It may be only week 3 in Grand Cayman, but I already feel like a different person from the dude that jumped off the plane only 16 days ago.
Not only have I experienced physical changes (darker skin, lighter hair and loss of the beer belly), I also feel a great sense of positive personal change, both in mentality and knowledge alike. Here is my run-down of life on ‘the island’ thus far…
The first couple of days here were a blur due to a combination of jet lag, meeting all these new people and getting my head around the fact that ‘yes, this is actually happening, this is your life now!’. I do remember, however, the relief after meeting everybody in the team and being sure that I was with a group of happy, good-natured and like-minded people.
After settling in and meeting everyone, it was time to hit the books and get to know the reefs of Grand Cayman. Growing up in temperate Australia, I had little exposure to coral reefs and even through University we did not study them in great detail as it would take a lot of time, effort and resources to get to them. This factor was both exciting and a little nerve-racking for me. It was a breathtaking experience to free-dive the reef for the first time, but it’s also an ecosystem I am not familiar with (which is why I’ve had my nose buried in books for the last few months). Thankfully, after some intensive study sessions with the other presenters, I was feeling ready to bring these reefs to the world’s computer screens.
The first few live dives were a massive learning curve for me, presenting can be challenging enough without the worry of breathing, buoyancy, swimming, going the right directions and working with the cables that tether me to the cameraman and the cameraman to the surface. Being the only presenter able to fit the full facemask, I was the only one who could present underwater at this stage I should have been freaking out. Thankfully, the WildEarth team’s mentality is really great, inspiring even. Everyone was extremely positive and helpful with their feedback, so whilst I still have a LOT to learn, there were some rapid improvements made, particularly in my skills as a diver.
Tech issues, tech issues and more tech issues. In case you couldn’t tell, week 2 was riddled with tech issues (mainly flooding of the underwater camera housing), so I spent a lot of the second week watching helplessly as Alex did everything in his power to get us back diving live. This did, however, free up some time for our crew to do some serious diving and exploring of the reef. These exploratory dives were a crucial part of us learning these reefs, so whilst in a lot of ways the tech ‘gremlins’ were a set-back, they were somewhat of a blessing in disguise for us presenters. Additionally, observing how cool, calm and collected the team stayed despite just about everything going wrong was a big learning point for me – positivity always trumps frustration. In other words – ‘don’t worry, be happy’ :)
Week 3 and present
Santa (Alex) arrived back from the North Pole (New York) with his sack full of presents (new tech gear), and a new full face mask for the girls is set to arrive any day now. With these advancements, we are hopeful that we can finally start getting a constant supply of fresh live dives going with all presenters now being able to present from the water. We are now becoming very familiar with the reef, I am feeling a lot more competent as a diver, and I’m 100% sure the ladies will absolutely slay it when it’s their turn presenting from the water. So for the time being it seems like things are going up from here – the sky’s the limit!
Written by: Patrick Fitzgerald