poses many
challenges to the organisms
that reside there. For many of
them, danger is everywhere,
in many shapes and forms.
Whether it is in the form of
a hunting predator, or in the
form of changing current
strengths and directions,
many organisms fight daily to
survive. Therefore, numerous
marine animals have evolved
physically to adapt to their
ever-changing watery resi-
dence. Recently, while carry-

ing out my Marine Education
and Conservation school visits,
I asked a class of about twen-
ty- something seven-year old
kids what they thought was
the reason for the presence
of spines in marine creatures
such as the spiny sea urchin. A
zealous young man (let's call
him Boysie) jumped right out
of his seat to answer. After I
stopped him short to remind
him that he should always
put up his hand in class first,
before answering a question,
he acknowledged my cor-
rections by nodding eagerly
and then replied "Miss, them
spines is to kill we humans!"
You can of course imagine
the uproar of laughter from
Boysie's classmates as well as
my sheer amusement. Despite

this response from the mouth
of a babe, I have come to un-
derstand that many persons,
young and old alike, fear the
sea, and its inhabitants be-
cause they truly believe that
these creatures are out to get
them! Let's be real. Many TV
shows, movies and some nov-
els depict the great attacks of
animals of the deep blue unto
humans for no reason except
possibly for the total annihila-
tion of mankind! But it is im-
portant for us to understand
the purpose of the weaponry
possessed by some marine
creatures before adopting
many of these fallacies and
fears when it comes to Marine

As many marine enthusi-

www.cari bbeanreefmag.com




MARINE LIFE EXPLORED // Truth about the Spine

asts may have noticed, marine
animals are generally alert and
wary creatures. They behave
like this because they never
know when danger is imminent.
Almost all animals are in dan-
ger of predation, except for the
sharks which are well known
apex reef predators. Therefore, a
number of marine animals have
evolved a variety of morpho-
logical and behavioral modifica-
tions to protect themselves from
potential predators. Take the
Porcupinefish (Diodon hystrix),
for example. These creatures
are generally shy and evasive,
often retreating into protective

recesses when approached by
divers or snorkelers. With their
beige-colored back and small
dark spots on their bodies, these
animals can pale or darken in
attempts to camouflage them-
selves, when threatened. Por-
cupinefish are well-known for
inflating and erecting numerous
spikes when molested, which
lend to its resemblance to its
terrestrial counterpart, the Por-
cupine. Porcupinefish are often
confused with its cousin, the
Pufferfish. However, the spines
of the Porcupinefish are much
larger and heavier than the
Puffer. These simple but sharp

porcupine-like spines radiate
outward when the fish is in-
flated and are meant to ward off
'bad company'. However, they
can produce deep and painful
wounds when they come into
contact with a predator or an
unsuspecting visitor. The Porcu-
pinefish's spines are non-ven-
omous, but there are a number
of other sea inhabitants that
employ toxic weaponry to keep
the unwelcome at bay.

Southern Stingrays (Dasyatis
americana) can be found cruis-
ing over sand patches in and

www.caribbean reefmag.com 25

around coral reefs, but mostly
with their bodies buried in the
sand, with their eyes show-
ing just above the sand. Unlike
the Porcupinefish, stingrays
are quite docile and appear
unconcerned, often swimming
within close proximity to div-
ers. Stingrays are so gentle, that
they have come to accept the
presence of humans at a time
without fear, as evident at the
Stingray Sandbar in the Grand
Cayman, where hundreds of
people go to feed and swim
with the rays, often hundreds at
a time. It is only with frequent
and unbearable molestation
that these animals attack with

their whip-like tails. The sting-
ray's tail has one or two serrated
venomous spines at the base
of its tail which it embeds in its
molester's flesh during an at-
tack. Stingray venom can be
deadly to humans and the spine
is said to remain dangerous
even after the stingray's death.
It is said in Greek mythology
that the mighty King Odysseus
of Ithaca was killed when his
son, Telegonus, struck him with
a spear tipped with the spine of
a stingray.

Not all spiny sea creatures utilize
their spines solely for predator
evasion. There are some with

trusty multi-purpose spines as in
the case of Echinoderm (spiny-
skinned) creatures, such as sea
urchins and some sea stars.The
Long- Spined Sea Urchin (Dia-
dema antillarum) can be found
in almost all marine habitats.
This prickly creature is usually
all black occasionally with some
grayish white spines which
break off very easily into the
flesh of the unfortunate victim.
The embedded spines give off
a purple dye, which may cause
a slight discoloration under
the skin. Apart from the obvi-
ous protective purpose of the
sea urchin's lengthy spines, the
spines also promote secondary

26 www.caribbeanreefmag.com

locomotion and even substrate
attachment of the animal.The
sea urchin primarily moves via
the tubular feet on the under-
side of the organism; however,
spines present under the urchin
also assist in movement. Urchin
movement is extremely slow
but never painstaking (at least
for the urchin!). Furthermore,
Spiny urchins use their spines to
attach themselves to substrates
when they are not in motion, to
prevent them from being swept
away by the changing currents.
They embed their spines within
substrate cracks and crevices
and also vacuum the substrate
with their tubular feet to fa-

cilitate immobilization. Some
organisms do not rely on tubu-
lar feet for immobilization, but
trust their ability to camouflage
well and do not have to flee
from danger, but remain immo-
bilized until they feel the need
to relocate. One such creature
that exhibits this sort of behav-
iour is the Scorpionfish. The
various species of Scorpionfish
of the family Scorpaenidae are
cryptic fish that rely on camou-
flage.This fish family is among
the world's most venomous
marine fish species.They simply
lie motionless, looking more like
algae- covered rocks than fish.
Scorpionfish are so called be-

cause if one comes into contact
with the foredorsal spines of
this fish, it is likely that puncture
and envenomation will occur
that can cause severe pain and
illness. Afflictions on humans
by the spines usually occur due
to absent- mindedness while
walking on the sand or the reef
bed, (which is not supposed to
happen on the reef by the way!)
Scorpionfish are native to the
Caribbean and generally com-
mon; however, its less cryptic
cousin, the Lionfish is a beauti-
ful stranger with a deadly mis-

The Red Lionfish, (Pterois voli-

www.caribbean reefmag.com 27

MARINE LIFE EXPLORED // Truth about the Spine

tans) also of the family Scor-
paenidae are native to the
Pacific but are now known to be
rapidly invading Atlantic waters.
An attractive fish species, the
lionfish, is prized as an aquarium
species. However, image is not
everything. Despite its obvious
beauty, the Lionfish has 13 fin
spines that mean business, toxic
business. With no known natural

predators in the Caribbean, it is
a voracious predator, gobbling
up any creature it wants to feed
on. When it feels threatened,
the Lionfish injects venom into
its attacker via its lengthy and
graceful spines.They do not use
their spines to capture prey and
Lionfish do not generally attack
humans, unless provoked as
seen in previously mentioned

animal attacks.Their stings are
not deadly although individual
reactions may vary, but they are
incredibly painful.

The organisms we have so far
identified as armed and danger-
ous are not usually predated
on for food by humans in the
Caribbean. Unfortunately, some
creatures are avidly hunted by

marine predators and humans found hiding in reef crevices
alike.The Caribbean Spiny Lob- and recesses during the day
ster is a perfect candidate for and are quite wary when ap-
protection and thus has evolved preached by divers. Evolved for
its own assemblage of spinal the protection of their soft inner
weapons. The Spiny Lobster bodies, they have short horn-
(Panulirus argus) is among the like protrusions above their eyes
most hunted marine organ- and along their carapaces and
isms in the Caribbean. Prized long antennae. Researchers of
for its large size and delicious this species have revealed that
flesh, these creatures are often the juvenile lobsters are even
28 www.caribbeanreefmag.com

spinier than the adults.They
have identified that annual fish
mortality estimates can reach
as high as 78% for newly settled
juveniles and larvae on the reefs
versus 21% for adults, although
these results would vary, de-
pending on time of the year,
location and predominance of
certain species. This is under-
standable, as one can imagine

MARINE LIFE EXPLORED // Truth about the Spine

that juveniles and settling larvae
face greater challenges in avoid-
ing predators, and thus will have
to be awarded the full armor of
spines than its elder generation
.Lobster catchers often use a
gaff or thick PVC gloves when
handling these animals simply
because their"horns"are short
but serious, and are capable of
inflicting the most heinous of
wounds. Despite its spines, the
Caribbean Spiny Lobster preda-
tion is still on the rise and these
creatures have been identified
as an animal that could become
endangered in the near future.

And there you have it, the real
truth about marine animal

spines. So young Boysie (as well
as any other "Boysie's" out there)
if you are reading this, these
creatures aren't out to get you,
my dear. We feel the brunt of
these animal weapons when we
as marine visitors are inatten-
tive, or are not alert in the envi-
ronment which we visit. Some-
times, we humans just don't
understand the science behind
these animals' physical makeup
and we unknowingly interfere
with or molest them to the point
where they only react in the way
they know how. Even in the case
of the Spiny Lobster, we can see
the need for these organisms
to be armed for self defence
and protection. From the mo-

ment we enter the blue universe
below, we, as marine enthusi-
asts, are expected to keep our
eyes peeled and our hands to
ourselves to avoid causing any
discomfort to our hosts/hostess-
es and to avoid being maimed.
Now that you know you are not
the intended target, and your
fears have been put to rest, go
get your mask and snorkel. Now
that you know the truth about
spines, shouldn't you be getting
back in the water?

www.caribbean reefmag.com 29

DIVE STORIES // Dive Expedition Lessons


It was the usual sunny, breezy, day on the island of
Tobago. I was heading out to a dive site just off Man-
O-War Bay to do my deep-water dive. At this point,
my confidence level was fairly high.

I was accompanied by my friend, Tanya, a more expe-
rienced diver who had recently completed a 25-m
dive at Speyside. Our Dive Master took us out to
Sister's Rock on the diving map, one of the farthest
dive sites in Tobago.
We loaded the equipment onto the boat and shim-

mied into our wet suits. About twenty-five minutes
later, we arrived at the site. As we started getting
ready and I realized that my BCD (buoyancy control
device) had a minuscule leak. I didn't think anything
of it as the leak was barely noticeable- this was my
first mistake as we proceeded with the dive.
Once we were underwater, Tanya and I were having
a great time and in complete awe at the coral and
variety of fish swimming casually by us.There were
beautiful parrot fish and schools of wrasse slowing
down curiously to look at us.
As we began descending, I realized that I had a
problem maintaining my neutral buoyancy because
of the leak. The leak was actually a malfunction of
my release valve. I could not close the valve and the

30 www.caribbeanreefmag.com

air was constantly escaping through it. I informed
the Dive Master and he took two of my weights off
and we continued the dive. About five minutes later,
I decided it was best for me to surface. It was impos-
sible for me to continue as the leak worsened and
my breathing became laboured.
I gave the signal to Tanya and the Dive Master that
I was surfacing but they should continue their dive.
I started ascending slowly, without a safety stop as
I tried to keep an eye on Tanya and the Dive Master
but visibility was very poor, because of the strong
currents over the past few days. I
started to panic a bit but looked at
my depth gauge and saw that I was
almost at the top.
Once I reached the surface, I began
to inflate my BCD and realized that I
was not close to the boat. In fact, it
was far away and moving away from
me, towards deeper waters. I used
my whistle to get the diver's atten-
tion but the sound fell on deaf ears.
I couldn't even see the bubbles from
the divers below. I struggled to keep
myself afloat even though I kept
pressing the air button on my BCD.
I eventually removed the weights
from my weight belt.
I immediately panicked when I saw
that I was almost out of air. I wasn't
sure when Tanya and the Dive Mas-
ter would surface and the boat was
moving further away. What if I run
out of air and have to abandon my equipment? What
if I get tired of swimming?
About 20 minutes later, the boat turned around and
started coming in my direction. I stopped swim-
ming, made the signal of distressed diver at the
surface and blew my whistle. I saw when the boat
driver picked up Tanya and the Dive Master. The boat
was still moving in my direction, but I was quickly
running out of air. I looked back and saw the boat
coming closer. I made the distress signal again and I
saw the Dive Master pointing in my direction. Finally,
they found me! I swam to get closer to the boat.
I immediately felt relieved and collapsed on the deck
of the boat. Lesson learned never continue a dive
when you discover a problem before going under.




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