sexta-feira, 20 de janeiro de 2012

Diving in Yongala

“When her air gets low, I will come back”, our diver instructor said after hearing I had just gotten my PADI license.

“Does anyone would like to stay longer under water, if I come back earlier with her?” he asked.

The other five divers, except my buddy, answered yes.

Everyone was there to see a 109 meter-ship (358 ft), called Yongala that sank in 1911, off east coast of Australia. It was discovered in 1958 and it has since become a tourist attraction.

While our instructor explained that we would have to hold ourselves on a rope for 15 meters (50 ft) to face a current, and then swim down 10 meters (32 ft) to appreciate Yongala, I felt nervous; it was my first dive out of school, and the weather conditions were not helping.

“Put on your gear. It’s time”, he announced.

Other two groups were right after us; the current was much stronger than I imagined, during our descent I checked my air, and realized I was breathing faster than usual.

“No matter what, breathe peacefully.” I repeated the first principle of diving.
Thirteen meters had passed and we couldn’t see Yongala, although the water was clear. Less than a couple of meters after that, she started appearing. It was almost time to release the rope and swim.

At this point, the three groups were quite mixed; we were all anxious; one guy gave up and another freaked out, releasing the rope.

It was my turn to go as quickly as I could. I tightened my arms along my body, put my toes in a ballet position and swam only with my legs in a horizontal position, heading down. My buddy was waiting for me to make sure I would do it.

Yongala was not a simply shipwreck; through the years it had become an artificial reef where a diverse range of marine life has built its habitat.

To swim around her was hypnotizing. When I saw a green moray that I thought was a snake from Medusa’s head, I stopped in front of it and got stuck.

My buddy pressed my arm, doing an ok sign, and pointing our instructor going up to see Yongala from above, as we had planned. I tried to say with my hands that I couldn’t leave. He calmly pushed me.

I swam as slowly as possible looking at that green moray. My buddy pressed my arm again, pointing something over us.

“Oh my… we took the wrong way and got inside the ship.” 

He pointed up again and did another sign with his hand as he was seeing something worth it. I was too worried about the roof above us to see it. Then he did a cool sign as surfers do.

We were not inside the ship, the thing above us was not a roof; it was a huge sting ray taking its time.

At this point, our instructor asked how much air we had.

“80 bars.” I showed with my hands, getting worried about my buddy. Generally, men have bigger lungs and need more air. We still had a long way to struggle and two stops to make before ascending. My buddy had around 60.

Our instructor signed that we should go back.

As we reached the top of the ship the current got stronger, but this time in our favor, we were heading back. It was a perfect condition to use another dive principle: be lazy.

The less effort we made the better to assure we would have air to stop for five minutes at ten meters and for three minutes at five meters, and avoid damaging in our ears.

Reaching the rope this time was easier, but groups again were mixed and some people were desperate. They were probably running out of air. As they were swimming with their arms and jumping over others, I thought I had to do something to keep safe.

I saw that our instructor had released the rope to allow them to go first, and he held himself. I was not sure if I was strong enough to do that. I blew my air while releasing the rope, getting down; when those guys jumped over me there was no resistance; before the current took me away my buddy held my arm, and we both supported the principle of looking cool.

And I felt tough to have done all that.
One hour later we were diving again, with fewer people.

To go to Yongala:
You can take a boat trip from Townsville, Magnetic Island, or from Alva Beach in Air/Australia.
From Townsville and Magnetic Island it takes three hours; from Alva Beach-Air it takes 30 minutes.
Requirement: you need to have done a dive course.
It costs around AUD$175, from Townsville in Jan-12. 

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