Campsite in the Keys
Seven Mile Bridge
Aqua-Nut's Dive Boat
City of Washington Wreck
Our First Shark
City of Washington Wreck
Christ of the Abyss
Christ of the Abyss
Our First Manta Ray
04.03.2002 - Day 6
It’s day two for our diving adventures. After striking camp, we head down Highway 1 once again, stopping at a French-style coffee house for breakfast and a small beach to obtain a picture or two of Seven Mile Bridge. Finally, we arrive in Key Largo, the location for dives #3 and #4.
We feel like pros as we check in at the Aqua-Nuts shop – no butterflies in our tummies today, only pure excitement. Kurt even feels confident enough to request dive locations including a wreck and/or The Christ of the Abyss (more on this in a minute…). The girl in the shop states that she doesn’t know what the afternoon destinations will be, but she’ll certainly put in the request for us.
When the time arrives, we meet the Captain and crew on the dock to assemble our diving gear. The boat is nearly identical to the South Point Divers' boat. There are many more divers on this excursion than on our first adventure, but thankfully there are 2 boats. When the Captain calls us, Kurt and I load our gear onboard and take a seat. Once again, the Captain gives us a briefing detailing the plan for the dives and tells us that the water conditions are definitely above average. Looks like we really lucked out! Unless they say that on all the dive trips…
Again, all the diving locales are about 6 or 7 miles offshore, so a boat ride of approximately 30 minutes precedes our dive. At the site – The City of Washington in the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary – the crew moors us to a buoy and the Captain comes down to educate us about our location and what to look for. Turns out that we are at the site of Mike’s Wreck – the 100-year-old remains of a steel barge. The Captain also tells us that a pair of nurse sharks live in the area as well as several barracuda. (Sharks??!!)
With great anticipation, Kurt and I don our gear and jump in as quickly as we can. The wreck is easy to spot as we begin our decent. The pieces are very fragmented and it’s nearly impossible to make anything coherent out of them. But even the abundance of coral covering the steel segments doesn’t disguise the fact that it’s a foreign object. We have nearly descended all the way when an eerie figure glides by. I grab Kurt and Kurt grabs me – a nurse shark!! She’s below us about 7 or 8 feet, only a foot or two off the bottom, and doesn’t pay the least bit of attention to Kurt and I. Of course Kurt, who has the camera, immediately begins chasing her to ensure a good shot. Then, as quickly as she came, she’s gone.
We spend the rest of the hour touring around the wreck and observing the variety of life in the area. As we are surfacing, a barracuda decides to visit us. They are definitely frightening-looking fish!
The Captain maneuvers the boat to our second dive site of the day and once again briefs us about our surroundings. Turns out that he has chosen to tie up near the Christ of the Abyss – Kurt’s second request! What more could we ask for! The Captain gives us directions to the location and ‘opens the pool’. There are at least 10 or 12 diving boats at this site, all just as big as ours. When we get in the water, we are amazed at the plethora of divers and snorkelers everywhere. We soon lose them all though, as we begin swimming in the direction we believe the Captain indicated for the site. It doesn’t take us long to realize that we are definitely swimming in the wrong direction. It’s actually a little spooky to be in such a high-traffic area. There are boats everywhere above us – some starting up their engines. We can see the propellers spinning… I try to stay as close to the bottom as possible.
Eventually, we find what we’re looking for – the Christ of the Abyss – a 9-foot high statue (25-foot if you include the base) of Christ with his arms upraised. The statue was a gift from Edidi Cressi, a European Industrialist, to the Underwater Society of America in 1961 and is a replica of “II Cristo Degli Abssi” – originally sculpted by Guido Galletti and located on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea near Genoa. The statue is a bit eerie with all the coral growing on it and the light streaming down through the water. It’s definitely a popular destination, though, as there are many other divers in the area with us. In fact, Kurt gets asked (in sign language) by another pair of divers to take their picture by the statue – just like any other tourist attraction!
After we snap a few photographs, we head away from all the other tourists to a broad expanse of sand. The Captain told us to swim into this area and stay very still and that we might spot sea worms popping out of their holes in the sand. We aren’t lucky enough to see this action, but we do see a large manta ray cruise by! She is beautiful – floating above the sand in a dreamy fashion. She even stops and turns to watch us as we snap a few photographs. I think this was even more fantastic than the shark!
Once back on shore, Kurt and I load all our diving gear back into the RAV4 and embark on the long drive to Cocoa Beach in hopes of catching a Space Shuttle launch on Thursday! (To Day 7)