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!

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