Diving Andros- Over the Wall to 185'
Because the Caribbean is cut off by the cold Atlantic there is not the same rich variety of underwater life, and the coral and fish life in the Caribbean do not in any way compare to that in the Pacific or in the Coral Sea.
The islands of the Bahamas tend to specialize in other forms of diving. Some islands offer shark diving and the chance to take part in shark feeding sessions. Andros Island’s unique feature is that it has some of the best wall and cave diving in the world. The only area I know that has better cave diving is the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
The underwater caves of Andros are called blue holes. Some of them are accessed from the sea, others have a land entrance. I have written a separate posting about one of the best inland sites, the Guardian Blue Hole.
On the east side of the island there is an almost vertical wall which falls down 6,000 ft into the Tongue of the Ocean. One of the best dives on this wall is a night dive to 185 ft. The usual procedure with this dive is to first do it as a day dive to check out ones susceptibility to nitrogen narcosis. The effects of nitrogen narcosis start to occur at about 100 ft, though individual resistance varies considerably. The symptoms are similar to those of drunkenness. These include a loss of coordination, a sense of elation and poor judgment. As the condition gets worse a diver may believe he can safely go deeper, or dispense with his breathing apparatus. The onset of nitrogen narcosis is rapid and recovery is equally rapid.
There are other risks associated with diving at this depth. One hundred feet usually is considered the maximum depth for safe diving. At 185 ft there is a very small margin for error.
The night dive starts with a boat ride out to the edge of the underwater wall. After anchoring and equipment checks it’s just a matter of going straight down until you get to a ledge at 185 feet. During the day dive you can hover at this point and look straight down into the abyss. The view is stunning.
At night there is another trick. If you cut open a Cylume [a chemical light stick] the contents of the stick disperse into the water and provide a psychedelic light show. This is a spectacular effect but you have to constantly monitor your air consumption [at this depth you use a lot] and the progression of nitrogen narcosis. You will certainly be suffering from the ‘narks’ but the trick is to start your ascent before the condition gets beyond recovery.
You also have to keep a very good eye on your buddy in case they start showing symptoms, and hope they are doing the same for you. Any mistakes at this point and it is a long fall down to the bottom of the wall at 6,000 ft.