Wednesday, October 05, 2005

In darkness, spinning

So, I went back to the cove on a very overcast evening.  No camera this time, because I was sure there would be no light to photograph with.  Regretting it now though – I passed a large and very dramatic fire in a field en route.  

The cove itself was dimly lit by the skyglow of a nearby town. The phosphorence was strong, green glows appearing spontaneously on the surface of the cove. At first I thought these were triggered by fish – but, searching with my torch, I found only drifting clumps of seaweed.

A fresh southerly breeze was sending small sloppy waves to slap about the walls of the cove – not the best for visibility.  However… I decided that I had driven too far to turn tail now, and slipped in.  I found myself gasping through my snorkel at the shock of the temperature – tried to put my face down, but recoiled from the chill – the water cold enough on this autumn night to cause actual pain.

At the mouth of the cove, on the eastern side, there lies a sea cave with a very exposed entrance.  I approached very cautiously indeed, keeping to the sides (although my gloved hands found few grips – sea caves are generally worn very smooth below the high-tide mark).  Deep water mitigated the surge and backwash, however, and it was quite easy to penetrate safely (in a controlled way) to a largish round chamber with a very high roof.  A narrow neck led from this to a small and very low-roofed inner chamber, where the sea was making a terrible din. The booming might lead an imaginative sort to imagine an imprisoned monster beating at the walls of his cell - but not me, obviously!  I decided that I liked having a reliable supply of air overhead, and retreated to open water.  Advice for readers: when entering a strange sea-cave, equate loud booming with very limited airspaces.  

About this time, I decided to try my theory that swimming fish would be easy to find, on account of the phosphorence.  Switching off my torch, my own mask could be seen to make sparks, but the water beyond was abyssal-black.  Hanging in the darkness and cold of a moonless night, I became severely disorientated with frightening speed.  Although completely stationary in a cruciform face-down float and moving only slightly with the passing waves, I began to feel that I was spinning and tumbling over and over,  the sensation strengthening with each second, and (imaginary) speed increasing.   At first, I thought that I might wait a while, and see what other phantoms my senses might produce when deprived of external references – but common sense prevailed, and I switched on my torch – and the “movement” stopped.

Cold, mildly disorientated and, yes, slightly daunted by my experiences, I retreated to the slipway – where I was very pleased to find the backup torch which had slipped off my wrist at an early stage of the swim.  Total sea-life spotted: one small crab, one fish.  The new torch is very powerful, but the beam is also very narrow.  Lessons: find that hood.

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