Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Three Ways to Vomit Underwater

Pigeon Key, Florida

Mrs. Phred was sleeping on the couch when I woke up at 6 AM today. As I make coffee, she moves back to the bedroom. Yesterday the strap on one of my 25 year old black fins broke while snorkeling, so I replaced both straps. I throw the dive bag and weight belt in the Toyota and start hitting the dive shops at 8 AM. The story is the same everywhere. “It’s too rough to go out”.

The wind is 20 knots and the seas are seven to ten feet. I listen to one operator explain to another customer that he wants him to have a good experience. There is no experience as wonderfully memorable as grabbing a dive ladder that’s plunging up and down twelve feet and going up like a rocket on the up tick.

Besides, conditions like that induces nausea in 90% of the other divers and always gives me a chance to help them out by explaining the three known methods of vomiting underwater, two of which may lead to death. (Note 1) You can always tell when someone loses it in tropical waters because clouds of yellowtails start biting their cheeks.

After the fourth turndown, I regroup and ask Mrs. Phred to walk with me two miles out on the old “seven mile” bridge to Pigeon Key. On the walk we take pictures and see a woman pushing a baby carriage ahead of us. She turns around and we try to keep straight faces as we see a little dog in the carriage. I snap a photo surreptitiously.

Along the way we see hundreds of large black stingrays bottom-feeding, a large nurse shark and a sea turtle. Stingrays have furry skins that feels like very plush velvet. Nurse sharks are very docile and only bite if you find them sleeping and pull their tails.

A number of years back I was diving in the gulf about 60 feet down with my 16 year old son on a limestone ledge when we came upon a truly strange object. My mind instantly said “alien cocoon”. Then the object resolved into a 300 pound sleeping turtle. I grabbed his shell and he towed me out of the sight of my son very quickly. This is considered illegal harassment of turtles.

Pigeon Key is two miles south of Marathon Key. Henry Flagler ran his overseas railroad across the seven miles separating Marathon and the next key and used the small Pigeon Key in the middle of the gap to house up to 400 construction personnel. The existing structures on Pigeon Key were built around 1909. Pigeon Key was the Southern terminus for the rescue operations after the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. There are over 5,000 huge concrete pilings spanning the gap. Even the water to mix concrete had to be run down in wooden casks on railroad flatcars.

The seven mile railroad bridge reopened as a two-lane toll road in 1938. Tolls were discontinued in 1952 and the old “seven mile” bridge stopped carrying traffic in 1982 when the new bridge opened.

Note 1:
1. Throw up through your regulator. The downside of this is that big chunks may clog the regulator, making it unusable. Most divers now have a spare regulator, so this is not necessarily fatal.
2. Remove the regulator and throw up. This method is likely to lead to aspiration of water and death.
3. Remove the regulator and hit the purge button to create an air bubble in which to vomit. This is considered the best form.


  1. As you seem to be an avid adventurer, you must visit the Conch Republic while down in the Southern part of Florida. Please post the footage and discoveries you may happen to find!

  2. By coincidence, today is the 25th anniversary of the declaration of independence of Key West. The Conch Replublic sells travel documents to tourists. The 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed Atta bought a set of these, demonstrating the abysmal stupidity of his type. The Republic tounge-in-cheek succession occured because the border patrol was stopping all cars coming out of the Keys to search for drugs and illegal aliens in 1982.

  3. I saw mention of vomiting safely underwater in a National Geographic article. How to do this safely was not mentioned so I looked it up and found your blog. I am not a diver, but was curious how one survives a vomiting episode underwater.