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Full Circle

Day 94: Samal Island

Samal Island, Philippines 
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Think like a fish. Palin practices distress signals.
Michael Palin - Full CircleToday has been something of a milestone for the crew. Nigel has had a tooth pulled out in Davao and I have learnt the combined joys of scuba diving and underwater photography. I had only a day and a half to learn scuba diving. (I didn't like to let on that in 1970 I had spent a morning underwater filming with no instruction at all. It was in Ealing Swimming Baths and I was playing a man in a Monty Python sketch whose house was suffering from rising damp.) Today, thanks to the patient guidance of my instructor, Louie Barrios, I learn the ins and outs of negative and neutral buoyancy, nitrogen narcosis, embolism, ear-squeeze and Eustachean tubes before lunch. I enter the clear jade waters of the Pacific knowing all sorts of useful things about the underwater world: that objects look twenty-five per cent closer and twenty-five per cent larger, that sound travels faster and in all directions, that blood is green rather than red, that toothpaste rubbed on the face mask stops it steaming up, and that a wobbly hand sign means you're in trouble. The latter saved my bacon when, feeling more confident, I had strayed down to forty feet or so only to find myself suddenly unable to breathe except in increasingly short bursts. A wobble of the hand brought Louie alongside. Seeing my air level had run dangerously low, he deftly re-attached my tubes to his own air supply and brought me to the surface. It was mid-way through the afternoon before I suddenly got the hang of it, lost my clumsiness and began to move the way fish do.

As I lie in bed, my mind swooning under celebratory combinations of Margaritas and Australian white wine, a tropical storm breaks overhead, hurling stair-rods of rain against the thatch roof. Signalling, perhaps, that the holiday's over and it's time to move on.
Samal Island, Philippines 
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Fishing boat on the shore of Samal Island.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 94
  • Country/sea: Philippines
  • Place: Samal Island
  • Book page no: 137

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