CopyRight @ 1999
Rarely do I communicate with the people beyond my shores, those who live on the dry land. My domain is the sea. You know me as Captain Nemo. Reports of my death are grossly exaggerated, though I guess it is understandable. I will say no more of that, beyond that some of my biological experiments, conducted many years ago on an island, have resulted in my continued health.
Sometimes, documentation of my inventions and discoveries have reached your world. When I have judged that they should. In this case I have recently tested a prototype scuba system and feel that the world should know what we found to be possible. The equipment was designed to give divers great mobility with the capability to dive more than 1000 feet for an extended time, without risk of Caissons Disease. (It is commonly referred to as the Bends or DCS these days)
While there were numerous places I could make this test, I had decided that the proper place would be at the islands offshore from Southern California. Looking at my charts, the water conditions and terrain seemed quite appropriate for the test. Looking for the proper place to carry out the test, I then remembered that some 20 years before, an acquaintance had suggested this very thing at this spot. He had said the dive he had wanted to make was to swim between the west end of Anacapa Island and the east end of Santa Cruz Island. With conventional diving equipment of the time, the dive would have been quite impossible. The distance, depth and terrain seemed an ideal test for my new equipment.
The logistics of the dive was both simple and complicated. We would use one of my standard shielded torpedo sleds, powered by compressed gas. The diver would then breathe the exhausted gas. The problem is the necessary gas mixture to allow the diver to survive. There is only one gas mixture that could allow the diver to safely make this dive. That is a mix using Hydrogen and Oxygen. The methods of this technique were complicated, but not unknown. The problem is to overcome is the explosive flammability of the Hydrogen. Hydrogen, mixed with a partial pressure of Oxygen that would allow a diver to breathe on the surface, would almost certainly result in an explosion. The solution to the problem is to use 3 different gas mixtures. Normal Oxygen enriched air could be used to 130 feet. Then a Helium and Oxygen mix could be used to a depth of 300 feet. At 250 feet, the diver could use the primary breathing supply of mixed Hydrogen gas. My aluminum silicate crystal pressure vessels on the sleds have an operating pressure in excess of 12,000 psi. Actually, something like this was done off of Catalina Island many years ago. It turned out rather tragic, because only one of the three divers survived, but they did leave their diving bell to make a 1000 foot dive with scuba.
The actual apparatus would be a backpack for the diver that would carry the two gas mixes for the shallower water and a reservoir of the Hydrogen mix that was replenished from the torpedo sled. The reservoir would both allow the diver to separate from the sled for a limited period of time and also in an emergency. The hydrogen and oxygen are combined by the backpack.
The objective of this test was to gather data for the eventual creation of a rebreathing apparatus that could dynamically supply these different gas mixes to the diver.
On the first dive it was planned that the divers would not use the air mix for the descent. Instead, it was planned that they would breathe pure un-pressurized oxygen before the dive to reduce their nitrogen content. The first 150 feet of the descent would be made in my vessel, the Nautilus.
I will note that in its 5 previous incarnations, my vessel and home, always called the Nautilus, has been powered by what you call nuclear fission using Uranium or Plutonium for fuel. My present and greatest vessel is powered by a hydrogen fusion plant of my own design. Its magnetic propulsion system allows for the speed of a propeller driven aircraft. The silence of my vessel and its indestructible ceramic hull allow me to undetectably go anywhere to any depth for any period I desire.
I do not know what led me to my final decision about this test. Perhaps it was the energy he seemed to take from the sea, but in any case, I decided that I would invite the diver along that had suggested the dive to me so many years before.
I had been studying Sea Lions at the time we met. Because the political powers of the surface states were on the verge of war, it was necessary for me to develop concealment and detection capability to keep my privacy. My vessel cannot be found by their sensors. One night, I checked that there were no boats or aircraft near and surfaced near 2 miles off the coast just north of the city of Los Angeles. It was a silent, still, moonless night. While I have little to do with those who live on land, even I had to admire the lights of the city, looking like burning jewels on the black velvet shore. They do not tempt me. Perhaps I was tempted though, because then the unthinkable happened. I was hailed from behind with "hey dude, neat ship". I spun around and there in the darkness was a diver standing on the aft deck.
It was unimaginable that my world had been intruded on and my secrecy put at such risk. A diver, out here at night, with no light on, was not something I had considered possible. I could tell by the way he closely examined my vessel, that he could not easily be put off with a story that it was in anyway a common craft. I have rarely been in this situation before, but in my many years, I have actually had occasional invited and uninvited guests from the surface world. Some were castaways that I took pity on. A few, like this diver, came to me as a surprise. I am the master of my vessel and the master of my domain though and unless offended, will take them aboard. How they leave is something I can always determine later.
To make a long story short, this was a very young man, who drove me crazy with his ceaseless motion. It was not his physical motion that one noticed so much. It was his emotional and intellectual gyrations that seemed to never cease. He said that only the ocean could completely fill his attention. One of these gyrations was to suggest this particular dive. He seemed to be at home in the ocean near as much as myself, often scuba or freediving far off what he said was the Malibu shoreline. He was clever and quickly surmised who I was. It didn't seem to surprise him. He seemed to look at the world from another place, with a purpose so overwhelming that facts that would shock another person, were simply filed away as "fascinating" information. He said he knew of his drive, but did not know its purpose. He spent a short time with me and so delighted in the ocean, that I delighted in showing it to him. It was all so new for him, that it took on a newness for me. He did say though, that his purpose involved mankind and so he had to return to the land. For many reasons I allowed him to go and he assured me that my secrets were safe with him.
So 20 years later I made contact with him and told him to meet me as before. He still had the same smile, though the fires in his soul had cooled some with age. He said that he now knew his purpose. He also still loved the ocean and had spent a great deal of time in it and learning about it. Now he would get to see it as never before.
The planned journey was to be close to 4 leagues. Going straight on the sleds, it could be crossed in a little over three hours at very minimum. After studying the topography, it was decided that for our purposes, we would follow a longer triangular route that would take us to a seamount topping out at 50 fathoms below the surface. This would allow for a simple depth profile with a peak in the middle. Most of the dive would be spent at a depth of more than 150 fathoms with a maximum somewhat past 180 fathoms (1080 feet). We would meet the Nautilus at the outer edge of the large reef on the south east corner of Santa Cruz Island.
As the gear was assembled, I explained that while it should get quite dim at that depth, the water was clear enough that we should have no trouble seeing. Our equipment had light amplification capability as well, though it had another primary purpose. I had mounted small diode lasers on the utility railing along the side and front of the sled. While bright, they are not that noticeable. However, with the night vision gear, the lasers light allowed a sled to be visually recognized from almost a mile away. One apparatus I did not bring was any voice communication gear. While I do occasionally use such devices, it potentially could be detected by the sensitive anti-submarine sonar buoys that line the American coast. Those and the P3-Orion aircraft are the eyes and ears that I avoid. We had already planned our hand signals to be able to communicate a variety of messages, especially about personal physical and psychological condition.
Then I handed him his sword. It got the expression I expected, but give a man a sword and he will hold it. 'Yes' was his only question. 'I do not travel the ocean foolish, blind or defenseless' was my reply. I then proceeded to show him the controls of the 'sword'. It could project a high tension electrical discharge that would focus for as much as 20 feet. While a very effective defense under water, it had the unfortunate side effect of somewhat of a backlash shock to the operator 'so play with it if you really want and don't try it over the number 5 setting or it will hurt'. There were 10 settings. It may look like a cutlass, but it is far more than that and far more effective under water than any blade that you could manage swing. 'Well, swords are fun' he said. I was just hoping that he wouldn't play with another potential of the 'sword' that I had not mentioned
We proceeded on the dive as planned. When learning how to handle the sleds, my companion had learned to do loops and acrobatics. Now was not the time for it, but as we headed west, he did his usual habit of hugging along the bottom so that he could look in the rocks. From previous dives with him, I knew that he was exercising his endless habit of looking for some poor creature to eat. On previous dives, he seemed to be endlessly turning up mollusks, crabs or lobsters, often where I would not have expected them to be. Really, we didn't have the time for it, but he was keeping up well and it seemed to be no real problem.
Soon, we had passed the reefs of the island and were traveling sharply down over sand slopes with occasional rock piles. He still was enjoying looking in the rocky reefs, but here they were different. We were already below 50 fathoms (300 feet) and any small rock pile we passed, had its resident population of rock fish. He, of course, had to travel near each pile for a look.
I tended to travel about 10 feet from the bottom. He was at about 3 feet off the bottom. As we got deeper and the light became dim, I too was forced to stay closer to the bottom, just to see it well. He seemed stuck at a point just a little behind and to the right of my sled. Our sled lights are bright, but here they seemed to shrink. The sand is like a desert, but like a desert on the land, there was actually quite a bit of life to be found if one looked.
I could tell that my companion was enjoying himself as he tended to when diving. I myself was feeling a sense of accomplishment. We were almost down to 150 fathoms (900 feet) and were experiencing no ill effects. All the equipment was functioning as planned. I expected the next challenge would come as we ascended the seamount.
Suddenly I saw a large squid. It was paralleling our course about 100 feet away and was almost completely invisible. It was definitely paying attention to us. It was also getting excited, if all the rapid changes in the color of its skin was any indication. This was not a Kraken or Deep water Giant Squid, but it was a big variety, with a 8 foot body and heavy 10 foot tentacles. I still did not believe that it offered any danger to us, but it was definitely moving closer and it was interested. Then suddenly it darted right beside me and grabbed the body of my sled with its large grasping tentacles. Just as quickly, it was gone. My companion had seen all of this as well.
We were past 160 fathoms (1000 feet) when we started moving up at the base of the sea mount. This was the half way point of the journey. The squid was back and now I was concerned, because it was not alone. There were about 3 of them, but as time went on, more appeared. I could not make any guess as to what their interest was. I know that large squids, like sharks can become dangerous when a group starts to get excited. In a group, I have seen them suddenly grab a large shark and then retreat. Only, then the shark had a grapefruit sized hole where the parrot like beak of the squid had instantly gouged out a meal. That shark soon died from the continued attack of other squids in the group.
Suddenly, a squid grabbed the front of my sled. This time it stayed long enough to give a good yank at the sled before it left. My companion moved nearer and we didn't need to signal anything. We moved closer to the bottom and kept moving fast, but then a squid attacked him. Looking at me, he never saw it coming. It grabbed his sled and attempted to wrestle with it. Again it let go, but there were many more squids and they were excited. I pulled my 'sword' loose and he followed my lead. A squid was just 10 feet away and moving towards me when I pushed the stud on the sword and (for lack of a better word) zapped it. It was too late though. We were both under attack. While it was the sleds that they were attacking, when something that big attacks, it grabs everything near. That's what tentacles are for... I repeatedly got loose from the squids, but they were clearly getting more excited and the electrical charge from the sword was not keeping them away. Occasionally, there was a chance to stab a hole in one of them, but it didn't seem to hurt them. My sword was set on 6 such that each time I triggered it, I got a painful shock. It didn't seem to do much to these now frenzied monsters. I could see my companion in the same situation and could not help him. He was trying to do gyrations and bump the bottom to rid himself of these tentacled monsters. We were forced apart. Then, I was under attack by three at the same time and they were very brave in numbers. Two had a hold of my sled and one was mostly holding me. I was no longer able to move or use the sword in any way.
Suddenly, the other sled shot by and my companion had the blade of the sword braced against the control handles of the sled. As he passed by he turned so as to drag the blade of his sword half way through the squid grasping me. He did a vertical loop back and was able to hit another of the monsters with the braced blade. He was then heading straight at me while holding the sword in front of him towards the last squid. I just hoped he wouldn't trigger the sword. It would hurt me worse than it would the squid. Then he basically rammed his sled into mine and started trying to slash away with his 'sword'. The problem was that he seemed to be furiously hacking away at my sled instead of the squid. I was sure he had gone mad and would be the death of us both. Finally though, he seemed to regain his senses, because he then poked the squid. It and the all the others seemed to give up interest. I was expecting them to quickly be back, but they continued to move off into the gloom. As my racing mind started to calm, I could see that when my companion attacked my sled, he had disabled the laser beacons on the utility rail. When I looked up, he was looking at me and I understood. It had been the lasers that had attracted the squids.
I quickly checked the status of the machines and our breathing supply. They were in better condition than the minds of their riders. Potentially, we could abort the dive once we got to the shallower area of the sea mount, but still it would be very dangerous. We were again heading up its side. After some thought and no sighting of the squids, I saw no reason not to continue. Aside from some tears in our suits, our gear was in good condition. Our status, minus the beacons and some peace of mind, was the same as at the start of the dive.
We came to the summit of the seamount and looked up through the azure waters to the noonday sun. This was at 50 fathoms (300 feet). The water clarity was amazing. As planned, we lingered there long enough to look around. The schools of fish were incredible above the rocks. Cathedrals of Hydrocorals showed brilliant red and blue in our sled lights. Six foot tall, lacy, brilliant yellow Zoanthids grew from the bottom and stars covered the rocks. There was a beautiful patch of white Metridium anemones as well. All of these thrived in the current between the two islands.
As usual, my companion was scanning the cracks in the rocks, presumably looking for dinner. I guess it seemed fair after another sea creature had almost made us into dinner. I am afraid that it was a bit deep to find much in the way of abalone. Then, suddenly he tipped his sled sideways just as he swooped by a rock ledge and he actually jumped off the sled. The sled bumped into the rocks, but he was struggling with something and didn't seem to care that the only other thing he could breathe from was more than 50 fathoms away... up. He came up and had grabbed a huge lobster. It was one of the largest I had ever seen and he needed two hands just to hold onto it. Even appreciating that he had probably just saved my life, this was just about too much. I should not have wondered what he was going to do with it. He was petting it... When it seemed to calm down some, he positioned it on the front of the sled so that, by instinct, it grabbed onto the utility railing with multiple legs. I couldn't believe it, but he remounted his sled and we continued our journey with a mascot in front of him.
Again we descended into the dim abyss. Travel was silent except for the soft sound of our breathing. Though we moved fast, the clear shields in front of us created a calm invisible bubble that everything else just rushed by, unfelt and disconnected from us. We traveled north of west and the bottom began to rise slowly and steadily. At 50 fathoms, we again started to see the rocks that were the deep bones of the upcoming island. I think we were both glad by this time. We had no need to decompress. The tiny monatomic molecules of hydrogen left our system as fast as we exhaled. Then, sure enough, he tried what I was hoping that he wouldn't think of. He pulled away to the side a bit. That was nice of him. Then he stopped and looked up. Holding the sword, he exhaled a large breath. I expected him to get a well deserved headache, but he was cautious and only aimed the sword at a small bubble. Even a small bubble of compressed hydrogen and oxygen makes a pretty big explosion underwater. I could easily hear him laughing as he came back towards me.
Soon we were picking up a ping from the Nautilus. As we came up in her underwater lock, he pushed on the lobster and shoved him of into the water above the reef. As he pulled off his mask and dropped his regulator, his comment was 'well that was for good luck'.
My design was more than tested, as were we both. He stayed a short time longer with me. We made a number of interesting dives. He likes to cook and prepared some lobsters for me by different recipes. Small lobsters. We had some excellently prepared abalone as well. He said he just can't stand Calamari.
He is back on the land. I don't know if I believe him that it is where he belongs. He said he would return when it was time to test my new design.
I still wonder what he meant as he swam away. 'By the way, have you ever seen Sea Hunt'?
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