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NISIDA ISLAND, (Posillipo Hill above)
In 1958, no buildings existed on the causeway to the island.
The large building at the end of the causeway is the ancient prison.
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In my hand, I hold two sets of flippers, face mask, and snorkel...one belonging to Sylvie.
...and I am ignored by Joanie...as though I do not exist. Actually, I really do empathise with her...my time since our return from Norway has been dominated by work and escapading around the Bay of Naples with Sylvia...leaving Joanie feeling ignored and perhaps upset at being pregnant again. I just wish there was some way we could do things together. I am having a difficult time trying to help with household chores...what's the matter...I'm not doing a good enough job for you...Translation: Get Off My Turf !
Actually, I was taught at a very young age - as were all my siblings - to do chores of all kinds. I, for one, enjoy working together to keep house and would love to pitch in...perhaps it has been a mistake to bring Joanie away from Seattle, family, and friends. I finally ask Joanie if she would like her mother to come to Naples to be with her the last weeks before delivery. She agrees...but not until closer to her time - early October.
At work, I have discovered that several NATO officers are starting a scuba diving club. Having recently found that I enjoy snorkeling. I approach the organizer, a British General Officer, asking if I may join his group. He replies that the diving club is restricted to Officers Only...primarily because of the limited equipment available. I ask if I my tag along at a distance to monitor the training...to that, he has no objection.
I am not invited to club meetings, but at the first beach side lesson, I arrive with my skin diving equipment. Before any scuba bottles are used, everyone must learn to skin dive, using just fins, mask, and snorkel.
To skin dive, one swims to deep water, lying flat on the surface...drawing air through the "snorkel" breathing tube, filling lungs with air...holding breath, one bends head down...feet rising vertically above the water surface...and with a mights pull with both hands, descend under the water. With the swim fins, one can stroke the feet, being propelled through the water much faster than when swimming.
I am invited by the General to meet the club members, all of whom are field grade officers; i.e., Major and above, except for one Army Captain, In the group are officers from England, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and the United States.
Immediately, I find that my equipment is not suitable for serious diving.
On the South side of Naples - on the road to Pompeii, there is an Italian skin diving retail store. I drive there, order the same equipment used by the NATO officers.
I stay within earshot of the diving instructor... a British Colonel, recently commanding officer of the equivalent of the Navy Seals. The first couple times I show up, I receive questioning glances from the officers, but soon, I am allowed to join the group...as long as I do not interfere or ask questions. I am offered copies of printed documents...dive tables, etc.
I return to the Italian dive shop, where I purchase books on diving. Scuba is, in 1958, still in it's infancy, but in Italy, as least, it is a thriving sport. Nearby Amalfi Peninsula has numerous deep water caves...300 feet below the water...which are pitch black inside. In these caves, adventurous divers harvest blood red CORAL, which brings a good price.
When the AFSE SUBAQUA CLUB - as it has come to be called - conducts examinations of members testing efficiency for Skin Diving proficiency, I am invited to take the test. I am awarded my certificate, which entitles me to proceed to train with the Aqua Lung.
The AQUALUNG..a system of two bottles of compressed air, attached to a two-stage "regulator" connected to a continuous rubber hose with a mouth-piece - with a non-return valve - in the center.. The regulator is the British Manufactured "HEINKE" equipped with a "by-pass" valve.
AQUALUNG - COUSTEAU Type
NISIDA Island...said to be the site of the home of "Brutus" ...
..."E tu, Brutus"
Looking at a map of Naples, the Island of Nisida is found on the Western end of the hill of Posillipo - Joanie and I live on the Eastern end of Posillipo.
During my Summer 1958 training in "skin diving", I become intimate with the waters between the shore of Posillipo and the island of Nisida. I am determined to be the absolute best I can be at skin diving, spending most of my free time - including many nights - skin diving the waters around Nisida. There is a man-made causeway leading from the base of Posillipo to the island of Nisida. I often drive the 10 minutes from our apartment, crossing the causeway, and parking next to the ancient prison.
One day, I stumble upon a stone tower about 100 yards from the island and the 200 feet south of the causeway. This ancient tower lies about 5 feet BENEATH the surface of the water (and, cannot be seen from ground level). I easily stand on the top of the tower, which about 25 feet square . Diving straight down, my depth gauge registers 76 feet to the bottom of the tower.
I develop a routine...swim to the tower...hyperventilate 8 or 10 times to saturate my blood with Oxygen...dive to the bottom...sit down...place a rock in my lap so I don't float back up...and sit watching the stars at night twinkling through the crystal clear water. I often sit on the bottom 4 minutes or more.
A 2-foot diameter Octopus lives down here... always comes out from under her nearby rock... inspects me closely. I cannot talk under the water, but we form a bond. She is always here for me.
and, about now, I need someone to talk to.
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Hyperventilating Note: If one hyperventilates, over-saturating the blood stream with Oxygen, the brain will NOT signal the desire to breath. This is a VERY dangerous thing to do, as the oxygen is soon used up, causing one to pass out - AND DROWN.
One MUST be aware of the elapsed time under water and return to the surface...even without the desire to breath.
I must admit to more than once purposely approaching that point...luckily, I never found it.
In 1966, I attended an Octopus Competition in the Tacoma Narrows (under the bridge - see Galloping Gertie), during which "skin divers" - no diving bottles allowed -, paddled kayaks into the swiftly flowing 100-foot deep water, dropped anchor.
Armed with only a knife for emergency use, competitors dive to the bottom, luring giant octopus from their caves, wrapping their arm around the octopus's head - which, I am told, makes them relax, and swimming with them to the surface, stuffing the octopus into the "hold" of the kayak, then paddling to shore where the animal is placed in an aquarium. The winner - largest octopus captured the day I watched - was 19 feet tip to tip.
All captured octopuses were then returned to the waters of the Tacoma Narrows.
I have "heard" that a 32 foot diameter octopus was captured in the waters of Fort Casey - where the Washington State Ferry docks - on Whidbey Island.
Read elsewhere that a 32 foot critter was also taken from the waters of British Columbia, Canada.
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