Roughly 110 miles from Freeport, I plunged six feet down from the M/V Fling, into the Gulf of Mexico to explore the Flower Gardens Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Here, rays of sun stream through Jolly Rancher-blue waters, a setting unlike anything near the shore. A school of fish gathered under the boat and a torpedo-shaped barracuda hung motionless in the water 20 yards away. Admiring his buoyancy control, I swam down to the reef, clearly visible 80 feet below.
Under water, light behaves differently; colors sparkle, then fade. Sounds magnify and distort. Liquid cradles a body accustomed to mere air. Down and up become abstractions. Swimming equals flying. Water replaces atmosphere, and the sea floor or lake bottom might resemble a barren moon or the most riotous field of flora imaginable.