Posted by Jeffrey Milisen on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
When the anti-Jesus is born and your house is surrounded by hell-fires this 2012, where will you go to watch armies of mythical creatures battle it out with the invading demons? Perhaps you have a tranquil stream in your backyard or a spot in your living room where the AC is particularly refreshing to await the inevitable hordes of zombies coming to eat your brains. While you are huddled in the corner of your bedroom watching wussy unicorns get wedgies from short red men with horns, I, predictably, will be grabbing my scuba gear and heading for the ocean. Not just any ocean, but Portlock. My reasoning is simple. Everyone knows hell-spawn can't swim and Portlock, with its tumultuous waves and sharp rocks, isn't exactly the shallow end of the kiddie pool. Even if the fiends manage to learn to doggy paddle in the face-ripping currents, they have a large assemblage of not-so-mythical creatures to contend with such as sharks, dolphins, and even teenage mutant sea turtles.
You might have gathered already that Portlock is not a place for peaceful solitude. The cliff-diving entrance introduces the hazardous nature of the site appropriately. Almost a fifth of my open-water diving has been done there and in one out of every twenty or so dives the site has gone out of its way to send someone to a premature afterlife. I've lost count of how many of my buddies have underestimated the gas they needed to get back to the exit and had to borrow a regulator to breath from. That isn't to say I'm some kind of hero, in fact, I'm a terrible buddy. I've stared in "heroic" (read: helpless) wonderment as an endangered monk seal bared its growling teeth at my buddy's face-mask. I've been held at 70 feet by a massive current on its way to Molokai. I recall once getting lost and finally surfacing out of air nearly a half mile from the exit. For these reasons, the University of Hawaii uses it as a kind of trial-by-fire training ground for its diving program greenhorns on the weekends.
Portlock can be dangerous (mind the sign at the entrance that reads: "Caution, deaths have occured here")but there is a good reason I keep going back. For starters, you don't kick sand up into your gear as you slug across a herd of beached tourists to the shoreline. Most people would be excited about the dolphins, monk seals and even whitetip reef sharks that are frequently seen there. Being a critter dweeb, I care more about the rarer appearances of threadfin ulua (Alectis ciliaris) and brotulas (Brotula multibarbarata). I cannot verify that one old-timer swam with orcas out at 70 feet like he claims, but humpbacks do commonly cruise very close to the wall. I even wet my wetsuit at my first big Galapagos shark encounter after watching a monk seal and a whitetip duke it out in a cave. And thus, I no longer pay attention to the 6-10 turtles I usually see unless they have some sort of gross abnormality.
Regardless of your doomsday plans, I encourage you to grab a guide (carefully, they bruise easily) and check out Portlock. No other shore dive combines caves, deep water, exotic wildlife encounters, and an occasional adrenaline boost with such flare. And if the world continues on until (gasp) 2013, you might even find me there.