You Only Get One Shot
We weren’t going to anchor, we would rely on the pilot to maintain our position. The GPS navigational system was set with our desired point, and after a quick brief to make sure there were no other vessels around taking interest in us, we got to work.
Ben stayed in the pilothouse while Mark, James and I got the submarine ready. We programmed its GPS to return to this spot if the cable was cut or released, and we went through all the final checks of controls and the arms. We had it in the water thirty minutes after we arrived. Mark went below to nap, he’d relieve Ben later, while the rest of us went to the pilothouse. The minisub traveled near the surface, making its way to the dive point.
“Why are you starting the dive from that position,” Ben asked as he looked at the controls.
“My idea,” James said. “Genesis states the cherubim were placed at the East entrance; when we last attempted, we came from the west. I figured this might give us a look at the entrance, if it exists, before we reach the flaming sword.”
“It’s a little more challenging, we’re going to send the sub around it in a sweeping arc then come back towards us,” I said. “We decided that we’d try and use the lights and cameras more, plus we have the sonar to look ahead. Hopefully visibility is better than ten feet, and we can stay far enough back to get video without endangering my baby.”
There wasn’t much for James or I to do while it moved at three knots through the waters, so I went down and heated up some leftovers for us. Bringing the bowls of gumbo up, we ate as we waited for it to reach the dive position.
“Ready,” I asked them when it stopped at the prescribed point. Ben checked the radar, no abnormal activity, and James nodded. “Starting the dive.” I gave the command to the sub to vent its buoyancy tanks and set the thrusters to counteract the expected tide flow and direction for this time of night. We were lucky, there wasn’t much current near the bottom, and the radar showed no obstructions. I turned the submarine west and advanced the thrusters, the lights illuminating the bottom. “This look familiar, James?”
“Yes, but your lights are better. Looks like visibility is closer to twenty feet, good for us.”
We were getting closer to the target area, and I changed headings slightly side-to-side to let the sonar seek out any targets. We were assuming a four-headed angel with a flaming sword would show up on the sonar, and we were right. “Two objects bearing 005 and 008 relative, two hundred feet,” James said as he watched the sonar display.”
“Changing course.” I moved the sub slightly to starboard and slowed the thrusters. We wanted to approach cautiously, as we had no real idea of how long those swords were, or whether the cherubim would come after the sub. “You recording?”
“Recording of video from all cameras verified, also taking stills every second from each camera,” James said. The cameras were high-resolution, much better than the GoPro he had used in his last dive. “One hundred feet.”
“I’m going to stop at twenty feet from the target on the right,” she said. “Maintaining fifteen feet above seafloor.” It was important to keep the thrusters far enough away from the mud and silt bottom that it wouldn’t kick up and change visibility.
“Fifty feet.” James had his eyes glued to the sonar while I focused on the information I needed to drive the submarine to where I wanted. “Thirty feet.” I reduced the thrusters to slow ahead. “Twenty-five.” A few seconds later, “Twenty feet.” Thrusters off, the trim adjusted to maintain depth, the submarine floated silently near its targets.
“See the glow on the left side of the screen? That’s the flaming sword,” James said. “It’s true, it’s really true.”
I focused on holding position, we were in no hurry to get close to that sword. The sonar showed the two cherubim spaced about twenty feet apart, and behind them the sonar picture was confusing. As we rotated side to side, we could see the bottom rising up, but in between the two the echo was more like a cliff-face. “Change the attitude so the sub is nose-down, I want to see if these returns change closer to the bottom,” he said.
Overlaying the scans showed something large and flat, maybe twenty feet across and tall, behind and between the two angels. “It looks like a door,” Ben said as he looked over my shoulder.
“They are guarding the entrance, it would make sense. I always assumed that the Garden, if it still exists, was in a cave.”
“We can’t get clear pictures from here,” I said. “Moving to fifteen feet.” I adjusted the thrusters, moving closer, and the lights illuminated the angelic being we expected to be there. “Wow.”
The paintings I had seen didn’t do this angel justice. The sub was fifteen feet off the seafloor, and that was about shoulder height. His feet were that of cattle, with huge broad hooves planted in the muck. Legs like a bull came up to a waist that became human-like. His torso was surrounded by two of the wings that came out from his back, the other set was high on his shoulders and spread out just below the heads. His arms were heavily muscled, and a human hand gripped a sword hilt. The four heads were just as Ezekiel described; the human face was classically beautiful, with a strong jaw and piercing eyes looking into the light. To the left was the ox head, to the right the lion, and I could see the feathers of the eagle head behind his flowing black hair.
The sword cut through the water in front of us as he moved it from his right hand to his left. It didn’t seem to have a physical base, rather the flames burned in a way that reminded me of a lightsaber doused in lighter fluid. It extended about four feet from his hand, flaming brightly despite the high-pressure water that surrounded it. The flames didn’t boil the water, they displaced it, and he seemed to have moved it without effort. It was no wonder Tim Schmidt had been cut in half; there was no way to move fast enough underwater to avoid it.
“Are you getting all this,” I asked without taking my eyes off the controls.
“Yeah.” No one said anything, we just kept recording. “Can you move to port? Maybe put us between the two cherubim?”
“Sure.” I used the thrusters to shift sideways, trying not to get any closer to that sword. As I moved, the cherubim relaxed, his sword going vertical and pointing towards his left hoof. The second cherubim slowly came into view, and with the main camera at minimum zoom, we could see both angels in the frame at the same time. Between them we could see a faint glow that almost filled the space. “That flat spot we saw on sonar, is it glowing?”
“Looks like it,” James said. “Continue left and get a good shot at the second one?”
“All right.” I kept moving the submarine to port, bringing it into clear view, and it was identical to the first. “How about we go up and look down on them?”
“That would work, I’d like to get a view of this entrance from above,” my husband agreed. I used thrusters to Z up, the cameras showing the second cherubim’s faces as I rose to twenty feet above the seafloor. The angels were even more magnificent as the cameras looked down on their four heads. I carefully moved forward until I was between the two and safely above sword reach, then tilted the submarine down.
“What’s that,” he said as he looked at the darker spot in the center of the image.
“I don’t know.” The entrance was shaped like a dome, with a flat front on the east side flanked by the cherubims. “I’ll move closer, we’ve got everything we need of the angels now. I want a better look at the entrance to the cave.”
“We’ll have to get closer to the angels then,” James warned.
“They haven’t gone after my baby yet, and I’ll be careful,” I replied. I backed up, then descended back to eight feet above the bottom once I was well clear. “Here we go.” I pushed the thrusters forward, moving the sub towards the space between the two cherubim at waist height. The diffuse glow we had seen got brighter as we approached.
“Turn off the lights, let the glow dominate,” James suggested. I did what he said, and the difference was immediate. It was like driving in fog, the high beams just caught all the crap in the water and washed everything out.
“Twenty feet to the entrance,” James said. “You’re pushing it with the angels if you go more than five feet forward.”
“Then I won’t,” I replied. I gently moved forward, the soft glow becoming sharper. “Holy shit,” I said as we got close enough to make it out.
The barrier was clear, and behind it the glow illuminated a garden paradise. Treetops and birds flying around, and a hill that led up to the entrance. “Is that what I think it is,” James said as he looked at the beast standing by the door. It was white, slightly larger than a normal horse, with a golden spike protruding up and out from its forehead.
“It’s a unicorn,” I said as I stared at it.
The picture suddenly shifted as the submarine lurched to starboard. The cameras started to spin as control was lost. As it spun away, the flaming sword moved past the cameras again. “GET IT OUT OF THERE,” James said as he caught glimpses of the angel moving towards it.
“EMERGENCY BLOW,” I said as I hit the button. Inside the submarine, air valves opened and pushed high-pressure air into the ballast tanks. I shut down the thrusters and watched as the submarine raced for the surface. It took less than a minute before it was bobbing in the waves, the GPS coordinates feeding back to the console.
“Do we have what we need now,” James asked.
“Yes,” Ben said. “Let’s get her back on board and get out of here.”
“I heard that,” I said. “James, man the cable reel, take up the slack as I bring it back.”
“On it,” he said as he walked out. I engaged the thrusters, but the controls weren’t working, the sub was turning in circles. I shut them down. “James, just pull it back, something happened to the thrusters.” That was one nice thing about a tethered sub, you could reel it in like a big fish.
“Retrieving it now,” he said. He engaged the motor on the big reel that contained the three miles of cable and fiber optics. The wheel started to turn, the motor loaded down over the long stretch of cable with floats every three hundred yards. “Seeing anything?”
“Not yet, must still be taking up slack,” I said. As the minutes built, I was getting more nervous. Normally by now, the pull of the cable would turn the sub and start pulling it backwards, but nothing was happening.
When the cable got taut and the boat started to turn, I knew what had happened. The cable had caught on something. James and I tried everything we could think of, but thirty minutes later it was still caught, like a hook on a sunken log, and no jerking on the pole could free it.
The sub floated helplessly on the surface, marking the position of the biggest archaeological discovery EVER, over a mile inside Iranian waters.