One of the most beautiful aspects of expedition life is the amount of pure living that you can pack into a single day. We’ve always said that we would be successful if we began and ended the day with laughter. At dawn the general call to wake up was laced with a request for urine to check for concentration that could help describe the state of hydration of the divers. Stefanie cradled her bag of samples in her lap on the way over to the mine where equipment was available for testing.
The dive day consisted of finishing the last tasks of creating a safe line navigation structure for future visitors. We also needed to complete survey objectives and retrieve all the safety bottles from the mine.
The pack out of the mine took hours and when we reached the ferry, the seas were looking rough. I sat in the back of the van with Neal Pollock and Stefanie Martina and got a very basic education in grading ultrasounds. It was an interesting process spotting and counting bubbles and their location. We had a solid two hour run of talking about Immersion Pulmonary Edema, Decompression Stress and active drysuit heating. For the uninitiated, it might have made their eyes glaze over, but I was giddy with the prospects of having the undivided attention of the best tutor in the business.
Back at Ocean Quest Adventure Resort, we held a traditional screeching ceremony to welcome the new friends into the family. For those of us that are not drinkers, Newfoundland Screech is a a substance better used for wound cleaning than human consumption. The amber liquid boasts 40% alcohol and is a key player in the ceremony called a “Screech-In.”
Newfoundlanders perform the ritual for visitors who “come-from-away.” The ceremony includes eating some traditional niblets of local survival food such as hard tack biscuits, salted dried fish and pressed meat that looks like boloney (Newfoundland Steak).
The ceremony began with lots of local folk music interrupted by the official recitation. Our leader Nick asked participants if they would like to become a Newfoundlander. The proper response: “Yes b’y!” Each participant is asked to introduce themselves and their hometown, often interrupted by the ceremony leader who pokes fun at their accent. Local history and folklore follows with a few tricks that leave the screechers soaked in water.
Finally, each individual is given a small dram of screech and are asked, “Are ye a screecher?”
The response is: “’Deed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!” (Though with a Newfie accent, it often sounds like this: “‘Deed Oi is, mee-all cahk! An’ lahng may-yer big jib-jrah.”) Translated, it means “Yes I am, my old friend, and may your sails always catch wind.”
After the shot, the screecher must kiss a cod fish – or any other fish ugly enough to suitably replace the cod. A certificate is offered after the ceremony but it might have been smarter to distribute aspirin and water rations.