Just like this
Not at all like this
“Javohl Herr Kommandant!” (disregard the linguistic illogic here, this is my story.)
– sound of Klaxon horn – “Ahhh-ooo-Gahhh!” –
Ah, submarines. You gotta love ‘em. At least submarine movies. Serving on one was a bit different what with all those depth charges and stuff. A friend of mine served on a US Navy sub during the Korean War. Said you had to get out of your bunk in order to turn over in bed.
That notwithstanding, I had long wondered what it was like to actually ride on a sub. And a little over a week ago I got to find out.
I first heard about the ‘Atlantis’ subs of the Hawaiian Islands many years ago and said to my wife of the day that I wanted to ride on one. Somehow that hadn’t panned out. But when Wendy and I were down on the Big Island I told her I’d really like to give it a shot. To my delight, she was up for it.
Since the sub cruises quite silently with its whirring and non-polluting electric motors at more than 100 feet below the surface you get the same impact as an experienced Scuba diver might without getting wet, or taking any sort of risk. Struck me as a good compromise since I don’t Scuba and snorkeling had been rendered lousy on this trip due to the high surf we were experiencing.
Wendy asked me on the morning we’d booked the hour-long trip if I was nervous. Almost surprisingly to me I wasn’t in the slightest. I did limit my early morning coffee intake to only one cup, however, reckoning that the diuretic impact of my cuppa would mean I’d be desperate to pee part way into the trip. In that regard the operators of the service advised folks to void prior to departure since there was nothing resembling a restroom in the relatively small craft and a body couldn’t possibly step outside to spend-a-penny.
The rest of the operation was straightforward. Those of us going – only a handful as it turned out – strolled along the Kona pier to a waiting tender that was to take us on our way to the sub moored well out in the harbor. Irksome was the fact there were two very young children going along. Despite a caveat from the operators that passengers had to be at least 3 feet tall (I made the cut), I guess their paltry numbers made them decide to let the tots on. Big mistake. Indeed, the only downside to the trip was that the kids (being kids) screeched and squealed every time we saw a fish and the parents offered no admonitions for their loudness, let alone beating them. Too bad standards have declined so badly. Well, if not a beating, then what is wrong with an old-fashioned “SHHHHHHHHHHH!” My own mental chastisement ran more in the area of “Shut the fuck up you wretched urchins!” Oh well.
That bit of irritation stated, the trip was otherwise quite exciting. The seating area consists of a central row of seats that enable one to switch from one side of the craft to the other, with portholes running down both sides (unlike a real sub on which there is nothing resembling a window). Speaking of portholes, as an aside, did you ever wonder why windows on the right side of a ship aren’t called ‘starboardholes’? I get vexed by such considerations.
An LED meter on the bulkhead showed us the depth we were traveling at as we made our descent. It was all, in a word, ‘cool’. Other than the rowdy brats I loved every bit of the trip except for one notable paucity – no sharks! I went down hoping to see sharks. Many sharks. Great big old tiger sharks looking voracious. I’d have even settled for a little old reef sharks. I like sharks and believe they get much bad press.
But, we did get fish. Lots and lots of fish of assorted sizes and multitudes of hues as we glided over canyons and across deserts in the depths. We felt like we were flying in a surreal world. There was also, alas, garbage way out there. Old tires and other bits of human effluvia, unfortunately. Some of the crap was more interesting than others, including a World War Two LST landing craft (in hazy photo taken at 120 feet below the surface), and a 40-foot sailing schooner that must have been a wonderful looking yacht in its day. Both of these bits of junk were marvelous habitats for fish and other creatures.
The time down there passed in a trice and truly I was sorry it was over and it was well worth the $100 a pop.
Just one thing. Try to do something about the lack of sharks, OK?