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Diving Unique in Palau

June 07, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

All content copyrighted. ©Mike Gerken; All Rights Reserved.

False Spawning II A false spawning event of red snappers in Palau. ©Mike Gerken

            “Any dive is a good dive” is the motto of many an optimistic diver returning from a mediocre dive experience who does not want to be construed as a jaded diver. After logging thousands of dives and seeing some amazing sights underwater, I find myself at times falling in to this category. For every dive that causes my eyes to pop out of my mask and regulator to fall out of my mouth there are a dozen dives that are ok, but will not be highlighted in the logbook. This of course is the nature of scuba diving. Not every dive is going to bowl you over; that is until I started diving with Unique Dive Expeditions at Sam’s Tours in Palau.

            From September 2012 until April 2013 I was the captain of a startup liveaboard, the Palau Siren of Worldwide Dive & Sail. It was during this time I got to know Paul Collins, an expat scientist doing ocean geography studies of Palau and doubling as an operations manager of Sam’s Tours. Paul and Sam's Tour's dive guide, Richard Barnden are the reason Unique Dive Expeditions are so unique. For several years now, these two have been studying marine fish behaviors based on the lunar cycle, tidal actions and follow up accounts of Palauan fishermen and divers. Many fish species aggregate to the same reef at a certain time of the month or year with the intention of spawning and it is Paul and Richards job to study and track these behaviors so they can witness with great predictability some amazing spawning events month after month and year after year that very few people have ever seen. They take this scientific knowledge and use it to entertain tourists who travel from all over the world to dive with Sam’s Tour’s in Koror. This is where science crosses over to sport diving. By using scientific data, they can dramatically increase the odds of having a stellar dive and eliminating those that don’t make the cut. They prove with their results that there is more than just luck in finding spectacular marine life at a particular dive site.

  bumphead parrotfishBump Head            I was lucky to be able to accompany these two on several dives to witness their techniques first hand. My first mind blowing dive was the spawning event of Bolbometopon muricatum or the bumphead parrotfish. The bumphead gets it name for the bulbous hump on its forehead that is just more noticeable than the tooth plate that looks like the jaws of a backhoe. With thick scales, a green to gray hue and sizes up to 25 pounds, these fish are standouts on the reef. To see a dozen bumpheads would be considered a great sighting on any given dive. Today, however, we were about to see several thousand that arrive a few days before a new moon.

            In the early morning, right before the switch of an incoming to an outgoing tide, the bumpheads began to aggregate on the promontory of the reef in front of our own eyes. At first we saw a few dozen but within an hour their number climbed in to the thousands. During this time, in a large procession, they swam away from the reef in to blue water that was reminiscent of a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour. Pretty soon, the current began to switch to outgoing the fishes heads began to change color. (This is likely a sign to the other fish that they are ready to spawn.) Then, with several dozen divers looking on, it happened. Some of the fish swam rapidly upwards with others joining and swimming alongside. Simultaneously, the eggs from the female are released along with the sperm of the males. As the fish collide with each other I see a cloud burst with frantic fish activity all around in the water column. Then, moments later, it begins to really go off. Multitudes of bumpheads up and down the reef simultaneously perform this ritual over and over again. Trying to film the activity was confusing and difficult to know where to point the camera. There was actually too much action! After about 30-60 minutes the spawning events began to slow down and within what seemed like moments, they were gone. There wasn’t a single bumphead wrasse left on the reef.

bumphead parrotfish aggregationBumphead Aggregation

Bumpheads aggregating on the reef prior to spawning. ©Mike Gerken

            Once back on the boat I could share my excitement with the other divers as to what we just witnessed. To say I was awed was an understatement and the same could be said for the others. The chatter in the boat was filled with adrenaline and disbelief.  For millennia these fish have likely been performing the same routine on this very same section of reef with one goal in mind; to procreate and continue their species.

Bumphead Parrot Fish Spawning March 2013

A video short of the aggregation and spawning of bumphead parrotfish. ©Mike Gerken

            "This dive was just a warm up", Paul indicated. "Wait to you see the red snapper spawning."; (Otherwise known as Lutjanus bohar . With a shake of my head in assent I say, “bring it, I can’t wait!” “Well you’re going to have to wait” Paul began to explain. The red snapper don’t spawn for a few weeks. When I got home, I marked my calendar and patiently waited for the day of the dive to arrive.

            Jump ahead to two weeks and there we were motoring at high speed across the lagoon at sunup on our way to see first hand the red snapper spawning. My camera was loaded, tested and fully charged in anticipation. “This is going to be good”, I said to myself. In a playbook taken right from the bumpheads, the red snappers assembled in the same manner, but this time in the tens of thousands. When I swam down the reef, the mass of fish looked like a swarm of locusts over a Kansas prairie. As I carefully got beneath the horde their sheer numbers blotted out the sun. As we say in Long Island, New York, “This is awesome!”. To make matters more exciting, four eight foot bull sharks arrived at the gathering to attempt to make a meal out of the distracted snappers. The Bulls meandered around the perimeter looking for a weakness keeping their distance from the divers. At one point, Richard got close to one and snapped a photo and the bull shark, not liking the brilliant strobes and electronic impulses, turned tail and swam away at high speed.

 

Swarm

A massive aggregation of red snappers that blotted out the sun at times. ©Mike Gerken

            In a matter of moments, like clockwork, the spawning began. Dozens of fish converged around what looked like one fish ascending upwards. Like fireworks on the 4th of July the cloud bursts of sperm and eggs flowed with the outgoing tide and tarnished the gin blue water above me, below me and on all sides. Predicting when the action was about to happen proved as difficult as with the Bumpheads and my camera was jutting too and fro with excitement. This process repeated itself over again dozens of times up and down the reef.

 

A beautiful assembly of red snappers at Shark City, Palau. 

            Pretty soon, all the red snappers fulfilled their duty and began to disperse to all corners of the reef, returning to wherever they started from, leaving the stunned divers behind to marvel at what we just saw. To add to the party, large aggregations of barracuda, giant trevally, big eye jacks, black snapper and even a lemon shark appeared adding to the wonderful layer cake of a dive.

               Afterwards, Paul explained that the dive we just did had an average attendance of snappers. “Average” I squawked! I couldn’t imagine more fish than what we just saw, but I took his word for it. Unfortunately, I left Palau before I could return again to see if he was telling the truth. This certainly will give me an excuse for returning very soon.

 

Red Snapper Spawning April 2013

A must see video of the aggregation and spawning of red snappers. ©Mike Gerken

            To this day, Paul and Richard at Sam's Tour's continue to refine their dive techniques tweaking the entry times and locations on the reefs to deliver, in my professional opinion, the best diving Palau has to offer. Most of the dives I did in Palau were fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, manta rays, gray reef sharks and healthy populations of fish were all part of the joy of diving there, but nothing held a candle to the dives I did with Unique Dive Expeditions. With their science data they were able to deliver great action beneath the waves. When you have been doing this as a long as I have, every so often, you need your batteries recharged and these dives were just the power source I needed.

Afterword

To set up a dive trip with Unique Dive Expeditions of Sam’s Tours, contact reservations@samstours.com or email paul@uniquedivexpeditions.com. Many of the unique dives offered require very early pre-sunup departures, deep dives to over 30 meters with strong currents a factor. If these conditions aren't for you then best to sign up for the standard fare Sam's Tours has to offer which is also outstanding. 

Photo and Video Gallery

Black Snapper Spawning Another one of Paul and Richard's dive's is a jaunt to the north of Palau to see the aggregation of these

cute little black tail snappers. I was witness to tens of thousands of these fish. ©Mike Gerken

humphead parrotfishBumphead Aggregation IV

Richard Barnden pursuing bumpheads for 'the shot'. ©Mike Gerken

Swarm II Look closely for the large bull shark beneath the red snappers. ©Mike Gerken

Red Snapper Spawning II

A mass of red snappers prior to spawning. 

Visit here for more photos.

 

 


Freediving Palau

December 28, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Monica Ganame, of Apnea Total, inside Blue Holes in Palau, Micronesia.          

            Since we started running charters two months ago, life for me on board the Palau Siren, has been a non-stop series of tasks to get the operation up and running smoothly. The work has been challenging but enjoyable. To make matters even more interesting, my crew and I had to deal with a near direct hit from super typhoon Bopha a few weeks back. We were very fortunate that the typhoons highest winds at the eye of the storm missed us by a mere few miles. Many lost their homes here in Palau, but miraculously no one was killed or severely injured.

 

            Even though I have been tied up running a liveaboard, I have had time to do a few dives and take a few photos. Many of the photos I took were ok, but not worthy of a posting online. Sometimes a photographer needs to scope out photo ops, come up with ideas and then go back to shoot it. I was feeling a little discouraged about the images I was landing until I went on a photo shoot with free diving expert Monica Ganame. Monica owns and operates her own freediving school, Apnea Total, based out of Koh Tao, Thailand.

            I’m always on the hunt for an underwater model that possesses a natural grace underwater that gives the appearance that they are a part of the underwater realm, I spotted Monica and her talents early on in the trip and asked her if she would like to do a photo shoot in the famed, Blue Holes dive site in Palau. Blue Holes is a cavern formation that opens up on to a 3000 foot wall. The view is stunning from within and the lighting a challenge to work with. After showing Monica some of my work she agreed to the shoot enthusiastically.

 

            When dive time came, the group was scheduled to do Blue Corner, another legendary dive site only a few hundred feet away from Blue Holes. After everyone was dropped off at Blue Corner, Monica and I were dropped at Blue Holes and had the great fortune of having the entire cavern to us. No other dive groups had been there.

            As we pulled up to the entrance on top of the wall, I donned my cumbersome scuba gear and rolled over the side with the poise of circus clown. In contrast, Monica wearing only a mask, streamlined wetsuit and long freediving fins slipped fluidly below the water like a dolphin leaving barely a ripple on the surface. While I descended down in to the cavern and set my camera up, Monica remained motionless on the waters surface meditating and practicing her breathing exercises. By breathing in slow and deep and using the diagram to fill up as much of the lung cavity as possible, a free diver will maximize the oxygen they can carry thus staying down longer. The physical technique however, is only part of what is required to dive deeper for longer periods of time. By relaxing the mind and eliminating the fear factor inherent in every human psyche a diver can extend their range and bottom time more than someone whose mind is not at ease with the watery environment. After all it is the brain that tells our body, “you need oxygen buddy and now!” However, like many obstacles to overcome in life, it is factor of mind over matter. Concentration is key.

 

            After I set my exposures and snapped a few test shots, Monica began her long descent down in to the cavern. I made sure the opening was in view above with the blue water shining through. With ease she made her way down to the 60 foot mark while I continually snapped away. After what seemed like a minute, she began her ascent to the surface where she rested for 5 minutes before taking another dive. With each subsequent trip down she was able to go deeper and longer and the photos got more interesting. On a few of the dives Monica swam horizontally under the cavern and ascended through a totally different opening. For most people this would have been a nerve-racking task, but for her it was no effort.

            So there the two if us stayed for nearly one hour; Monica diving over and over again and I taking as many images as I could. Most often I had to chase her through the cavern from behind, which was a futile effort due to the drag of my dive gear. In the end, she had a great time freediving Blue Holes and I had a great time photographing her. I look forward to our next photo shoot out there somewhere in the ‘Big Blue”.

 

           

 


Maiden Voyage in the Palaun Islands

November 18, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

 

   The luxury liveaboard dive vessel, the Palau Siren arrived in Palau on September 22nd of 2012 after a long journey from Bira, Indonesia, where her keel was laid more than 18 months prior. Since our arrival here in Palau, it has been the mission of my crew to get the newest addition to the Worldwide Dive and Sails fleet in to top condition to accept passengers on board for the maiden voyage on October 30th, 2012. With a lot of hard work, determination and the help of the crew of the Palau Siren’s local partner, Sam’s Tours, she was ready for full service ahead of schedule.

        

    As the final day approached all the crew from Sam’s and the Palau Siren were anxious to get things under way and show the people of Palau the latest luxury liveaboard in all her glory. To say we weren’t nervous would be misleading. Much effort has gone in to this project for several years now and the moment of truth was about to take place.

            The guests arrived from locales all over the world such as Thailand, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina and the UK. They were given the grand tour of their new home for the next 10 days and to my relief, many expressed great satisfaction at the many creature comforts the Palau Siren had to offer, including hard wood finished staterooms, marble inlaid bathrooms, individual air conditioning units and a brand new “in-float” entertainment system complete with a large selection of movies, music and books to choose from. The fact that the Siren had a fully stocked bar didn’t disappoint anyone either.

            Without wasting any time, all the divers began setting up their equipment on the custom made dive deck each with personal wooden storage lockers in preparation for the next days diving activities to commence. Regulators were checked, camera O-rings lubed and dive masks defogged before all turned in after having a beverage or two from the Palau Siren’s beer tap loaded with the local ales from Palau’s only brewery, the Red Rooster Brewing Company.

           The next morning, breakfast was served; briefings given and the dive boats 29’ long skiffs, powered with a pair of 115hp Yamaha outboards, were loaded up and readied to introduce the world class diving of Palau to the new arrivals.  The Siren left her home mooring in front of Sam’s Tours early that AM and made a very short journey in to Malakal Harbor and dropped anchor in a very scenic location and began loading divers on to the skiffs. Having a pair of high-speed dive boats rather than just one is a luxury many of our competitors do not have. This enables us to split our 16 divers in two groups for a more private dive experience for all. To add to the luxury, each skiff has it’s own local driver and dive guide to service them.

            The first days dives were kept simple but yet exciting, in order for everyone to get ‘their feet wet’ and warm up for the more challenging dives to come. ‘Jakes’ Seaplane, Short Drop Off and Chandelier Cave were first up. The seaplane is a remnant of WWII when the Japanese occupied the islands and used their ideal harbors as refuge to conduct their military campaigns from. The seaplane apparently, sunk at anchor and is fully intact and sits in a mere 18 meters of water. Short Drop Off is the closest reef dive site from the town of Koror and rarely disappoints a new arrival to Palau. Chandelier Cave is more of a cavern than a proper cave. With it’s shallow depths it can be a lot of fun to penetrate within and explore.

            After the days diving was over all sat down and sampled the food of the skilled chefs in the galley and enjoyed a hearty meal. Cocktails, bottles of wine and beer flowed smoothly while all sunk deep in their seats with all senses fully sated.

            Day two found the Palau Siren venturing north to the famed West Passage and Devil Fish City to try our luck at Manta Ray encounters that these sites are renown for. Although, all the diving was well received by the divers, no Manta’s had been found. However, the stunning coral gardens at the dive site, Sunken Bridge were consolation for the no show of the shy Manta’s.

            For the next seven days the Palau Siren zigzagged her way south to Ulong Channel, Ngerchung, Mercherer and Ulachong anchorages, finally ending up at the famed, German Channel. Numerous amazing dives were experienced along the way. Schools of spawning red snapper, black tip and gray reef sharks, beautiful coral walls, anemone’s, green sea turtles and of course Manta Rays.

        

    If there is any critter that causes more excitement and draws more divers to Palau it is the graceful Manta. With their huge wingspans of over 12 feet and their skills at underwater ballet, the Manta will find a soft spot in even the coarsest of humans. Needless to say, the group from the maiden voyage of the Palau Siren had their share of these gentle giants of the ocean.

            It was at German Channel where most got a front row of up to six Mantas feeding at dusk on an incoming tide. I for one was in the water on one of the dives and even though I have seen Mantas many times before, I had a level excitement like a kid on the last day of school before summer.

            With the amazing subject matter before me, I did manage to land a few decent photos but I aim to have many more as the weeks and months progress for me here in Palau. In North Carolina, it was the sand tiger shark that most interested me. Here in Palau, I can see that it will be the Manta that will get my shutter moving.

            Toward the end of the week one dive boat managed to experience a rare gray reef shark mating ritual off of the island of Peleliu in the south of Palau. More than 100 sharks were witnessed with many of the females sporting fresh wounds from the males that latch on to them during mating. The sharks seemed to be oblivious to the presence of divers in the water and came within arms reach at many moments. Unfortunately for me, I was on the boat tending to my duties here and did not manage to get this all on film, but many of my divers on board did get some money shots.

            In addition to great diving, most on board took part in the land based tour of the island of Peleliu where a horrific battle was fought in WWII between the advancing US marines and the defending Japanese troops who were dug in deep in a labyrinth of cave systems. The battle was bloody and carried on for over a month with high casualties. The men who survived this battle would say it was the worst of war.

       

     On the final day of the tour, the pair of Palau Siren dive skiffs hit a few more dive sites with our guests in the southern area of Palau before trekking back to home base in Malakal Harbor. All on board were fully gratified by the gourmet food and world class diving at their disposal for the last nine days.

            I did want to take a moment to thank my crew for an amazing job well done. I have never before had such a hard working, loyal group on board any vessel. I for one see great things in the future for the Palau Siren, her crew and passengers in the coming years if our success can be based on the great feedback received after our first trip.

            The charter came to an end with the start of the last evening barbecue on the back deck. Juicy tender beef tenderloins, chicken and an assortment of savory foods were dished up and washed down with a cold beer and glass of wine by all while a toast was made by the owner, Frank Van der Wilde in honor of the maiden voyage of the Palau Siren. I can’t speak for my crew, but I know I was very proud of what we all accomplished at this moment and I look forward to many more amazing dive excursions in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Micronesia Calling

September 25, 2012  •  3 Comments

Micronesia Calling

Photo of the Week

On September 18, 2012 (my 45th birthday) Annette spots the equator from the Palau Siren.

I'm not sure why they chose yellow as the color. 

©Mike Gerken; www.evolutionunderwater.com

      

            The human desire to be rooted and to feel the security that comes with surrounding yourself with familiar people, places and things is a powerful one. To ignore this potent human instinct and sell your possessions, quit your job, leave family and friends and travel half way around the world does not come easy for most; and that is understandable. Often it is adversity that causes people to do this more readily, such as failed relationships, to seek out a better job or simply to survive. However, adversity is not the only reason to behave so irrationally.

            There is an expression I picked up while living in Vanuatu in 2006 that explains this. It says there are four types of people otherwise known as the four M’s who pack up and move away from all they know to third world locales. They are: Mercenaries; those seeking riches and desire to pillage and plunder; Missionaries; those who desire to spread the word as they see it; Misinformed; those who are seeking the idyllic paradise on earth only to discover no matter where they go they will find problems in society regardless of how tall the coconut trees are or how brilliant the sunset is. And lastly, Misanthropes or Misfits; those who want to escape the rat race and get away from people in general. Of course, these four M’s are only humorous generalizations and don’t cover the last reason. Many, such as myself, can’t resist the human desire to explore and seek adventure. After a four-year hiatus from travelling, I found myself once again packing my board shorts, dive gear and cameras to satisfy this latter instinct. 

            This last move however was the hardest one for me to make yet. I returned to the USA in 2008 after living and working in Truk Lagoon, Micronesia for six years where I resigned as captain of the liveaboard, Truk Odyssey and took up a position as captain of the dive vessel, Midnight Express with Olympus Dive Center in North Carolina. I quickly found myself in a very desirable place, closer to friends and family and enjoying the world class diving the Outer Banks has to offer. It was here, at Olympus where I met my partner, Annette Papa who, like me, has a zest for diving and a yen to see the world.

The Palau Siren awaiting departure for Palau from Bira, Indonesia. 

            In 2011, I took notice of the growing liveaboard company, Worldwide Dive & Sail (WWDS) based out of Phuket, Thailand. Worldwide has luxury liveaboards throughout Southeast Asia and the Maldives. I saw they were planning on launching a new vessel in Palau in late 2012. I approached the owner; Frank Van der Wilde at one of the dive trade shows and pitched to him the idea of me captaining the Palau Siren. I suppose with my strong background working on liveaboards in Micronesia he thought it too was a good idea. Pretty soon I was offered the job with a start date of early September 2012. Annette was also offered a job a dive instructor with the prominent land based operator and local partner of WWDS in Palau, Sam’s Tours.

The GPS as we approached the equator heading northeast to Palau.

            It was all set. I was to return to Micronesia yet again for the third time, but this time with Annette to share the ride. However, leaving Olympus Dive Center, our home in the town of Beaufort and the great friends that we had made was no easy task. The two of us had became very attached to our surroundings including my beloved sand tiger sharks that I had photographed extensively for the past four years. Leaving was downright difficult, but the call to try a new job in a new place was stronger and the opportunity to photograph on a brand new canvas only added to the excitement.

            During the day we went diving while in the evening I packed, shipped and threw out stuff left and right. Annette departed a day before I did to say goodbye to her family while I stayed on to the very end.

Lovely Annette Papa posing for a shot on the bow of the Palau Siren.

            After my last charter at Olympus, the owner and friend of mine, Robert Purifoy invited all on the dock for a champagne toast in my honor. I could not have been more flattered. As I began to pop the bottle of bubbly open I saw in the corner of my eye a large bucket that I assumed had water in it about to be dumped on my head by Robert himself. I had about 1 second to think about the contents of the bucket and how I hoped it did not have ice and Gatorade in it. As luck would have it was only lukewarm tap water. All at the dock sipped champagne and had a great laugh. This helped alleviate the sad task of having to say goodbye to my friends and co-workers. Once the last hugs and handshakes were offered I quickly made my way to the door and didn’t look back since I hate goodbyes and have had to do it this many times in my life.

            On the morning of my last day in Beaufort, NC I awoke at the crack of dawn, dragged my mattress down the stairs to the curb and left a sign that read, “Free Stuff” and placed it along side a bunch of other items not worthy for the trash. I mopped the floor and removed my keys from my key chain, placed them on the counter and with a tear in my eye sadly said good-bye to my home once again.

One of the many beautiful scenes while cruising through the Indonesian archipelago on board

the Palau Siren before entering the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

            Four days later, four flights, two hotels and eight trays of crummy airline food later, we arrived in Indonesia and met up the crew and owner of the Palau Siren to begin our 9 day, 1400 mile trip to Palau across the Pacific Ocean. The crossing was luckily uneventful with decent weather the entire trip. I suppose the highlight was crossing the equator for the first time in my life. Once the latitude on the GPS clicked to 00 degrees 00.001 minutes North the excitement was over and the ocean looked much the same once again; big, beautiful and blue.

Our first sight of Palau after 10 days of travel. The south side of Anguar Island.

It was windy, rainy and overcast; a perfect Micronesian welcome. 

           Upon arrival in Palau on Sept 22, we motored into Malaakal Harbor and dropped anchor. Once the hook was set the crew all took a deep breath and high fived one another for a job well done. Now it was time for the hard work to begin. In the coming weeks we will be preparing the Siren to start her first trip on October 30. Moorings must be set, routes planned and the boat readied. As the day fast approaches I will keep you all up to speed on the latest developments and start posting dive stories as soon as I get back in the water. In the meanwhile, the process of making Palau feel like my new home is a work in progress.

Happy Diving!

-Mike

 

Afterword

The images below of the vessels under construction are of two new Siren Fleet vessels scheduled to launch in the near future. This boat yard was located in Bira, Indonesia. The builders used many traditional techniques with mostly hand tools to complete the work. I will have a more detailed report on this in the future.

Photo Gallery

Annette in front of the construction site of two new Siren vessels.

The scaffolding may look precarious and that is because it was.            


SUDS Returns

August 24, 2012  •  1 Comment

SUDS Diving the Spar Photo of the Week

The Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba Dive Team.

North Carolina, August 17-19, 2012

From left to right; Danny Facciola-Instructor, Charles Stringer, Brett Graveline,

Preston Kaplan, Marc Robledo, Dave Lewis-Instructor, Matt White-(not shown)

     Olympus Dive Center was honored once again to have received some of the men from Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba on August 17-19, 2012 and I had an even bigger honor of being the one to take them diving on board the Midnight Express. (Learn more about SUDS in my previous Blog Report, SUDS & Subs from 2011.) Accompanied by SUDS instructors Danny Facciola and Dave Lewis the men were in good hands for the entire long weekend.

    If there is a group of men who can instill feelings of pride in your country it is these guys. Seeing them participate in scuba diving after overcoming grievous wounds received in battle is inspiring to watch. I think of people like this when I catch myself complaining about trivial matters in life and it places things in proper perspective for me since I have never heard one of these service men complain about anything on board my boat, except maybe when instructor Dave Lewis snores too loud.

    With a warm up 60' dive on the wreck of the Indra on Friday the men were off to a great start. Visibility was a bit low around 10 feet, but it helped sharpen skills and prepare them for coming dives. On Saturday, we headed to the wreck of the Caribsea to check out the sand tiger sharks that have been loitering around all summer at this premier NC dive site. The visibility on the bottom at 90 feet was a little on the murky side, as it usually is, but with the bulk of the shark population hovering in the blue mid water, it did not matter; the guys had a blast. Many stayed within eye shot of the boat in 40' of water and watched the parade of sharks by the dozens march by as well as the thick schools of spanish mackerel, little tunny's and amberjacks that made the scenery all the more exciting.


The SUDS Team - Brett Graveline, Matt White, Charles Stringer, Danny Facciola, Marco Robledo & Preston Kaplan

     Due to responsibilities on the boat I was unable to dive with the SUDS guys, but I did manage to jump in during surface interval and capture some video of my buddies, the sand tigers. As usual, I had a great experience swimming amongst these awesome marine creatures and used a few clips from this dive in the video below.

    With the coming of Sunday, it was time to head south out of Beaufort inlet and head on over to one of the hottest shark lounges in North Carolina, Club Aeolus. If you have not heard of any of the stories or seen any of the video from this wreck dive you are missing out. Sharks have been hanging out inside this wreck all summer long and their numbers seem to be growing as the weeks pass by. The Aeolus on this day was a pleasant 40-50 foot of visibility and the SUDS guys got to see what all the hubbub was all about for themselves.

    Once again I did not get to dive with the SUDS team but I did video this clip below after they all returned to the boat and I had my chance to dive.  Click play and see the action for yourself.

#48 Nashville Lifestyles Dog Cover © Moments By Moser 3

Club Aeolus 

August 18, 2012

   Once the guys had there fill of sharks, we headed over to the USCG Cutter Spar to log a dive on this top notch wreck site. This time I managed to steal away from the boat and jump in with the SUDS team and shoot a quick bit of video and still images. The team had already been down for about 10 minutes before I managed to get in the water so I had to move quick to capture the moment on video. As I headed down to the wreck I quickly caught sight of the SUDS team led by Danny and Dave, hanging about the watch tower on the Spar. Danny spotted me right off and immediately began gathering the team up for a group photo shoot atop the wreck. By the time I arrived on the scene, these well trained men were all in position for a fantastic group video and photo shot. Without further ado why don't you watch this short video tribute clip below.

VIDEO: SUDS Dives NC - Aug 17, 2012

Diving with these guys has once again been a great pleasure and honor. I feel that the training these men received and the diving they do is a small way of thanking them for the service and sacrifices they have made. I can say for sure they deserve this and much much more.

Happy Diving!

-Mike Gerken

 

 

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