Each one talked
about "my wreck." That was the next one he intended to dive on. He
described it minutely, hinting at the significant signs of real treasure that
he would find there; but he jealously concealed its exact location.
in them thar wrecks...." "Teddy Tucker hasn't found it all...."
Then Teddy Tucker
showed me his treasure: the greatest underwater bonanza found in western waters
in this century. He had made the discovery at a depth of only 25 feet, in the
remains of a Spanish wreck off the coral reefs. He spread the golden pieces
before me, but not as a miser spreads his gold. He displayed them as a champion
displays his trophies, a soldier shows his medals to good friends. There were a
16th century bishop's pectoral cross of purest gold, studded with seven
sea-green, sea-smooth emeralds; pearl earrings; and a fist-heavy ingot of
mellow Spanish gold with romantic markings, "Pinto" and "Don
I held the pieces
one by one in my hand. I admired them, but I admired more the courage and
patience of the man who had found them. Myself, all the treasure I wanted to
find was a golden angelfish.
You never enjoy
the world aright, till the sea itself floweth in your veins....
At last, the
sunny days came. Captain Taylor took us six miles out to the divers' Promised
Land: the barrier reefs. We dived at the northeast point of the breakers; off
the reef where the Elda wreck lies; and seven miles out to sea in the North
Rock area, by the old beacon light, inside the barrier. In these areas we made
four dives. Which was which, and where was what I saw there? As memory often
merges the events of scattered days of joy into "the happy time," so I
now merge my memories of diving off the reefs into one long dive.
As I remember
this long dive, I see myself hauling my heavy tank-burdened body over the side
of the Wally III and backing down the ladder. I am eager now to shed my weight
under the sparkling waters. Happily, I let go. Splash, and down a few feet. I
wait for my flippers to be thrown over the side. I tug them on, level off on my
face, and look down.
There, 20 feet
below, lies the liquid blue jungle of the barrier reef. The world of madrepores
and polyps, where everything is endlessly living and endlessly dying to make
the fretted vaults and cloistered crannies of the reefs, of rose coral, star
coral and brain coral, coral with antlers and horns, coral formed like tree
stumps, anemones and sponges; and crustaceans, worms and fishes.... And there
in the midst of this wild calm jungle, lying 10 feet deeper, I see a lovely
Along its walls
the waving purple fronds of the sea's fans beckon me in.... I glide down to the
cave slowly, at a gentle plane. I can see a hundred feet in every direction. As
far as I can see, the colors are Gauguin's and C�zanne's and Seurat's. Beyond,
the dark blue-green sea belongs to Dufy and Chagall. I'm almost on the cave. I
throw back my head and my flippers' tips touch the shining floor. I feel like a
bird lighting on a bough. I sink to the bottom of the cave and, lolling, look
up at the even feathers of bubbles which fly up from my neck, expanding as they
go into shining silver mushrooms, little pearly parachutes, seeking the far
sun. Overhead, the bottom of a rowboat is a liquid yellow plate, and on the
distant surface, the shadowy silhouette of the Wally III is a salver of spinach
jade. Circling high, 30 feet above me, looking like little frogs, are a pair of
skin divers with spears. They drift slowly along on top of the waters searching
out snappers and rockfishes below.
I look around.
Park is there. He is pointing a camera in a plastic case at me. His body is the
color of polished amber, his short hair is a dandelion going to seed. Jeanne is
there, on her knees, head down, fingering through the creamy sand. It flows
like gauze through her fingers. Her hair is floating straight above her, a
restless golden halo. She looks up, as I sink beside her, and her eyes are