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Field Journal

Diving In

Diving In

A Single Moment – Written by 9 year old Mathias Emmens

I stand on the jetty, poised ready to dive in, toes curled around the edge of the sun-warmed and weather-worn timber, not wanting to let go and dive. It’s a hot day, and I know the water will be like cool fingers surrounding me. Then I dive, ripples spreading out, and I slip into a different world, the kelp forest entangling me like tentacles. This is an underwater world I wish I could inhabit for longer than just a few seconds at a time – the way the sunlight casts weird shadows, the fish large and small darting around, a glimpse of the lake floor covered in stones that look like precious jewels. But my lungs are beginning to burn, so reluctantly I push upwards and break the surface, taking great gasps of fresh air. Seeing the shore ahead I swim for it, breaking free of the lake weed. My feet finally touching the bottom, I stand there grinning.

For several years now, I’ve longed to be a diver. There is something about these magical underwater worlds that has captured my imagination, and I don’t think it’s just about treasure. The variety of beautiful creatures, the way the plants move in the currents, a chance to explore places that while so close seem so far away. These are the kinds of adventures I dream of.

Do you remember when you first started to dream of adventures? I do. For a few years now, with a bit of help from my dad, I’ve been trying to fit in as many as possible. School holidays are a great time for this, and here I am on the shore of Lake Como. It is beautiful, the wildlife fantastic – lizards basking in the sun, swallowtail butterflies the size of small birds, the drone of cicadas, praying mantises hiding on doors and windowsills. Apparently there are water snakes in the lake, but I haven’t seen any yet. This is a summer adventure I never want to come to an end, exploring, diving, messing around, gathering treasures: a moulted snakeskin, broken shards of pottery and beach glass, driftwood turned smooth by the waves.

The next day we go back to the same spot, except this time we ignore the jetty. Instead I swim out into the small bay to a small rock outcrop. The water is cooler here. I climb up the cliffs, the sharp rocks pressing into my feet as I clamber, slowly and carefully, up to a narrow metal platform that juts out – maybe an old disused fishing platform. I cautiously move along it, feeling as if I’m on top of a great cliff, although it’s only about 3m to the water. I can feel my heart beating in my chest as if it’s trying to escape. I take a deep breath, hesitate; can I do this? I’m not sure, but then I jump. It is like bliss mixed with hell: the bliss is plunging into crystal-clear water; the hell is when my breath starts to run out, my lungs once again burning, but far more than before. I panic, kick as hard as I can, my eyes tightly closed, a thousand thoughts running through my mind. Finally, after what feels like a lifetime, I burst out of the water, gasping, laughing. I have to do this again.

I swim back to the base of the cliff, and once again climb carefully to the platform, compose myself and jump. Even though this time I think I know what to expect, I still have to fight the rising panic – the noise of the water rushing past my ears is deafening – and then air, warm sun on my face. I slowly backstroke to shore. All this swimming, climbing, diving has made me hungry. Thankfully, like all good adventurers should, we have a supply of chocolate biscuits.