The Rapture of the Deep: And Other Dive Stories You Probably Shouldn't Know

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Journey with scuba instructor Michael Zinsley as he dives his way through 16 countries, rubbing shoulders with the locals and mixing underwater adventure with after-hours escapades.

The Rapture of the Deep is fast paced and rich in content, consisting of humorous anecdotes, insightful histories, underwater descriptions, and terrifying close calls. The diving stories relate events seen once in a thousand dives. Native cultures are revealed with an awareness that only someone who ...

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Journey with scuba instructor Michael Zinsley as he dives his way through 16 countries, rubbing shoulders with the locals and mixing underwater adventure with after-hours escapades.

The Rapture of the Deep is fast paced and rich in content, consisting of humorous anecdotes, insightful histories, underwater descriptions, and terrifying close calls. The diving stories relate events seen once in a thousand dives. Native cultures are revealed with an awareness that only someone who has lived in those lands can describe. The book’s lighter side is the combination of underwater adventure mixed with after-hours escapades (imagine Cousteau extending his documentaries to include closing time in the local bars). The descriptions of coral reef life are written in a way that non-diving readers will be as intrigued as the experts.

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What People Are Saying

Dan E. Bailey
Fast paced and fun! Zinsley's unique experiences with divers and diving in exotic places captivate the reader.
—author of World War II Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon)
Jon Fanning
Here's the bet: If you can get someone, anyone, to just read the introduction, they will finish the whole book!
—USAF Stealth Fighter Pilot
Peter Stone
I have been a writer and photojournalist for twenty years, published in many magazines, written several books, and one day, I too, will write of my adventures. But no matter how hard I try, I doubt - I know - it will never be as good as your book. I think The Rapture of the Deep is one of the best books of its type I have read - not only on diving as such, but as a general adventure biography. No, it is THE best book I have read - beat Fireside Diver, and Downtime - for me anyway. Your style is excellent - it is easy to read and yet you have a grasp of the English language that shows a measure of intelligence and expression. I shouldn't be setting myself up in any way as judge and jury, but I really am impressed. I look forward to hopping into bed this evening and devouring a few more pages. I must be careful not to cloud my judgement simply because I found the material so interesting, but your style is superb.
—author of Lonely Planet, and publisher, Oceans Enterprises, Australia
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585007417
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 647,603
  • Product dimensions: 5.04 (w) x 8.08 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction xiii
I. Pacific Islands
It's Yer Shout, Mate 3
Dive Gods 7
The Sunken Rainbow 11
Tommy Talo 17
Abenteuer 27
The Heart of Polynesia 33
The Seasick Divemaster 39
Shipwrecked 43
The Rapture of the Deep 51
Ponape 55
Unspoiled Micronesia 65
Roots 69
Good Timing 75
Bad Profiles 79
The Bad Canadian 85
Fish Daydreams 87
Entangled 91
Bottom Time 93
II. Bermuda and the Caribbean
Night Diving 97
Bottled Up 101
Whale Watching 105
Combat 111
The Caves 113
Fish Feeding 117
Yes, You too Can Dive 119
Stupid Instructor Tricks 123
Reverie 125
La Dania's Leap 127
Big John 133
Winding 139
Know Your Enemy 145
III. Back to Palau
The Sacramento Contingent 163
Palauan Magic 167
Welcome to the Fifth World 171
Manta Fever 177
Kevin and Sarah 179
The Legend of Mad Ben of Airai 183
The Battle for Peleliu 189
Jaws 193
Where was Hemingway? 195
Enzo 201
IV. Southeast Asia
Green Forest, Green Flash 207
The Commissioner of Oats 211
Welcome to the Third World 215
Nature's Call 225
The Bends 227
Cotillion 231
Babes in Thailand 233
The Twilight Zone 243
The Sensitive Aussie 245
The Phuket Grand Prix 247
The Nutty Aussie 251
Epilogue 255
Glossary 257
References 261
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Railay Bay, Krabi, Thailand

"I've seen things here that I could never possibly have imagined, and I'm a guy with a pretty broad imagination." Gene

As I turned my student's air off, I watched her eyes, waiting for a reaction. The needle on the gauge in front of her plunged to zero as she sucked hard on her mouthpiece. When she realized that there was nothing left to breathe, she looked at me quizzically, then shot to the surface. Fortunately, we were in a shallow training pool, and not the ocean.

"Why'd you come up?" I asked.

"I ran out of air."

"You didn't run out of air. I turned it off."

"What the hell did you do that for?"

"It's the skill we're practicing. You're supposed to signal 'out of air' and let me turn it back on. Let's try it again."

It had been a long season, and it was frustrating to spend extra time with an inattentive student. (Used together, the words "air," "off," "under," and "water" usually penetrate even the deepest of daydreams.) As she put her mask and regulator back in the appropriate places for her brief descent, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that overall, I still loved what I was doing. Glancing at the high limestone cliffs and jungle surrounding the tropical resort, I reflected for a moment on the events of the previous eight years and what had led me to that pool, ten thousand miles from home.

It was an inspiration that started while I was working as a high school teacher in Los Angeles. I enjoyed teaching, but stressful conditions made me miserable. Feeling trapped by the city, I spent evenings watching sunsets from my balcony while televisions flickered on the window shades of the apartments around me. I saw my lifetime as a book, but my future was written before me as a tale as monotonous as those of my neighbors. I dreamed of an edition filled with a series of adventures, tightly packed to fit into my given volume of life. Those porch sunsets beckoned me across the ocean, to mysterious lands where bills, taxes, and dull routine would disappear.

At the end of the school year, I accepted a position as a professional mountain guide, but I soon realized it wasn't what I sought. Hacking and thrashing my way up some godforsaken mound of ice-covered rock with clumsy customers on the end of my rope had lost its appeal. Continuous weeks above timberline left little time for a social life. I would march to each summit secretly hoping that the dream girl I had never met might somehow find out about my heroic ascent and surrender herself to me in fairy-tale awe. Instead, I returned from every plod to share a cold wet tent with another male climber who also hadn't bathed in awhile. To top things off, the pay was so lousy, we had to live out of our cars on days off.

It was time to continue my quest for Eden, and becoming a diving instructor on a tropical island seemed to be an ideal choice. I could still have adventure, pursue my dream girl fantasy by investigating the diver-as-playboy stereotype, and be in a place where a hammock and a piña colada awaited me at the end of each day instead of a damp tent. Also, unlike mountain guiding, if inexperienced customers inadvertently tried to kill themselves with uncoordinated antics, I wouldn't be tied to them.

However, I quickly discovered Scrooge-like dive shop owners bent on working me to exhaustion during the crush of high season, a few impossible to please customers, and a tedious month-after-month cycle of twenty dives per week. Nobody mentioned long evenings filling tanks, unclogging boat toilets, or sweeping floors when I was signing on the dotted line. I started to miss family, friends, hot showers, and Mexican food. It also seemed wasteful that after going to engineering school, the only ratio I was calculating was rum to pineapple juice.

In New York City, I once complained to a friend over dinner about slaving for an incompetent shop owner in the Caribbean. He leaned over the table and pointed his finger at my face. "Hey! They could whip you down there, and it would still be better than wearing a suit to work in Manhattan every day!"

He was right. I wouldn't have traded lives with him under any circumstance. I was far from the daily grind of freeway rush hour, in a place where vacationers from all over the world made an effort to maximize their fun. Winter had friends at home bundled in coats while I flourished in the warm caresses of the trade winds. Brilliant starry nights spent outside under the Southern Cross also reminded me that I was doing fine right where I was.

I also enjoyed introducing people to the underwater world and watching their excitement grow as they discovered it. Over four-day courses, I helped them hone their skills until they could safely dive without me. My approach was left over from the mountain days - leading innocents into a formidable challenge and working them through it to build the confidence they needed. Weakness was their greatest enemy. Self-sufficient adventure was their greatest thrill. No whining was allowed.

Students form the backbone of the sport diving industry. Although most never do more than twenty dives in their lives, their sheer numbers support the trade with further tuition, equipment sales, and boat trips. The professionals reap the proceeds: divemasters, the ski bums of the tropics, function as trip leaders and underwater tour guides. Instructors, licensed to teach through certifying organizations, make more money, but find themselves diving in swimming pools half the time. Shop owners are instructors turned businessmen. They optimize their time by concentrating on greenbacks rather than the emerald hues of parrotfish.

The following chapters are a blend of travel stories and anecdotes, most of which were written overseas. They start with my first dives ten years ago and proceed more or less chronologically as I metamorphosed from an impressionable neophyte into a veteran instructor. The change in my attitude during this time is reflected throughout the book. That is, the first stories generally explore the wonder and beauty of coral reefs, while hundreds of dives later, the tales focus less on the common sights and more on the customers, who provided an endless source of amusement. The locations change throughout the book as I explore dive sites in new countries: from Australia and the South Pacific, to the wonderland of Palau, over to the Caribbean, back to Palau, and finally to the unbelievably unfamiliar environment of Southeast Asia.

My visits to these lands varied from one week vacations to working stints of a year or more. Whether Palangi, Haole, Farang or Turis, the names all meant the same; I was the big white guest. I saw many vacationers projecting their own world onto the foreign environments they visited, thereby missing out on the full travel experience. Unlike them, I spent enough time in each country to become absorbed in the lives of the local people. In fact, I didn't have much choice. The surrounding cultures seized me and pinned me until I said "Uncle." This is the story of my encounters with these people, as well as the close calls, the humor, and the nomadic life of a professional diver.



"Germans are cranky because they're hungover all day. Aussies start drinking at breakfast and have a great time, all the time." Karry

"Q. In what month do Australians drink the least amount of beer?

A. February. It has the least amount of days." Mind Trap

May, 1988

"Where ya from, mate?"


"Oh, a Yank. Need a beer?"


My new friend gave the high sign to the bar and brought back four VBs (Victoria Bitters) for me and his two buddies. They opened the circle to let me join them and riddled me with questions as to why I was in their pub.

There were a few chest high tables in the room, but no stools. Music wasn't played, but the pub roared with happy-hour conversations. After taking a few sips from their stubbies (an Australian sip is approximately one-third of a beer) my companions ordered four more from the bar. I had certainly stumbled onto the right crowd on my first night in the outback, hospitable and generous. I did my best to keep up with their pace as a third round appeared. As soon as that one was finished, they watched me intently.


"It's yer shout mate!"

Oh, so every one takes turns! I thought they were just being good hosts. It didn't take long to figure out that Aussies won't stand for beer moochers and will tell you when it is your turn to shout (buy) a round. This is dangerous in a large group because a half-dozen men will drink six, twelve, or eighteen beers as shouts go full circle. Very few stop after six.

Australia is a rough land. They have the worst droughts, hardest rains, and biggest mosquitoes - and the people aren't afraid to tell you so. They reflect their environment with parched humor and rough manners, but they also possess an uncommon friendliness.

I originally landed in Hobart, then hit Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane as I worked my way north towards the tropics. Travelers I met coming the other direction told me that the thing to do in Cairns was take a diving course. After surveying my funds, I decided to go for it. I was already an avid snorkeler, and scuba was the next logical step.

After a friendly chat with the Qantas crew on the flight from Brisbane to Cairns, I was handed eight unopened cans of Castlemaine XXXX (pronounced "Four X") as I left the plane. Sitting next to the driver on the bus into town, I offered him one of the beers.

He said, "Nah, I'm right, mate."

"Mind if I have one?"

"Won't bother me long as ya don't break out singing."

He let me off at the wharf where my first priority was finding a dive school. Across the street, the doors of Dives Are Us beckoned. The cheap prices indicated that the courses were over-packed with students, but I didn't care. I was on a budget. I just wanted to have fun and get a certification card. The price included six dives, a night dive, and an overnight boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

A sugar town turned to tourism, Cairns was a sad excuse for a tropical paradise - a mishmash of buildings pinned to the coastline by jungle covered hills. The Great Barrier Reef earned its name by keeping waves away from the shore, allowing mud flats to build up instead of sandy beaches. The neighborhood pubs were fun hangouts but the real action was clearly on the reef.

The next available dive course wasn't for two days, so I had time for some sightseeing away from the town. I hitched rides over the winding roads of rain-forested hills, through sugar cane plantations, and past stately homes built on raised posts to reduce summer heat and flood damage.

At the end of the day, I was hot and thirsty on the homestretch when an old ute (pickup truck) with three rough-looking characters in front stopped to give me a lift.

The driver said, "We're not going far, mate, just up to the pub."

"Perfect. I'll join you." I hopped in the back.

Terry, Johnny, and Ronny were cane cutters who had spent their lives working in the sugar fields. As soon as we got inside the pub, I knew what to do. I shouted the first round and was "in like Flynn" with them. ("Good on ya, Yank.") After a couple shouts, they invited me over to their place for tucker, and said I could throw out my swag in their caravan (have dinner and put my sleeping bag on the spare cot in their trailer for the night). We had a great meal of fried steak and onions . . . and beer, of course. Real bush-style living.

As I was leaving the next morning, Ronny asked me for advice. "The doc said fer me to lay off the piss cause me liver's crook, what d'yer reckon?" (The doctor said for me to quit drinking alcohol, because my liver is sick. What is your opinion?) I poked under the right side of his rib cage with my finger, and he jumped back in pain.

"I think the doctor's right."

He didn't seem to think that was fair and protested, "I only drink ten beers a day!"


Cairns, Australia

"Australian foreplay? You know what that is. Nudge your bird and say, 'Are ya awake?'" Frank

Our huge dive class congregated at eight a.m. inside a concrete block room behind the dive shop. We crowded into high-school-style desk chairs while our instructor enlightened us with his wisdom. Frank was typical for a man of the region - cocky, macho, and always right. To us, he was Dive God.

Our first dive was blissful ignorant confusion at a small island not far from Cairns. Dive God filed us down a twenty-foot descent line onto an underwater mud flat. The only thing we did was practice skills and wait for the others, watching a single fish that wandered curiously around us. I wasn't disappointed, though; I was so high on the sensation of breathing under water that finding an empty soup can was exciting. The depths could now be pondered over time, instead of glimpsed on one breath.

The final dives were from a live-aboard boat on the Great Barrier Reef. The depths teemed with life and color - everything I had hoped for. Dive God led us through schools of batfish, along underwater canyons, and past walls that dropped vertically below us for a hundred feet. He showed us lobsters hiding under ledges, flowery tube worms that disappeared into their sheaths when touched, and fish carefully guarding their eggs. He pointed to a sea turtle as it paddled lazily past. Then he picked up the molted exoskeleton of a shrimp, a hollow twin that had been ditched by the growing animal. I felt welcome in that mysterious world, a place where creatures thought and behaved so differently, they might as well have been from another planet.

After one forty-minute tour, I still had air left, so I stayed nearby on a shallow reef as the others waited in line to climb the boat ladder. In front of me lay a Lilliputian coral garden. As I watched, my attention focused on minute details until I was seeing eye-to-eye with the community's members. Six inches in front of my mask, a shrimp the size of a pencil-tip busily groomed its head with its legs. Near it, a red blenny fish the size of a pen cap skittered back and forth on the square-inch doorstep of the hole it called home. It had a grasshopper-like head, bulging red-striped eyes, a full-lipped mouth, and two antennae - reminiscent of a 1950's sci-fi character. Its nervous twitching and frowning facial expression gave it a neurotic personality.

From a hole in the "roof" of the blenny's apartment block, a pair of fan-like "hands," each the size of a pinhead, reached out, grabbed a passing plankton, and pulled it down into a tiny shell that lined the hole. Looking inside, I discovered...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2001

    Diver's Revenge

    Forget the tourism brochures of exotic isles! Ingore the foreign resort owner's claims of adventure in paradise. This tale tells it as it really is from a professional SCUBA diver's perspective. Although this is basically a journal of his travels to these exotic locales, Michael Zinsley tells the story of his behind-the-scenes experiences in a truly humorous and honestly unabashed style. It's like getting a tour of Disney World's back lot, behind the facade of it's glitzy street-front attractions, and witnessing how the employees really talk and act when they're not with the tourists. In places it's almost like you can see him composing sections of his book while experiencing the very thing he's writing about. A bedtime reader, I would often keep my wife awake laughing so hard it made the bed shake. This book is a dive-travel guide to the Pacific Islands, Bermuda and the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia written by someone who actually lived there (not just visited), someone who experienced life among the natives (not only with the beach front resort vacationers). It was an honestly good read.

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