Archive for June, 2010


6/10

Gatama Atoll—I’m about 25,000 shy of 1 million Pelagos. Now that I’m this close to opening the Chamber of the Gods, it’s tempting to indulge in nonstop treasure orgies to gobble up money as fast as possible. But frankly, I’m tired of salvaging, and I wouldn’t mind if I never set fin in Valka Castle again. So I’ve decided to put the multisensor away and try to earn honest money by any other means.

In fact, today I’m not looking for money at all—I’m just trying to get the Pacific white-sided dolphin to be my friend.  The trouble is, this dolphin—whom I’ve already named Violet—is pathologically shy. You have to approach it  “Red Pony” style,  slowly earning its trust. This actually makes it one of the more realistic quests, because it doesn’t rely on any tricks. No whistles, no rescue efforts—just old-fashioned perseverance.

Of course, this means I have to make multiple trips back to its habitat around the Deep Hole in Gatama Atoll. So we’ve basically set up camp on the boat, sleeping on deck and returning to Nineball Island only to develop pictures. It’s been tremendously relaxing in  a way, like setting up a tent in your backyard for a sleepover, and it’s given me a chance to do one of my around-the-clock ecological surveys that I love so well.

Sunset—The water takes on a hazy glow as bigfin reef squid dart through the kelp leaves like shuttles in a loom.  Pee Wee, the pygmy sperm whale, comes out of the Deep Hole for an evening swim around the Colosseum.

Pee Wee out for an evening swim

Unfortunately, so does Sluggo, the tiger shark. 

Sluggo

I’ve tried to draw up a “Know Thine Enemy” about Sluggo, but he’s too unpredictable. After a daytime appearance early in the game, he now only emerges at sundown, and he never seems to attack as long as you keep your eyes on him. The moment you turn your back and try to move away, he starts to close in, but when he’ll strike is hard to predict. I’ve known him to leave me alone throughout an entire dive; other times he’ll strike two or three times, even with frantic pulsing. It’s almost as if he has moods, and if you catch him in a bad one, he’ll make sure you know about it.

Did I mention that Sluggo is rather large?

Then there’s the pod of five or six Pacific white-sided dolphins that fly all over Deep Hole. I suspect that they’re the real terrors on this reef, scaring the smaller fish away until only a few lost-looking moorish idols are left. And damn, they’re fast—it took me a long time just to single out Violet by her white, hook-shaped dorsal fin. Somehow, Pee Wee, Sluggo and the dolphins are all able to stay constantly in motion around each other without colliding.

Violet

Midnight—The midnight shift is very much like sunset, although Sluggo appears more sedate—perhaps, contrary to popular belief, sharks do sleep now and then. The dolphins, on the other hand, are still bouncing on their beds.

I’ve taken Hayako with me, and her fish-finder indicates an undiscovered creature moving slowly around the Mouth of Truth. I look carefully for it without success. The only thing I see in that range is the ocean sunfish, and it couldn’t be ol’ Sol, could it? I click on him, and magically crusty ol’ Sol transforms into the resplendant Apollo, a golden-hued legendary creature that the native Paolians think is the personification of the sun. Why Sol, you old sea dog, you!

Apollo

Dawn—At dawn, a squadron of Japanese eagle rays take up their formation, circling over slow-moving unicorn fish blanched pale green by the morning sunlight. The light is so strong that I can see directly down the Deep Hole all the way to the bottom. It’s too hard to resist—I take out my multisensor and scan for a few treasures (that didn’t last long). Later, I try to keep up with the dolphins—they’re too fast for me. Using the whistle, I’m able to draw Violet close enough to click on her, but she’s not ready to swim with me yet.

Morning rays

Noon—At noon, the light is more diffuse, the blues so saturated that I’d almost think the sky above the water must be overcast, if that were only possible. Sol is his old self again, shrunken, doddering, nothing at all like the sun. I pursue Violet one more time, but she’s still playing hard to get. I’ll have to come back to Deep Hole another day. Ah well!

Back on Nineball Island, Jean Eric tells me that I’ve got an e-mail from the magazine I sent my photos to. (BTW, how does he know what’s in my  inbox? I guess since he’s the point man, the magazines cc him, but it’s still kind of creepy.) Anyway, Maritime Weekly liked my photo of a leafy seadragon—it rated an “A” and a cover! I tried something different this time, and if it works again, I may be on to something.

Next I had Nancy appraise the whopping two items we found in the Deep Hole. Before she left, she passed along a note from ML, of all people! I thought we’d never hear from him again, but here he is asking for a photo of a whale shark in Gatama Atoll. “Oh wow!” shouts Oceana, “I can’t believe a professional photographer wants our photographs!” Yeah, I can’t believe it, either—better get a copyright watermark on that photo, pronto!

But their treasure wasn’t gold. It was knowledge. Knowledge was their treasure. — Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

6/3

Cortica River—My indifference to the Cortica River part of the game is well-documented (i.e., repetitive and  boring), but lately that’s were some of the most interesting things have been discovered.

I was on a routine salvage hunt a couple of weeks ago when, after finding the Diamond Telescope, I decided to amble downstream with the  multi-sensor to see what else I could pick up. Scanning the Cortica riverbottom turns out to be some fun, as it’s often a challenge to reach through a thicket of roots or electric eels to get at your glittering prize. At one point I picked up an unassuming canonball and took it home. Polished off, it proved to be a crystal skull, and while it didn’t glow, buzz, read my mind or turn into a super-magnet, it drew a respectable 10,000 Pelagos on the collector’s market.

The next discovery began a few days later, when I awoke from a nap and passed Jean-Eric on the way to the beach. “Perfect timing,” he muttered, folding his newspaper. You can always tell something’s up when Cappy’s been reading the paper.

“It says here a monster’s been sighted in the Cortica River. Witnesses say the creature is pitch black, is seen only on rainy days when the river is running fast. Something about a gigantic black thing. You should check it out.”

For various reasons, I didn’t get around to looking for it until last night. Rain was pelting the river, as it usually is, and you can see the little rings made by the raindrops from under the water—a nice effect. Heading upstream, I kept stopping to announce that I thought something was watching me, then I turn around and nothing’s there. It’s all very ominous—is there some new maneater or Creature from the Black Lagoon I’m going to meet up with? 

My path eventually takes me to Queen Lake. Suddenly…rising from the depths…a black form takes shape…and materializes into…a big fat manatee. Oh Cortica, once again you disappoint me! Mama Cortica, so we’re told, is a benevolent spirit on the river, saving capsized fishermen, uniting young lovers, and frying up cassava cakes for all the children. Very nice, but what was all that about a big black monster? Who reported that story, Don Knotts?

Mama Cortica

Yes, the Cortica River is a queer place, but I’ve saved the best and queerest for last. I was taking a woman named Lisa on a trip to see the Piraibo catfish at the mouth of the temple. Bored, I decided to investigate a rumor that there was a secret hole in the riverbank. This isn’t part of the story, but apparently a glitch in the game programming that was reported by several witnesses on the GameFaqs message board.  In first-person view, you swim up to the left of Spirit Falls, just where there’s a clump of vines growing in the corner. Then you surface, turn to the left, and there it should be—a rent in the space-time continuum. I’d attempted this trick several times in the past, but hadn’t had any success. I was beginning to think this was an anomaly on only some people’s games, but tonight there it was—a jarring, jagged hole in the screen, and through it I see…OH GOD! IT’S FULL OF STARS!

A rabbit hole in the riverbank.

Not exactly, but an endless stretch of open water under a clear Amazonian sky. Dive again and you’re faced with the riverbank, but here’s the cool part—you can penetrate through the wall into the open water on the other side! Swim in any direction, it seems to go on forever and is impossibly deep. Turn around to look back, and below and above the water you see paradoxical vistas of twisted pixellation, semitransparent walls, and cutaway sections of the river.

Looking back on the rabbit hole (arrow)

Hello, Dali!

It’s like an out-of-the-body experience. I can see Lisa staring uncomprehendingly at the empty space where I used to be. Jean-Eric frantically shouts that I’ve lost my partner, but I don’t care—I’m free! I’m transcendent! I’m outside the game looking in.

The riverbank and the 'other side'; Lisa left behind.

After a few minutes of this I pierce the wall again and return to the game, then disappear through the portal once more to see if it still works. It does, and I can reenter the game through King Amaru’s Aqueduct, or I imagine, through any point I choose.

X-ray view of King Amaru's Aqueduct

There’s really no point in looking for fish and treasure now, so I drag us home to develop the pictures I took on the other side. Lisa is sorely pissed that I left her behind; she reads me the riot act and leaves in a snit with no tip. She’s right—I’ve violated my principle of always satisfying the customer—but honestly, I couldn’t care less. I’ve just passed into the twilight zone, and saw that it was awesome.

The Cortica River has just become a lot more interesting.

It’s been a slow couple of weeks on Nineball Island. Between work, holidays and the end of the school year, there hasn’t been much time to devote to diving, let alone blogging about it. A tour here and a salvage there, salting the money away as it comes.  I’ve been back to Zahhab a few times, one of my favorite places. For color, variety and sheer numbers of fish, nowhere in EO can match it.

Coral Valley

Blackfin barracuda swarm near the Super Dropoff

Yellow longnose butterflyfish (Forcipiger flavissimus)

Big Boeing over Mushroom Rock.

I discovered this Crown of Thorns starfish almost by accident.

Stone Castle

 

I swear that thing was THIS BIG!