The Dive Experience
of a Lifetime
"The Manta was approximately 5 to 6 feet wing tip to wing tip; it was a female."
"She had, hanging from her right cephalic fin, several feet of wadded-up monofilament line and a heavy sinker weight dangling from a large hook embedded in that fin."
"She must have sensed that I was not a threat to her and it appeared that she singled me out to help her."
"She continued to allow me to keep pace with her and actually work the hook out of her fin. It took several tries, but she never flinched or tried to dive away."
"After removing the hook I still could not believe what had just taken place. I could only stare after this beautiful animal. I was overwhelmed."
Yesterday my friend Karen talked me into going with her and a couple of other friends on a boat dive. At first I did not want to go, but the thought of being in the water won out. Our first dive was at Guam’s famous Blue Hole. As usual the site was spectacular with a bit of a northerly current picking up as we ended the dive. Oli, our boat skipper, asked where the next dive was to be, I yelled out "Val Bomber and drift to American Tanker." "Too deep for the divers on board, but we’ll go to the tanker," was the reply. After taking the mooring and about 45 minutes into our surface interval one of the divers jumped in the water to do some snorkeling. The snorkeler immediately called out that there was a Manta swimming around just in front of the tanker. We all scrambled to don our gear with hopes of getting an opportunity to see the Manta too. Little could I realize, as I got into the water, that I not only would get to see the Manta, but also get an unforgettable experience at the same time.
As I descended to the bow of the American Tanker I could see my friends hovering out in front of the ship. Then out of the gloom, I could see the white face of the Manta coming toward us. The Manta was approximately 5 to 6 feet wing tip to wing tip; it was a female. As she passed, it was clear that she had, hanging from her right cephalic fin, several feet of wadded-up monofilament line and a heavy sinker weight dangling from a large hook embedded in that fin. One diver had a pair of scissors. He immediately approached the Manta and was able to clip off the line and weight. He then tried to get to the hook, but she would not let him near her. As he approached, she would roll upwards to deny him access to the hook. It was apparent that the hook was deeply embedded in the right cephalic fin and from all appearances it had been there for a while. The curve of the hook was on top of the fin with the barbed end buried inside near her mouth.
She circled us and circled us. We were all fascinated and awed with her behavior. She kept getting closer and closer to me on each pass. As good divers we all know and respect the fact that you do not touch anything, no matter how much you want to. So we all continued to watch.
After a bit, I think we all got the understanding that she wanted to be near us as she came very close; close enough to just reach out and run your hand along her wing. One of the other divers was first to touch her and she did not shy away. As she passed near me again, I too reached out to touch her wing; I was electrified at the feel of her skin. She did not seem to mind and must have wanted more as she kept coming very close to me as she turned gracefully through the water. I wanted desperately for her to know that I was a friend and truly wanted to help her only if she would allow me to get close enough. She must have sensed that I was not a threat to her and it appeared that she singled me out to help her. All I could do was maintain eye contact and put out my open hands toward her. As she passed me again, I thought it is now or never if I am going to attempt to get the hook off her cephalic fin. This time I drew even with her on her left side as I reached out to caress the top of her wing, she did not flinch, so I slowly glided across her back maintaining contact until I was on her right side. I now brought my hand along the leading edge of her right wing and started to work forward. She flinched and gently tossed me up and off. Again we all watched and she continued to circle us. After several minutes, she came at me again and continued to stay with me as I worked myself up to a shallower depth to avoid getting into "deco." I decided, once again, that I had to try. I repeated my earlier action and this time drew even with her head and was able to grasp the hook. Unfortunately the hook was more deeply embedded than I thought and I only succeeded in pushing the hook up on the fin and probably deeper into the wound. I worried that I had done more harm than good. The thought that I had to get the hook out was paramount in my mind, but I would not attempt it unless she wanted it. She again came close to me. On the third try, again starting from her left and working to her right, I was now hovering over her and looking straight into the wound. She continued to allow me to keep pace with her and actually work the hook out of her fin. It took several tries, but she never flinched or tried to dive away. The hook was ugly, the barbed end was bent inward to ensure that the animal would stay hooked and not get away. How very cruel!
After removing the hook I still could not believe what had just taken place. I could only stare after this beautiful animal. I was overwhelmed…..she was beautiful and harmless. We all remained transfixed in the water as my lovely Manta, now free of the ensnaring hook and weight, circled around us. Twice she swam straight at me; on the last pass I could not help put out my hand to once again communicate with her. She dipped her wing gently touching my outstretched hand then slowly turned to look at me. I swear she winked. She then banked her wings, sank into the depths and flew away.
I have been diving in some very exotic places and I can recount lots of stories of what I have seen, but I can tell you that nothing I have ever seen or done, while diving, compares to this event. Those who were witness to this dive can tell you; this was the dive of a lifetime. My lifetime, for sure.
© Bonnie Harris McKenna 2000