South Pacific excitement
School scuba club encounters wild weather, underwater life

NNSL (May 21/97) - A group of high school students from Yellowknife recently returned from one extremely exciting adventure in the South Pacific.

The Sir John Franklin Scuba Club is back from a diving and marine biology excursion in Fiji. It was an experience they aren't likely to forget.

While there they experienced the effects of Hurricane Ian, which was blowing not far off the coast. The hurricane directed heavy winds and rain their way.

"Having a coconut crash onto the metal roof of your bungalow is an unsettling way to be woken up," said Bob Jones, a marine biology instructor who accompanied the group.

The wind and runoff from the storm reduced visibility for the divers underwater.

The difficult conditions made it that much harder to focus on the skills they needed to pass their Open Water diver's course.

Divers were also making observations of marine life as part of the projects that they were preparing to complete their marine biology course.

"They all did extremely well and all became certified divers during our first three days on site," said Colin Baile, the students' instructor in Yellowknife and in Fiji.

Despite the rain, it was a memorable exploration of the underwater world.

The variety of marine life students saw even while snorkelling rivalled anything they could hope to see anywhere in the world.

Small sharks, moray eels, octopi, fish of every color and size, sea urchins, starfish and a bewildering array of corals were everywhere whenever the divers put their masks in the water.

During a night snorkel in a lagoon near their resort, seeing a poison-finned lion fish and a huge Napoleon wrasse were highlights.

The group also had a chance to explore some of the culture and geography of Fiji and took in various cultural and musical events.

Whenever the sun did break through the clouds, pale Northern bodies absorbed the warm rays. Several sunburns are still being proudly displayed in the hallways of Sir John.

This is the third time the Sir John Franklin Scuba Club has offered the program to students in Yellowknife.

John Stewart, the club's co-ordinator, was impressed with participants' efforts and learning.

"We live surrounded by water in the territories. These students have developed excellent skills to be able to explore that world now," said Stewart.

"We had a lot of fun and learned a lot while we were at it. I personally will never touch fire coral again."

The club will hold its wrap-up event at the Ruth Inch swimming pool June 7, when parents will finally get their chance to go "down under."