Zahhab Region, sunrise—Today I’m going off in search of the Viking Treasure, which is located somewhere in the Zahhab Region Depths. But before we dive, Jean Eric has a special announcement: a pod of whales is heading for the beach, and if we don’t do something immediately, they’re going to wash up onshore and die. This causes Oceana to go into a puzzling defeatist rant—“Whales beach themselves over and over again. If we help them here, what’s to stop them from beaching somewhere else? What’s the point?” She said something similar the other day in the Amazon, so I’m beginning to suspect that she’s going through that hopeless period that all environmental defenders go through sooner or later, whether they’re staring down a Russian harpoon cannon or deciding paper or plastic at the supermarket. Anyway, I’m sick of her whining, so, given the choice of responding with “I’ll go myself” or “You’re wrong!” I choose the latter. Then Jean Eric jumps in to brow beat her for being such a wimp, and before long she’s shamefaced and apologizing to all. Now I kinda feel sorry for her. But whatever—let’s go save some whales!

They’re spermaceti—a half dozen of them, coming in fast from all directions in ones and twos, and you’ve got to intercept them with your pulsar, then change direction and get the next. I pick a foolish time to get a snapshot in, one gets away and we have to start all over again. I overshoot on the pulsar, and another gets away—start again. On the third try, I get all the whales pulsed before they crash into the reef. Whew! This is some pulse-pounding stuff, probably the most intense gameplay since we had to find our way out of the  collapsing Chamber of the Gods.

With that over, I can turn my attention to finding the Viking Treasure, worth a cool 2,700 pelagos upfront. My map of the Zahhab Depths is incomplete, so it’s difficult to see where we should be looking. 500 feet down, the Depths region is a labyrinth, full of nooks and crannies and ledges leading to caverns and tunnels, with only a tiny cone of light to see by. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a six-gill shark snapping at us in the dark. Map, toggle, turn, pulsar, map… I’m completely disoriented and running out of oxygen; panic is seeping in, and in that crazed way that no doubt leads to real life cave-diving deaths, I’m refusing to give up or even slow down and get my bearings. Finally, I find a cave that matches the spot on the map. Quick—multisensor. Nothing but a canister! What then? Wait—another cave, or the same one? Go down, up. Wait—what’s this? Ah, got it! The Viking Treasure.

Vampire squid

The cave is full of vampire squid, bioluminescing like crazy. In spite of the fact that I’m nearly out of air, I stop to take pictures, find and pick up a coin, and start the slow climb up the rock walls toward the sun. No flashing back to the boat this time—I can do this. As we emerge from the depths, we’re met by a welcoming committee of gray whales cruising over our heads.

Looking up from the abyss

The adventure’s over, and now it’s time to return to Nineball Island and collect my hard-earned pay. The conservation group is extra generous for the whale mission—10,000 P! Oceana talks for something like 5 minutes about how cool we are. Now as for the Viking Treasure, GG informs me that it’s a shame we missed the deadline on that. What are you talking about?!  We didn’t miss any deadline! Then I remember: there was 1 day left before expiration on that request. Travel to anywhere except Gatama Atoll uses up 1 full day—that was it. When we started the dive, it was already too late. No payoff on the treasure; we’ve got to wait until another request comes, if ever.

Defeated, I go off to the dock, and teach Lilly some new tricks to forget about it.