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mantastrip1 mantastrip2 mantastrip3 Manta Ray - Flower Gardens, Gulf of Mexico 2000 dutchwestindies From Arkansas to the Dutch West Indies 2007 miscstrip1 Misc Strip 2 Misc strip 3 Misc strip 4 All images Copyright 2009 Michael Tierney

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Swimming in liquid topaz

Dive Log 6:
Blackbeard's Cruise: The Bahamas
Grand Bahama Island -- June 22, 1999
Theo's Wreck
Lucaya Caves
Shark Alley

Theo's Wreck

Just off Grand Bahama Island lies the wrecked freighter once named the Shining Star, in 100 feet of water. It's now called Theo's Wreck, but is more commonly known as the James Bond Wreck, since it was used for location shoots in movies like "Never Say Never Again." This dive would be an adventure, and it started at the very point of entry into the water.

There are many ways to enter the water. On the beach, you walk through the surf. When you're in a small boat, you just roll backwards. On bigger boats, you step off the back. On this dive boat, they had us take a giant step off the side, through a door in the railing. You'd suit up, and put on your tank and b.c. vest right before stepping off. The boat crew who helped you put on your gear while standing (you normally do this sitting, and then stand) are supposed to help keep all the gear hanging from your vest from snagging on the railing. This time they forgot.

As I stepped off, something caught on the railing and swung me around, bouncing me off the side of the boat on my way down. I did an equipment check, and decided nothing was leaking, so I headed a hundred feet down the bouy rope to the wreck.

While exploring the inside, another diver who was also an underwater photographer, suddenly shot past while chasing a fish, kicked me in the face, and knocked my mask off.

Since the person I'd been buddied with hadn't waited while I rechecked my gear, I was diving alone. But there was no need for panic, because you can see fairly well in salt water, even inside a shipwreck. Things are just blurry, and the cloud of silt the other diver kicked up hadn't hidden my mask. I just picked it up, cleared it, and continued on with what was my deepest dive to this point.

That's when my dive computer started to Red Line and sounded a Decompression Alert, thanks no doubt to my unintentional bounce dive the night before. Took my time going back up, making long decompression stops along the way, watching the computer slowly back away from that red line. The only problem was; I was running out of air.

One oft-preached rule of diving is that you always surface with at least 500 P.S.I. of air left. I was decompressing at 50 feet when I passed that point, with a more decompression stops still to go. This is one of the reasons that they ask divers to work in pairs. Fortunately, I showed my gauge to another diver on her way up, and she loitered with me, tapping her spare second stage regular.

When I was first certified back in the Sixties, they taught us to buddy breathe, taking turns exchanging a regulator if another diver runs out of air. The problem was, the divers would sometimes fight over the last remaining air, and they'd both end up drowning. So they quit teaching that. The solution was to design a first stage hose octopus that included a spare second stage regulator.

It didn't come to that on this day. But my tank was empty when I climbed out.

Bond Wreck 1 Bond Wreck 2 Bond Wreck 3 Bond Wreck 4 Bond Wreck 5 Bond Wreck 6 Bond Wreck 7 Bond Wreck 8 Bond Wreck 9 Bond Wreck 10

Lucaya Caves

This was a 53 minute dive to 82 feet.

It was also my first encounter with multiple sharks. I would later learn that the waters around Grand Bahama Island are teaming with sharks. These White Tip Reef Sharks, 6 to 8 foot long, cruised by in groups up to 5.

I'd been waiting a long time for an encounter like this. Even though I'd always thought I'd be nervous, instead I felt like a little kid surrounded by puppy dogs, and completely relaxed.

Climbing up the ladder after the dive, I handed my camera up by the strap. The boat rocked in the surge and the camera swung and smacked me in the head, causing a bleeding cut.

All the other divers asked if I'd been bitten by a shark.

Lucaya Caves 1 Lucaya Caves 2 Lucaya Caves 3 Lucaya Caves 4 Lucaya Caves 5 Lucaya Caves 6 Lucaya Caves 7 Lucaya Caves 8 Lucaya Caves 9 Lucaya Caves 10

Shark Alley

There were too many sharks to count on this 46 minute dive to a depth of 56 feet. There were also the usual barracuda and stingrays. My best shot would be of a shark crossing paths with two stingrays.

I was probably getting a little too comfortable around sharks, as I starting chasing them in an attempt to get better pictures, even tried swimming head on with them, like some game of chicken. But sharks don't react like fish. They always turned away immediately, making good pictures hard to get. After all, they are a predator, and don't have defenses. When you make what they consider an agressive move, they'll turn and run.

At one point, I noticed the diver who'd kicked me in the face earlier was now hiding behind a coral ridge with several others, all of them watching me with their cameras. I thought this odd, but swam on in my quest for a good shark picture.

Back on the boat, those divers commented about how they saw me chasing 6 sharks. I replied that there had been only 5 at the time. They responded by telling me:

"No. There was a sixth one that came out of a grotto behind you, that you never saw. We all thought it was going to attack you!"

That explains why they were watching me. They thought they were going to get a picture of a man being eaten alive by a shark. I thanked them sarcastically for their lack of a warning. This is where the inspiration for my Diving Signals cartoon came from.

The ethics of those guys reminds me of an old joke:

What do you do when confronted by a man-eating shark? Grab your dive buddy and pull them close. Then drawn your knife... and stab your buddy. While the shark eats them, you swim away.

Shark Alley 1 Shark Alley 2 Shark Alley 3 Shark Alley 4 Shark Alley 5 Shark Alley 6

Port Lucaya Night Life

No night dive this time. Instead, the ship docked in Port Lucaya, which has a town square that runs right up to the water, with a boardwalk lined with stores instead of a beach.

We needed the time to off-gas all the nitrogen that'd been building up in our blood after so much diving. An additional bonus was that the local inn made their showers available to us.

After that, we all relaxed around the pool and listened to the music playing in the town square. It was a party that went on until the middle of the morning. Up next; a dive along a 2,000 foot reef wall, a shark feeding frenzy, and a night dive on a pair of haunted shipwrecks.

Dive Log 7:
Blackbeard's Cruise: The Bahamas
Bimini Chain -- June 23, 1999
Half-Pipe Reef
Tuna Alley
Bull Run
Wrecks of the Rita and the Miami: Night Dive

Tuna Alley 7

big shark cartoon






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