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Plumbing ocean depths by a submarine
In school, we grew up with books like H.G. Wells' 'First men in the moon' and 'Twenty thousand leagues under the sea' by Jules Verne (1870). We too dreamt of reliving such adventures. Fancy does turn one day, into a bit of reality!
In 1986, a cover story in National Geographic announced the arrival of the world's first passenger submarine. That opportunity came in 2003, when I found that Atlantis IV, world's largest commercial submarine was operating off the famous Waikiki beach, Honolulu. Curious, but still full of trepidation, I bought a ticket for the next trip. From the shore, we could see the submarine bobbing up and down on the high seas.

Atlantis IV has a capacity of 64 passengers, quite a jump from the original capacity of Atlantis of 1986. The waiting passengers are taken on a ferry boat to the bobbing submarine, which takes about an hour. The design and layout of the submarine were explained. En route, we were briefed about the safety 'dos and don'ts'.

Though all of us were smiling and laughing, there was an underlying apprehension of the unknown. Continuously announcements are made on the ship, that there were no toilets in the submarines, and those needing may utilise the toilets on the ferry. Often people develop queasy stomachs because of nervousness.

Finally, when the ferry docks near the submarine, then one has to go down by very steep stairs into the submarine. Once every one is settled in their respective seats, the procedure for pressuring the chamber and tightening the waterproof hatches starts. Every passenger has a separate window for watching the underwater world. Captain maintains ongoing contacts with the passengers and gives a running commentary. A red readout informs us what depth we are at.

As the submarine descends, it gets darker and darker. Finally, the sea was totally dark and there was no trace of sunlight. Submarine's own very strong headlights in all directions made us see the fascinating world, we had never seen before. Finally, we were 200 feet below sea level.

Shoals of big and small fish passed us by. Big sharks dashed against our windows. There were wrecked ships and crashed aircrafts lying on the seabed. All had become safe havens and nesting grounds for fish. Colourful reefs, millions of years old lay on both sides of the submarine. They must not have been exposed to sunlight for millions of years. I wondered what their true colours were!

The colours we were seeing were what the submarines headlight revealed to us. Flash for cameras were absolutely not allowed for safety reasons. All that we viewed had a bluish tinge. All that we could see to the point the headlights could light up was awe inspiring.

Gradually, while moving forward, the submarine started ascending. Finally, when we surfaced it was with a sense of relief, that we were back safe and sound. While we had never heard of any mishaps, some said that they would never do it again. Others resolved to do it again, but at a different locale, for these operate from some locations both in the Pacific and the Atlantic.

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