Dive Report Biscayne: 07/18-20/06

Great Dive Trips at Bargain Prices with the Sea Divers

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Posted by Patrick on July 20, 2006 at 20:34:00:

Its been a busy three days for the CMAR group working Biscayne Nat’l Park. My last posting was after our initial dive of the year on Long Reef this Monday past. On Tuesday we cleared the Park Services Convoy Point headquarters in one of the 22-foot Whalers thinking that the three of us wouldn’t require weight belts after sampling the complimentary “Southern” breakfast of biscuits & gravy that our motel provided.

Carol Linteau and our transport to ErlKing

We had some concerns about the offshore reef conditions as well, but once past Elliot Key, we found sunny skies and just the slightest wind ripples marring an otherwise perfect ocean. The myriad GPSs on board accurately guided us back to the clear (50-60 foot viz), warm (84-degrees on the surface and on the bottom) waters over the ERLKING.

Conditions on the EK – note the keel visible on the bottom

This day, Carol and I spent the time drawing then trilating a large area of hull and other material that lies to the west of the main body of the ERLKING site. At this time our primary goal was to delineate the perimeter with precise fidelity and then document the material within the perimeter, the perimeter placement being the most important thing (at this time).

Carol working end of baseline.

Throughout the course of the day the local critters cruised by to see what we were doing. Visitors included barracuda, some small grouper, a flight of two squid and of course the usual reef fish.

In an overhang on one of the adjacent coral spurs, a small nurse shark found a comfy spot and watched us work all day.

Weather showing lightning caused us to call it a day a bit earlier than usual (14:45), but the run for home was pleasant enough and only a bit choppy. Once inside Biscayne Bay, the water was clear and calm enough to spot large Southern stingrays explode off the bottom as we raced overhead.

Weather you shouldn’t be out in…

There were only two dives for the day – first dive was 24-feet for 124 minutes. Second dive was 23-feet for 83 minutes. Pretty fair BT for single AL 80s.

It was a little weird when we got back to the motel – the parking was all taken by police and government vehicles. Guys and women in sheriff’s, police, Coast Guard and FEMA garb were all over the place. It made us a bit nervous until we found out there was a law enforcement conference being held nearby. Initially we were worried that these folks knew about an upcoming disaster and were queuing up to respond.

Wednesday (07/19/06) we were back on board the 45-foot concession boat – Boca Chita – to accommodate a film crew that was going to document the work CMAR was going in the park on the underwater heritage trail. Us CMAR folks were told to just do our thing and ignore the filming, and we did. I’d be working drawing a feature on the site and glance up and there would be Nate the cameraman grinding away. Just a brief look and I’d go back to my job and he to his. It was a nice place for both of us to work. Actually, some of the reef fish were bigger hindrances – darting out to nip a finger or charge a drawing slate – than any of the film crew were.

One of the local Scorpionfish

I spent the first dive finishing up drawing several unique features and placing on the site map.

David Cox, SCA intern working the site

The second dive was a site reccon. dive to locate other unique and diagnostic material and features associated with the ERLKING. Since the prevailing wind and sea is from the SW, I was looking NE. And the looking was most interesting – huge bar-link chain, more of the barrels of cement that she carried as cargo as well as deck and engine room structure and equipment.

Part of the doomed ERLKINGs cargo – cement
Chunks of broken glass from the ERLKING’s cargo, and large, thick chunks of porthole glass are scattered everywhere across the bottom. Too soon I was low on air and it was back to the boat. It was too late for any further dives so it was time to pull the hook and head for home. Because the wreck site it an important cultural resource and the surrounding reef is a sensitive biological area, the anchor was hand set and hand recovered by me. Some of you might know that while setting an anchor when working this project last year, a local moray took umbrage at my efforts and chewed up three fingers on my left hand. With that experience to draw from, I am now even more cautious than previously when setting or retrieving the anchor since it tends to be the same area. When I dropped down to free the anchor, there was a chain moray of similar size to the one who tasted me last year out swimming free just a few feet from the anchor. I stayed midwater until he moved off down the reef and finally disappeared. Just the one experience of having a moray nosh on your digits is way more than adequate.

Another of the local morays

Two dives – 22-feet, 127” Dive 2, 24-feet, 97 minutes. Water temp 84.

Thursday diving was scrubbed due to weather and a lot of electricity over the offshore waters. With the rain, the humidity moderated and we worked consolidating the last four years of drawings and data – myriad Mylar sheets, but our filing is now perfect, and despite of losing a dive day, it was still productively spent.

Weather for tomorrow promises, in the words of the park’s cultural resource manager, “sweet for you guys.” My fingers are crossed.

Stay wet

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