Posted tagged ‘Scuba diving’

THE GUARDIAN of the RMS Rhone

May 9, 2011


Excited estimates of his size and weight varied with a visiting diver’s ability to calmly assess the Guardian. The Guardian, as shown in the above image was a Goliath (Giant) Grouper that usually resided in the shaft tunnel of the shipwreck RMS Rhone. The general consensus was that he was in the range of between 600 to 800 pounds.

Not all divers referred to him as the Guardian. That was the name that a group of divers that I usually toured with had given him. To them and for me, it was a fitting name. Although he was never hostile, his girth was imposing and explorers of the shaft tunnel would quickly back away when they came upon him. Yes, he moved around, but the tunnel was his regular hang-out and that is where we would take SCUBA guests on our visit to RMS Rhone. Take a look at the image above and consider a face to face meetup with this fellow; all of which would occur in the restricted area of the shaft tunnel.  It would not be unusual to suck up at least half of your air supply during that encounter.

The dramatic and sad true story of the demise of RMS Rhone was, of course, the main attraction.  Guardian was a perfect special effect to go along with the entire history-based dive. You are urged to click here to learn more about RMS Rhone and its unfortunate end. For me RMS Rhone became the motivation for my short blog  and true adventure story, “Where Do Ships Go When They Die.”

None of our group ever made a dive tour to RMS Rhone without at least a quick hello to the Guardian. Sometimes we would not find him in the tunnel, but would find him lounging nearby in another area of the scattered wreck. The image on the left gives you some idea of the shaft tunnel area.  To enjoy more images of RMS Rhone you may go here.

One day, we arrived with a group of SCUBA visitors and regardless where we searched we could not find Guardian. This was quite unusual and we became concerned about what may have happened. Since we were conducting a tour we could not spend our entire air/dive time searching for Guardian so we worriedly continued the tour and left still not finding any sign of Guardian.

Two days later, we learned from a fellow diver that a fisherman had taken Guardian and actually had pictures taken of him and ‘his catch” at the waterfront on Tortola of the British Virgin Islands. The Guardian was gone! RMS Rhone had lost a vital part of its glorious mystery and we had lost a very much-loved friend. It has been 31 years since that happened and I still feel the sorrow and sense of loss.

Life in our watery universe is always endearing and makes an indelible impression that is rarely ever forgotten. Creatures such as Guardian and historic shipwrecks such as RMS Rhone are locked forever in our hearts.

Guardian, you are loved and missed to this very day.

IMAGE CREDITS:

Goliath Grouper: courtesy of Hooked In http://tinyurl.com/3ok9rlz

RMS Rhone: courtesy of Steve Simonsen Photography http://tinyurl.com/3reph3y

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A FLIGHT TO REMEMBER!

April 22, 2011

The image above is of Thatch Cay a small island off St. Thomas of the U. S. Virgin Islands. This is where we all took the flight we shall always remember.

It was December 24, 1981 and the four of us were in a great holiday mood. It was then we decided we needed to go diving, but at a very quiet and peaceful spot. The small island, Thatch Cay, within the U. S. Virgin Islands was ideal. It was rarely crowded with snorkelers and divers and had a number of glorious coral communities in the half-moon bay on the Atlantic side of the cay.

We headed out for Thatch Cay and its lovely bay. It was an absolutely glorious day. The weather was perfect and our dives in the bay area was so peaceful. We had the area all to ourselves; well except for all the friendly fish that joined our exploration. Of course, their friendliness was inspired by the little waterproof sacks of dry cat-food we brought with us. The fish love it, and they were all around us; even aggressively brushing against us to hurry us up to hand out the snacks. The idea of fish eating cat-food always makes me chuckle.

Since the dive in the bay took us to around 70 feet we cut it short because we also wanted to dive along the other side of the cay. We dove in the area just to the left of the arrow shown in the above image. That was the Caribbean side and the coral reef there was different, but strikingly beautiful and full of life. We were very careful to not create disturbing currents around the coral life with our dive-fins.  Of course, some of our fish friends from the other side had followed us around to the second dive site. Characters all of them. They are like house pets and just as apparently affectionate.

In settings like the ones we were enjoying, it is very easy to ignore your dive time and air status. I learned my lesson about this the previous year when I was so fascinated with a dozen or more Barracuda that had surrounded me that I ran out of air. I was at 90 feet! Fortunately my dive partner. a young lady, had air to spare and an octopus rig, so we shared her air as we ascended and returned to our boat. Dive partners are an essential both for safety and shared enjoyment. So, taking that lesson seriously I beckoned for all of us to begin to ascend and head for the boat.

As we were swimming up and toward our boat, on our right there appeared 9 very large and very relaxed Manta Rays, swimming along in loose formation. We immediately turned an swam towards them. This was in the area marked by the arrow in the above image. They did not shy away, but instead spread out a bit and appeared to welcome us as we joined up and begin to swim with them. Actually it is more like flying with them than swimming. These gentle giants, and members of the shark family are so magnificent, and here we humans were sharing space and time with them in their glorious universe.  I looked across at my dive partner, a beautiful, casting director for major motion picture companies, and saw that she was alternatively smiling and crying as we swam up close and personal with our ray escorts. Well, I was so excited I was sucking up air at a monstrous rate, so I knew I had to surface. I did so with regret and sadly bubbled goodbye to our Manta Ray buddies.

When we all got back to the boat, we just sat silently, not saying a word. It was obvious that we were deeply affected by what we had just experienced. To be welcomed so completely by another life form, in their environment was emotionally overwhelming and unforgettable.

We remained silent even during our trip back to St. Thomas and it was not until we were ashore that we reached out hugging each other, laughing, wiping away tears and each vowing to never forget our brief and glorious adventure. We had been in another world where we shared flight time with some of its most gentle and friendly citizens.

If you wish, click HERE to view a video that will give you a small taste of what we experienced. May it also leave with you, even vicariously, a deep and lasting appreciation for all that surrounds us here on Earth and throughout the Cosmos.

IMAGE CREDIT: The image of Thatch Cay is from Private Islands Online: http://tinyurl.com/2nku