"Being Stalked"

by

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

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My first dive to near hundred feet without an instructor was in a cold, inland, freshwater lake in southeastern Michigan. We had heard a rumor that this particular lake had a number of underwater caverns. So, we decided to investigate. The inland lake bottom contour map suggested an area we thought would be worth exploring.

The day was hot and humid. My buddy and I swam about 75 yards (towing a diver's flag float) on the surface to reach the planned descent point. As we descended, we noticed the light fading to a dim, twilight intensity. We swam at a depth of about 104 ffw over a dull, beige Jello-like featureless bottom  that I have come to label "Michigan Muck." The water temperature was in the high 40's Fahrenheit. This was pre-dry suit (for us), so the cold was apparent.

As we swam over the bottom, I had this eerie feeling that "It was out there!" I felt like I was being stalked, like in some 1950's B science fiction movie. I did not have a clue what "it" was, but I was distinctly aware that "it was out there" ... somewhere ... just beyond the limits of my visibility. This sense of dread seemed to increase as the dive progressed. Nothing urgent or overwhelming, just a dull-toothache like awareness that something unfriendly was "out there."

We did not find any caverns. After a totally uneventful dive, we surfaced and swam back to shore. Whatever was there on the bottom was not present on the surface.

At the post dive restaurant ritual of signing logbooks, my dive buddy asked me, "Were we alone down there?  I felt like I was being stalked. It was weird!"

In hindsight, since I do NOT believe the dive had increased our perception to the point of sensing extra-dimensional entities stalking us, I suspect that we had encountered a mild nitrogen narcosis hit; perhaps exacerbated by the cold, our first unsupervised deep dive anxiety, and a CO2 load from the pre-dive swim. I have had this sense of "being stalked" on other dives ... all involve dives in excess of a hundred feet in cold, limited visibility water.

The point is: 

Nitrogen Narcosis is not always a euphoric, diver's high or rapture-of-the-deep type experience. In cold, limited visibility water, the central nervous system response to the environment may be a profound sense of dread, an extreme lack of confidence, or a sense of being stalked. So, on future dives in cold, limited visibility water, when this dread appears, don't reach for your spear gun or knife, just be aware that cold water narcosis is NOT the same as the often-described warm water euphoria.

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About The Author: 

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 100 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America.

  Copyright 2001-2022 by Larry "Harris" Taylor

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Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education