The Old Diver

During the long weekends spent camping on the South Coast of Natal, I found it a good habit to take long morning walks on the seashore where the cold sea water washes on the sand and wets your feet with its white foam.

One Sunday morning while I was taking my daily stroll my attention went to an old man sitting on a rock looking out to sea. I had already seen him before. He sat on one of the many rocks on the sand with his chin on his hands and his hands on a stick. He just sat there gazing at the big waves crashing on the rocks. He had a white head, a round sun burnt face and his eyes were difficult to make out because of the many deep wrinkles that gave him a very ancient look.

I made it a point that I would try to speak to him on my way back if he was still there. On my return I saw him in the same place so I cautiously approached him and greeted. Then I asked if he felt well. He told me that everything was okay. I could not stop myself from asking what he was staring at for such a long time.

Without looking away he started telling me this incredible story.

“My son Gary and I were well known divers and we were often called to do repair work on the ships under water level.

Once, thirty years ago, we were hired by a Spanish insurance company to find the wreckage of a Spanish ship which in 1600 was on its way to India and sunk after having struck some rocks under the water level.

The insurance company had been appointed by the Spanish government to find the wreckage because according to records there must have been a treasure on board.

Photo by sandwich

Photo by sandwich

Gary and I dived under water full of hope that we would find the wreckage. The sea was calm and it was a bright sunny day. Beneath the water everything was visible. There was a carpet of grass like weeds growing on the sea bed and between its tentacles all sorts of colored fish swam and yellow sponges grew.

We proceeded slowly between the rocks, looking carefully for any signs of the ship.

Gary saw it first. From close by you could make out the outline of the ship which was covered with shell-fish. As the wreckage was lying on its side, we went round to see the hull which had a big hole made probably by crashing into the rocks.

Even though I did not agree Gary went into the hole opened on the ship side. I proceeded in my external inspection of the ship while Gary disappeared inside the black entrance.

Making my way around the ship I found on the main bridge the captain’s cabin. I tried to open the door but it was stuck by the layers of sea growth and the wood of the door was swollen because of the long stay in the water. I pulled what was once a door handle and it came loose from the wood. I realized that the door was completely decayed, so it was easy with the aid of my knife to make my way inside.

Needless to say that everything was in a big mess, but looking carefully I saw a rusty iron chest and I made a grab at the handle. My wrist was caught by a tentacle. Making light with my torch I saw a huge octopus looking straight at me. He seemed to be on guard of the chest. I was still making up my mind whether I should cut his tentacle, grab the chest and make my way out as fast as I could. The octopus must have thought the same thing because he let go of my wrist and disappeared quickly in the darkness.

I then shone the light on the chest and with the help of my knife using it as a lever, I managed to open the lid. What I saw inside the little chest left me dumbstruck. There were yellow gold coins of all sizes, blood red rubies, green emeralds, that were as big as chicken eggs, and many other precious stones.

Photo by Euan Kennedy

Photo by Euan Kennedy

I closed the lid and with the iron chest I slowly made my way out of the cabin. As I had to look for Gary, I put the chest in a cave-like hole on the side of a huge rock. I then rolled a big stone in front of the entrance and proceeded to look for my son. I did not have much time as the oxygen in my cylinder was very low. Going around the ship I realized that the wreckage was on the edge of a cliff which fell down many hundreds of meters, you could not see anything because the bottom was pitch black and Gary was not to be seen.

I was forced to go to the surface hoping my son was waiting for me in our boat but he wasn’t there. I then decided to go and look for him with a new oxygen cylinder, but as it was dark it would have been impossible to find anything at the bottom of the sea.

Late at night a strong storm broke out in the area and the sea became very rough.

The day after I went down again to look for Gary but I did not even find the wreckage. The strong sea currents must have washed the ship over the cliff and down into the black valley.

From that day I sit on this rock looking out to sea and waiting for my son to come back”.

I was so stunned by this story that I asked the old man if there was something I could do to help. He thought about my offer and then squinting at me he showed me a toothless smile. He begged me to go and get the chest, which only by sharing his experience did he remember he had left on the bottom of the sea.

The morning after I went diving in the area but I found so many sharks, that I was forced to abandon my first attempt of getting near the rocks.

I promised the old man that I would try again next day. My second attempt was successful. I could get near the rocks and find the cave-like hole on the side of a big rock formation. I struggled to move the stone that covered the entrance but with much pulling and pushing the stone gave way. Inside the hole I found the treasure chest, I did not hesitate, I grabbed it, it was very heavy and only with much effort did I take it to the surface.

I found the old man waiting for me. When he saw I had the treasure chest he came to help me with a smile. We carried the chest in a hut where he lived and put it on the floor and opened the lid.

Inside we found nothing else but lots of sand.

About Mauro

I am a scribbler of my far away memories. I am Italian and when I was little I landed up with my family in South Africa, where I remained until I was 22 years old. Then I came back to Italy, where I live. Writing life stories about myself and to share them with who desires to read them, helps me to tackle the hardships of life! [Read More]

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