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June 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 31, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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MV Infiniti, Andaman Sea, India

the last of the untouched ocean

from the June, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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From a mile away, I could see a small island with a cloud hovering. Coming into focus, the Barren Island volcano announced itself with frequent spewing of ash and thick dark smoke. Closer, I could easily see centuries of lava flows cascading toward the sea, with lush foliage elsewhere. By the time we stopped a couple hundred yards off this uninhabited island, Infiniti was lightly covered with black ash. Coming back to the mother boat at dusk after a dive at Barren, I saw bursts of flaming red in the smoke plume.

The Barren Island volcano spews ash and smoke.In underwater caves at the Grotto dive site, I had great views of the deep gray basalt lava formations -- impressive in their sheen, smoothness, and variety of shapes. The surge was powerful kicking into the cave, but worth the effort as I felt I was entering a modern art exhibit of brightly painted rocks, the colors from sponge growth. Surfacing inside for a look, the tall igneous rocks sharp angles were mind-boggling. Continuing on, I came across a field of tall garden eels waving in the black volcanic sand and spotted two stark-white eels, an amazing contrast.

I had been worried whether this trip would be worth it and became more concerned when I stepped off the plane at Port Blair, India (population 100,000) at 7 AM, where the April heat and humidity hit me as if I had run into a brick wall. I was on an island chain in the middle of the Bay of Bengal, about 700 miles from India's Eastern Coast, nearly 500 miles west of Phuket. I was here to board the luxurious, 133 ft., MV Infiniti the next day, but after thirty-eight hours of traveling and I was dragging. After having my Restricted Area Permit to dive the Andaman Islands stamped (I had completed the form at home), I was met by a hotel representative and whisked to my accommodations.

This trip, only offered a few times a year, would journey 327 miles round trip to dive the ultra-remote islands of Barren and Narcondam in the Andaman Sea. The eight-night voyage is advertised for experienced divers only, which I interpreted to mean for those who have proven ability to handle strong, rapidly changing currents and surge, an intimate relationship with their dive computer, and a willingness to dive on air since the Infiniti did not provide nitrox....


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