Wednesday, April 16, 2014

6 months of decompression

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael LombardiWith the blink of an eye, it had been six months since I had last been in the water. The last time I had been dry for that long was over a decade ago, but under very similar circumstances - that is taking the necessary time to incubate a new idea and take steps towards launching a new program.

While there's no place I'd rather be than underwater, from time to time it does take some sacrifice to do these development pushes, but it is indeed necessary to ratchet up new ideas to a successful place.

Leading up to this six month dry spell has been a very hard seven years of inshore commercial 'mud diving' here in Rhode Island, making in excess of 400 dives a year. While mostly very shallow, it was a lot of very long exposures, often exceeding 4 hours per working dive, and in some cases in excess of 8 hours per dive. It was dark, cold, and blanketed with the risks that come with underwater construction - overhead lifts, working with heavy equipment, differential pressure, and lots of bumps and bruises. I'd have had it no other way however, as this last stretch gave me the resources and in water comfort to interlace this work with my interests in mesophotic exploration.

During that seven year stretch, I often wrote about human adaptation to the subaquatic environment and lifestyle. Several changes were self-evident - increased lung capacity, heightened sensitivity to bright light, sound, color, loss of sense of smell, losing nails, various fungi, very dry skin, bacterial infections, mild DCS, and it goes on. One would think that a block of time off would be welcomed to recuperate from all this. However, it hasn't been an easy six months - in fact it's been a lengthy 6 months of decompression in many ways.

My weight has been in flux, I've suffered terrible skin rashes, had bouts of sleep apnea, general issues with posture (probably due to not being weightless for such a long period), and perhaps most interestingly I developed cold urticaria - or an allergy to the cold temperatures/weather of all things. It's not easy being landlocked.

This personal experience is of course only one data point, but does speak to my theory of human adaptability to a more aquatic lifestyle, or aquatic assimilation. I do believe that in time, our species will take steps towards that direction of evolution in our quest for the long term sustainability of our species.

As for today's dive - I met my first plunge into the cold early spring Massachusetts water with much the same shock of a newborn taking his first breaths of air - a gasp, shiver, shudder of uncertainly, but then quickly resettled into the world where I knew I belonged, have missed so dearly for the last six months, and a place that I can confidently say is as much our home here on Earth as anywhere.

Now the fun starts.

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