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Freediving N.41 - Apr / Jun 2005

In English.

Published on International Freediver and Spearfishing News, n. 41, Apr / Jun 2005, pg. 46- 47.

 

Last summer day gifts

Text and pictures by Riccardo Andreoli

 

 

Today is the last day for the 2004 summer here in the Ocean.

Today Mother Ocean and the Great God Poseidon decided, in their benevolence, to bestow upon me marvellous gifts. Four. Better, just being a bit mischievous, five.

Today the wind is peculiarly from the north-west, contrary to the usual Trade Winds from north-east. Thereís some hazy uncertainty about the horizon line, confused but anyway completely flat. No breakers there, in the open ocean today only the long swells hurling from half the world away.

In the little wooden boat weíre today six, filling her almost to no elbow space. The owner is his usual wild-curled self. The baseball cap shadows the black eyes, the fierce nose and the moustaches of his half Portuguese and half African heritance. The second hand in the boat today is not the usual lanky and aggressively lazy young guy. Once more he was late and today the boat owner took instead aboard an old sailor, with a hidden and shrewd smile in his deeply wrinkled dark face. Thereíre also today three French people. Angelo in reality is Greek and he has in his homeland a company, Teaksea, building beautifully crafted wood spearguns. Heís here for testing his last creation. Accompanying him thereíre Bernard and his son Francois, from Paris.

The usual slow going to the far away banks. Today, for once, thereís no crashing of breakers against the prow or the side of the boat, no drenching from the spray hurled aboard by the eternal wind and no noise apart the low gurgling sound from the engine. Only huge, slow, smooth to the point to seem almost oily, round waves. Itís early in the morning, and itís still dark, the grey clouds covering half the sky, the sun hidden behind them. Even so far from the coast, with this unexpected wind, thereís still the unfamiliar dry smell of the land in the air.

 

In the water, in a confusion of float lines, today with no wind to stretch them out.

First dive, the gun still uncharged. The light from the sun enters underwater deeply angled, with spreading slow fans of opalescence. Deep under us the ocean is still dark, the water shadowy. Suddenly three wahoos before my spearpoint, then four more, deeper; then wahoos everywhere. At first I try to load my gun, the brain afire with the usual hunt lust. Then I sober. Today is the last day, I do not need some more dead fish. So I return to the boat, put down the gun, take the camera and slip in the water again to take pictures of those elusive, banded wahoos. That banded are only when they hunt. Or when they are being hunted. Now, with the eye of the observer and not of the hunter, and with a camera in my hand and NOT the gun (Iím sure a noteworthy detail from their point of view), I have the chance to observe them closely.

Theyíre slate grey, which, so told, is a wrong colour, a mountain colour. Instead theyíre winter-sea-grey, when they patrol and survey their zones. When theyíre hunting, and they arrive to the flasher, suddenly they light up their banded livery. And sometimes they also rotate mirroring the light from the surface. Itís almost as if they would show off an aggressive stance, making them certainly wondrous to my human eye but in the same time with an evolutionary valence Iím not able to grasp. The trevally under attack from the wahoo is supposed to remain dazzled by this splendour and slow down so to become an easier prey? Who knows?

Around, it seems everywhere, thereíre slender wary shapes, cruising slowly, looking at me with suspicious caution. In the still light from the motionless surface I see perfectly the pupil rotating when I dive to meet them deep down. They glide beside me, slowly, watchful and circumspect, half between ďif you stop, I approach so I can inspect if youíre perhaps something I can gulp downĒ and ďmy goodness, youíre really big and strange, I study you from distrustful distanceĒ.

I take picture after picture, none totally satisfying. Itís always difficult to wrap in a correct light those fish made to camouflage themselves and disappear in the ocean background. As always, itís easier to take a fish than to take a picture of him.

Gift number one, the uncountable wahoos, and number two, the absolutely flat Ocean.

Our photographic spell is broken by Bernard who shoots and stones a wahoo. The wahoo pack promptly disperses.

Pictures of him, of his fish, close-ups of both of them, Bernard smiling happy.

I return to the boat and leave the camera, take the gun but not the flasher and I leave toward the horizon. Away from all, in peace and solitary on the calm surface.

Today Iím not in so a great hunting mood. Certainly itís still working the relaxed frame of mind of the photographer but surely, before all, itís in place the usual Thanksgiving Compact to Poseidon. He gave me wonderful spectacles to witness, beautiful fish to take, even if he kept tight to his hairy blue chest his Billfish, and I want to be the more correct itís possible. I want only beautiful fish and above all, if possible, only without too much blood and suffering. Without fish tried, wounded and lost in the ocean to die. I cannot really explain it. I only know that this is what is correct and honest to do.

In the meantime I find a single wahoo and start following him. Itís a long time I learned that, if I swim properly so not to alarm him, and I follow him, our swimming speeds are not so different and I can trail him. And the fish brings me to where others are. As anticipated, there thereís another shape swimming in our same direction, and there another one, all on converging routes. Then the wahoo entire school.

From henceforth I constantly have wahoos under and around me, sometimes, glittering in the newly risen sun light, just inches under the surface, their shape reflecting on the blue mirror there; sometimes shadowy silhouettes in the cold deep water. And so, slowly swimming in the flat Ocean, I try for the perfect shot to a beautiful fish.

I let just pass many shot chances that, for some reasons, were not ideal. A fish not so gorgeous above all, then the not certainty of the result, the distance of the target.

Also, perhaps, because behind the school, sometimes under it, thereís a HUGE wahoo. Itís so big, it seems, thatís almost the double of the fish crowding near me. Not really crowding thatís, because all are at more than a prudent distance. He, instead, is more or less always hidden by the shapes of other patrolling fish. Sometimes he approaches, as almost all big fish, seemingly without movement, gliding motionless. Then rotates and flashes toward me the light from the surface. In that glowing halo, it seems, if possible, more massive than ever. I have never been able to bring him really not at a shooting distance, but not even at a decent observing one. What I can see is that heís big, disdainful, and very very reserved.

Despite all this however I try, inventing and testing almost at every dive new tricks, new ideas. I could almost say, to a unlikely and hypothetical observer, looking at me with fish all around me, not shooting and without any apparent intention to do it in the foreseeable future, that Iím hard at study on approaching techniques for the wahoo. Itís always worthwhile store away knowledge on this matter. If not really for the wahoo, hopefully for another kind of Blue Water fish. And, who knows, perhaps sometimes in the future I could find myself in a situation with really big wahoos around and I would be able to exploit what now Iím so carefully studying.

All this, so to say, without gear. Utilizing the whole body of the diver as a lure. In the meantime I discovered that, when they are few around you, itís enough to make a long still dive in the blue and they cannot resist. They return, always suspicious, but you can found them again all around you, waiting and watching. Easy deduction: even when youíre not seeing them they keep you under constant observation, over the blue wall of your mammalian reduced senses, but, when you dive into their realm, they reappear to keep wary watch on you.

 

Angelo with his test gun now approaches to where I am. So relaxed by now I am that I dive and, watching toward the surface, I can see him dive, hover in midwater, take accurate aim placing the hand behind the rear end so to avoid the mule kick in the face by the four powerful bands, shootÖ and miss a beautiful wahoo. The wahoos, perhaps moved by the shot, accelerate their otherwise sedate pace and swarm around me. In the midst of the school thereís one bigger than others, corpulent. I lower myself, a single fin kicking, I aim well, and I shot. Stoned! The fish do not even vibrate, it changes colour and becomes instantly slate-grey-no-winter-sea-grey. Angelo mills his arms in underwater congratulatory gesticulations, a trifle overdone perhaps, but Iím happy.

Gift number three, a beautiful fish with a perfect shot, and being just a little bit mischievous, number four, taking that fish with that shot just before an audience, in this environment in its own so fiercely opposed to spectators and only used to shared reporting of emotions.

Latest but real gift. Under the boat, when some burley drops I really do not know where from, appear Yellowfin Tunas. Little ones, perhaps ten kilos, but hearth-stoppingly beautiful. Wary and dizzyingly fast of course, but truly marvellous.

Thanks Poseidon.

 

Riccardo A. Andreoli

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