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The Mysteries of the Deep

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The treasure diver stands on the rim of his ship. Below him is a vast expanse of crystal blue waters, shimmering and flickering in the brilliant white tropical sun. He is going to penetrate those waters: enter their mysterious domain and witness what fantastic sights they shall disclose. From head to foot he is insulated: his entire frame is enveloped in a bodysuit of rubber; over his feet are drawn heavy waterproof boots; his head is encased in the bulbous helmet particular to divers, and on his back is strapped the oxygen tank whereby he will breathe.

He dives with a tremendous splash into the watery gems, sending up a furious white spray which swiftly closes over his head. As his eyes accustom themselves to the weird luminescent ripples fluttering beneath the surface, he beholds himself within a world past words. It is a world where the air is swallowed by water: where man’s domination is supplanted by the tyranny of the great white shark. The flowery vegetation lush on terra firma is replaced by the fantastic subterranean coral reefs.

Below him, rooted to a jagged ledge, the treasure diver recognizes a mass of brain coral. They are a colony of odd tubercular growths, perfectly spherical balls, but creviced into a million irregular surface folds. Their muddy brown color is as homely as their looks.

Its cousin, the fan coral, compensates a hundredfold for the brain coral’s plainness. It spreads its spongy branches in a glorious flan of showy colors: rich French blue, cherry red, neon orange, lazar lemon. There is hardly a color in the rainbow which it does not reflect in vibrant strokes. Its colors are usually self-contained; but in some marvelous varieties, two, or even three, shades are blended together in a kaleidoscopic effect. The sea owes much of its legendary color to this single plant.

A sudden blur of color is caught from the corner of the treasure diver’s eyes; and he turns to behold a school of brilliant yellow fishes, each bearing a single black stripe, delicately drift past. The ocean’s wonders are not contained to merely her plants: fishes of all kinds and degrees swim her waters. There are the boldly colored tropical fish, whose rainbow scales match the glamour of the vibrant coral reefs. Others are less brilliantly outfitted, though nonetheless equally exotic. Among these are the black and white striped Groupers, whose school passes the awed diver in an abstract jumble of horizontal lines. Even plainer than the Grouper is the Snapper. He is perhaps one of the blandest fish to inhabit the underworld. His scales have neither the brilliance of the tropical fish nor the intrigue of the Grouper; but are a commonplace tan.

As the diver nears the ocean floor, light becomes scarce and the true blackness of the ocean begins to dawn upon him. Its brilliant sparkling blue surface is sheer pretence, an illusion created by the brilliance of the sun, and no more. Now, the diver witnesses the sights of the ocean floor.

A mud-red lobster, jointed to absurdity, crosses the diver’s path; his tail is a fan of blunted blades. The diver remarks that his near relation, the crab, though flatter, is not nearly as darkly colored as the lobster. In fact, the muted red crab is comparatively livid. 

On the floor itself, the diver is startled afresh. What appeared to be a sheet of unruffled, glassy sand has been broken by a soft rustle a yard ahead of him. His eyes are fixed intently on the spot of disturbance. His straining eye can detect nothing visibly amiss when the flat, flabby triangular form of a sting-ray serenely raises itself from the bed of sand and flutters to a more secluded area.

As the diver’s eyes idly follow the path of this creature, his attention is caught by an abrupt gleam of silver to his right. He jerks his head about to see the unmistakable silhouette of the Great White Shark, the tyrant of the deep and lion of the ocean waters. The shark’s coat of shining silver, tinted pale blue in the reflection of the waters, glints with a cold flash in the cool rays of sunlight which pierce the deep. This creature, the diver knows, has well-merited his reputation of the fiercest fighter of the four oceans. No prey can escape the yawning jaws this beast. His mouth is bordered with immense razor-sharp teeth while his delicate sense of smell is so acute that he can detect the faintest trace of spilled blood from considerable distances. The diver has not long to wait before the Great White, a creature of prodigious speed, reaches his stand.

The treasure diver propels himself upward, out of the shady dark of the ocean floor, toward the ripply surface of shimmering blue gems overhead. The barnacle-infested hull of his boat floats in a dizzying circle above his head, zooming closer and closer into view.

Suddenly, the treasure diver reaches the surface with a hard impact. He strikes the water heavily as he regains his bearings; then grasps at a rope lowered from his boat and hauls himself up with a heave. He has not discovered any grand treasure from a sunken ship; but he has seen what no treasure, however great, can buy: he has witnessed the wonders hidden deep below that vast expanse of brilliant blue waters.


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