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Diving With The Incredibles

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I have spent 18 days, 1 hour and 36 minutes of my life underwater. Nearly twelve of those days I logged in Indonesia. Indonesia commands you to return in large part because of the unparalleled underwater diversity, but perhaps equally important, the reason for my consecutive trips to Indonesia over the last six years, is the dive guides. They interact most directly with you every day, working hard to show you something unique every dive hour, and when you surface, they jovially join in your amazement in the creatures that you just saw. “Wow!,” they might say, “Oh my god!,” as if they too saw the critter for the first time. If you are lucky though, sometimes conversations go beyond reviewing the creatures of the last dive, and you find yourself discussing topics that you would with your friends at home. These are the conversations that can lead to really memorable moments in scuba dive travel, and trips and people become unforgettable.

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“Prehistoric” komodo landscape/seascape

On a recent trip to Komodo, a place where the landscape alone throws you back probably a billion years, such a conversation surprisingly started when a dive guide and I traded titles of favorite movies. One was the animated film, “the Incredibles.” It is about a family where each member has a different superpower, and the story is about how they struggle to live a normal life, but ultimately they cannot and resign themselves to saving the world. A couple of aspects of this conversation I found remarkable: firstly, that I was even discussing a US film in a remote area of the planet with someone from North Sulawesi, a place perhaps not well known to many with the exception of scuba divers, and secondly, that the nuances of the humor of that movie had not been lost in translation to Indonesian. My favorite line in the movie is when “Mr. Incredible (Bob Parr),” the father of the superpower family, makes a phone call to the sexy female protagonist (who eventually leads him into trouble) and initiates the call by declaring, “Incredible, here.” It is the best line of the movie (and really funny to all of my female friends), and I believe, as I explained to the dive guide, the entire reason the Incredibles were named the Incredibles, was just so Mr. Incredible could deliver that line. Suddenly, an analogy between the Seven Seas dive guides and the animated family with superpowers was inspired. They became the Incredibles.

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Pair of harlequin shrimp

Many of the best dive guides come from North Sulawesi. If you have ever had the luck of diving with a guide from North Sulawesi, I do not have to explain this analogy further. These dive guides have an extraordinary ability to find any critter, macro- or really microscopic, whether they were previously aware of its existence or not. They have distinctive names, like Stoner (?), and they do wear suits (see image). The dive guides that I met on my most recent trip to Komodo with the Seven Seas were even brothers, provoking me to consider whether superpowered-ness is within the gene pool in North Sulawesi. Muck diving originated here, and at the very least, it could be imagined to be a unique microcosm of evolution on the planet-critters and the people that co-evolved to find them.

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Orangutan crab on mushroom coral

Although the analogy originated with the brothers Incredible on the Seven Seas (IncRRRedibles in Indonesian accented English), it would be unfair to limit the designation to only these two. There are many others with underwater superpowers, and they do come from other parts of Indonesia, such as Bali and Ambon. The dive guide community is tight, as all good dive guides seem to know all other good dive guides, even though Indonesia spans around 17,000 islands. If you have been to Indonesia a couple of times, you can strike up a conversation with any one of them and catch up somewhat on the lives of the others.

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Shrimp on closed anemone

The manner in which they elicit their superpowers is also distinct. Most notable are the ones that look as if they are doing nothing in the water, simply hanging there (even in a blasting current), and then suddenly, they drop and point to a micro-frogfish that you can barely see when you are looking directly at it. Some of them seem uninspired by a typical reef but spring to life in the least likely of underwater environments; sloping sandy ones, for example. To you, it looks desolate, but in these areas, the Incredibles are truly magical/superpowered. One of the dive guides from the Seven Seas, Incredible 1 (Frenckie), could make creatures appear out of the sand, as I witnessed on a dive one night. I am not sure what he saw in the sand in the dark, but suddenly, with a special motion over the sand, a small torpedo ray came forth. If magic exists, this is what it looks like.

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Boxer crab with eggs

Apparently, there is some earthbound method to their success. It was once explained to me that they look for specific environments. Some of these underwater locales become obvious even to me. I look for orangutan crabs in bubble and mushroom corals, and shrimp and porcelain crabs on anemones. The confounding phenomenon is how they look at a pile of coral rubble, go to work like machines, and end up finding boxer crabs, tiger shrimp, and blue-ringed octopi. Incredible 2 on the trip to Komodo, Irwan, stated that it was his job to find them, so I still do not know the secret. And if you get to have an Incredible to yourself, be prepared to work hard underwater. On a night dive once, I burned nearly completely through my tank of nitrox (usually impossible for me at 10 meters or above) as the guide led me from one creature to the next, non-stop for 90 minutes. My logbook for that dive covers two pages and is probably incomplete.

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Spiny tiger shrimp in Seraya

So many great Indonesian dive guides come from this one place, and often the others mimic their style. It is a small place on the planet, and yet, the Incredibles bring such delight to those of us glued to a computer in “civilization”. This is their true superpower, to give us an unimaginable view into their country through their magnificent eyes. Diving with them is always, well, incRRRedible.

Janice Nigro is an avid scuba diver with a PhD in biology.  She is a scientist who has studied the development of human cancer at universities in the USA and Norway, and has discovered the benefits of artistic expression through underwater photography and story writing of her travel adventures.

Dive Training Blogs

Dream Dive Locker Build Out. Part I: Demolition (Watch Video)

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It’s finally here! Time to start building the greatest dive locker the world has ever seen! Part I: Demolition! #dreamdivelocker

This is the first of a series of videos showing the evolution of building out my dream dive locker. My dream dive locker needs to be dive gear drying and storage, dry storage, workshop, office, editing suite, You Tube studio and classroom. That’s a lot of functions for a small space!

The first step is planning out the space and demolishing the laminate flooring. Then I taped up the walls to get a feel for the space. We have a lot of work to do!

But finally we will have a purpose built space to house all of our dive equipment! Subscribe to our channel to follow our progress! 

Thanks for watching, Team!

James


Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/DiversReady

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Marine Life & Conservation

The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Paul Rose

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Next in a new series of podcasts shared by our friends Gemma and Ian aka The BiG Scuba Podcast…

Ian and Gemma chat to Paul Rose. A man at the front line of exploration and one of the world’s most experienced divers, field science and polar experts, Paul Rose helps scientists unlock and communicate global mysteries in the most remote and challenging regions of the planet.

He is an experienced television presenter and radio broadcaster. With a proven track record in business engagements, Paul is a sought-after speaker, chairman, host and moderator for industry, government and NGO events.

Former Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society(link is external) and Chair of the Expeditions and Fieldwork Division, Paul is currently Expedition Leader for the National Geographic Pristine Seas Expeditions.

He was the Base Commander of Rothera Research Station, Antarctica, for the British Antarctic Survey for 10 years and was awarded HM The Queen’s Polar Medal. For his work with NASA and the Mars Lander project on Mt Erebus, Antarctica, he received the US Polar Medal.

Paul is a mountain and polar guide leading Greenland Icecap crossing and mountaineering expeditions and polar science support logistics. He worked for four years as a Mountain Safety consultant to the oil industry in the Middle East.

On his 2012 Greenland expedition, Paul led the first expedition to successfully traverse a new 275km icecap route of Knud Rasmussen Land and repeated his first ascent of the north face of Gunnsbjørnfjeld, the highest mountain in the Arctic.

His professional diving work includes science support diving in Antarctica as the British Antarctic Survey’s Institute Diving Officer. He ran the US Navy diver training programme at Great Lakes Naval Training Centre and trained many emergency response dive teams including the Police, Fire Department and Underwater Recovery Teams. He remains a current and active PADI Dive Instructor.

Find out more about Paul Rose at www.paulrose.org


Find more podcast episodes and information at www.thebigscuba.com and on most social platforms @thebigscuba 

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