Editor's note: Jessica Monk is a student in the professional scuba dive instructor program at Capilano University on the Sunshine Coast. Below is her account of the program and why she loves diving so much.
The sun's rays reach down from the sky and warm my face momentarily. I squint as I look out on the icy blue water. The hiss of exiting air fills my ears, and all at once the biting water surrounds me, sending a momentary shock down my spine. I open my eyes and look through the crystal clear ocean.
In just a few metres, I am in a vastly different world. I inhale, and the familiar sound surrounds me, followed by the train of bubbles leaving my regulator. Shifting into the accustomed horizontal position, I begin my free fall through the water, stopping only metres above the sea floor. I signal my buddy, making an O with my thumb and pointer finger, "OK?" She responds with a similar gesture and we continue our dive into Mermaid Cove in Powell River.
I look around, the green sea dotted with similar sights: figures donned in black suits, clunky fins and shiny aluminium tanks. Despite the fact that above, we may be ungraceful, down here is another matter. We glide through the sea seemingly effortlessly, turning on a dime. We continue deeper, following the throng of divers. Today we're on a mission: to see the infamous mermaid that resides in these waters. Ahead, with the water slightly stirred up, we begin to cluster, or molecule, the term we have been taught. We continue, and soon she comes into view - the mermaid, standing upright about four metres high. The sunshine streaking in from above silhouettes her figure against the emerald green backdrop. I circle around her, examining her more closely, as I see many others doing. Her smooth stone form is surprisingly free of organisms, a contrast from the surrounding ocean floor. I stop, like many others do, posing for a picture to capture this moment in time.
Soon everyone has had their fill of the underwater effigy and slowly begin to dissipate.
My buddy and I venture out, passing by the farthest of our group members, and continue over a ledge. We dive down, reaching the bottom at about 25 metres. While she is busy taking pictures, I admire my surroundings. The white and orange plumose anemones are reaching towards the surface, sea pens swaying as if there were a breeze. Chimney sponges range in size from a small cup to as big as a human leg, often concealing a variety of creatures. I see a rockfish poke its head out and momentarily look at me before it darts back to the safety of its home. As I begin to gradually swim in the direction of shore, I turn to check on my buddy. She is close by, and we continue our slow ascent up the embankment.
In the shallows, my computer begins the accustomed count down. I watch the wavy lines on the ocean floor as the sun plays on ripples. Just offshore, we break the surface. Immediately the chatter starts, and we begin reliving our amazing adventure.
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