When I don't have time for a dive but need to get in the water I'll often head down to Obyan beach for a swim.
I like to go out the second cut then right (west) along the reef line to the dive buoy. If you go out a little ways the bottom sand flats are about 40 feet deep and form the outline for the coral fingers extending into deeper water. Looking down you can see the bottom clearly and lots of different characters doing their thing around the coral heads and on the white fluffy sand.
I hate to free dive. I'm not very good at it. I've just always liked the feeling of being able to freely breath off of my regulator at anytime. But I always do at least a few descents just to check out how the visibility looks from below. It can be deceiving looking down at times. Getting to about 30 feet or so and looking horizontally it can look very different in terms of clarity.
I digress from the point I was going to make, it's just nice to put myself back in the head space I was in when I noticed an interesting pile of rocks on the bottom. More likely big chunks of long dead coral, which has, over the years become rounded to look more like small boulders. As I got closer I realized that someone had taken the time to move 20 or 30 of these "rocks" to form the numbers - 2007. The area surrounding the message was clear of any large stones making the scene resemble a message atop a big round birthday cake. Other rocks lay scattered outside the perimeter of the cleared area and were spared any man made movement. As I approached I couldn't help but think of another Diver Code of Ethics post.
I imagine someone, or more likely a group of divers, had taken the time to add a small date stamp to their underwater photos. Likely these divers were tourists and wanted something to show friends and family back home and should their memories ever begin to fail them they will always know what year they dove Saipan. This is not unusual practice for tourists. I've worked in many dive resorts around the world and consistently you will have one group or another show up for a week of diving with a banner or set of T-shirts that everyone affiliated with the group wants their picture taken with underwater. It makes for a great souvenir and even some publicity for the group when they return home. A picture in the local paper, a story about where they were and how Billy Bob got so drunk one night he had to miss the best dive ever......
But as I said that code of ethics thing came into my mind. The whole "where do you draw the line" argument. I'm sure the movement of these rocks disrupted a few lively hoods on the sandy bottom. The Red-banded Shrimpgobys and their blind Alpheid shrimp workers like to use these types of rocks to build their homes and Bluesteak gobies often burrow their own condos with these rocks providing at least one side for protection. So how many homes were disturbed by the making of the sign? How many from the divers fins when they all settled on the bottom for the picture? The answer - probably some but probably far less than those who had to do repairs or find new homes altogether after the recent storm (Man-yi) passed. Fact is Mother Nature often deals the reef much more of a blow than divers do. As with wild fires some destruction from time to time is necessary for new colonies to take route etc. But in this case the message (and possible destruction) was man made!
But then I thought so is this.....
Where do you draw the line? More to this train of thought but that's all the time I have for now. I must set up the camera for tomorrows dive! Stay tuned.