Up Jumped the Devil

SCUBA diving nowadays is a mixed bag.  I’ve been doing it for 40 years.  When I started, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, the underwater world was pristine and full of life.  I remember my first dives in Grand Cayman with a 250-pound goliath grouper and through a tunnel formed by thriving elkhorn coral, in Cozumel with vibrant reefs all around, and in Bonaire with rivers of blue fish (I forget the name) flowing around the island at dusk.  That was before I had the money to dive farther afield.  Later, I explored Palau and the Red Sea and Cocos Island—all brimming with exotic life, some the same and some different from the Caribbean, and even more vibrant.  As the years passed, I periodically returned to the Caribbean but was drawn more to the parts of the world’s oceans where the ocean life was ever more densely packed and beautiful, such as Fiji and Palau, and my personal favorite, Indonesia.  

As my dive buddy friend (we met on a liveaboard in Turks and Caicos in 1999) and I grew older, our far flung trips sometimes became shorter, and we increasingly returned to the Caribbean—the site of many intervening oil spills, increasingly violent and frequent hurricanes, hundreds of cruise ships, thousands and thousands of people, and the introduction of millions of invasive, voracious lionfish.  Gone were the goliath grouper, the forests of elkhorn coral, and the big schools of fish.  The beautiful, delicate corals and sponges that I had taken for granted struggled to do the only thing they know how to do—live.  The ocean had not fared well; the balance was gone. The balance is gone.

Today we dove on a site in the Bahamas called “Up Jumped the Devil.”  I cannot think of a more fitting name.  The structure of the underlying land is impressive—a wall, canyons, pinnacles, islands of coral heads, a structure so intricate and varied, a substrate ready made for a magical kingdom of color and life.  Instead, what we saw was algae, algae of many different kinds covering everything.  There were few fish, some pockets of schools of tiny fingerlings hard at work to make a life for themselves, one small lionfish, a few patches of hard corals struggling to survive, and a sponge here and there.  The rest, every vertical and horizontal surface, was covered with algae.  The balance is gone.  The Devil reigns.

Back on the boat, the young divemaster, full of youth and promise, asked the question all divers hear over and over, “How was your dive?”  I answered, “Heartbreaking.  Imagine how it once looked, and now everything is dying.”  He said, “We have treated the world very badly.  Very badly.”  Youth and promise looks at tragedy.  He cannot heal this tragedy alone.  

November 2023

2 thoughts on “Up Jumped the Devil”

  1. Your 1st blog of “Up Jumped the Devil” has brought me back through time and many of our extraordinarily beautiful dives we have shared. We are so fortunate to have experienced sea life in its healthy and thriving days.

    Keep blogging.

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