The ocean is freaking huge. Even in well known areas (like around Cape Ann), there's no way it's been comprehensively explored underwater. Thus, Mark Potter of Mass Diving and Cape Ann Divers organized an exploratory trip. The idea was to see something new, potentially that nobody has ever seen before. Even if it's just a hunk of rock with predictable stuff growing on it, the thought that we were the first to see something, SCUBA geeks live for this.
We stayed a bit east of halfway rock and the only real objective was to look for steep drop-offs, or underwater cliffs/hills. Diving these areas offers some excitement and a variety of wildlife and bottom topography. The first site we visited (Landy's Ledge?) was a large slab of granite that started around 60FSW and tumbled down to about 100'. I hung by the anchor line as I was by myself. I was also shooting macro so I wanted to be where the light was, and it doesn't really matter where you are when you're shooting critters that are less than an inch. I spent a good amount of time flirting with a sculpin that was playing coy. Eventually I earned its trust. Lobster, anemones and other invertebrates covered the granite, also thousands of cunner were schooling in the surge. This was a nice dive.
After our surface interval and PB&Js, Captain took us to site near Newcomb Ledge. Calm, no current, relatively shallow, easy, nice. There was a small wall here loaded with bizarre spider crabs that were covered with the same sponges and tunicates that the wall was covered with. I was hanging on the wall by myself thinking that it had been a while since I saw the anchor line. Suddenly, out of my periphery, I see Robert Landy come out of the darkness, I can't say I was relieved... Then Millhouser, nope, he was lost too. Then I was thrilled to see Elyssa and Caslyn. After nonchalantly swimming back and forth with those two, we all glanced at each other and shrugged. Yup, lost. It wasn't a ghastly swim back to the boat, probably Millhouser's fault anyway. Below are some of the camo-crabs and other goodies I shot. See if you can spot the crabs.
For those unfamiliar, Burnham Rock is like a mini Saturday Night Ledge, a little bit smaller, a little shallower (70-130FSW), and right around the corner, geographically speaking (about 5 miles south of Gloucester harbor). Both have sizable trenches as the main feature and both have walls and massive boulders to explore. Only sure thing for not getting lost is navigating by trench or bringing a wreck reel. As reels are not an option for me while I'm with my camera (I'd need two more hands) I stay inside, or within sight of the trench/s and tend not to cover an insane amount of ground. Aside from the geological features, these sites are well known for spectacular invertebrate growth virtually covering all surfaces of the granite substrate.
Later at BFW, Captain Steve anchored on the southern portion of the wall. Jim inspected for potential mooring sites (left) and I continued to work further south to some tumbled boulders that Landy found where some large anemones live. The wall runs approximately north to south. The more south you go, the less shear the wall becomes. It eventually wraps around east to become a small trench. This can be done in one dive provided you navigate with care and you're not schlepping a big camera around. I've dived BFW around 8 times, and have yet to explore the northern half of the wall with any confidence, but I know the southern half very well and can even find individual anemones I photoed last year . I'm sure I'll be back again this season and will keep everyone updated. Enjoy!
Cape Ann Divers took a group of us yesterday to look for the wreck of the Patriot that was (and still is) MIA. After sweeping the area for an hour or so, we came up empty and decided to press on to a couple of established dive sites. The Captain took us to the wreck of the North Star and then to an unnamed wreck on the way back. It was roasting hot out and the seas were flat as can be. The North Star rests about 100FSW and was teeming with wildlife, A fantastic advantage to diving offshore. 3 wolfish, 1 cod and dozens of sculpin populated a 30 foot diameter around the mooring line. The head of the wolfish below was about the size of a basketball. This photo was taken with my fisheye lens at around 17mm. I wanted to put my hand next to her for perspective, but was nowhere near brave enough.
The unnamed wreck was interesting, and covered with fishing debris. The current was strong but manageable. I played it safe, and stayed within sight of the mooring.
Myself and some other regulars from Cape Ann Divers traveled to the Haight and the Breakwater this weekend. As usual, current was ripping at the Haight, but mostly the top 10' of water was affected. I was trying to focus on shooting video, fighting the temptation to just take pictures (a much easier option). The wreckage was wonderful, but due to the current, I stayed within about 100' of the mooring line that David Shumway was kind enough to fasten for us. Wreck has changed since diving almost a year ago. a swim-through has because conveniently larger and there was some noticeable storm destruction. Below are some screen grabs illustrating some of the changes.
Here photographer, Robert Landy explores the wreckage (sans his signature red suit).
The Breakwater was spectacular as usual. Chuck and I briefly went out into the gravel looking for torpedo rays to no avail. The invertebrate life on the boulders looked like an alien planet. I've never been disappointed diving the breakwater.
Robin and I went to my favorite snorkel spot on the 4th in East Gloucester just beyond Grapevine Road. Beautiful little cove if you don't mind being smashed to bits by surge. After swimming past the seaweed collective, visibility opens up in this small area that is comprised of solid rock (hence the good vis). I would also advise against entry at low tide, you know, broken ankles and the like. This time I was sure I would be able to sneak up on the sunbathing cormorants, but they were on to me as usual...but the sea was unseasonably warm and it was nice to be in the water and not wearing 70 pounds worth of gear.
Alex Shure: SCUBA enthusiast, fish nerd, camera guy.