GHS students get underwater with Low Key in Cruz Bay harbor during a scuba certification mini-mester program.
Growing up in the Virgin Islands has opened my eyes to the beauty under the sea. There is another world down there, filled with life, color and new discoveries to be made.
My whole life I have dreamed of being a mermaid. I dreamed of having the ability to breathe under water and experience a new place. Low Key Water Sports allowed me to do this. Low Key and their welcoming staff let six students from Gifft Hill School, myself included, expand our knowledge about the sea and become certified divers in less than a week!
On the first day of our journey we studied the diver’s manual like our biology book! We did review quizzes and chapter tests all day long. We were faced with questions about water pressure, equalization, equipment, and underwater safety. Finishing the book was a relief; however, after I finished I felt safe and prepared. Although sitting in a room all day testing took some patience, I knew it would pay off.
(L to R) Savanna Morrisette, Kwasi Browne and Maggie Wessinger in the diving suits on Cruz Bay beach.
After a long day of testing the previous day, Low Key took us out on their boat for the first time. As we headed over to the front side of Lovango we were all quite jittery. We pulled into the beautiful bay, anchored the boat, went over our dive plan and headed into the water.
Since it was the first time any of us had ever been diving, we only dove down 15 feet. We reviewed under water procedures like what to do if we lost our mask, ran out of air, or had to take our gear off. Even though it took longer for some, we eventually all got it down and felt comfortable in the water.
The second day, we dove to about 30 feet in front of Mingo and Grass Key. This was the experience for which I had been hoping. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Fish swarmed around me, making me feel like I was one of them. I could just glide in the water and not have to worry about when I was going to need to return to the surface for air. I could spend time examining the reef and different fish in front of me. I could relax; I could become a mermaid.
My diving experience that day was more than amazing; however, I did have some problems equalizing my ears on the way up and down. My whole life my ears have given me problems in the water, this specific week I was hoping they wouldn’t give me trouble.
As I lowered to the ocean bottom, my ears started to feel as though 10,000 pound elephants were attempting to squeeze inside them. I wanted to swim up to the top as fast as possible but the spectacular dive instructors handled my reaction with ease. They took me up about five feet, let me adjust, and then slowly started descending again. They really were sensational dive instructors.
On the last day we went on another dive by Mingo, as well as Solomon Bay on St. John. These two dives were each close to 60 feet deep. We came across eels, sunken boats, tarpon, and turtles. The reef and wildlife were spectacular.
As I swam around the ocean floor I found that I was more than comfortable; I was at peace. No one could bother me and no one was in my way. It was the most relieving and soothing experience of my life. When I returned to the surface I was officially a certified open water diver.
Now that I am a certified open water diver I can attend night dives with Low Key, go on day dives, or even dive with a partner on my own. Thanks to my certification, whenever I have time, I can go on an adventure in my ocean backyard — exploring the sea floor, and examining the thriving wildlife.
Where we live is amazing, even if you don’t have the chance to go diving, and part of what makes this island so beautiful is also the people on it. Without the amazing, and patient staff at Low Key I would not have been blessed with the amazing and unforgettable opportunity I was given.
The number of local businesses on St. John that support Gifft Hill School is outstanding. People all over this island have supported the kids in an effort to help them grow and become stewards of the island down the road. Local businesses have supplied the kids of GHS with so many unforgettable opportunities that we could never repay them.
I would also like to thank Gifft Hill School for allowing its students to experience classrooms without walls. In doing this they have helped prepare us for the world in which we live and for which we will one day be responsible.