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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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May 2023    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 49, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Helen Reef, Palau, Micronesia

explorers don't always find with they're looking for

from the May, 2023 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver,

Having dived all over the world, what could be better than joining an exploratory trip to hunt for virgin reefs and scads of fish in waters rarely dived? So, I joined a January 14-day adventure aboard the 170-foot Solitude One to travel 27 hours and 400 miles south from Koror to Palau's Helen Island, populated by four rangers and their families. I didn't know what to expect. Most of the crew didn't either.

Expedition vessel Solitude OneThe Solitude One carries 19 crew members and 22 passengers -- we had 18 passengers, Americans, Germans, and Brits (two were named John and Paul, but no George or Ringo). Our cruise director, Diego, gave a safety briefing shortly after our 8 p.m. departure, emphasizing that it would be a rough crossing and to take seasick meds if needed (many divers would suffer from mal de mer). Then we sat down to an excellent meal, seafood chowder, perfectly cooked roast beef, pasta, and veggies -- before turning in. It was a long, bumpy night.

The next day, we were briefed on using a reef hook and an SMB, told to stay within recreational limits and no solo diving, and reminded there was no emergency help or chamber within hundreds of miles. They gave each diver an SMB and a Nautilus LifeLine Marine Rescue GPS to signal the Solitude One if carried off by a current. I checked out the camera room, which accommodated eight large and many smaller cameras, with plenty of electrical outlets.

Late in the day, some passengers began asking about our location without getting much of a response, as if something was secret, until finally, we learned we were 17 hours behind schedule due to a malfunctioning shaft. We would not arrive until late the next day, and there would be no diving. So I passed my time propped up in bed, rocking back and forth in beam swells, editing photos, and studying fish books. Thankfully, I had a comfortable cabin with a queen bed, shelves, a nightstand, and a modern bathroom with a large shower; my sink had an unrepairable leak, so it had no hot water, and the bed lights and some USB outlets didn't work, but I'd survive....

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