Daily Log Report for
11 May 1997

Submitted by Richard Pyle

Today was a very important and meaningful day for me. Eleven years ago this summer, I was 19 years old and stubbornly stupid. A dive I made back then at Palau's Blue Holes nearly cost me my life, or at least my ability to walk, when I earned myself a severe case of decompression sickness or the "bends". The story of that incident is long and complex, but it began with a magnificent dive on the sandy slope below Blue Holes, and ended with me becoming paralyzed from the collarbone down. I have been waiting eleven years to return to Palau and visit the Blue Holes once again, and today I finally had my chance.

Today's dive began the same way the fateful dive did -- with a descent through the northern-most "chimney" hole into the large cavern, then out the mouth and down the sandy slope in front. As I drifted down, this time afforded clarity of thought by the helium in my breathing gas mixture, I began to vividly remember how it looked 11 years ago - exactly the same as it does now. I saw groups of Pseudanthias lori around coral rock outcroppings in the pure white sand. I stopped for a moment and gazed back up the slope, remembering the heavenly view as though I had been there only yesterday. Because of the bright white sand below us, clear water, and mid-day sun, it was surprisingly bright at depth. I barely noticed the 5 or 6 chunky Grey Reef sharks that were swarming about (although, as can be seen in the photo above, they were most certainly around!). After a brief moment of reminiscing, I turned and continued down the slope in search of new species. And new species we found! The first species John and I collected was a wrasse that we think is in the genus Cirrhilabrus. It's a rather striking fish (the photo doesn't do it justice), and we found it in abundance. We collected two other (probably new) wrasses, as well as a dottyback that bears my name (but wasn't named in honor of me). As always, I wish I could have stayed down all day, but we had a schedule to adhere to, so reluctantly we started our ascent. On the way back up to the cavern, at a depth of about 200 feet, we were met by a somewhat severe down-current. With the rebreather on my back, it was a non-issue because I had many hours of extra breathing gas time on my back. I couldn't help think, however, about how very stressful that situation would be to a diver using conventional scuba, impaired by narcosis and with a very limited gas supply at that depth.

Once back in the Blue Holes cavern, we started our decompression (I can think of many, many less interesting places to spend a couple of hours!). In the back of the main Blue Holes cavern, at a depth of about 70 feet, there is a small crack about 3 feet high and 20 feet wide. For more than a decade I have wondered what was inside that crack, so today I decided to look inside. It leads to a small room about 40 feet wide, 10 feet back, and extending 30 feet upward. In the lower right corner of the "entrance room", there is a small restriction about 5 feet by 3 feet, with nothing but blackness inside. I called John over and we both entered the "entrance room", and I stuck my head inside the restriction. Through the air-clear water, the beam from my 70-watt light disappeared into blackness with no sign of floor, ceiling, or walls in any direction! There is an enormous room in there - probably bigger than the entire Blue Holes cavern! John and I are anxious to look around for fish in there, so we will return in a couple of days with the right equipment.

We are all having a wonderful time so far! Everyone is enjoying the fantastic diving that Palau offers - even our fearless producer, Tom Lucas (pictured at left waving to his wife Shari).

The rock islands of Palau are, off course, spectacular! We spent some time in the boats cruising along the mirror-flat, crystal clear waters in among these distinctive, undercut limestone islands. Palau is truly a remarkable place that needs to be protected.

Tomorrow, the film crew will return to Blue Holes to continue filming fish and reef scapes, while John, Pat and I will go back to Augulpelu reef for more fish collecting. It will be a relaxing day for us tomorrow, allowing some badly-needed rest and time to fix a regulator or two. Watch this space...

Dive Number 1 of 1
Divers: Richard Pyle, John Earle, Ken Corben

Solid line indicates depth, dashes ("-") indicate
decompression ceilings, bar ("|") represents cleared to surface.
Max. Depth: 287 feet (87.5 meters) Time: 12:21pm Duration: 2 hr, 43 min
Location: Blue Holes (07 08.10' N, 124 13.90' E).
Marine Life: We encountered several Grey Reef sharks during the descent, but we paid little attention to them. We managed to collect three apparently new species of wrasses; one in the genus Cirrhilabrus, one in Pseudojuloides, and one in Pseudocoris. I also managed to collect a fairly large specimen of what is called Pseudochromis pylei -- a species of dottyback that is named for Robert M. Pyle (a distant relative of mine). Although it's not a new species, it is the first record of this fish from Palau. We also saw, but did not collect, a beautiful species of Pseudanthias. I looked in the cave for Centropyge colini (a rare angelfish I first found in the Blue Holes 14 years ago), but I didn't find any (although Pat, for whom that fish is named, saw one). While on the bottom, a HUGE Dog-tooth Tuna (Gymnosaurda unicolor) came by -- it was bigger than the sharks!
Remarks: Pat did not use his rebreather today, opting instead for some simple scuba dives. John, Ken and I descended out the mouth of the main cave and down the sandy slope. Half-way through the bottom time I found a "screamer" device that hooks into one's BC hose and makes a loud noise, but with no pocket I stuffed it under my waist belt and promptly lost it again. Coming up the sand slope we encountered a strong down-draft current that made it difficult to ascend, but it soon passed. John and I investigated a small crack at the back of the Blue Holes cavern and found that it leads to an enormous underwater cave. We decompressed in the same shaft to the surface that I decompressed in during my bends accident 11 years ago. Half-way through decompression, I bounced back down to recover the Nitrox bail-out cylinder, which I had left there on the descent. Alas, the water was not as clear as it was that fateful day 11 years ago, but it was a very pleasant dive.

Disclaimer: Several aspects of the dive profile(s) illustrated above deviate from conventional wisdom regarding appropriate decompression procedures. The dives referred to on these web pages are of an experimental nature, and all persons involved with these dives are fully cognizant of the associated risks. The decompression practices followed on these dives are derived from published information, in conjunction with the many years of extensive experience of the divers involved. These practices have not been tested under controlled conditions, and may not work equally well for all divers. Kids, don't try this at home!!

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