The wonder of underwater

There’s something quite magical about being underwater. The least good place is in the bath, and even that’s pretty awesome. When you put your ears under and hear how different it is – that’s when it gets good.

The swimming pool is great, too (as long as you can stop yourself thinking about what else has been in that water you’re swimming in, and why the pool is so heavily chlorinated – yeuch!) and you can wear goggles and see underwater when you dunk in. You can swim underwater too, just to get the full experience.

Snorkelling’s fun. I had an approximate experience once in the South of France on a school trip with a leaky mask and a snorkel that wouldn’t, but I got to see some little fish and watch the way the light rippled on the sand and how everything disappeared into bright blue haze after a while.

Swimming in the sea around the UK is a somewhat different matter. Even at its clearest, there is no Mediterranean blue going on. The water is probably shivery (at best) and if you don’t keep your eyes under the ocean, you’ll likely discover you’re a)way out of your depth or b)centimetres from scraping your extremities on a hidden rocky ledge. Or (as I did this year) both.

I have the opportunity (at a cost) to undertake a PADI certificate. I’m not going to, not least because I’d be the only girl in a group of boys, and of those boys, most would be 5-10 years younger than me. Also I don’t think I’d ever use it. But one day, in the right place (by which I mean somewhere warm, reefy and sun-kissed), I’d like to have a proper go at being underwater.

It’s a terribly geeky thing to admit, but I wish I was brainier and science-y so that I could have a non-tourist reason to visit Woods Hole. I’d love a go in Alvin. And it’s not just because some of the scientists I most respect have connections with Woods Hole…really.

I also want to be able to surf. I bought  a surfboard years ago (7′ tall, Cortez brand, blue and yellow and lovely) and had one highly auspicious go on a beach where no surfboard had business being (steep bank just offshore; huge waves crashing right onto the beach) and got wiped out before I even paddled out to sea, then got swept back in up the shingle, clinging to the board in a most undignified way. At that point I decided that prescription goggles were necessary, as well as a brain. I bought some more surf gear this year but still haven’t used it. I told myself I was waiting for a Summer that never happened…

I was delighted to come across this today on an art blog I follow. I love the idea of sculpture becoming reef, becoming living art. The photos are beautiful and if nothing else will bring something to your day you didn’t expect.

Underwater is a great place to be and I find it hard to comprehend (particularly when visibility is good) how people struggle with it. Maybe it’s the worrying-about-not-breathing thing. To me it’s magical. I remember as a child reading a description by Gerald Durrell of how he was floating near the shore off Corfu, listening to the music the waves made as they lapped at the shore, and how he thought the stones and shells were singing to him in a kind of ‘Wooooooosh scrunch, scrunch, crunch, tinkle tinkle’ and how, as night drew in, he began to see the phosphorescence in the water lighting up the swimmers’ bodies with a kind of ‘cold fire’ as they moved through the sea.

Water featured in my day today, though it was in large puddle form in a forest, rather than my favourite (the sea). Still, fun was had and dens were built. Maybe forests are a second best, but I do love being immersed in nature – I just prefer the blue stuff to the green.


8 thoughts on “The wonder of underwater

  1. Did you know that's a myth, about peeing on jellyfish stings? It's actually vinegar that works. But yes, best to stay out of the way.

    And I guess in terms of risk assessment, the amount of damage a shark could cause means it's worth paying more attention to, perhaps. I'd love to have a go in one of those cages one day where the sharks come up close. I remember buying a book on sharks at a book fair at school when I was 8 or so and getting into terrible trouble because it wasn't one I'd said I wanted, but I saw it on the day and loved it.


  2. While in my head I know sharks are a very, very minimal threat, when they do strike, they cause major damage. A jellyfish sting, on the other hand, just means you're going to get peed on. Both are fascinating to watch. While in Bermuda (no, I haven't written about it. I will someday.) there was a month or so when Portuguese man-o-war hung out at the one beach. I was smart enough not to go in the water with them, but the water is so clear we could see them swimming from shore. Beautiful.


  3. I shall try to reign in my holiday envy! Snorkelling's going to be awesome. Are you taking an underwater camera? Jellyfish can't swim towards you, so just be aware of currents if you see any, and stay downstream. Sharks shouldn't be a problem – there's really only a couple of species which are known to actively pursue humans (one I think is not native to D.R.) and they certainly wouldn't frequent popular dive spots, so stay in the tourist diving-y areas and you'll be fine.


  4. There are places in Cornwall, Wales and Ireland which are world-famous surf spots. Lesser known gems, you might say. Sadly the place I attempted to surf was none of these.

    I love sharks, so not worried about being in the sea with them – perhaps it's because I'm short-sighted but the thing I don't like is low visibility. I probably wouldn't be thrilled about jellyfish either, though if I could see and avoid them, they're fascinating to watch.

    Living in Bermuda must've been amazing! Have you ever blogged about it? I wish I lived closer to the sea because I'd rather swim there than in a pool – I can't stand the smell of chlorine as it doesn't leave for days, no matter how much you wash.


  5. I love being underwater and the free feeling that it gives you as you float and swim underneath it. I'm looking forward to my holiday in the Dominican Republic… however not looking forward to the sharks and jelly fish… but other than that the snorkelling is going to be fun =)


  6. Oh, I love the underwater, too. The only reason I am looking forward to my kids getting older and school-aged is it will give me the chance to go swim laps. Lots and lots of laps.
    The image you drew of your surfboarding cracked me up. I had no idea people could even surf anywhere near your neck of the world.
    For a short 7 months my husband and I lived in Bermuda. I was so happy to be in a place where the ocean was within a few feet in all directions. If only the ocean didn't have salt and sharks. If that were the case, you'd never get me out of the water.


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