There was no moonlight at Moonlight tonight, as Marc AuMarc and myself experienced our first night dive in the complete dark of the moon. Pete gave the go-ahead, and we descended into thick blackness. The wavering lights of our dive torches illuminated a conch maneuvering its gawky way across the ripples of the sand patch, its eye stalks revolving up to peer at us with anxious shyness. A gorgeous cuttlefish telegraphing patterned messages across the translucence of its mysterious skin hovered above in our crossed beams, transmitting an emotional semaphore forever alien to us before gliding off into the absolute darkness.
As a banded coral shrimp gave a somnolent initial-phase stoplight parrotfish one last cleaning before bed, the familiar daytime scenes in the nooks and crevices of the reef unspooled into an eerily different life. Bloodworms swarmed in desperate whirls around our lights. Basket stars crept in silence over the coral, grasping with their innumerable slender curling arms to coil in morsels of food. Red eyes gleamed from the rocks and ledges before fist-sized red night shrimp suddenly sprang away in startling, galvanic flips, and lobsters walked the floor like ancient monsters.
When we clicked off our lights, first we saw nothing, not even a faint reflective starlit gleam from another diver’s mask or the slight darker outline of the reef against the water. If I hadn’t been holding Marc’s hand, I wouldn’t have been able to tell he was there at all, even though he was right beside me. All I could hear was the slow sound of my inhalations, then the gurgling escape of my bubbles, in a complete surrounding blackness that felt both claustrophobically small – as if I was the only person in the world – and vastly immense. Then, one by one, like the first darting drops of rain, the bioluminescent strings of pearls began to show themselves above the reef, a growing shower of tiny shooting stars, then closer, closer, faster, and more of them, until their streaks and zings and beads of light were raining and dissolving themselves over and between us like a glimmering storm of the softest lightning against the deep dark.
Pete signaled to turn our lights back on, and we did, swimming slowly up for our safety stop, and then to leave that now-invisible night world, and return to ours above the water.
Here are a few photos from the dive: