March 9th, 2003
This title could probably best describe my past two weeks. Being in the midst of remodeling my house, the long hours of moving furniture and dive books, painting walls and cleaning over and over again took out every ounce of energy in my body. Awakening with a paint brush in my hand on Saturday morning, the ‘joyous’ act of priming and painting my room left me feeling like the Karate Kid after Mr. Miagi put him through his “Remodel-My-House Karate.”
Throughout the day, one thing floated in the back my mind — the thought of diving on Sunday morning. Having previously planned a Biscayne National Park dive with my dive buddies, Fritz and Karen, my chance at some R&R was finally close at hand. Finishing up around 10PM, I decided I would not bring along my camera for I was even too tired to want to shoot.
The next morning I awoke with a scuba mask in my hand — much better than a paint brush! Fully rested and hearing the muffling screams of my camera inside her Pelican case — she wanted to go diving too! Sure enough, what was supposed to start as a day of R&R began with a rat-race to get her cleaned and assembled before I would need to head off to Fritz’s house.
Forty-five minutes later, I was out the door and on my way. Along the express way I noticed a large school bus towing a fairly large Zodiac (inflatable boat). As I drove closer, I noticed a huge painting of a dive flag on the side of the bus with some French words written on it. “Holy Moses,” I said out loud. The bus was filled with (what I would assume) were divers, all headed south. A quick prayer to the dive Gods so that we didn’t all end up on the same reef was all I could do.
After arriving at Fritz’s house, I moved my equipment over to the dive mobile and we headed over to Biscayne National Park. We chatted a little about everything including the odd warm water temperature changes (according to NOAA) in comparison to last week. What was clear to see was the perfect, summer-like day we were beginning to experience. Our hopes were high that we’d have an extraordinary day.
Arriving at Biscayne National Park with Karen following closely behind, it wasn’t long before we were all ready to go out to the reefs. With the Captain and Nestor (dive master, first & second mate, chief engineer, etc.) on deck…
..we were on our way out to do the mini-wall drift dive. With clear skies, warm temperatures and less than 5 knots of wind we were definitely not the only ones out to seize the day.
Arriving at the mini-wall dive site, Fritz, Karen and I were soon on our way down to the bottom (~90ft). Right away it became very apparent that it would turn out to be a great dive — with 60-70 feet of visibility, a slight trickle of current and fish abound, this dive was exactly what I had been hoping for all week.
As we began our slow drift dive we were in awe over the kaleidoscope of colors appearing before our eyes in the different varieties of corals and fish. We exchanged a diver’s thumps-up seal of approval several times.
Along the way, all this beauty was disrupted by a horrific site! Lobster traps sat a top of these beautiful reefs with hundreds of feet of rope wrapped around the corals. It was apparent that these were to be a permanent addition to the reefs as they no longer had a float attached to them.
As we continued along the way we found fishing line and even a small anchor on top of a sponge.
What was to be a day of R&R suddenly turned into a reef cleanup at 90 feet! Clipping my camera to my BC, I untangled some of the rope while Fritz picked up the small anchor. Cutting off the rope and tying it to my BC I heard Fritz compensate with air in his BC for the extra weight (Disclaimer: Don’t try this without some very good diving experience!).
As we continued on our way, we were suddenly enveloped my thousands of Silverside Minnows rushing through! Visibility was down to 10 feet and I could barely make out where my dive buddies were.
Enveloped in this blanket of sparkling lights, the feeling was like that of being in the middle of a huge meteor shower. To say it was breath-taking would be an understatement. We spent a good sum of our dives surrounded by this perfectly coordinated living-wall of fish before we had to begin our ascent.
While we made our safety stop, I continued to point in all directions to Karen and she would frantically turn in that direction in hopes of seeing some big critter. What she didn’t understand was that I was pointing at something closer to the microscopic level. Everywhere I looked, I could see the different larvae of fish and jellies drifting in the current. The highlight was an intricately detailed jelly no larger than a ¼ inch in diameter. Needless to say, the 3 minute safety stop turned into a 10 minute safety stop instead.
With everyone safely back up on the boat we headed closer to shore for a few minutes before we arrived at our second dive destination. Part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle reef tract (yes, you read that right), this new reef was yet to be named. Not having dived this reef before, I was excited to jump in and see what I would discover. It was agreed by Nestor that after our dive we would name this reef either Boris (another Rocky & Bullwinkle character) if it was boring or Natasha (Rocky & Bullwinkle character) if it was not. We all laughed and agreed that in one hour we’d have a response for him.
Even before most divers had geared up, I was giant-striding into the shallow reef. With over 90-100ft of visibility, I could see this beautiful reef fade far into the distance. Dropping down in an area with the reef on one side and a big sandy area on the other, I set my sights on a small piece of solitary sponge out in the sand desert. Swaying in the very slight surge were two itsy-bitsy Highhats — no larger than maybe ½ an inch.
As I was taking a couple of photos of them (not an easy task), I noticed Fritz descend upon the reef about 30ft. away — with Karen a little further down. I noticed he was acting a bit suspicious as he reached down to the reef and picked up an object from the reef. “Hmmm! I wonder what Fritz found?” With one of my lenses still lying in the sand, I began swimming towards Fritz when I noticed he had a baby turtle in his hands! I hurried up a little and I noticed him turn the turtle around and pound the little guy with his fist. “What the heck!”, I mumbled to myself. I couldn’t believe what he was doing! Could Fritz be some kind of animal abuser?!?! Maybe the turtle was dead and he was trying to revive him?!?! A hundred thoughts ran through my mind as I approached closer.
When I finally reach him, I could see it WAS a lifeless baby turtle. After learning from our Sea Turtle seminar last year that you could sometimes revive a drowned turtle by pounding on its underside (I’m not kidding), I watched Fritz pound on the little turtle again and again…
As a last resort, Fritz removed his regulator from his mouth and began to give the turtle CPR.