Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Atlantis Submarine Adventure (part 2)

 A day in DePalm-adise on the Atlantis Submarine Adventure (pt. 2)

As I take my seat on the wooden benches outside of the shop, I am greeted by a fusion of sounds, sites, and smells – the clunking of flip-flops from little kids running around, the smell of the beach (aka Hawaiin Tropic coconut-scented sun protection products), the creaking of docked boats as they sway with the waves from the marina to the left of me, and the six year old chicklet sitting to the right of me that has a head fully braided with colorful plastic beads that clink together as they dangle from the tips of each individual braid.

The shuttlecraft aquarium on water
The Sub Seeker
Evelien, the supervisor of the Atlantis shop, informs everyone that there is a shuttle boat called the Sub Seeker that will transport us to the 48 passenger, 65 foot long, fully air-conditioned, bathroom-less, battery operated submarine hauling us 130 feet below the Caribbean Sea. Alas, the shuttle boat (that looks like a shuttlecraft aquarium on water) roars over our way. The adults, just as excited as the little kids, flock to the front end of the dock where Evelien takes their picture as a memory keepsake. 

The mask
Inside the aquarium
The Elbert the co-captain starts in on safety procedures with a lifejacket demonstration – “Folks, I have bad news…” Everyone stops what they’re doing. “There are only two jackets on board – one for me, and one for captain.” It took a few seconds for everyone to catch on that he was joking. At first the thought of being locked in a submarine however many feet below the Sea did not bother me, but when the next demonstration was on how to use a smoke mask, it all became real. Flying since the age of five, I told myself to “Keep calm and carry on” as it was pretty much the same concept. Hey, at least the crew is thorough by implementing safety precautions.

Speaking of airplanes - while ripping through the waves toward the drop-off spot, the Sub Seeker seems to be experiencing turbulence itself. Good thing we are on water and not in the air! While passing through the Bucuti Channel I witness some features that are only spotted from the mid-section shores of Aruba, like the island’s landing strip that is to the left of us, (the planes literally fly in feet away from the water), and sets of mini islands to the right of us that are heavily populated by mangroves and abandoned wooden shacks that are used by locals for camping. 

Beach-side camping
The mangroves
My nostrils, caked with sea salt that slipped in from the open windows of the shuttle in the back, pick up a burning leaves smell that reminds me of the fall in the United States. “Folks, I apologize for the smell,” (I actually love it), “but here in Aruba we burn our trash, and that’s what you are smelling.” I enjoyed the smell of trash being burned? Gross. That’s just as bad as my brother who enjoys the smell at the gas station pump. 

Our twelve-minute shuttle ride has come to an end. Like sitting ducks wadding in the water, Elbert tells us that we will actually get to see the submarine emerge from the Sea. He calls for me to come from the back to the front so I can get pictures of the submarine ascending (and I didn’t even have to pull the “employee card”). Suddenly, the Sea begins to churn and bubble up like water in a pot on the stove when it begins to boil. Reaching closer to the surface, the dark silhouette (not to be mistaken for the Lochness Monster) soon turns to white as the submarine surfaces. 

About to board the submarine!
Join me next week for part three when I take you below the hatches with me. 

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