Below the Serpents the beds of weeds swayed gently in the changing tide and I wondered if I had arrived too late.  I knew the schedule to see the wallowing mantra ray was a limited one and I feared that as the sun started to set that I may be a little too late.

The Wallowing Mantra was a rare creature, one that many believed were figments of imagination, one made up of myth and lore, but something deep inside told me no.  The creatures usually travelled only in the dusk hours and were found in the warmer climes of the Indian ocean.  Usually living deep beneath the waves and surfacing only during the times of the equinox and even then to see one was rare.

However I had done my research I was armed with an infra-red camera to prevent flash scare and was sat waiting.  I checked my air pressure gauge and I saw I only had 50 bar reading left and knew I should climb to the surface, but I wanted 10 more minutes before I had to ascend, so I sat cross-legged in perfect neutral buoyancy and waited.  Just as I was about to give up a screech pierced my ears, followed by another and another, as the pitch of each scream ascended in volume.  My heart started to pound I knew what that meant, they were coming, they were coming up from the depths.

I checked my gage again, now there was only 35 bar and I really had to go but this was too good to miss.  My heart started to pound as the adrenaline pumped through my body but I knew that this was not good for my air consumption and then before I knew it right in front of my face was the most streamlined, silver-grey mantis I have ever seen. We both just sat and looked at each other, assessing the danger, I slowly raised my camera and snapped, then 20-30 more floated up around him, I snapped more and I could not believe my luck and they all just sat there looking at me.

I did not know what to do, I knew my air was diminishing but I did not want to lose this moment and in a flash they pushed up and over my body, a full shoal of Weeping Mantra swim straight over me, I pictured them as they went by amazed to have seen so many of them but pleased I had the patience to wait. As the last of the rays swam over my head, I noticed that my Oxygen had diminished and the intake was less, I had to use my reserve air in my lungs to take me to the surface in a controlled burst.

Applying my earlier training, and snapping a glo-stick, which I had in my belt,  I swam a slow and controlled ascent to the surface allowing small amounts of air to escape with every kick.  As I broke through the water surface, I suddenly felt exhausted, I directed my attention to the captain of my dive boat and gave him the thumbs up, as he came to the back of the boat to take my BCD, and camera before allowing me to climb aboard.  Once aboard I garbled in excited fervour about the shoal and the experience and then went straight to the on-board computer to load up the prints.

The disc was empty.  That was impossible I knew the shots had taken as I remember looking at them when under the water, I was now nearly crying hysterical at the lost data.  It was there I knew it was there so why could I not find it.  The captain tried to calm me explaining I had been down there a long time, I had used all my oxygen perhaps I had hallucinated.

“I think we need to get you to the local doctors for a once over” he said.

“I am OK” I snapped back, which did little to help my argument so I conceded to his request and once we landed I was taken to the local dive centre hospital for a once over.

They decided to keep me in for observation but could see no long-term effects or any nitrogen narcosis setting in.  I was discharged two days later when no lasting effects appeared to be showing and I seemed to have returned to my normal self.  Upon my discharge and along with my certificate I went straight to the centre to track down the captain to see if they had any joy in finding the photos.  I was told they had not, I was not sure if I believed them and they were convinced I had hallucinated the whole thing.  I knew I had not but I could not prove what I had seen so once again, the Weeping Mantra would be returned to myth and lore at last for now at least.