Little Cayman’s Bloody Bay Wall is a vertical drop-off. The top of the reef is comfortably shallow at seven metres, but pop over the edge and there’s nothing to stop you until hit bottom at 300 metres. There is something truly magical about experiencing this on just a lungful; come with me…
Ok, so we’ve snorkelled across the reef and while the dive boat sorts itself out, we’re just resting on the surface looking down into blue merging into indigo. We’re lying with our heads facing to the northwest, with the sun on our backs. We can see the sunbeams like a halo surrounding us, with rippling shafts of light cutting down through the water, pointing out our path into the abyss. We breathe normally; we are relaxed; we are content.
We are aware of divers in the water now. As they complete their buddy checks, we fin back over to the top of the reef. We breathe with slightly more intent, but these breaths are only for preparatory dives. We glide down and swim with a turtle for a while; it seems neither afraid of us, nor that interested in us.
The divers have set off in a procession now. They have reached the edge of the reef and are following the sheer drop obliquely down, studying the reef as they go. Our aim is to track them from the surface, staying in front and waiting until they level out at thirty metres – the depth limit imposed by most holiday dive operations.
That’s it, they’ve slowed, they’ve reached their maximum depth. We continue to lie in their air-stream, exhaust bubbles bursting all around us. We move ahead of them again and make our final preparations for the dive. We close our eyes now and relax, then we start our ‘breathe-up’. One final concerted exhalation as we draw our knees up under us and force our diaphragms to eject as much air as we can. We pressurise our ears and take our final breath, packing in as much air as we can manage, and then in one smooth motion we flick our legs vertically out of the water so that their weight pushes us downwards. As soon as our fins are below the surface we take several strong fin-strokes, driving ourselves into negative buoyancy. We pass by the edge of the reef and continue into the abyss. We adopt a streamlined posture to ease our passage through the water. We orientate ourselves so that we are facing the reef; watching the teeming life will divert our attention from the urge to breathe.
As the depth increases we continue to pressurise our middle ears and sinuses, we breathe out through our noses just enough to stop our ultra-low-volume dive masks from squeezing onto our faces and damaging our eyes and their surrounding tissue.
We’ve stopped finning now, we are beyond the point of positive buoyancy and have started to accelerate effortlessly into the abyss.
We slow our decent by swinging our feet up and adopting a crossed leg position, holding the blades of our fins to ensure that we remain relaxed.
Our lungs were crushed some while ago and our stomachs have pushed up behind our diaphragms to help fill the void, leaving a pronounced hollowness between our ribs and our pubic bones.
We have drifted away from the reef now. As we look up we can see the divers above us. Time for us to think about the trip back to the surface, but before we do, take a look around and allow your senses to appreciate the majesty and the enormity of this environment. It is a dark grey world down here; most red light was filtered out by the time we reached ten metres and then, as we descended, the blue world turned to grey; look down and feel yourself drawn into empty blackness. For us this is a silent world now; we are too deep to be aware of the elemental interaction between sea and air. As we drift further down, away from the divers, the sound of their breathing fades to a whisper. We are virtually weightless, suspended in a shadowy void, with only the sense of increasing pressure telling us that we are drifting still deeper as a warm glow of intoxication envelops us… hold that thought!