16 May 2010

Florida Keys - Day 5 - The Thunderbolt

Remember I was talking about losing and forgetting things on this trip. Well, I had left my fins aboard the Sea Eagle the day before. Fortunately for me, Captain's Corner held them at their kiosk for pick up.

We had breakfast, got my fins, started out return trip to Marathon, unsure of what, if any diving we would find. We still wanted to hit the Thunderbolt wreck, a 188-foot cable layer that later served as a research vessel to explore the electrical energy of lightning strikes. We called the 3 dive shops, in Marathon, we had numbers for. Of the 3, Abyss Dive Center was willing to take us out that afternoon. They didn't have anything planned but worked it out just for us. There was an additional 75 dollar fee to take the boat out to the wreck but it was split between us and a third diver who joined in. A dive instructor accompanied us throughout the dive so the fee didn't seem to extreme.

Their boat, a 34 foot Crusader, the Vitamin Sea, is equipped with a fresh water shower, a toilet facility, a dedicated camera rinse tank, complimentary sodas and ice water. There is a large cooler on board to keep any food or personal snacks cold as well. They carry a maximum of six passengers.

Great conditions again this day. Calm seas, very mild curren
t on the wreck and more then 60 feet of vis. When we arrived there were about 5 or 6 fishing boats around. According to the owner they have an unspoken rule that when a dive boat arrives the fishing boats back off which is exactly what I observed. Two mooring buoy's are attached to the wreck and they are both submerged about 20 feet under. The captain finds the general site with gps and then we all kept a lookout for the submerged buoy. "Is that it off the starboard side?" I called out seeing a large, white object under the blue. "That's it" replied the capt. Then our dive instructor swims down with the anchor line and attaches it. The deck of the Thunderbolt is at a depth of about 110 feet although I never went below 106. This wreck has been submerged more then 10 years and is coated with colorful sponges, corals and hydroids, providing refuge and sustenance to large angelfish, jacks, cobia, tarpon and a variety of deep-water pelagic creatures. My buddy claims to have seen a grouper over the side the size of a dining room table. According to this website - http://www.fla-keys.com/news/news.cfm?sid=7439 "Perhaps the most popular residents are the three goliath grouper that hang around the engine room — one nearly 800 pounds." That must have been him. We saw three sharks coming back up the accent line. Each one slowly making its way in towards us from the deep blue and then back out again. I thought for sure these were some sort of reef shark (swore I saw a black tip on a dorsal) but our instructor claims they were bulls. We all agree that they were probably there because of the fishing.

Dive Site - The Thunderbolt
  • Site Depth - 120
  • My max depth - 106
  • Vis - 60 feet or more.
  • Coldest water temp - 76F Surface 81F
  • Bottom time - 24 minutes
Our second dive was an hour long shallow reef dive called Shark Harbor (no sharks). This was similar to the dives we did 2 days ago but with a little better vis and no surge. Coldest temp was 80F and max depth was 30 feet (it would have been hard to find deeper). Most interesting fish - spiny lobster and a fairly large green moray among the other beautiful reef fish.

Oh and this day I left my snorkel in their rinse tank. Later that evening we picked it up while heading out to dinner and it was a good thing we did. Not only did they have my snorkel but they had Cliffords mask. Hah! I'm not the only one forgetting stuff.

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