Dang, I hate it when I get outside of my comfort zone.
I was an avid, certified scuba diver at one time. But then came the kids, work, pets, and other excuses.
It has been almost 20 years since I last went diving or snorkeling. Despite this, we took our boat out to a dive site in the Atlantic (versus diving with a group) to see a statue underwater — my comfort zone was greatly breached.
The Christ of the Abyss Statue
The original Christ of The Abyss statue was created to honor Dario Gonzatt, the first Italian to use scuba gear, and can be found at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea near Italy. You can learn more about the history at Christoftheabyss.net.
The site also has information on the other Christ of the Abyss statues worldwide. The Christ at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, Florida, is the most famous and where my dive took place.
Below is a map provided by FloridaKeys.Noaa.gov, marking the statute and buoys on the Key Largo Dry Rocks. I circled in green the buoy we tied up.
Making our Approach
As we approached the Key Largo Dry Rocks, I could see a dive boat in the distance. I could also see snorkelers crisscrossing over the dive site.
I was excited to see them as I knew we would not be diving alone, but they were pulling out by the time we tied up to our mooring buoy.
As the captain began to pull away, he gave a shout-out to let us know a hammerhead was spotted on the reef.
Since it was wintertime and the water was cold, we put on our wetsuits to make the dive comfortable. As we were orienting ourselves in the water around our boat, dozens of fish started swimming and congregating below.
I was perfectly content at that point, just watching and playing with the fish while wondering if the hammerhead had a full belly.
With no one at the dive site and no real orientation to where the Christ statue was, we decided to just explore the reef in an attempt to find the statue.
We swam around the boat and nearby coral for quite some time but had no luck finding the statue.
By this point, we were the only boat on the reef, and I was ready to head back to our boat when I saw the statute out of the corner of my eyes. I was about 15 or so feet below me, and my first impression was how beautiful is.
My husband went down first while I videotaped him. It took him a little effort, but he touched the Christ statue’s hand on the first try.
Now it was my turn. My first attempt was a total loss. With my wetsuit on, and no weights, I bobbed like a cork in the water. I didn’t even get close. I might as well have been diving with a life jacket on!
I rested before my second attempt, then moved right over the statue. Then, with all the strength I could muster, I dove down.
I got about a foot from Christ’s hand when I began to fight the buoyancy caused by my wetsuit pulling me to the surface. But I didn’t want to fail again. So I took every ounce of strength in me, kicked as hard as possible using the little air left in my lungs, and pushed towards the hand.
I wanted nothing more than to touch it. I really, really wanted to touch it. But my lungs were saying otherwise; go to the surface, or you are going to black out.
So I gave in, after inches from touching Christ’s hand, and let my wetsuit carry me to the surface, barely needing to kick on my way up.
I knew better, but I pushed it.
When I got to the surface, I floated on my back for a long time, attempting to regain my strength. Disappointed, knowing I had no more strength to try again.
It is important to state at this time. If I wasn’t once a certified diver and hadn’t had all the experience I had diving and snorkeling, my actions that day could have really put me at risk. Even so, the two of us being on the reef alone also adds an element of risk.
What I’m saying is, if you have little or no diving or snorkeling experience, you must go with a dive group. But even if you do have experience, there is comfort in numbers. And if you have a wetsuit on, don’t forget your weights.
But I don’t Snorkle or Dive…
Those who do not dive or snorkel and never want to can still see a statue of the Christ of the Abyss when visiting Key Largo. St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church in Key Largo has a bronze replica located in front of the main sanctuary at mile marker 105.5 on US 1. The church commissioned Ido Demetz in 1991 to make a bronze replica.
PS: I have plans to upload my video from our dive on my YouTube Channel. Once active, you can click here.