That’s a picture of a freediver in Dean’s Blue Hole, a 660-foot deep vertical cavern in the Bahamas. Yesterday’s Times Sports section has a story about Vertical Blue 2011, the world championship, for which the winning dive was 121 meters (nearly 400 feet) at a time of 4:13 underwater without oxygen. Some amazing stories of nitrogen narcosis, fear, and the limits of what the body can force itself to do.
I am thinking two thoughts about blue holes.
First, freedivers, amazing as they are, remind us how poorly human bodies manage in the ocean. Four hundred feet is a long way down, but the average depth of the world ocean is around 12,000 feet. The opening description of the story, in which a crowd urges a just-returned diver to “Breathe, breathe, breathe!” so that his body could recover from his minutes submerged shows what a shock these immersions are to our systems.
Second, the picture above also reminds us that, no matter how deadly the blue is, we love it — or perhaps we love these deep holes because of their deathly quiet and nonhuman embrace. Are freedivers explorers of a post-sustainable future? Do they provide images of how to live in an uncompromisingly inhospitable natural world?