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POC: "Diving"

Islamorada Diving Adventures

 

 

Brian and I were off to Islamorada, Florida.  We were going to spend a week

living on a boat (48 footer) out in the deep blue sea.  The plan was to

scuba dive and lobster hunt as much as possible.  We would, for one week,

transform ourselves into "fish" and spend most of the days underwater.

Myself, being a pretty good diver, logging hundreds of dives around the

world and Brian's recent certification were in for some amazing adventures

in some of the best places to dive in the entire world.

 

 

 

Night Dive - Shark Invested Waters

 

 

 

The first night we anchored up in the shark invested waters of the bayside.

The water is calmer for sleeping.  It's said that it's hard to step in the

water here without stepping on a shark and sharks feed at night time.  So,

of course, I wanted to dive HERE.  I wanted to do a night dive and introduce

Brian to the "hooka".  Most people think of diving as involving big air

filled tanks via SCUBA.  Our boat was equipped with a device called a

"hooka".  It's an air compressor that floats in the water.  Long hoses run

off the compressor and connect to the divers for breathing.  With a hooka, 4

divers can be attached to it and be hundreds of feet away from each other.

A depth of 50 feet underwater can be achieved.  We found this out the hard

way when pushing depths of 60 feet before the regulators collapsed.

 

So after instructing Brian on the hooka, we donned our masks, fired up the

hooka and sunk down into the murky waters.  Visibility was poor here.  We

could only see about 8 feet in front of us.  We were equipped with dive

lights since the sun was gone.  There wasn't much to see here.  The floor

consisted of sand and grass, not very pretty.  Occasionally we would spot

some fish.  I had wondered if any sharks had swum by us, if they did, we

would never have known it since the visibility was so poor.  Brian found a

lobster and we were trying to make plans for capturing it when we realized

lobster season didn't open for another day.  He would have made for a nice

supper though.  We were next summoned up by a million candle power spot

light.  Someone on the boat said that a boat had just gone by and almost ran

us over in the dark.  The dive was called.

 

 

 

Spiegel Grove Wreck - Largest Ship Ever Sunk

 

 

 

The Spiegel Grove was intentionally sunk for the purpose of becoming an

artificial reef and diving attraction.  At 510 feet long, almost 2 football

fields, it remains the largest ship ever sunk for this purpose.  The ship is

too large to see all of it in one dive.  We would dive the bow first and

then do another dive later in the day to see the stern.  It lies on the

ocean floor in 130 foot deep water.  Because it sits approximately 6 miles

off shore in the Atlantic Ocean, the currents can be extremely dangerous.

The dive is considered advanced because of its depths and currents.

Normally when we descend down ropes, it involves wearing a harness and

rappelling with a descending device.  Here, you must hand over hand descend

down a mooring line that takes the diver directly to the sunken ship.  We

had to be very quick and careful when jumping into the water.  Once you hit

the water, you have to immediately start swimming to the mooring line, and I

MEAN FAST.  If you miss it, the currents will have you swept out to sea in

no time.  The ocean is soooo vast too, not a fun place to be lost and

floating alone in the middle of the Atlantic.  It has happened to us before,

not a fun experience.

 

I jumped in and had one mission:  swim to the line and grab it

at all costs!  I made it and didn't see Brian in the boat and didn't see him

in the water.  Had he missed the line?  I then spotted him floating in the

water a short distance away and yelled for him to grab the line immediately.

We both made it safely to the ball and caught our breathes.  Once ready, we

both started hand over handing down the line.  It's a neat feeling going

down the line, you can't see the ship or the bottom and you really feel like

you're descending down deep into the deep blue sea.  The currents are

constantly trying to suck you off the line.  It feels like you are in a wind

tunnel with your body being horizontal hanging onto a vertical line.  The

current would create turbulence on our masks, making them vibrate on our

faces.

 

The ship slowly started to become visible as we descended

deeper.  Soon, we were at the ship and 130 feet below the surface.  The ship

was abundant with fish and coral species.  One of my favorite fish is the

barracuda.  They are as long as we are and sport some pretty big/sharp

teeth.  I also spotted a huge white spotted stingray and a jewfish that was

as big as I was.  This ship is open and you can bring a dive light and

actually enter inside the ship.

 

 

 

"I Got ONE!, I Think It's A Big One!!!"

 

 

 

There were fishermen above us fishing during our dive.  This is

a pretty common thing.  When I first started diving it would always concern

me that I would get caught on one of their hooks.  After doing so many dives

and not running into any problems, my fear of being caught on a hook was

gone, until now.

 

I had noticed a fish that had gotten caught by a fisherman

fishing above us.  The fish was wedged between two pieces of the ship.

Being the nice guy that I am, I thought, I'll go tug on the line to un-free

the wedged fish and let the "nice" fisherman reel in his prize.  Upon

tugging on the overly tensioned line, the hook ripped out of the fish's

mouth and shot right into my hand.  It took a few seconds for me to realize

that I was hooked and that miraculously the hook had only pierced through my

glove and not my actual hand or any fingers.  I tried pulling against the

fisherman's pulling and reeling in an attempt to let the hook rip out of my

glove, but to no luck.  I had no knife to cut the line.  The fisherman was

actually beginning to reel me up.  I wasn't about to let this happen because

being at those depths and going straight up to the surface can cause a burst

lung or decompression sickness which can be very deadly.  So I let the glove

go flying off my hand and the fisherman reeled in his prize of a "glove".

I'm sure he was intrigued.

 

 

 

Lobster Hunting

 

 

 

When we weren't diving with tanks on wrecks and reefs, we spent

most of the day underwater on the hooka lobster hunting.  The hooka allows

us to be underwater for hours where we would run out of air using tanks.  We

had in previous years searched the ocean for certain coral heads that may be

good for lobster hunting.  Using the GPS, we would hop around from coral

head to coral head after bagging as many lobsters as we could.  Moray eels

were seen quite a bit.  We saw a shark almost every location we went to.

One was sleeping under a coral ledge that looked perfect for housing

lobster.  I nudged him a little with my fin to get him to swim away.  A 300

pound loggerhead turtle swam by us while hunting at one spot.  He looked at

me and I swear said, "Dudddde", and then looked at Brian and said,

"Sweeeet".

 

How do you catch lobster?  The answer is that you tickle them!

First you swim around the area until you spot a lobster within the coral.

They have really long "antennas" which is the dead give away that there is a

lobster hiding within that coral hole.  We use a rod called a "tickle stick"

to "tickle" them out of the hole.  Once they are out of the hole you place a

net behind them and use the tickle stick to get them to move right back into

the net.  Catching them is harder than it sounds especially because they are

very fast when they want to be and can move deeper into the coral where you

can't get them out.  In all, we caught around 30 lobster.

 

 

 

"Sex On The Reef"

 

 

 

Yeah, you know what I'm talkin' about, "Divers Do IT Deeper"., no I'm

actually talking about the coral.  The coral is very much so alive.  By day,

the coral looks like colorful rock, but, by night, the polyps come out and

look like dazzling "flowers" showing off even more so amazing colors and

lengths.  A more recent discovery is that the coral actually spawns.  The

spawning is thought to be related to the lunar cycle.  It only occurs for a

few nights, around the first full moon in late summer.  The corals expel

millions of white, luminous eggs and sperm.  The underwater "orgy" looks

like a huge snow/sand storm, only upside down.

 

 

 

"This is SUICIDE!" - In Search of Coral Spawning

 

 

 

Tonight, the timing was just right for being able to see this rare event.

However, no one else on our boat was interested in going to spend the night

diving to catch it in action.  Brian and I decided to take a two man dingy

miles out to a reef.  It was just big enough for Brian and I along with our

dive gear.  I got a bad feeling about this.  Many things could go wrong.

The motor on the dingy had already stalled on us earlier in the trip.  No

working motor in these currents would have us swept miles away into the vast

ocean in no time, rowing is useless.  It was equipped with no lights, we

would have to shine our dive lights at other oncoming BIG boats to avoid

being run over.  The ocean is littered with crab/lobster cages.  They lay on

the ocean floor and a line connects them to a buoy floating on the surface.

You have to constantly watch out for them because running over them in the

dingy would cause the line to get caught in the prop of the motor.  The

ocean has places that are extremely SHALLOW, places that "look" deep when in

fact are only less than a foot deep.  Running aground was a real threat for

where we were heading.  We had no GPS.  The only way to navigate was to head

towards flashing markers floating in the ocean.

 

As the light from the previous marker faded, I wondered, I hope we can find

our way back.  There were 3 foot swells which made navigating difficult

since we were air born most of the time.  We could see the lights on the

final marker for our reef but they never seemed to get any closer.  I

wondered if we would ever get there.  It was too hard to judge its distance.

We finally got there and tied the dingy up to a floating mooring line.  I

told Brian as we were suiting up that this was probably one of the dumbest

things I've ever done.

 

We were both ready and rolled out of the dingy into the black water.  With

my dive lights off, I waved my hands back and forth in front of my face.

Like magic, many tiny green and blue bioluminescent lights sparkled in front

of me lighting up the water.  It is amazing to see and can't fully explain

it.  I turned my dive lights back on and headed for the coral.  Next, I

noticed something totally crazy, something I'd NEVER seen or heard of

before.  There were thousands of "something" swarming around my dive light,

so many that it was hard to even see my light.  I could even feel them

swarming around my head, in-between the hairs of my head and down my neck.

They were tiny and extremely fast.  I could not make out what they were, but

later in the trip was able to catch them in a glass and look at them.  I was

amazed, in the glass were tiny baby lobsters, crabs and something else

resembling millipedes(each only about 1/4th the size of an ant!).  I then

saw something else I'd never seen before.  It was like a 12 inch long

green/blue worm twirling itself through mid-water.  In all, many things were

seen that just aren't possible to see during the day and despite our

attempts, no coral spawning was observed.

 

 

 

"Where's The Dingy!!!"

 

 

 

I gave Brian the hand signal to surface.  I wanted to make sure the currents

hadn't swept us away from the dingy.  I, frantically, turning my body in 360

degrees said, "Where's the dingy!?".  Brian looked and said he didn't know.

It was one thing to be lost at sea in a dingy but to be floating helplessly

in the middle of the ocean, at night time, in just dive gear!  My heart rate

soared.   No way had the currents swept us that far away in such a short

time.  No way was this actually happening!  Maybe Brian's bowline knot had

untied and the dingy floated away.  I got myself up as high as I could and

with the help of a wave was able to spot the dingy with my dive light.  We

headed to the dingy and went back down and this time stuck closer to the

dingy.  I would occasionally resurface to make sure we were still nearby.

We decided to call the dive and start to head back.  To make a long story

short of our trip back to the boat, we got lost, BIG time!  All the markers

are pretty much the same with no way to tell them apart.  We spent hours

going from marker to marker trying to find the right one.  We eventually got

back and got to bed around 4 a.m.

 

 

 

~Nate

 

 

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