St. Thomas USVI or Bust: 2013! – Day 16: Then there were six.

Plotted as carefully as possible to have great weather for a day of scuba diving. Started a little apprehensively as the sky was over-casted and there was going to be a full boat of a dozen divers. Things immediately started looking up as the day brightened and as every single person scheduled for the trip canceled. That left me with a lovely day and a private dive!! Headed down into the water looking forward for some amazing sights when I started having some pain in my left ear. Since this is nothing unusual for diving and it is the same type of pressure you feel on an airplane, I held my nose and exhaled in order to equalize the pressure before continuing any farther down than the 20-25 feet or so I had already descended. All of a sudden I heard a loud bang followed by whistling. And I started to spin. Everything became a blur and I had no idea which way was up or down or where I was. Images flew past me but all of them disorienting. The oxygen tank must have ruptured and the escaping air was throwing me in a spin. I started to feel sick. Panic set in. I thought I was going to drown. But I pushed back. I had been in life threatening situations before, and I fully intended to face more in the future. The boat couldn’t be too far, the drive master didn’t have anyone else to deal with so he would soon realize something was untoward, I was still getting air, there was hope. I tried to regain composure, orientate myself, and find either the boat or the dive master. The pain in my head was intense, and I couldn’t see straight, but soon enough the dive master appeared to give me a questioning OK hand sign. I gesticulated what my clouded mind hoped was distress. Apparently, it was less than precise. Not quite soon enough I made my problems clear (or made clear I had problems) and he helped me find the surface. My nose was bleeding, my head pounding, my world spinning. My tank was fine. What occurred happens to about 15% of people (although usually only when ascending): alternobaric vertigo, when you can’t pressurize properly and your inner ear on one side sends completely different ones than the other making typically basic concepts such as “that thing is in front of me and that other thing is not” impossible to comprehend. After a couple of breaks and a couple of further attempts to break the vertigo and continue/start the dive, I aborted. I gave it more than a fair try and in the end the possibilities were between having a disoriented, uncomfortable, and unpleasant scuba trek or death. I chose a third option. As of this writing there is a good deal of discomfort/pain from my left ear, the occasional dizziness, constant echo, and limited hearing and I may have to take a little trip to the hospital if things don't start improving, but for now there seems to be no permanent damage. This Denizen of the Day: the green moray eel, in all its terribly frighteningly slimy and squiggling form was chosen as it represents both the beauty and potential death that the ocean has to offer, as well as something I have not seen this trip and might have had the pleasure to have seen—provided I actually managed to have gone scuba diving today.