Field Report: A Deep See Experience


December 2nd was an exciting day for me. We were in Cocos Island National Park, a teeming marine habitat 300 miles off Costa Rica’s west coast. And it was my first time in a submarine. As I put on the blue DeepSee jumpsuit, my adrenaline surged. What would it be like going down deep? How safe is this? What would we see?

I jumped onto the sub platform, carefully avoiding the controls, and wormed my way into my seat. Our pilot Avi Klapfer checked the valves and electronics, made sure the oxygen was functional and shut the clear acrylic, 10-foot wide dome above our heads.

Most subs are metal with small portholes. This rig is a complete 360-degree clear dome making for an unparalleled visual experience. MFF crew member DJ Roller was in the other passenger seat with the RED Epic camera, and I was armed with a GoPro and my Canon 5D Mark II. We were ready to descend.

The thrusters shuddered as we left the platform of our mother ship, the Argos, and were towed out toward the Everest Sea mount. Ichthyologist Richard Pyle, underwater cinematographer Howard Hall and sub pilot/dive master Schmulik Blum followed us in a skiff.

 

 

The towboat stopped and Mano jumped in the water, unhooked the towline, swam toward us, and pushed! (The sub is positively buoyant so it needs help getting the thrusters submerged to start diving.) It was funny to see a short, wiry, 120-pound Costa Rican pushing our 15,000-pound craft underwater!

The waves slapped against the sides, washed over the dome, and the white clouds changed to crystal blue as we left the surface behind us. I was awestruck. It was completely clear – I couldn’t even see the dome! I was simply floating in my bubble, perfectly comfortable in an underwater world. Incredible. (Watch our short time-lapse video of the DeepSee dive experience here).

Howard, Shmulik and Richard, all elite divers, hung onto the outside of the sub for a rapid descent. It felt James Bond-ish as they streamlined behind us, perfectly symmetrical with their high-tech rebreathers to dive deeper and longer (Watch as Richard Pyle talks about cutting-edge rebreather technology). The sub dropped 10 meters a minute and the gentlemen held on tightly – half way down to the Everest seamount, with a ripping current in what is called the coral reef “Twilight Zone.” This isn’t a place where you want to lose your grip.

At 210 feet, we reached the seamount and the divers swam off, just outside the glass, among large groupers and schooling Amberjacks, which were passing between us and the huge undersea mountain. I was warm, dry, comfortable, with the same atmospheric pressure as on land, while the divers on the other side of the glass were swimming in brutally cold water with crazy pressure pushing against their bodies. I can’t imagine how their ears felt. They had small camera lights that made them look like space men against the silhouette of the massive seamount, beyond the glow of the sub’s powerful HMI lights. It felt like a movie set for The Abyss.

After 30 minutes, they said goodbye and started their long ascent. The divers would have an hour-long decompression before they would reach the surface.  Cold, cold, cold.

We kept going deeper.

We saw swarms of yellow fish go right over us, coral at 350 feet deep, Galapagos sharks, manta rays, hammerheads and too many things to name in our three hours down there. What a dive, what a sub, what a place.

After covering a mile of ocean floor, we popped back up next to the Argos.  As we surfaced and entered the bay, the beautiful dome around us, we felt like fish in a fish bowl as the crew on deck snapped photos.

“Thank you for flying with us today. I hope you enjoyed it and please come back often!” Avi said.

I can’t wait for my next trip down…

 

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