While on vacation I was extremely lucky to experience The Great Barrier Reef for about four hours up close and personal! Part of our trip was a day trip three hours out to Knuckle Reef Lagoon to snorkel and scuba dive. The three hour boat ride was quite busy with the staff notifying the passengers of safety regulations, all to do during the day where to find it and scuba registration and introduction. Our group was extremely excited because only one of us had done scuba before and we were going on and on how this $135 half and hour introductory scuba dive was “free” with our package and it was going to be a once in a life time experience! We all know the reef is dying off and may not be around in ten years so to have a first time scuba diving in such a wonder of the world is hard to put to words.
We signed our forms and were put into groups of four. About thirty minutes later the crew came up and asked for myself and another friend from BW. He wanted to talk to us because we both had marked concerning medical issues that could interfere with the dive. He decided to talk to Joe first and he was easily dismissed as acceptable to dive. He turns to me and the look on his face... It just screamed bad news. I had checked off two boxes in the medical section. The first being that I have asthma and the second being that I have pressure problems in my ears while flying. Out of nervousness I immediately blurt out, "oh this must be because I have pressure problems while I fly." He looks at me still with that sad look and goes, no Ellen, I am really sorry but it is against the boats legal and liability to let people with asthma dive.
I kid you not I nearly cry right there. I jumped in before he even finished his let down to convince him my asthma in fact was mostly gone and only due to very intense running. I assured him over and over I would not have one underwater because of the lack of physical intensity. He must have noticed my immediate devastation and desperation and quickly continued to explain why. If a person has even the slightest alveoli or airway constriction while diving air will get trapped and upon rising airways can rupture. Having a heavy biology and anatomy background I already knew what he was going to say. If there was a rupture air bubbles or even just one air bubble could get into my blood stream and cause a blockage that ultimately would could brain damage. So I am currently sad, mad and terrified. He asks if I understand and I nod feeling defeated and sad everyone else will get to dive and I wont. After about fifteen minutes of back and forth conversation about previous asthmas attacks, frequency, and use of medication Peter, the crew members name, looks at me very serious and goes, alright, against all liability and rules I will let you do this. I was happy at first, no ecstatic, then terrified to the point where I was having trouble breathing... Before the fear set in and Peter saw me freaking out I signed additional forms and he was off. I told everyone what took so long and explained that I really didn’t think I was going to have an asthma attack while underwater but serious consequences were likely if I did happen to have one. A few of the group advised me not to do it. But NO, A FREE ONCE IN A LIFE TIME SCUBA DIVE ON THE GREAT BARRIER REEF oh I was very torn but couldn’t let this chance slip away. My group was called first in the training session which was wonderful because we got the dive done first and had three and a half hours after to explore all we wanted opposed to waiting.
I put the heavy scuba gear on walked down stairs into a neck high water pool that led to open water under the boat. I was freaking out and this time Peter knew. He was instructing me on how to do the breathing and had me go just face in then whole head under then sitting on the bottom. Once I was seated I immediately hoped up and said Peter I can’t do this! The air was not normal at all, I expected that, but the thought of breathing that air for thirty minutes was horrifying on top of the ear pain I was sure I was going to have down there. He goes try again and just relax you were doing fine. I relaxed and we were off. I held Peter’s hand the whole time and it was an absolutely wonderful experience. After about a minute I was accustomed to the breathing and was enjoying an eight meter deep scuba dive on the great barrier reef. We were swimming along the drop off (recall from "Finding Nemo") there were many fish and huge fish! I was quite cold and ready to be done when we came back up to the boat but I am so grateful Peter assessed my specific situation and allowed me to have the experience of a lifetime ear pain and asthma free.
After the dive we snorkeled for three and a half hours along the border of the reef. I was fortunate enough that my underwater camera truly worked underwater (this was the first time I was brave enough to use it) and I got beautiful pictures (675 actually) of the reef! There were so many different shapes and colors as well as fish. Fish everywhere! It was beautiful and the whole time I was just soaking in my fortune to be here and the natural beauty of the reef.