“Water is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.” ~ Zoolander as The Merman
“Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)….” ~ from big-hair metal band Cinderella’s most successful power ballad single
“He who would search for pearls must dive below.” ~ John Dryden
“No scuba diving,” the Doctor said as he leaned in with some measure of compassion. “At least not for six months…maybe longer.” It seems I mysteriously had come down with Portal Vein Thrombosis (PVT), a pretty rare condition in healthy, active guys like me, which negated, for the time, much of my normal day-to-day life.
The ironic thing, though, is that I’ve been meaning to blog on scuba diving in Okinawa for quite some time. I have a whole slew of specific blogs to write on specific dive sites out here that I’ve come to know like the back of my hand. Okinawa is the locale and setting where I came to embrace diving with an emotionally deep-seated affection. It is where as a Divemaster I helped to teach both my children to dive, and it is where I have entered the enticing depths of the open water over 400 times, each in search and anticipation of yet another of nature’s pearls.
Diving is also my livelihood, and Okinawa is the spot where I finally became a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer (instructor). Between January and early May I was able to complete over 70 certifications!
Scuba was perhaps the predominant reasoning for convincing Jody to take an overseas Asian tour with the Navy instead of retiring. Well, that and living and traveling throughout Asia. To be honest, though, Jody before she met me admitted she had little interest in Asia. I hope that I’ve changed her mind! I’m sure the 20-odd dives we’ve done together here have helped. Read more about how I feel about Okinawan scuba diving!
There is, not just in my opinion mind you, world-class scuba diving around the entire Okinawa Prefecture. When I often compare the diving here to other more recognizable renowned diving destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, Bonaire or Palau, people often balk. And that’s okay: it helps keep Okinawa a safely hidden divers’ paradise, found literally at our condo’s front door.
Part of the southern Ryukyu chain of Japanese islands, Okinawan waters are fed by the warm, northward flowing Kuroshio Current, which helps sustain an enormous variety of marine life. Okinawa, in general terms, shares the same latitude and sub-tropical climate as Miami. Although the Gulfstream there brings warmer waters and stronger flows, South Florida lacks the barrier reefs that are present around the majority of Okinawa, which make the Ryukyu island chain one of the largest coral habitants in the world. We are heading to one of the remote islands, Ishigaki, for the long July 4th weekend, originally to dive with the summer migration of huge manta rays. While my wife dives, I may only be snorkeling from the boat.
Diving in the spring here, one hears the distant but enticing songs of the transiting and breeding humpback whales. Octopus, cuttlefish and decorator crabs all abound, and night diving here is even better than experiencing the underwater world in the heated sun of the day.
Although this island chain is made up of over 160 islands, only 48 are inhabited, and then only a few significantly so. It is a remote area which marks the break between the Pacific Ocean and East China Sea, stretching for over 600 miles. The reefs thriving around the Kerama islands, just a few miles and a relaxed boat ride from Okinawa, are most renowned for their splendor: “The most beautiful and diverse coral reefs that I have ever seen anywhere in the world were in Kerama,” once said French marine biologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, author of “The Silent World”. Now who’s gonna argue with THAT guy??
More mysteriously, near Yonaguni Island lays an underwater ruins site that has been only recently discovered, the Yonaguni Monument. Famous now for both its implications in archeology and as a dive destination for sharks and pelagics, it has been featured in National Geographic and on the Discovery Channel. While high on my dives “to do” list, unfortunately I haven’t yet made it out to this location.
The World War II destroyer USS Emmons, rediscovered only recently in 2001, is found not far offshore from Okinawa, resting as a war relic and underwater grave after being pummeled by five kamikazes in 1945. It too is a dive I have not had the pleasure to experience…YET.
Cinderella was not entirely right about not knowing what you got until it’s gone. I believe that I did, and it makes this temporary injunction from inner space much harder to accept. I’m not one to quote big-hair bands from the 1980s, but honestly, that song almost instantaneously came to mind with the delivery of the bad news. I’ve been moving through the grieving process, and while to some this may seem overly dramatic, for someone who used to dive up to 10-12 times a week, who likes to ride motorcycles, and who still has more skydives than scuba dives in his logbooks, anticoagulants and blood clots are just not congruent with life.
At least not for now. I have yet to reach fully the “Testing” or “Acceptance” phase of the process, the good news is that at least I’ve given up on bargaining for a way to balance diving with my condition.
That just leaves me with Depression to move through, and that’s why I finally have gotten around to this blog on diving in our Far East Fling. My life remains full of pearls; I just have to refocus on the ones found in more terrestrial settings!