I don’t know a lot about Black Coral, but last week I read a story about some scientist that found the largest forest of Black Coral ever discovered by man. It was in a narrow straight of water called the Messina, located somewhere off the Italy coast. The other interesting factor to this great discovery, is that it is in the same body of water that 2 sea monsters have been know to live in for the last few centuries. “Scylla and Charybdis.” This mythical passage of water has been documented many times in stories such as “Homer’s Odyssey”, as well as having become a favorite tale for sailors and travelers in the area. But now with the dawn of the high-tech generation, scientist have begun using robotic sub’s to go to inhumanly depths of 180 to 380 feet to comb the bottom of this dark, cold, rocky coastline. Why write about this?????
The real story is mine, it takes place in Hawaii in 94, I was hanging at the dive shop with my best buddy Tom Callahan. He was a dive instructor and was working early that morning in the shop by the beach. I had been on a super early surf session, so on my way back to our hole in the wall house, I stopped by to say what’s up and have a coffee. Tom was waiting for his lesson to show up, so we stood their talking to this short, fat, blond guy Doug, who pretty much spent most of his day filling air tanks for divers and cleaning up the shop. A familiar truck pulled up and we all looked over to see John Miller, his Dad Matt and their dive crew jumping out of the back of the pickup. John spend his days growing up diving for coral with his Dad, it had made his family rich, but you’d never know it by the way they dressed or acted.
In order to find Black Coral you need to go below 150 feet (very dangerous), for these guys it was a daily route, just another day out at sea. They were tough as shit and didn’t seem to fear anything, yet the rest of the crew paled in comparison and were strictly hired deckhands. The crew grabbed their tanks and after talking to them for a couple of minutes they were gone, off to the dock to launch the boat. John had a bit of a bad boy rep in town; he drank hard and loved chasing young women, his father was the same way, only he kept his image a little more refined. There were no wives or mothers around and John had raised his son John Jr himself, with the help of a nanny the same way his father had done with him. The thing that I wasn’t aware of or didn’t notice about him when I partied with John and his gang was that he was a heroin user. It was something known among the diving community but it wasn’t really something anyone ever mentioned.
The hot summer day went on and later I found myself biking down to the harbor dock just off the main strip, off Front Street. The tour boats were coming in, the sky was soft and the hard banging sun was dropping in the distance. I stopped my Maui cruiser and chained it up to the electrical poll. I walked down the dry, dusty path to the water and watched as tourist offloaded onto the old, faded, red wooden wharf. A boat just outside the reef on the furthest point of the harbor looked like the “Susan Maria” John and Mat’s boat. It was silhouetted in the distance but I could see the tattered pirate flag that was blew off the top deck. It seemed to be chugging along faster then most boast that entered the harbor and you could feel something in the air. I worked my way past all the people and stood at their empty docking port, I watched as they kept their pace speeding towards the wharf. I could see a few people standing around the boat; none of them looked like John or Mat. There was a sense of panic to it all, and when I heard an ambulance arriving in the parking lot behind me I new something was up. Shortly another one arrived and the men were directed to where I was standing. I asked them what was wrong but the two men in uniforms ignored me after theymotioned for me to stand back. The Boat finally pulled up and two men lay lifeless on the bow of the boat. It was crazy, my heart jumped and I felt creepied out to see the purple faces of John and his father Matt both on the ground dead. The young fit Hawaii Ambulance technicians jumped on the boat after it was safely tied up and the crew spread out and got off to give the paramedics room to work. I was pushed further out of the way as the rest of the crew jumped off. People were freaking out and words were flying all over. John and Matt showed no signs of life despite the effort’s of the paramedics. Two guys worked on John and two others worked on Matt. Cop’s showed up and started to get the stories from the crew, they slowly interviewed everyone around the dock and gathered statements. It was a small town and everyone here knew each other. They carried both the bodies to the ambulances waiting a few feet away and whisked the men to the closes hospital, sirens blazing and still trying to revive them. It was like a dream everything was slow and people who knew the men had started to show up and breakdown. It was strange that I was there and people kept asking me the story over and over. It wasn’t till the evening in the dive bar “Mixy” that we all got the fact’s from the devastated crew who were now drinking the night away trying to not see what they saw every time they closed their eyes. Marty another friend of mine who worked for John and Matt as a deck hand spilled the truth, he had been on the other side of the island getting boat supplies that morning and wasn’t on board with them, but the rest of the guys told him what had really happened and he repeated it to me in a hush hush sort of way, as we smoked a joint behind the pub. He told me how John had shot up before his dive, which wasn’t anything new for him but for some reason it caught up with him and he had od’d underwater at about 110 feet. His father Matt had pulled him up to the surface and while the boy’s were trying to relive John, Matt went in to cardiac arrest and died on the spot. He wept while telling the story and seems general hurt by the whole ordeal, but then he looked at me and said “Now I have no job, what am I going to do.”
I guess life goes on…