I can see very well….
Mar 30, 2014
|There’s a boat on the reef with a broken back
And I can see very well
There’s joke and I know it very well
It’s one of those that I told you long ago
Take my word I’m a madman don’t you know….
I left Mexico to once again travel half way around the world, I flew from Cancun to Atlanta to Tokyo to Bangkok where I had to switch Airports to catch a flight to Bali, Indonesia. The whole adventure was something like 43 hours from door to door (or should I say hotel to hotel).
I had to post up in Bali for a few days to recover. Not a bad place to recover if I do say so myself. I wandered the beach, met up with friends and ate delicious food. Oh yeah, and I slept a lot!
Recharged and ready for anything, I hopped the fast boat over to Gili Trawangan and once again was welcomed with open arms and an open heart to my friend Alfredo’s Villa. At this stage of the game I should probably be paying rent, for the amount of times I have stayed at his place and the length of my visits, you’d think I was a roommate not a guest. And I am never just popping in for a short stay, this time the plan was to stay for 6 weeks! God bless you Alfredo, you’re the best!
I was not here on the island strictly for pleasure or to bum around and work on my tan (though I did do a bit of both). I was on a mission, or should I say I was a part of a mission, the mission was to help my friend Will Goodman (a.k.a. The Doctor) achieve his dream and dive his JJ-CCR to a depth of 290 meters. Now this is no small feat, to put it into perspective, only 4 other people in the history of scuba diving have been that deep. More men have walked on the Moon then have been that deep. It is 30 Atmospheres of Pressure at that depth. Most sane people wouldn’t even think of going that deep. The best scuba divers in the world are afraid to go that deep. Any industry professional you ask or talk to about the dive says “don’t do it, it is too dangerous!”. HA! They don’t know The Doctor.
Okay, so I picked up where we had left off, or at least close to where we had left off. (If you - loyal reader - remember, I was in Gili T all of December 2013, helping and training with the Team preparing for the dive.) Of course Will has been training all along and also getting a few new Team members up to speed. So after some basic preparation and equipment configuration, I jumped right in - literally - my first full day back we did a training dive on Tunang Wall.
Tunang is a sea wall located off of the island of Lombok and so far we had run line down to a ledge at 198 meters (Will accomplished this on Christmas Eve Day). The plan was to continue training at this site and hope for the best - another steep drop off to 300+ meters. Over the next 3 weeks we did multiple dives at Tunang with various goals set for each dive and eventually Will went for the “push” dive and planned a dive to 220 Meters. We were all excited and a little nervous and when all was said and done a lot disappointed - for just over the ledge at 198 meters, the wall turned into a gentle sandy slope and though Will ran another 30 meters of line he only made it to 205 meters of depth. We had found the bottom.
Okay, so we needed a new plan. No worries, The Doctor is in the house! First things first, we all needed a few days off to rest and regroup.
Living on a tropical island paradise is good for the soul in many ways, for me I filled my soul with friends, and laughter, and great dinners, and a few parties along the way. During the days I lounged around at the dive shop or sat for hours, bare foot, drinking coffee at Kayu Cafe looking out over at Mt. Rinjani on Lombok and laughing way too hard with some really good friends. Then I would peddle my bicycle across the island to Alfredo’s Villa for an afternoon dip in the pool and a long bake in the sun. On more then one occasion I had the Back Whisperer work on my aches and pains. The nights were filled meeting up with friends for dinner, hitting the Monday Night Party at Blue Marlin and I even had the pleasure of catching a couple of “Snorkel Tests”.
On the “off” days I did sneak in some fun dives. Of course there were the old greats, like diving the Japanese Wreck, Rainbow Reef at Tunang, or even the day Alfredo, Will and I did a single tank fun dive to Shark Point. Hahaha… to see Will blowing bubbles with a bunch of Advanced Open Water Students flapping their way by was worth the entire trip. He even got attacked by a Trigger Fish at the end of the dive. Priceless! The highlight for me though was an afternoon on Will’s JJ-CCR (Closed Circuit Rebreather). Will and I spent and hour or so out at Bio Rocks and it was amazing. I am in serious trouble now - I see my own JJ-CCR in my future :-)
Back to the Mission at hand - Will diving to 290 meters. We needed a new plan, a new dive site, and we needed to do all of this fast in order to get ready for the last two Team members who were arriving soon to provide the deep support. Our window for the dive was approaching and we wanted to be over prepared. So what to do? Buy a rope, a really long rope, tie some weight to the bottom of it and go out in the middle of the ocean and throw it over. Success! After a few drops and a few recalculations on the GPS we found our dive sight - "Will’s Drop”. The next task at hand was to build a Deco Station (somewhere Will could hang out for a long time and decompress relatively safely and comfortably). Done! Now all we had to do was get the team and Will use to diving a half inch line in the middle of the ocean while drifting in the currents. We did multiple dives on the Line and by now our Deep Support had arrived and we worked on team drills and all the details to complete this dive successfully. We worked out all the kinks - literally. We were ready, Will was ready.
*I can only tell you the following tale from my perspective, I could try to get into the head of Will and I could speculate on what he was thinking or try to analyze the things he told us he was thinking, but that would not be fair to Will or do this tale justice. What I can tell you is that in my opinion, Will was trained to the max, he had started the serious training for this dive many, many months ago. Actually one could say he started training for this dive years ago when he became a Technical Diver. I do know the physical, mental and logistical work that Will put in was second to none. I can also tell you that in my humble opinion, if anybody in the world can do this dive successfully it’s Will.
All of the Team had arrived on the island and was trained up, we all knew our tasks, our jobs, our missions. Will had a dive plan, all the gases were blended and analyzed and labeled. The Team had their plan. The boats were scheduled, the food & beverages ordered, and the emergency procedures put into place. The last Team Meeting had been completed - if all went well we would go for the dive the following morning. It was a semi-secret, we didn’t want a circus atmosphere or any extra added pressure on Will to do the dive. If all the stars didn’t align, we wanted to be able to call the dive for any reason at any time. We all went our own way that night, to be and do what we had to do to be ready and alright with whatever happened the following day.
March 26, 2014
I was wide awake when my Alarm went off at 4 AM. I’d been rolling around in bed for hours, restless, alert, but not at all uncomfortable. A shower, a cup of coffee, a prayer and some meditation, it was time to go. I left Alfredo’s Villa in the pitch blackness, under a starry nights sky. It was now just before 5 AM and the Mosque was echoing out it’s call to prayer. My bicycle ride into the Village was special, other worldly, the breeze was actually cool, the singing from the Mosque actually good, I saw each and every goat before it could jump out and cause me to kill myself, it was going to be a good day.
Arriving at Blue Marlin Dive I found a few of my Team members already there and starting to prepare. One by one the rest of the Team arrived and we got everything all lined up and ready to roll. After a quick breakfast and a couple more cups of coffee, the boats arrived (one we were diving from and a speed boat in case of an emergency). We loaded the boats as the sun rose over Mt. Rinjani and I knew the gods were shining on us. It was spectacular. Now all we needed was Will. He arrived in top form, smiling, joking and he had laser like focus. We all posed on the beach for a Team photo and then shoved off for "WiIl’s Drop”.
It is about a 35 or 40 minute boat ride to the dive site and it was all business but not tense at all, the vibe was relaxed, easy, dare I say almost happy. The Team set out doing all the last minute safety checks on equipment, we checked and double checked everything. At this stage there isn’t much to talk about, we all know what is expected of us, what our jobs are. Of course I have to break the silence with a few jokes and some sarcasm, but that’s part of my job. The last thing before gearing up is that Will likes to close his eyes and visualize the dive. While Will was visualizing we all, one by one, quieted down and did our own version of visualizing the days dive, It was incredibly peaceful, for me, spiritual.
Game on. As we approach the GPS coordinates for "Will’s Drop” myself and American Jeff get the Line ready to drop. We’ve tied on the weights, tied on the surface buoy, and are standing poised and ready when the Captain calls out the spot. Weights go overboard and the line starts to play out and then, immediately gets tangled (F**K!), we added 100 meters of new line a few days before and had not dove it yet and being brand new it still has the kinks in it and twists around itself and makes our job hell. Not to worry, remember we are well trained at this point. Jeff and I struggle but keep calm and keep the scene serene and before we know it we are through the first 100 meters and the rest of the line plays out like a hot knife through butter. 350 meters of it….zzzzzzzzzz…… SPLASH! Buoy in, Line ready. Gear up.
The first two people overboard are Will and I. When we are all geared up and ready we backward roll into an incredibly calm sea and meet at the surface buoy. I do a bubble check on Will’s equipment and he on mine. We’re ready, or are we? Will gives me the hold signal and hangs on to the buoy at the surface and breathes, he just breathes, (we have talked a lot about the dive together and inevitably he always gets back to the fact that as long as he can breathe he can do the dive - everything can go wrong, his equipment can implode and stop working, he can be freezing cold, he can have HPNS, etc… etc… but as long as he can breathe), so breathe he does, at first what appears to me to be a little erratically but as I watch he becomes a machine, in, out, in, out, in, out, slow, steady, comfortable, breathe.
He looks at me then, and I swear I saw a smile, and he gives me the down sign and we go, down. Him fast, his decent is 35 meters/minute, I am right with him, until I’m not anymore, I need to stop at 21 meters and stage a 50% Deco Tank, but as I unclip to do the drop, I linger for just a few seconds and watch, in awe, as my instructor, mentor, friend, disappears out of sight into the abyss. Wow! I say a silent “Happy Dive” and get down to business. I stage the 50% at 21 meters and continue my descent. I level off at 45 meters and stage a 21/35 mix for WiIl to hopefully do a diluent flush with on his ascent but also to be there for him if he does an early turn around due to any problem whatsoever and has to do an open circuit bailout. That’s currently my job, to be his early turn around support if he needs it. I’ve dropped the 2 stage tanks and now I wait - the plan is that I wait for 25 minutes at 45 meters - if he has a problem and turns around, I will be there to assist him and help him safely ascend until the next support diver enters the water.
I’m neutrally buoyant, hovering at 42 meters, staring into the depths below, watching, waiting, thinking. Breathing. The minutes tick by, slowly. I’m alert, relaxed, and ready. I breathe and I wait. During my 25 minutes of bottom time Will never appears, that can only mean two things, he’s done the 290 meters and is on his ascent (which is the plan), or else…. well for me there is no or else. I start my ascent and on my way to my first deep stop the next two scheduled divers pass me on their descent. It’s Aussie Jeff and Simone, Will’s deep support. They’re on their way to 120 meters to meet Will. The plan is to meet him at 120 meters, check on his status, relieve him of his deep bailout gases, and aid him in his ascent. Simone will then send up a SMB (surface marker buoy) and depending on the color (bright yellow - All Good) or (dull yellow with wet notes attached - Problem) will depend on the schedule and support for the rest of the day. The Team on the surface is waiting anxiously. Me, I’m doing my decompression obligation and will not know what’s up until I surface.
I slowly break the surface of sea, I’m at the buoy and I signal the boat that I’m okay and to come get me. All I can think of is what color SMB was sent up. As I float over to the boat and start to take off my equipment the Team is visually exuberant, joyous, happy, they quickly inform me that the Bright Yellow SMB surfaced on time and as planned. Which tells us only one thing, so far Will is alright, physically alright, we have no idea how deep he went or any other details of his dive, after all he was alone and out of the two divers who met him at 120 meters, one of them, Simone, would be the first back on the boat, but he was not scheduled to complete his deco and surface for almost another hour. I climbed on board and settled in for a very long day.
The ocean was incredibly calm, I’ve never seen it anywhere near as calm as it was at that moment, it was like glass, the conditions were perfect. Sunny, warm, clear, there was little to no current the visibility in the water about 25 to 30 meters. Perfect. Theresia, one of the Team members kept everyone on a schedule and one by one they entered the water to do their job. Eventually Simone surfaced, gave us the okay sign and we pulled the boat alongside of him to bring him on board. I was impatiently waiting to hear the news, any news, on Will’s condition and of course on how deep he managed to dive. Simone said Will was doing great, when they met him they had to drop down to 130 meters to help him as he was shivering and freezing from the exposure to the cold temperatures at depth but otherwise he was great. He was on schedule and was by now in warmer waters and should be just fine. Okay great, how deep? Simone said he was busy removing tanks and getting Will moving again but that he thought he saw on one of Will’s Computers 249 meters. That’s deep, but not the depth needed for the world record. I was happy, Will was alive and well and on schedule but at the same time disappointed for Will and for the Team. Oh well, I figure we’ll just have to try again. Now concentrate at the task in hand and get Will to the surface safe and unbent.
We were rotating in and out of the water to make sure that there was always someone with Will and that none of us went into unnecessary deco. My next stint in the water was still a few hours away, so I applied a little sunscreen and sprawled out on the roof of the boat to soak up the sun. As I lie there I reflected on the day and the dive so far and couldn’t help but feel a little down. Not sad or upset or any real negative emotion, just down. All this work and ….
And the next diver to hit the surface - Jan (a.k.a. BFG) - climbed on board as giddy as I’ve ever seen him. He was literally bouncing around with joy. He had just spent an hour doing deco with Will and had the time to find out the story and see the computers and the news was …. 290 METERS! or deeper! The computer Simone had seen did say 249 meters, that’s when that one stopped working! Will had 4 computers with him in total. They ALL stopped working at some point. The one I’ve already mentioned stopped recording at 249 meters, two more stopped at 288 meters and the last one recorded 290 meters!!! Woo Hoo!! A new WORLD RECORD!!
The whole mood changed, the vibe was now electric! Simone got on his cell phone and started to text the good news to those back on land. The Team stuck to the plan but the news made the next hours fly by and made it way more enjoyable. I did two more hours in the water. My job was to go in and set up the Deco Station and to bring down hot soup and rehydration fluids for WiIl. Then to hang out and do my time with him while he continued his deco. It was amazing. I have done many hours of deco with the Doctor and he is incapable of staying still and chilling out, he is always doing something, tweaking, calculating, attempting to talk to me underwater (he insists that with the rebreather he can talk clearly and that I should be able to understand him, hahahahaha… to me it sounds like “hurmphhh, harrrrr, arrrgghh, humpfffff! okay” hahahaha….yeah sure?) and today I can almost understand everything he says. What is perfectly clear to me though is that I am doing deco with a legend. Today we have fun on deco, even pose for a picture or two. When I am finally relieved by the next support diver and leave Will at 9 meters I am elated, he is doing great, he is that much closer to the surface. Only 5 hours or so to go.
The total dive time was 9 hours and 52 minutes. verifiable recorded depth 290 meters. New World Record for Deepest Dive on a CCR, New World Record for Deepest Dive on an a Single Unmodified CCR, New World Record for Deepest Dive In A Wetsuit! Will surfaced tired and with a smile a mile wide. Once he was safely back on board we all couldn’t help but to start to celebrate, we laughed and joked and posed for pictures and savored the moment. He had done it. I knew he would. I love it when a plan comes together. Wow!
The boat pulled up to the beach back at Blue Marlin on Gili Trawangan as the sun was starting to set. There was a welcoming party waiting for Will and we all sat and watched as Will walked onto the beach and into the arms of his friends. The next hour or so was a blur of people and pictures, of congratulations and slaps on the back. The crew unloaded the boat, we cleaned and stowed away the equipment, and I peddled my bike back across the island towards Alfredo’s with a feeling of contentment. As long as I live I will never forget this day. Now that's diving!
That’s my side of the story, or at least to the best that I can articulate it. If you want to read more you can copy and paste the following URL’s into your web browser’s address bar and check out a few of the articles which have been circulating.
A few days later I left Gili Trawangan. My time was up for now, but we all know I’ll be back. Me, it was time to wander, I had a little island fever going on. I’m a City boy at heart and too much time on a tropical island makes me crave the chaos of a city, the exhaust fumes of traffic, the noise and honking of horns, the sound of a siren, people, crowds, cement, asphalt, I miss it all, I need it.
I hopped the fast boat back to Bali and arrived to find out that it was the day before Nyepi (the Balinese Day of Silence) - Huh? Silence? Actually not just silence, it is actually illegal to go outdoors and they have security on every street to make sure you obey, you are not allowed to leave your house or hotel, you can not make noise or go outside, EVERYTHING is closed. Even the Airport. No restaurants, no cars, no taxi’s nothing! Fortunately for me it was the day before Nyepi, I still had a chance to escape. On the eve of the day before Nyepi they throw a big party. So the island doesn’t actually close down until around midnight, but the roads start to get blocked off and shut down for the celebrations much earlier, around Noon, and by something like 5 PM it is impossible to get anywhere. My flight was at 5 PM, and fortunately I found one of the last willing taxi drivers around to take me to the Airport. I made it in the nick of time. Day of silence?
My plane took off over the island of the gods and I could see Gili on the horizon in the distance. Legend!