Day 24

Finally Sun!!!! It's been rainy for the past eight days and the sun finally came back out today! I think I can say that I have never ever in my life gone that long without a good dose of vitamin D. The second those first rays came out I stripped down to my swimsuit and just soaked it all in.

Today we had an English bloke from the marine park come over to the shop to issue us all licenses to hunt lionfish with spearguns. Before you go getting all offended and animal rightsy, know that lionfish are an invasive species that do not belong in the Caribbean, but were introduced here in 2009 by man. They are highly venomous and have no natural predators in the Caribbean, and therefor are populating like rabbits and completely ruining the reefs here and the native species of fish. So it is in the best interest of the environment here to exterminate them. That's why we get to hunt them with spearguns!

This is not a task to be taken lightly. Lionfish are covered in venomous spines that can leave a nasty sting that, according to the marine park guy, is ten times more painful than being kicked in the groin and lasts for six hours. Obviously I have no point of reference for that but I don't care to find out. Also, your hand will swell up "like a ripe fruit ready to burst." Lovely.

This guy was pretty ridiculous. He asked us from the start what our cert levels are and how our buoyancy control is and if we all have dive computers, and then jumped right into telling us that we will definitely be going into deco, not something you really do as a recreational diver, especially by PADI's standards. So we went out to a sandy bottom and practiced shooting coconuts, and then started booking it for the wall a hundred or so yards a way.

You should know that diving is a relatively lazy sport. You learn how to move as little as possible so as to conserve air as much as possible. So the entire time I've been here, I've been training myself to drift through the water via minimal movement, and by doing so I can dive for an hour and still come up with half a tank of air left. Not this guy though; he seemed to be in some sort of race.

When you're focussed on spearing coconuts you forget about breathing entirely and are exerting a significantly higher amount of energy, so by the time we made it to the wall, after a serious swim, and down to 100 feet, I realized that I only had half a tank of air left which left me in a bit of a panic. We only saw three lionfish, none of which we speared because they dart out of the way incredibly quickly. The last one we saw put us all into deco, and that's when the fun started as all of our computers were responding differently, and all much more conservatively than the marine park guy's, who couldn't understand why we were taking so much time. So we learned how to spear lionfish, without actually spearing any, and learned what deco is, and went on the most physically strenuous dive I have ever experienced. Quite the odd experience.

It was also the last day at the shop for two of the interns, well divemasters now, Christin and Andrew. I can already tell that I'm not going to like this aspect of the program where people are coming and going every two weeks. You're forced into a position where you're spending 24 hours a day with people, living with them, working with them, and literally trusting them with your life underwater, and then suddenly it is time for someone to leave and although you have known them for such a short time, they are already family. Since Christin and Andrew were the veterans of the house when the rest of us moved in, they were the ones who showed and around, introduced us to everyone, and got us acquainted with life at the dive shop. It definitely won't be the same without them! And now we have three or four new guys moving in in the next week. It'll be strange to see how the house dynamic changes.

From left to right: Aaron, Andrew, Christin, Rhami, me, Holly, Sheila.