Roatan's Blackwater Dive! - My First

My first Blackwater dive!

“What?” you say, “Your first? But I’ve been reading THE BLOG…….”

OK, I have to admit that the first time I tried Blackwater diving was just recently on our fourth expedition, even though I have been writing about it. As I was the first person around the shop to hear of this kind of diving, and once we decided to offer it, I was pretty wrapped up in developing a marketable excursion. Hence, although aboard the boat, training the crew on tether, sea anchor deployment, and customer service, I never actually got wet.  Finally with training outta the way, it was time for the final test with me as a customer. There was no getting around it, I had to go.

Photo - Mickey Charteris - Larval Annemone 

Photo - Mickey Charteris - Larval Annemone 

But what the hey? Talking to the divers on previous dives, everything seen has been of the sea booger variety. {Side note: “Sea Boogers” is a description used at the shop to explain unknown tiny sightings}. Larval this, juvenile that, jelly whatever, are the descriptions I’ve been hearing. They are amazing creatures and the photos are mesmerizing. They show translucent organisms with bio-luminescence and filament tails, sometimes horrendous in features (seriously if these things weighed 5 pounds, I would move to another planet) but always tiny. What’s to be scared of?

Photo - Mickey Charteris - Hydro-medusa with unfortunate fish.

Photo - Mickey Charteris - Hydro-medusa with unfortunate fish.

The time has come. We are floating a couple of miles off shore on a moonless night, with dead flat seas and barely a breeze. The gang is setting up gear and we are suiting up. We giant stride in and are escorted to the bow of the boat on opposite sides, the lanyards are clipped to the drop-lines, and we submerge.

This is kinda creepy. It is a dark bottomless void where your vision stops at the end of your lights beam. Looking away, with the boat to your back gives the sensation of floating in nothing and can be a little disorienting, but a quick turnaround gives you a view of the vertical drop-lines and a reassurance of what is truly up.

The search begins playing the light about to find some of this cool stuff I’ve been hearing about. This is crazy stuff, with thread-like filaments stringing tiny bulbs in long rows, and there seem to be a few kinds of these. Many different small clusters of pyrosome colonies were out and about, along with tiny jellyfish, and this thing that looked like a cross between a shrimp and a cockroach all transparent so you could see the inner workings. Crazy stuff and I’ve never seen the like, but there was a little less than I had expected and later I was told by Roatan’s most experienced Blackwater diver, Mickey Charteris (4 times now) that every dive has been different and unique. As I was pondering this, a four foot shark swims by! Our first! It passes among the divers and the drop-lines and hangs around for 5 or 10 minutes. Curious little guy I guess.

After that excitement it is back to the Sea Boogers and the hunt for the unique. At 55 minutes into the dive, I was getting a little cool and had seen quite a few pelagic organisms, so I thought I’d signal Mickey and get back on the boat a little early. As I turn to get his attention, an eight foot Silky shark materializes out of the black and is swimming right at him! Nobody is cold now.

Photo - Mickey Charteris - Silky shark

Photo - Mickey Charteris - Silky shark

The shark seems to be attracted to Mickey’s light and makes right for it. Mickey, true to form, has the light right in the shark’s face with his camera right next to it, the flash goes off, and the shark veers away a little and into the black, almost. It turns, seems to locate on the light, and comes back in for another pass with a repeat performance by both diver and shark. Personally I am a safe twenty feet away while watching this action. Back and forth six or eight times the shark makes passes at the diver and light, not seeming overly aggressive but more curious and confused by the lights. Some passes are quite close with diver and shark bumping fins! Finally, perhaps a bit frustrated, the shark  fades into the black of the surrounding ocean.

By collective agreement we do not take part in the lights-out portion of the dive. We ascend and get back on the boat, start shedding and stowing gear, when there is a “Look who’s here!” Our friend the shark is back milling around in the cabin lights that spill from the boat. He circles the boat for about 10 minutes giving us the ol’ one-eye.

Regretting a lost morsel?