It took her a few moments to realize that Javier had let go of her hand and was beneath her, creating a swirling funnel with the FAVOG that was just wide enough to pull them both down in single file. The rush of the water and the speed of their descent reminded Bia of going down a tall, vertical tunnel slide at a water park. At first, the whorl of water around Bia’s mask appeared as thin wavy stripes of various hues of blue. Occasionally she saw a brightly colored butterflyfish or a spotted sea bream being swept past her mask. As the siblings descended deeper and deeper, the blue water became darker and darker, until the view in front of her mask was a solid wall of black. Javier turned on the LED illumination array strapped to his chest, and Bia could see him when she looked down, his body a beacon that lit up their path like a fast-moving searchlight shooting into the depths below.
It took about 15 minutes for Javier and Bia to reach the seafloor, although it seemed like an eternity to Bia. A red message from Javier scrolled in front of her eyes almost as soon as her feet touched the muddy plateau.
Javier: That was quite a ride, yeah? You okay?
Javier: I’m looking at the MUDAM display. Don’t see anything unusual.
Bia: Let’s head northwest, toward the island. They were headed in that direction. Switch on your propulsion device.
Javier: Okay. Stay close to me.
Bia: Don’t worry, I’ll be right beside you.
The LED array illuminated their path with a wide, bright arc of light that penetrated the blackness and provided close to 20 feet of visibility in front of them. Bia noticed they were now on the MUDAM display, appearing as two ghostly figures skimming along the bottom of the ocean. As she was pushed along by her propulsion device, she closely scanned the seafloor, determined to find something that would explain why they had lost touch with their parents. Maybe the old sailboat’s transmission module had broken off the masthead. Or it could have lost the hydro-powered generator that charged the battery for its onboard motor and outdated electronics.
As they moved forward, Bia saw nothing on the seafloor but mud, silt, and stones. Occasionally an unusual or terrifying-looking fish swam through the gray view in front of her, which was often hazy from the continuous drizzle of marine detritus that floated down from the shallower depths. The dark, watery landscape felt eerie and surreal—a world vastly different than the bright, colorful one closer to the water’s surface. As they continued moving forward, Bia couldn’t shake her growing disappointment. When they left São Caetano to search for the Espírito, she had been sure they would find the missing sloop, with her parents safely on board and the old electronic equipment most likely in need of repair. But the vast emptiness of the ocean’s surface and the lack of any artifacts down here did not provide any hope. Panic welled up inside of her, constricting her chest and making it difficult to catch her breath. She sent a message to Javier.
Bia: Javier, there is nothing here.
Javier: Be patient, Bia.
Bia: How much farther should we go?
Javier: About 15 more kilometers.
For the next hour, Bia and Javier continued their search. To Bia, every foot of the ocean floor looked the same. Even with the propulsion device, the monotony of the flat, gray terrain that stretched ahead, and the letdown of seeing nothing from the Espírito, made her weary. Bia messaged Javier again.
Bia: Can we stop for a moment. I’m feeling tired.
Javier: Of course, pequenino. Do you need to go back to the boat?
Bia: Not yet. I just need to rest my eyes.
Javier: Not much to see, yeah?
Bia: Just stones, silt, and marine snow.
Javier: And an ugly fish now and again.
Bia could sense that Javier was smiling at her. She turned her head to smile back, and something caught her eye. To his left, in the distance, she saw a faint light.
Bia: Javier, look to your left. Do you see that? It’s a light.
Javier: It’s probably a glowing jellyfish or squid.
Bia: Can you turn off your LED array so we can see.
Immediately they were shrouded in blackness, but the light was still there. It appeared as a soft bluish glow, as though an entire school of luminescent creatures was hovering just above the ocean floor.
Javier: Que diabo?
Bia: What do you think it is?
Javier: Let me point the MUDAM scanner in that direction.
Bia watched the apparitions of her and Javier disappear from the display as he focused the device on the area where they saw the light. It showed only empty space with an occasional fish swimming though. There was nothing that indicated a bloom of jellyfish or a shoal of squids.
When she refocused her gaze on the light, Bia was drawn to it, as though it was reaching out directly to her. She had to see for herself what would create the delicate halo of brightness in this otherwise dark world, and with every passing moment the need within her to find it was getting stronger. She had the unshakable feeling it would provide a clue about her parents, and they had to get there as soon as possible.
Bia: That light could be from the Espírito. We have to go there. Now.
Javier: But the MUDAM system isn’t detecting anything. I don’t know how far away it is. And it’s not on the way to Pico Island.
Bia: Their GPS system could have broken down. They could have strayed off course. We need to see it. We have to.
Javier: It is probably a waste of our time to go there.
Bia: Then let’s go back to the cabin cruiser and bring it to these coordinates. If the light is still there when we come back, then we swim toward it. If not, then we continue swimming on the course to Pico Island.
Javier: Sounds like as good a plan as any. I’ll mark our position.
Javier switched on the LED array and they headed back to their boat. Bia was both elated and apprehensive. It was feasible that something could have fallen from her parents’ sailboat and become buried in the silt of the seafloor, which could render it undetectable by the MUDAM system. Still, she knew that even if it was some sort of beacon from a ship, there was a possibility that it could have come from another boat and not the Espírito. Whatever it was, though, she was certain it would still be there when they returned. She felt it.
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