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Underneath the Big Blue

Contrary to the brochure promises, we spent a rather rainy few weeks travelling up the East Coast of Australia. By the time we arrived in Cairns the weather had improved dramatically, and so had our spirits. We were here for one reason, and one reason only – to see the sea. We were here to experience the elusive big blue and its great barrier.

As we boarded I noted our skipper surveying his boat before setting sail. It reminded me of a mother and her baby. The boat was clearly his. I waved my hand in the cool water as I hung over the side, letting the spray splash my warm face as we left the harbour in the distance.

The skipper told us last year a dugong kept him and his colleagues company as they conducted their research on clams. Apparently, this was very rare and something he as a skipper was lucky to have witnessed. I knew that sea folk years ago mistook dugongs for mermaids. I asked him what he thought about that. His crystal blue eyes just laughed at me.

Time passed quickly. I awoke to the sound of the anchor chain running over the edge into the water. It would soon be our turn to cross that boundary into the other world I thought. Having slowly slid through the rough waves we floated and spiralled down into the soundless water.

There were giant clams dotted all over the seabed like volcanic rocks. They stood tall next to the brilliant blue starfish with their long fingers outstretched. Dancing clown fish, orange and white moved elegantly between my hands meandering their way home.

It was silent deep down by the starfish. I saw a turtle there too. He seemed to want to communicate with me. As I turned towards him though he looked startled and stopped. He vanished just as quickly as he had appeared. By the time I had readjusted my mask all I saw was his vague outline merging into bubbled sky blue water. In contrast to the thousands of fish who were willing to meet us, it seemed that not all the creatures of the sea wanted us to know who they were – who they really were.

Once we had surfaced and grown accustomed to the surroundings above, we noticed a single sand island only a short swim away. It was brilliant white, I think I called it paradise. Tiny horsetail waves lapped quietly around my shoulders while we tread water before submerging again. We swam through the dense garden of coral, our bodies moving in rhythm, in time with the waves. My body no longer felt my own; I had no control. I swayed every which way the water took me as I glided around. The rays of sun penetrated the water and illuminated the coral before me. The light made a path for us so we could get to the island. Its effect was electrifying.

Rising from the water and moving towards the sand, I gasped at the millions of tiny white shells that lay before me. Their vibrant colour prevented me from looking for too long. Looking up and beyond the white layer all I saw was blue with twinges of sapphire. For miles and miles all I saw was blue and it was wonderful.

Back on our transport home and with a manmade structure beneath my feet, waves gushed from side to side inside the boat. Even though we were above the water it still had us under its control. We were tipped this was and that, this way and that. It rocked comfortingly just like a cradle with its baby.

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