Just minutes after arriving at the dock, I remember commenting about how clear the harbor water was to Robert Landy. Just minutes after that, my dry-bag fell in the harbor all on it's own. A brave young lady, Angie, grabbed it from the harbor before I lost everything. It wasn't long until I realized that my gopro and lights were resting comfortably somewhere below the dock... I reluctantly put on my saturated undergarments and donned my drysuit, I was going in. I instantly regretted my choice not to wear gloves as I started to brush the crabs off my sunken items. With the help of the fine crew on the Cape Ann boat, I was in and out of the water in the matter of a moment or 2. And yes, I swallowed my pride as Dave Shumway was hosing me down after the ordeal. In any case, I've yet to grow any spare parts from the filthy harbor water, but there's still time for that.
Later, on the dive to the Poling I decided to treat myself and not bring in my big camera rig. It was the first time in 4 years I haven't brought 15 pounds of camera with me. Conditions were fine and it was so relaxing to not be wielding a big camera. I still had the gopro as I poked in and out of the wreck looking for treasure.
Next was Pickett's Ledge, a submerged pinnacle with lots of nice grooves, overhangs, and trenches. Visibility was lousy on the bottom, but decent near 30' I hung out near the anchor shooting anemones.
Perhaps the best part of the day (other than getting hosed off) was the sky. There was an amazing and dynamic display of light and color from the cloud coverage. You could tell the seasons are changing. Enjoy.
Helgoland was an underwater laboratory where saturation divers lived and worked for weeks at a time. Sized only at 14 meters long, 7 meters wide and 7 meters high, you can imagine the living conditions down there. I suspect it was very cold, damp, dark and claustrophobic. The lab operated for a brief period of time in the mid seventies close to Jeffery's Ledge, several miles east of Rockport MA in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. In addition to studying herring, the scientists on board also researched saturation diving techniques. The lab is now retired to Germany (its home country) as a museum piece.
Diving this historical site has been a priority for me even though the lab itself is no longer there. There are old mooring blocks, anchors and several other artifacts left behind from the experiments. This past weekend, a handful of divers finally got to dive the site. Capt. Steve Smith of Cape Ann Divers was able to anchor us somewhere within the site. I say "somewhere" as I'm not yet even remotely familiar with the area. At 115 FSW, there is no time to mess around. On the preliminary checkout dive, current was strong but manageable. Unfortunately, it never tapered off in the deeper water, so we were working fairly hard throughout the dive.concrete mooring stone
As evident in the photo, visibility easily exceeded 40'. I recall seeing the bottom far below me during my descent. The bottom composition is beach-ball sized granite cobble. There was an incredible assortment of badge stars and northern red anemones growing on the rocks. In the very small area that we covered, we were able to find a mooring stone left over from the experiments. However, we burned through our bottom time in minutes and it was time to head back up. Ocean conditions prevented us from making a second dive. This is not the easiest location, but a very intriguing site and I can't wait to return. Next time we will know a little more of what to expect and hopefully we can help document more of the history of the ambitious Helgoland project.
Chester Poling dropcam mostly a success! A few modifications are in order, but we were able to make this video from only 2 dives.
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!
A shot of the cod above and a couple more photos below, enjoy!
Above is a clip of the murky depths of BFW. That's all for now, see everyone soon!
Alex Shure: SCUBA enthusiast, fish nerd, camera guy.