National Geographic : 1995 Mar
ASSUMPTION sanctuary from wind WE MOTORED out of pounding swells into the calm, shel tered water of Assumption. In the lee of a brilliant white beach our vessel swayed easily at anchor as if laminated on a transparent sea. Nearly 40 years before, another white vessel, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau's Calypso, sought sanctuary here. Aboard was a young director, Louis Malle, making Cousteau's epic documentary film, The Silent World. Also aboard was Luis Marden of the GEOGRAPHIC, shooting still pictures that were to make the first modern underwater magazine picture story. I have thumbed to tatters a copy of the February 1956 issue. To me, it's priceless. Memories of it went with me as I put on my fins and tank, slipped off the dive platform, took my camera, and went into a perfect sea. The reef sloped away to a white sand bottom furnished with couch-size coral heads. I went deep, near the limit of visibility, then ascended to shallower water, where I saw a large, lumpy sea cucumber. I turned it over and found an inch-long Periclimenes shrimp using its purple claws to pick tiny food crumbs from the knobby, mottled skin of the cucumber. As noonday shafts of sun pierced the water, I felt wrapped in blue light and displaced in time. It was the same hypnotic blue light that I saw when I was ten years old-light reflected from the screen of the old 85th Street Trans-Lux theater in Manhattan. The film show ing was The Silent World. That film and Luis Marden's pictures changed the course of my life. This is DAVID DOUBILET's 38th article for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.