With a fizz of compressed gas and an ominous gurgling, the moss-coloured ocean swallows the little yellow submarine. We sink from the surface, the contraption plunging far below boats carrying tourists on the surface – deeper and deeper into the watery blue-blackness of the Caribbean.
I’m jammed into a steel sphere, my legs already cramping in the tight, hot compartment of the submarine. I feel bouts of claustrophobia break over me and then recede. There is a four-inch-thick acrylic viewing dome separating me from the mounting water pressure outside as we slide down alongside a coral wall.
And then the rapid descent. The sun’s rays fight to penetrate this depth as we fall deeper and the darkness begins to enfold us.
It’s like those stories you hear of people dying and going towards the light, except in reverse – we are fading to black. At 200ft, most natural light has gone, leaving a murky, colourless gloom.
‘There, right there,’ says Karl, the submarine’s pilot, turning on powerful spotlights that illuminate a tattered wetsuit and a scuba diver’s algae-encrusted BCD (buoyancy control device).
‘That belonged to a New Yorker called Bugsy who came here to commit suicide. He just sank from the surface and was never seen again. That’s his stuff.’ The nylon straps billow and undulate in the current, a dying man’s valedictory wave. We tumble past, downwards.
A depth gauge on my left reads 500ft, but we still have a long way to go.