2000-10 Two Fathoms Below the Mast

By Ty Sawyer

Golden doubloons. The mere mention of this antique Spanish currency fires the imagination. In Moby Dick, Captain Ahab spurred his men into a frenzy of desire by nailing a golden doubloon to the mast of the Pequod, as reward for the first sailor to sight the great whale.

Pirates and other sea dogs prowled the trade routes and ports of the Caribbean to fill their pirate chests with this treasure coin. Lost fortunes of men whose world was dominated by the whimsy of the weather, commanded by the compass and confined to a few square feet of creaking wooden deck may still remain buried in the sea's shifting sands. But despite a life at sea, almost none of the men that stood before the mast dared peer below the surface of the water. To superstitious sailors, most of whom couldn't swim, the sea was an adversary and the creatures within were the devil's denizens.

So Little Cayman's Bloody Bay Wall, the color-laden coral world off St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the breathtaking drop-offs beneath St. Lucia's sky-piercing pitons remained a dark world of blue mystery. And although many a man hid out in the secluded cays of the Bahamas, none cavorted with dolphins and certainly none would have considered a shark feed the highlight of a "Pirate's Holiday."

Today, of course, we roam the Caribbean in search of adventure below the mast. And modern-day treasure seekers like Bob Marx prowl the sands and reefs below the surface with the same swaggering verve and single-minded audacity as the treasure seekers who came before him. As for Captain Ahab-he would probably light the very air afire if upon hearing, "Thar she blows!" he saw his men jump in the water off Dominica armed with only cameras and silly grins, simply wanting to savor an encounter with the mighty Sperm Whale.

But such is the diver's life. And such is the treasure we seek.