This is the story behind one of the sonnets in my upcoming book.
Sometimes you have to be far above a mistake before you acknowledge that you made it. In my case, it was flying from Belize and looking out the window more than 25 years ago.
The Blue Hole of Belize is a prehistoric giant crater which is over 400 feet deep and 43 miles out to sea from Belize City. From Ambergris Key, an offshore island east of Belize City, depending on weather conditions, it is about a 2 1/2 hour rough ride in a small Boston Whaler.
The Blue Hole was made famous by Jacques Cousteau in 1971 when he brought his ship The Calypso to the Blue Hole to chart its depth and explore its history.
Almost 30 years later, in the summer of 1997, an expedition of cave divers went in to document its underwater stalactite caves and search for its bottom depths.
Around this time, I went with several expert divers. We found it was pretty much empty of sea creatures and very cold as you descended ever deeper into it. We went down 150 feet to the nitrogen limits for 2 minutes. Our flashlights beams dimmed into the nothingness in that dark. If you looked up, far above us, the sky was like a distant open manhole cover and was our only meaningful light. After listening in the silence to our breathing for the two minutes, we ascended slowly with our bubbles to avoid nitrogen build up in our blood stream. It was very dark, cold, claustrophobic, and dangerous. Other divers had reported the same thing. After that dive I decided: “Well, been there, done that; never again.”
A few years later, when I was again in Belize to dive the outer islands, two Ambergris Key teenage brothers with a little Boston Whaler bet me a case of beer one night in a beachfront bar that if I went with them the following morning, it would be the most amazing dive I’d ever done. I refused and refused until I took the bet. This was a very stupid thing for me to have done.
In December 2018, 20 years later, two small submarines were sent to map the Blue Hole’s interior. At the bottom they discovered the bodies of two of the three divers who had gone missing while diving there over the years.
The Blue Hole in Belize
Was I the fool of this sinkhole of the sea
Or a pupil in this aqua ocean?
As I fly home it looks back at me
Without memory or emotion.
Three days ago, while taunting me, Miguel
Said: “You’ve dived it but not with me before.
I dive it deep. I dive it right to hell.”
He took my money but wouldn’t tell me more.
Off the boat, with Miguel still behind,
We checked our gear and descended into cold,
Deeper, darker, to fear of a different kind:
Sharks. Hundreds of them. Darting from the shadows.
At the boat Miguel offered a helping hand,
Laughing.” You understand? We chummed it man.”