The Seven Seas News - May 2016
Raja Ampat & Banda Sea, 10-25 April 2016
By Seven Seas Guest. Photos by Jeff LaFrenz & Ronnie Heng.
My travels with the Seven Seas have taken me to some of the most spectacular places on the planet - Komodo, the deep South, Raja Ampat, Banda and the myriad islands South of Flores. Aboard her, I have watched volcanoes spew blood and guts into the night sky, have witnessed age old ceremonies by almost forgotten tribes, and walked amongst dragons. The Seven Seas brought me back to diving, but has also brought me back to life. I have returned to her after the particularly challenging events in my life - a miscarriage, a death, a failing marriage, and each time, I have left with my wounds healed, my sadness alleviated, my heart alive once more.
This trip, I came to the Seven Seas in recovery from decades of addiction, the battle mostly won but a long journey ahead. I have been taught me that in my recovery, I should seek out the corollary of everything that gave me the most pain during my addiction. Instead of fear, I should seek faith, instead of emptiness, connection, instead of anxiety about the future, an ability to stay present. I came to the Seven Seas seeking a new perspective, a refill for my soul, and the company of friends and strangers. I had no idea that the Seven Seas journey itself would assist me in my recovery journey in ways I could never previously have anticipated.
We dive one afternoon amongst a ball of scads, a boiling, rolling, twisting and turning vortex of fish, a swirling mass of synchronicity. I am caught amongst them and find myself eyeball to eyeball with a teeming horde. I suddenly experience a stillness within the maelstrom, an ability to find strength even amongst the chaos. Later, during another dive, I am mesmerized by a confetti of anthias, and revel in the sheer joy and happiness and strange feeling of almost belonging. I feel connected for the first time in a long time, as if somehow in the almost belonging, I have found my true home. That night, drunk on fish - anthias and scads, crocodile fish and woebbegongs, we too whirl like dervishes under the night sky, dancing on deck like crazy wild things until our heart feels like bursting. I realize that this is the happiest I have been in decades, and that the last time I danced this hard, it too was on the Seven Seas. It seems appropriate that on this day, of all days, I saw my first disco clam.
On other dives, I feel my brain, long dulled by alcohol and other drugs, come back to life and quietly chime in with curiosity. What, I wonder, is the collective noun for some of these fish? Should it be a fund of unicorn fish? A graze of bumphead wrasse? How about a march of fusiliers, A lurk of barracudas? A post mortem of GTs? What fish deserve the collective noun a furore? What are the fish that look like a drizzle? I feel as if an old friend is back. Diving has returned to me the gift of curiosity, provided a shift in my mental gears. I am unstuck.
Underway to Banda, I listen to the purr of our engines as we skim across a glassy sea, the night sky dusted with diamonds, the flicker of a storm illuminating distant shores. I feel a shudder of unadulterated happiness. I am happy and it is unadulterated. There are no mind altering substances here.
Instead, I come to love the pump of adrenaline as we begin our dives, the hammer of my heart as we descend into the depths. I am grateful for the gift of clarity so that I may see this kaleidoscope of colour, this blur of coral, this dapple of light from above. I notice now not only the jewel encrusted gorgonian fans, but also the tiny little things. I find myself exploring crevasses and cracks, enchanted by crabs as big as my fingernail, elated at my first sight of a Raja Ampat Seahorse.
I still struggle, however, with fear. Fear is my constant companion. It is the environment I grew up in, the currency and the language I know best. On this trip, more than others, it haunts me like an old friend. With 175 dives, I am the least experienced diver. I am afraid of currents, I am afraid of being swept away. I am terrified of getting entangled, getting lost and never found, of sharks, of eels, of trigger fish. Threat is everywhere. I am either in a state of high alert or torpid, terrifying immobility. But thenů it happens. On a dive, in the blue and out of the blue, an enormous creature, a black winged behemoth, rises up, ghostly, out of the depths, and casually, menacingly glides above and below me. She (because she is gentle and beautiful and because I am afraid) is an oceanic manta, and she is both majestic and terrifying. Inches away from me, she looks me in the eye, and I understand that we share a contract, she and I. Our contract is one of faith. It is then that I realize that I can enter into a similar contract with myself. I will no longer do myself harm. I will no longer abuse my body and mind. I have found my faith.
With enormous thanks to the team and crew of the Seven Seas for this and all the other incredible journeys. You share a special place in my heart.
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