IN THE BACK OF MY MIND, I was aware of the dark line of the Upper Keys barely visible on the horizon as I concentrated on the tender’s voice going through the check list.
Air on? Check. Regulator functional? Check. Touch it! Check. Cutting tool present? Check. Touch it! Check.
When all was ready, I took a step and jumped off the back of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) work boat and swam directly down 50 feet to Aquarius.
I was fortunate enough to make six dives to Aquarius during the first mission of 2011 as a guest of Joe Pawlik, the scientist heading the sponge research.
On my first evening at the researchers’ dorm — a shore-based facility on the seaward side of Key Largo — I got a taste of how unusual this was going to be. Joe and I were chatting when his phone rang. He glanced at the screen. “Oh, Aquarius calling. Gotta take this…”
He talked about a few technical matters before adding, “Guys, I just had the best watermelon — it was so good that I bought one to bring down to you. Watermelon at the bottom of the ocean, anyone?”
[Note: Matador editors selected this Community blog post for publication at the Network.]