I'm a medic at Divers Alert Network (DAN). We at DAN are always interested in strengthening our relationships within the diving world, and over the past months I've had the pleasure of meeting with representatives of NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Today, thanks to shared interests in diving safety, conservation and exploration, I was able to join in on NOAA's 2010 Battle of the Atlantic Expedition.
Yesterday, I made the ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke by the skin of my teeth and watched an incredible electrical storm on the way over. The weather had cleared by the time I made it onto the island, and before I had a chance to wonder where to find SRVx and her illustrious crew, I saw her right down the dock. She was swarming with people who were there for an "open house" to check her out, learn a bit about the Battle of the Atlantic, and see photos and video from the days' dives. It was great to see such interest by the public, and I felt like a lucky guy knowing that I would be onboard when she pushed off the dock the next morning.
Brian Harper Diving. (NOAA)
When we left the dock and made our way out of the inlet, I joined Bob, the boat's captain, on the bridge. Seeing the operation of such a cool vessel from up close was the first of many memorable experiences of the day. I spent the rest of the trip out to the dive site picking the brains of the team members learning about what each of them were working on and getting a sense for how such an interesting project is conducted.
Today's dive site was the Keshena, a US Navy tug that had hit a friendly mine while towing two submarine-damaged ships back to port in 1942. The research crew were in the process of creating a site map, a photo-mosaic, and pictures and video to share with the public. We made our descent onto the bow and were greeted by a young sand tiger hovering just over the flat, sandy bottom. The Keshena's bow projected right up from the sand to a depth of about 70' and cleats, bollards, and anchors could all be made out. In addition to the shark, there were triggerfish, sheepshead, amberjack, and spadefish all around.
Diving a wreck with maritime archaeologists was a killer experience. The dives were infinitely more interesting with an understanding of the human side of the vessel's sinking and how she came to be down there. The wrecks we have here in North Carolina are an incredible piece of our cultural heritage. They're also close to my heart, as they're where I first started diving with my dad as a kid growing up in North Carolina. I applaud NOAA's efforts to survey these wrecks and monitor their status for future generations. Thanks to Joe Hoyt and Mitchell Tartt for getting me onboard! I can't wait to hang out with Dixie Arrow's sand tigers tomorrow.