Australia journal - June 1999

The last day at Heron Island

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Our last day on Heron Island was, in terms of our original reasons for being there, the best day. The weather was beautiful, and so we went out on that 11 am snorkel boat to a place they call Blue Pools, at the ege of the reef.  There were seven or eight snorkelers and three divers aboard.

One of the divers was Ruth, from New York, who had been an enthusiastic member of our audience in the lounge a couple of times.  She had a great look of excitement on her face as we prepared to go into the water.  The rest of us were happy, but she was positively electric.

Less than a minute after we jumped into the clear, comfortable water, we were thrilled to see a white-tipped reef shark swim by right below us.  That was the only shark we saw in our hour at Blue Pools, but it was a thrilling way to begin the experience.

Ruth and her guide went to the bottom, 25-3 feet below where we were, and I found myself following them around a bit - partly to see what they were doing and how they did it, but also to enjoy the sight of their air bubbles rising through the water.  The big bubbles looked really cool from the top, and the little bubbles made a great noise when I swam through them.

This underwater scene was much more amazing then the stuff we saw on our shore-based drifts. There are many varieties of coral out there, all in muted pastels, and lots more kinds and sizes of fish.  I found myself surrounded by tiny shimmering fish on more than one occasion, and from time to time I realized I was being watched by something or other.

We hovered over crevices in the reef, watching large and colorful fish move in and around the fixed stuff.  We marveled at the rich and varied colors of the clams' mantles, and we pointed out unusual fish to each other as they swam into view.  There were iridsecent white fish; solid black fish; half-black and half-white fish; leopard-print fish; purple-rimmed fish;  brightly colored fish in a wild variety of shapes; clumps of green sea vegetation with long thin bloades that swished back and forth rapidly in the current...

And when we got back in the boat, Ruth's face was even more electric.  Rita and I had talked about wanting to learn SCUBA, and this experience made us mofre determined than ever to make that happen.

The boat zoomed back to the jetty and we returned to the departure lounge to shower and dress, ecstatic with wonder and a little sorry to be leaving after finally connecting with the undersea world that brought us to Heron Island but had eluded us for most of our stay.

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