Written by Carlos
Underwater Photography by Jim
September 23, 2002
a beach barbecue the night before, we took the day off yesterday.
This was done primarily to 'off gas' the divers who have
been making three dives a day since we arrived at Nihoa.
Nitrogen builds up in the body and a day off gives it a
chance to purge any residual. We needed a day off; everyone
was fatigued, ground down by the sea and the sixteen hour
work days. As is my custom I went off by myself and biked
my way towards nowhere in particular. Generally I find that
when I have no real destination, the destination finds me.
Almost always it is the very place I should be, and I couldn't
have found it had I tried to think it through. I crossed
the giant runway and found an unused path that took me to
a point off the south end of the island that went by the
unglamorous name of Bulky Dump. Would anyone consciously
decide to go to a place named Bulky Dump? I know I wouldn't
but there is where I found myself.
there are any surfers reading this, my advice is to stop
now, skip over this part and move on to the next paragraph.)
I am a body surfer, not much of a board surfer, but I have
a keen appreciation of a beautiful wave. The waves off this
point were some of the finest I have ever seen. I looked
miles to the east and miles to the west and saw nothing
but breaks rolling into an off shore breeze that was holding
the faces with delicate perfection. Lefts and rights, awesome
wave after awesome wave, four to five feet the way Hawaiians
measure waves, eight to ten feet the way they are measured
by everybody else.
I made a place for myself in the sand and watched them roll
in, and thought about the purity of this place. Here are
all these perfect waves and not a single surfer, all these
giant fish (fifty to eighty pound ulua swimming around the
boat at night) and not a single fisherman, all these beautiful
birds and not a single poacher. It was as if I did not belong
here, that I had stumbled into some sacred place where humans
were not allowed. The perfection that existed here could
not be exploited, a perfect wave could not be ridden, should
not be ridden, it could only be appreciated for what it
was, nothing more. The fish appreciated for simply what
they are and the birds appreciated for what they are, not
for any pleasure they can give us in our exploitation of
you might ask, can I possibly exploit a wave by riding it?
Because, there must be places in the world that don't tolerate
a lineup of surfers that would otherwise blemish the utter
beauty and perfection of the waves. (Perhaps only surfers
can truly understand this logic.) There need to be places
in the world that cannot be violated by our mere presence,
we have long used up our violations. Places where we can't
ride a wave or walk on a beach because the monk seals may
or may not haul out on that beach. It is their beach, not
our beach. It is the fish's ocean, not our ocean. It is
the bird's sky, not our sky. There must be places where
it is not permissible to leave any evidence that we were
ever there. If you think about it, that is what a refuge
is all about; it is a refuge from humans, not so much a
sanctuary for wildlife, although it is both.
so I sat with the sea and the waves until late in the afternoon.
Sometimes I read a book and just let the sound of the waves
reverberate through me, after a while you don't need to
see them, just to hear them, to feel them is enough. And
when it was time, when I was cleansed of the pollutants
of the mind and soul, I gave thanks for wave's power and
its blessing and made my way back to the boat and my tribe.
This morning the sunrise occurs in spectacular fashion with
endless lineups of clouds sprayed with thick layers of crimsons
and gold, like the Rose Bowl Parade of floats working their
way down heaven's boulevard. The Documentation team is the
last to leave with Keoki Stender at the helm. He is a member
of the Rapture crew but had worked here on Midway
for two years and knows his way around the island. He takes
us to one of his favorite locations and we dive a cathedral
of rock formations with ethereal light streaming through
blue windows of porous caverns where big ulua (giant trevally)
weave their way in and out of grand shafts of filtered light.
Watt, our photographer, is tasked with 'shooting' some limu,
(seaweed), and we have coordinates for an old anchor in
Wells Harbor that Hans (our shipwreck expert) wanted tracked
down so after our dive we head that way, finding both the
limu and the anchor. In the doing, a pod of spinner dolphins
finds us. I love dolphin, they have literally saved my life,
and taught me precious lessons in the value of play.
They are curious about us, we are free diving the anchor
in twenty feet of water. They roll and spin their way towards
us, the ambassadors of friendliness. When we surface they
follow us up, then breakaway, turning and engaged with our
presence for a few moments. We float on the surface watching
the pod cruise by, some upside down, some in sexual play,
a few cavorting in the wild, rough play of the best troupers
in the seas. But we do not join them, we watch as they wait
for us to dive, but they do not wait long, and make one
more pass before leaving. I watch them vanish into their
sapphire sea; this time around it is enough to simply see
them in this place of refuge -- to witness the perfection
and harmony without having to ride the wave. This is their
ocean, their refuge, not mine.