Since I'm still safely buckled in to the lifestyle of a steady job, I have recently had the resources to focus on some of my hobbies.
This past weekend I took a Friday off work and drove down to Moorehead City, North Carolina to finalize my Advanced Open Water SCUBA certification. This PADI SCUBA level allows me to make dives around 100 feet. Previously, I could only dive down to 60 feet.
I woke up at 5:30AM Friday morning to the sound of my instructor, Dave Weston, banging on the side of my van and telling me "rise and shine" :) At around 6 we all drove from the parking lot of Fisherman's Inn to Olympus Dive Center. Once there we unloaded all of our SCUBA gear onto the "Mutiny", our faithful diving boat.
Our crew then proceeded to head over 20 miles south (about a two hour boat ride), into the depths of the ocean, in search of the nearly forgotten wrecks of the abyss... ARRRRR!!!
Here are the wrecks we hit each day, and a description of the memorable sights (also with some links to extra information):
Day 1 (Friday, June 11th):
-Hardee's - This was my first dive beyond 60 feet. I was breathing pretty fast and my heart was pounding when I hit the water... but I calmed down as I hit about 30 feet and had to focus on what I was doing. I was surprised by the high visibility and abundance of marine life at this location. For a bit I was thinking.. holy crap, holy crap, I can't believe I'm this freaking deep.
-Box Wreck - I didn't get to explore this cargo ship wreck all that much since I was working on dive skills with my instructor. I had to effectively use a wreck reel to navigate through the cargo in order to pass the lesson. I can see how effective making a trail with this device can be if visibility is ever reduced to zero in a wreck environment- especially if sand or silt is kicked up when you are inside a wreck. Sorry, no additional info on this wreck!
Day 2 (Saturday, June 12th):
-Proteus - Holy crap, sharks! As soon as we neared the end of the decent, a sand tiger shark is waiting to greet us right by the anchor. I looked right into it's primal eyes and watched it stare right back into mine. I wonder what it was thinking.. We saw several sand tiger sharks throughout this wreck, and large varieties of smaller fish. Sea urchins littered many nooks and crannies of the boat. I really enjoyed this wreck because of the active marine life, interesting layout of the boat, and rather smooth current.
-Papoose - This wreck was another great experience. Two in a day! Probably the most memorable thing about this dive was the huge southern stingray. It was about 7 feet long, with a pretty large wingspan. It laid peacefully in the sand, at around 120 feet while I swam all around it studying its features. It looked right into my eyes and didn't move an inch, even though I was inches away from its body. As we were making our safety stop at 15 feet (we always do this to decompress) we saw a pretty large group of sharks about 40 feet away. As we were leaving for shore, a group of about 10-20 spotted dolphins swam about 10 feet away from the back of the boat on the surface.
Day 3 (Sunday, June 13th):
-U-352 - This wreck has a lot of history behind it. The US Coast Guard took this German sub down during World War II and had to disarm its torpedoes. A lot of people didn't know that Germans were had subs over here during the war, but yeah, there's quite a few U boats in the area. The marine life was decent here, but not a whole lot to penetrate on this wreck. I'd definitely say all the coolness factor sits in the historical significance of the wreck, not the marine life.
-Aeolus - WOW! By far, my favorite dive of the trip. Why? Well let's see- swam inches away from a 10 foot sand tiger shark, saw sea slugs, schools of active bait fish, a barracuda, jacks, groupers.. and that's just the marine life. The wreck itself is huge; according to my experienced dive buddies, I probably only covered about a 1/4 of it. I felt very occupied the entire dive - going through doors, holes, crevices, up and down the sides, and pretty much enjoying every moment.
Currently, I'm editing the videos I took of the dives, so I will extract a few frames to post as pictures here ASAP. I'll also make the videos a little more fun to watch and post the videos on Vimeo or Youtube for your (and my) viewing pleasure!
Be well everyone :)