Largo and his black clad frogmen scurry beneath the Miami waves to plant a stolen nuclear bomb, while overhead navy seals parachute into the sea to give chase. As they plunge into the depths they line up to face Spectre’s army. The two scuba troops clash, ripping off face masks and cutting oxygen hoses, gas propelled spears flying in every direction. It was an underwater war! Then Bond dove in with a special propelled backpack, thrusting him fast toward the melee. As he rushed past the Spectre frogmen, he pulled off their masks, sliced their breathing hoses and took a few out with his speargun. Bond was in the fight and winning with cunning and guile! This would be the first and to date, one of the few underwater battles ever filmed for cinema. Thunderball was the first James Bond movie I ever saw and I was HOOKED! Thunderball had everything a kid could want, action, adventure, exotic locations and later, when I could appreciate it, stunning women. My father then took us on a trip to Nassau in the Bahamas to see many of the locations where Thunderball was filmed and both he and my mother were training to get scuba certified. I had one problem though, I couldn’t swim and growing up in New York City it would be many years until I did finally learn to swim. To make it even worse, because of two incidents where I almost drowned, I had developed aquaphobia. It would be some time before I had the mental fortitude to conquer that fear. But I eventually did! Well, mostly…
My wife and I have taken many trips to the Caribbean and other locations where snorkeling was amazing. She’s a better swimmer than I but the two of us could easily navigate many snorkel tours both guided and on our own. I began to regain my appreciation for the ocean and recall one of my favorite shows as a child, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau”. Like Cousteau, I always had a sense of adventure but not always the grit. Going on these many snorkeling trips made my desire stronger than my fear and finally before a trip to Cuba, I made the decision to get scuba certified. Surreptitiously there was a dive center right in my neighborhood! The fates were with me.
I did the PADI certification process which is broken up into 3 parts. First I did my eLearning, where I learned the basic principles of scuba diving such as how to plan a dive, how to choose the right scuba gear and learning all the underwater signals and other diving procedures. This took a long time for me, about a week but I got a decent score. Then I was eligible for my Confined Water Dive, where I developed basic scuba skills in a swimming pool. The basic skills help you become familiar with your scuba gear, setting up your gear, how to get water out of your mask, buoyancy control and safety procedures etc.. I practiced these skills with the instructor until I was comfortable. Then it was time for the Open Water Dive. For this I had to go down to Miami. This was challenging as the weather looked okay but due to an offshore storm, the waves were high and choppy. I have a tendency to get seasick in choppy waters and I did, very! The first dive went alright, once I was off the boat and into the water I was able to submerge pretty easily. The instructor was extremely patient and guided me through the whole process. Getting my ears equilibrated was tough though. I kept going through the procedure of holding my nose and gently blowing but the deeper I went the pain got excruciating, I finally was able to do it and I was down on the open ocean floor for the first time and it was exquisite!
The serenity and peaceful feeling of the ocean floor is blissful. You float or fly through the water with such ease, where every movement is so precise and controlled that all your worries and fears completely disappear and you are left with this beautiful alien new world. Fish, coral and sunken ships fill your sense of wonder and there are creatures you can’t even imagine in the strangest sci-fi movie. Sometimes the fish are fearful and dart quickly away as you swim toward them, while others are curious and will come right up to your mask to say hello, what the hell are you? Then there are the colors. At about 40ft you see every color of fish and coral you can imagine and a few you never thought possible. At 60ft the blue takes over and everything is in a beautiful blue (or sometimes green depending on where you are) hue but you still are in an Alice in Wonderland landscape where surprises are around every corner. On the 2nd Dive I took some Dramamine and I was fine.
So far since my first certification dive, I have dived off of Cuba. Because it’s under tourested, Cuba has some of the most pristine and beautiful coral reefs of the Caribbean. I then dived with the Stuart Cove company. Stuart Cove was the underwater stunt coordinator for For Your Eyes Only and Never Say Never Again. Since the waters of the Bahamas are so clear, EON Productions always goes there for their underwater sequences. I recently had the most incredible experience to dive off of GoldenEye in Jamaica thanks to David Zaritsky of The Bond Experience inviting me to be a part of #OperationGoldenEye, celebrating the 70th year of Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel Casino Royale, at Fleming’s Jamaican home. While on this trip I had the opportunity to meet and interview the head of the GoldenEye Foundation, Travis Graham and talk to him about all the good works that foundation does, the main project being to restore the disappearing coral reefs around the resort. Right now the world has lost 50% of the coral reefs due to global warming. The coral reefs give life to most of the ocean and we get 40% of our oxygen from the ocean, so coral bleaching can be considered a state of emergency! Currently, the GoldenEye foundation has restored almost half of what they had lost. There is war going on with Spectre but it’s the spectre of global warming and right now the GoldenEye Foundation is on the winning side. People like Travis Graham are the James Bond like characters who are literally saving the world!
To learn more about the GoldenEye Foundation and to donate to this very worthy cause go to: www.goldeneyefoundation.org
To see videos of my underwater adventures and many others, go to my YouTube channel: Always Say YES to Adventure!
And to my Instigram: @sifu_lamas
Last modified: 3 January 2024