The Day I Killed Camera #4
Peter and Margie Benziger
Wed 9 May 2012 08:46
THE DAY I KILLED CAMERA #4 By Peter
This day began with a spectacular sunrise. The previous evening, we had arrived at Koh Rawl, an island in the Butang Group, in southern Thailand. The Butang Group, consisting of three islands and a wide expanse of surrounding reef, is considered a national park here in Thailand and an environmentally protected area. Since there is a heavy fine for anchoring on, or damaging, the reef in any way, we anchored Peregrina far offshore in 65 feet of water. We were a long, long way from the beach. As we set out for shore in the dinghy, I had no idea that this might be the “last gasp” for Camera #4 – a Sony Cybershot.
Now before I go any further, it is important that you fully understand that I was in NO WAY responsible for the death of the first three cameras.
Camera #1, a Panasonic, died in the Tuamotus in the Pacific Ocean. The Tuamotus were, for many years, known to mariners as “the dangerous isles.” They are very low islands, mostly atolls, meaning they are just the rocky tops of underwater volcanoes sticking up through the surface of the water and they are a navigational nightmare. But, once safely inside the lagoons, formed by the surrounding atolls, the water is absolutely crystal clear…more transparent than any water I had ever experienced before. So, it was quite natural that, when I went ashore with the dingy and jumped out into water, I thought it was about a foot deep. I was very surprised to find the water almost four feet deep! Just deep enough to submerge Camera #1, which was in my pocket but, certainly, not my fault!
Camera #2 perished in Vanautu, the last major Pacific island before reaching Australia. Here, our dinghy approach was a little more complicated due to the constant surf pounding the beach but no big deal. Getting ashore is just a question of motoring straight, waiting until a wave lifts the stern, pulling the engine out of the water and then surfing onto the beach.
Leaving shore requires me to hold the dinghy into the waves while Margie climbs aboard and then, providing a running push, jumping up on the dinghy’s stern and starting the engine. On this fateful day, a sizable wave lifted the bow just as I was about to jump aboard and the dingy went sideways. I stayed in the water to try to keep the dingy from capsizing and was pushed underwater….with the camera in my pocket. Obviously, it was my chivalrous action to protect Margie which caused Panasonic Camera #2 ‘s death.
Old dogs CAN learn new tricks so, when I purchased Camera #3, a Canon, I wisely bought an “underwater” camera. From that point on, minor mishaps with the dingy were humorous and the camera always surfaced in great shape. So, how did Camera #3 die? Well, I had been blameless in the death of Cameras #1 and #2 and I must admit that the death of Camera #3 was Chris Oppenheimer’s fault – not mine. Chris is a good friend who joined us to sail part of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia. He loves diving and we have dive tanks on board Peregrina. During one of his dives, he dropped his underwater camera and never found it. So, on the next dive, I took my underwater camera and followed, taking pictures of him so that he would remember his trip. Well, Chris descended a coral wall and I followed, happily snapping photos. At about 65 feet (20 meters) my camera started malfunctioning. When I got back to the boat, I noticed that the fine print in the camera’s manual said “good to 5 meters of depth.” Now, even though it was on the very first page of the manual, it was still very “fine print” as far as I’m concerned and REAL GUYS don’t read manuals anyways. So I’ll continue to blame Chris for Camera #3’s demise.
Now back to Camera #4, the Sony Cybershot, and Ko Rawl in Thailand…
On this lovely day, we decided to go ashore to visit the Ranger Station and hike to a waterfall indicated in the guidebook. Camera #4 was safely tucked into it’s new waterproof pouch. As we approached the island, we saw three dogs; a mother and two young pups come bounding up to our landing spot and actually jump into the water and swim to meet us. They were to be our constant companions for the next four hours ashore.
We hiked, with the dogs as our guides, alongside a stream for about an hour and a quarter up the mountain to the waterfall. At the top of the waterfall, there was a pool of water just before the flow cascaded over the edge. Margie lay down to cool off and I climbed up about 30 feet to take a picture of her. My last comment was, “This rock looks pretty slippery.” At that moment, my feet went out from under me and I started sliding down 30 feet towards the pool, holding Camera #4 above my head to keep it dry. (Did I mention that the Sony Cybershot is NOT an underwater camera?) I bounced off a bolder near the end and then fell into the pool … which, unfortunately, turned out to be a few inches deeper than I could hold up the camera! So, there you go…once again the forces of nature were against me and, despite my most valiant effort it looked like Camera #4 was a goner. But, no! When I tried to turn it on, the shutter opened and there was still some hope!!!
Well, the excitement did not end there! When we got down to the beach, we found the dinghy high and dry with about 300 feet of sand and coral between us and the water and the tide was still going out! No problem for the dynamic duo from Peregrina! We had brought our snorkel gear so this was the perfect opportunity to take a look at the national park under the sea! Leaving the camera on top of the waterproof pouch, in the dinghy, with the back open to dry out, we waded out until we had about two feet of water and started snorkeling towards deeper water. It was spectacular as we negotiated past all the black sea urchins, with their spiny stingers, blocking our path in the shallow water. We swam around and over them with as little as one inch separating our chest from the tips of the stingers. Margie’s chest was more a problem than mine, frankly, and she had numerous close encounters with those evil little buggers!
Once in deep water, we snorkeled the reef wall for about an hour as the tide continued to drop. Margie announced in no uncertain terms that she preferred to swim the last quarter mile out to where Peregrina was anchored rather than going back over sea urchins and, since the current was slack at this point, we reached Peregrina after a long but safe swim. Shortly, afterwards it started to rain and then it started to pour.
Oh, Oh! Remember camera #4, drying out in the dinghy? Well, about this time we figured that things were not looking good for camera #4 supposedly recuperating from the waterfall swim.
But, we still had to go and retrieve our dinghy with the camera inside. Even though the tide had just started to rise it was clear that the dinghy would still be beached for at least 2 more hours. The complication was that sunset was coming and, as the tide began to rise, the current alongside the boat increased. Darkness and a fast moving current did not make for ideal swimming conditions.
Luckily, the rain stopped. I waited until just before sunset and began the quarter mile swim to a point of land that was not in the direct path of the out-flowing current. You’ll notice the “I” here as opposed to the “we” in terms of who was swimming at this point. As twilight fell, I found myself all alone picking my way among the sea urchins for about a hundred yards before reaching shore while my lovely wife was enjoying reading a boo in the cockpit of Peregrina. In the diminishing light and without my glasses for good vision, I walked about another quarter mile to the dinghy which was still high and dry. As I waited for the tide to come in enough to float the dingy and as darkness fell, I used the time to play with the dogs and try to make peace with the mosquitoes who apparently considered the beach their property.
At about 8pm that night, the dinghy was floating and camera # 4, which was found floating face-down in the rainwater in the bottom of the dinghy, was beyond doubt...really dead.
I slowly rowed myself out to deeper water in total blackness, bumping into coral boomies sticking out along the way. I could not risk putting the motor down for almost an eighth of a mile fearing that the propeller would hit a rock, break and the current would sweep me out towards India. (Which would serve Margie right, wouldn’t it?)
Finally there was sufficient depth and, with the motor chugging faithfully away, I headed for the lights burning bright on Peregrina. Another heroic effort despite losing yet another camera ....through no fault of my own…
Long Live Camera #5!!!!!!!
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