2000-06 Big

By Ty Sawyer

You're on the water, at the edge of a reef system the size of Cozumel. No one else is there. For days you've been exploring and haven't even seen another boat. And you're about to dive a site that perhaps 20 people, or less, have visited since water first appeared on earth. And everything's big and pristine. Oh, and did I mention, you're in the Caribbean? Did I also mention it's now remarkably easy to get to? When I called Brad Doane and told him he was going to dive Chinchorro, he said, "You mean it really exists?" I said, "I hope so," gave him a ticket and aimed him towards Quintana Roo on the Yucatan peninsula. He was naturally leery. Then came the hard part. "Brad, come home," I said. "But...but..." "Deadlines!" I said. I could feel the reluctance on the other side of the phone. And, no, this is not a nitrogen-induced fantasy. It's there. Waiting.

What is a diving fantasy come true, though, is Doug Perrine's cautionary and exhilarating "Whale Song" feature. Most of us dream of diving with whales, but for something so massive, whales are pretty dang elusive. You have to know where to go, when, and what to do once you find them.

A friend of mine, after years of diving, had an accidental encounter off the coast of Southern California at a site she'd emptied hundreds of tanks exploring. Hardly in the water long enough to descend to the bottom, she was greeted by a juvenile Gray Whale. For about 15 minutes, this 20-foot-long toddler adopted her, and her attitude after the experience was, "My life is now complete." Apparently it's pretty overwhelming. And, it's good to know that the sea can still surprise. But, if she'd read Perrine's article, her life could've been
complete a lot sooner.

The best part about my friend's encounter was that it took place at her favorite local site. She, like most of us, drives to her favorite water haunts, gears up in the shadow of her vehicle and enjoys whatever wetness she can. And anyone who has ever packed dive gear for four for a weekend of diving into a Honda Accord will appreciate our feature on the "Ultimate Gear Bag-SUVs." Unlike cars, some of these big boys have interior space on par with the belly of one of Perrine's whales and enough power to tow your favorite boat and the dock it's attached to.

Sometimes, you see, it's important to dwell on big things-big blue spaces, big creature encounters and big air-conditioned dive bags.