Diving for Our Dinner on the Bahamas’ Wild Coast

The azure blue turned to black, silently swallowing up the spears of light that etched their way meekly into this world of the deep.

Will, in his black wetsuit with a streak of gold down the side like some outlandish, otherworldly deep-sea creature, seemed as much a part of this environment as anything else. I watched as he descended with increasing speed into the maw of this massive underwater cave—Dean’s Blue Hole, the deepest blue hole in the world.

Below my fluttering feet, a semicircle slope of sand dotted with coral heads inhabited by tiny silver fish poured into the eye of darkness into which William Trubridge, world-champion free diver, had disappeared moments before. Although Will had just started his dive to over 300 feet, which would have him holding his breath for over four minutes, my lungs already burned with an excess of nitrogen, and with a few flicks of my long fins, I returned to the surface of the lagoon that held Dean’s, tucked in from the lapping waves of the Atlantic Ocean, on the wild coast of Long Island in the Bahamas.

Adventurer/filmmaker Tharia Sheather walks the rocky shores of paradise on Long Island; Photograph by Max Lowe
Adventurer and filmmaker Tharia Sheather walks the rocky shores of paradise on Long Island in the Bahamas; Photograph by Max Lowe

A short flight via bush plane from Nassau, Long Island, is just one of the over 700 islets and keys that make up the mass expanse of the Bahamas and sits on the fringe of the infinite deep blue of the Atlantic and the emerald green shallow sea of the Caribbean. The cities of Nassau and Freeport, with their high-rise hotels and all-inclusive vacation packages, see almost all of the tourist traffic that comes to the Bahamas, but for those who seek more than a beach chair among the crowds, the more remote islets and keys, like Long Island, still harbor an authentic Caribbean. The landscapes you find in the more remote Bahamas have varied little from the days when English privateers hunted Spanish treasure galleons across this elysian landscape. To immerse ourselves in this wild, to find and discover for ourselves, the untamed heart of what it means to be Bahamian, is why my friends Andy Maser, Tahria Sheather and myself had come. (See all the #InaWeekend Bahamas videos.)

Early that morning, before heading to Dean’s Blue Hole to watch Will do what only he and a handful of other men and women on the planet can, we woke with the fiery pallet of the Caribbean sunrise and put on our sandals and boardies to head out for a morning dive. Will had offered to take us out to his secret lobster fishing grounds on the Atlantic side of the islands. We drove down a long dirt road, past little houses tucked into the bush and the ruins of buildings dating back to the late 1600s, when Christopher Columbus first landed on a key not too far from the island.

Miles Smith drops off the cliffside into a dive at Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahamas; Photograph by Max Lowe
Miles Smith drops off the cliffside into a dive at Dean’s Blue Hole, the world’s deepest known blue hole, in the Bahamas; Photograph by Max Lowe

In an empty dirt lot, we pulled up to find Will waiting with wetsuit on and spear in hand. Although the sun had barely kissed the modeled limestone shore where the swell of the mighty Atlantic ran aground at our toes, we waded into the water and followed Will into the foamy surf. Having grown up in Montana, I have this inexplicable fear of the open ocean, especially an early morning darkened, tumultuous open ocean, but as we followed Will into this underwater realm that he knew almost as well as the world above, my eyes and heart were opened to this place. Fish darted in and out of the coral heads below us, and long strands of kelp danced in the churning tide.

World champion free diver William Trubridge holds up the day's catch—two massive lobsters; Photograph by Max Lowe
World-champion free diver William Trubridge holds up the day’s catch—two massive lobsters; Photograph by Max Lowe

With grace and effortlessness Will moved through unperturbed schools of fish as if they knew him, checking underwater ledges for our elusive crustacean quarry. A massive grouper peered out at me from beneath its rock awning and the deep rumble of waves breaking on the limestone cliffs reminded me we were in a place of unique wonder. Will motions to me that he’s spotted one. Like an archer with a longbow he draws back his spear and releases, struggling briefly with something beneath the rock’s edge before emerging with what is without a doubt the largest lobster I have ever seen in my life, easily the size of my torso.

World champion free diver William Trubrudge cleans a fish he freshly speared; Photograph by Max Lowe
Trubrudge cleans a fish he freshly speared; Photograph by Max Lowe

Back on shore we thank Will for the morning’s adventure, and he hands us a lobster to cook up later (boiled lightly and eaten with pepper butter) before saying he’ll see us later at the blue hole and creaking off down the dusty road in his sea-rusted Nissan truck.

Just another day in the life of those who call this magical place home, but an experience out of some ethereal dream for me, Andy, and Tahria, who have come to explore this island and get a deeper taste of what life in the Caribbean holds—if you’re willing to just look a little deeper than most.

See all the #InaWeekend Bahamas videos.

Comments

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    May 19, 2016, 1:16 am

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