“You know this is pointless, yeah?” Javier said.
“No, I don’t know that.”
Bia frowned as she considered Javier’s comment. Merda, maybe he was right. Trying to find their parents’ sailboat out here in the Atlantic Ocean was probably futile. As she looked out over the starboard side of their rented 34-foot cabin cruiser, all she could see was endless blue—the cerulean blue of the Atlantic Ocean and the lighter azure blue of the cloudless morning sky above it. Nothing else. The swells of water that gently rocked their boat were a reminder to her that the ocean was continuously in motion—dynamic and alive—and extremely unpredictable.
Bia and Javier Barqueiro had been communicating with their parents as the older couple sailed to Pico Island. Even though their yacht, the Espírito Peripatético, was an antique and they relied on vintage electronic equipment, Mama and Papa had insisted their 50-foot sloop, built in 2020, was seaworthy and could make the 1,200-mile trip from their marina in Cádiz, Spain to the Portuguese Azores archipelago. At the time, Javier and Bia had no reason to doubt them. But then the siblings lost contact with the elder Barqueiros. Their last video call with Mama and Papa was three days ago, and shortly afterward, the transmission from the sailboat’s AIS transponder went silent. Since then, they’d heard nothing from their parents or the Espírito.
The last position recorded for the sailboat was about 100 miles southeast of São Caetano on Pico Island in the Azores, where Bia and Javier were now anchored. But there was nothing here except water. Just water, as far as the eye could see. No signs of a shipwreck. No disabled sailboat or life raft. No signal from the Espírito’s transponder. It was as if their parents just disappeared. The last time they scanned the area with the onboard Multidimensional Underwater Detection and Mapping (MUDAM) system, the holoscreen showed nothing but the ocean floor and marine life.
“Can you check the MUDAM screen again?” Bia called to Javier. The sharp edge of her voice disclosed the desperation she felt.
Javier sighed. “I just checked it. Nothing has changed.”
Bia looked at the three-dimensional display herself. Her older brother was right, of course. Aside from the images of several large fish, there was nothing else to see. “I don’t understand, Javier. Where could they be?”
“I don’t know, pequenino. We just have to keep looking.”
She noted the GPS coordinates on the MUDAM screen that identified their position as located above the Azores Plateau, which lies at a depth of approximately 6,600 feet below sea level. It was extremely deep, but they had brought the equipment necessary for a dive of that magnitude. Maybe they would find something—anything—lodged in the muck of the sea bed that would provide a clue to their parents’ whereabouts.
Bia turned to face her brother. “We need to go down and look around. See for ourselves what is there.”
“Yeah,” Javier said in agreement. They both had anticipated the trip would require a dive. Javier had charted the water’s depth before they left São Caetano and rented a Fluid Axisymmetric Vortex Generator (FAVOG) to facilitate their descent. They had also brought their deep-sea diving gear.
“I’ll set up the FAVOG, you start suiting up,” Javier said as he pulled out the vortex generator. Bia shuddered and hoped Javier didn’t notice. Although she had dived through a fluid vortex several times, the experience still unnerved her. She imagined it was similar to jumping into a wormhole and traveling from one point to another in space. Only this wormhole would take her straight down from the water’s surface to the ocean floor.
She pulled on her hyperbaric-enabled diving skin. The form-fitting suit, made from woven carbon nanotube filaments, would control her buoyancy as well as provide protection from ambient pressure changes and eliminate the need to decompress. Next, she strapped on an immersible portable oxygen generator and propulsion device.
“Almost ready?” Javier asked as he buckled his oxygen generator across his back and then strapped on his propulsion device. “Let’s check our mask messaging before we go down.”
Bia fastened her retinal projection-enabled, high-definition diving mask over her face. It was wirelessly connected to their cabin cruiser’s onboard neutronic computing system. During the dive, she would be able to view the MUDAM system display and also communicate with Javier via voice-activated messaging.
Bia: I’m as ready as I can be.
With his mask covering his face, Javier nodded in response. He grabbed her hand, switched on the FAVOG strapped to his waist, and they both jumped off the side of the boat.
To be continued
Check out “Lost at Sea.” Bia and Javier search for their parents in the Atlantic Ocean. But they find something else instead.Tweet
Written by Allorianna Matsourani