Two day's after my first dives on the Spiegel Grove, I was back for more. My buddy, Mike, and I had met the day before on a cattle boat out of Pennecamp Park. I told him about diving the Spiegel Grove with Capt. Steve, and so when I showed up that morning there was Mike. We were the only divers on the Dual Porpoise that morning and before we knew it we were moored into the stern of the wreck.
We dropped over the side of the hull near the stern.
One of the big pieces of machinery near the stern.
We poked our heads into the well deck (the large rear cargo hold where the amphibious landing craft and other craft the Spiegel Grove carried were stored). This is a huge area that got very dark. It was still wide open to the side, but it would have been nice to have a light. It was interesting to see how the corals and other invertebrate marine life was beginning to find a home on the ship after only a month.
I think this is a Hogfish. It was about 3-4 ft long and was hanging out in the cargo hold. Minutes after I took this picture, Mike and I were stunned by a massive percussive explosion unlike anything I've experienced underwater. At first I thought maybe a charge had gone off leftover from the sinking of the ship, but soon the real source was revealed. We saw a spear fisherman heading off to retrieve his spear after taking a shot at the Hogfish and missing. I didn't realize that spearguns could be this loud underwater.
I don't have anything against responsible spear fishing, although I don't like to dive with guys with spear guns. But this bozo was too much. The Spiegel Grove is an artificial reef in a marine sanctuary and was crawling with recreational divers. It was just starting to attract large fish, and this guy apparently wanted to be the first to kill one on the wreck. When we surfaced, I mentioned to Capt Steve what had happened and he immediately got on the radio to the Florida fish and marine authorities. During our surface interval, they showed up, but "Bungalo Bill" had taken off.
The other disturbing incident I saw on this dive was the sight of a diver with a circular hatch wheel clipped off on his harness. Again, I don't have anything against recovering artifacts and souvenirs from deteriorating or rarely visited wrecks, but the Spiegel Grove was destined to be a very popular wreck and taking stuff off of it strikes me as vandalism. I also don't understand why bits of the ship that would be considered junk before the ship was sunk, suddenly become prized treasures once the ship is underwater for a short time. The same thing happens in NJ when a new ship is sunk as part of an artificial reef. Suddenly armies of divers festooned with hammers, wrenches, and crowbars descend on the wreck to strip off anything they can.
Anyway off the soapbox and back to our dive, Mike and I cruised along the well deck reaching a depth of 117 feet. I was sorely tempted to head down to the sand at 130 feet that beckoned a short distance below me, but this was Mike's third or fourth wreck dive and it would have been irresponsible to push it.
But this Florida diving seemed so carefree and easy compared to diving the green soup of NJ that it was all too easy to get seduced into going a little deeper or a little longer. I had to consciously remind myself that it was still a long way to the surface and that a lot could still go wrong.
So discretion prevailed and we returned to the Dual Porpoise with plenty of air and after a good long safety stop.
For our second dive that day, Mike wanted to head to the bow of the ship. I was a little concerned about air consumption since there was a pretty good current running along the hull and Mike only had an 80 cu ft. tank. We planned the dive pretty carefully and mostly pulled ourselves along the highest points along the hull while monitoring our air frequently. We reached the bow at a depth of around 100 ft. and headed back without any picture taking or loitering along the way. We got back to the mooring lines with air to spare and poked around in its vicinity.
A barracuda and a blackfin tuna cruising in the distance.
Up close an personal with the "pet" barracuda at the stern.
There was time enough for Mike to take my picture.
Then it was time to head up . The current on the mooring line was pretty stiff and the crowd of divers resembled flags in a brisk wind.
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Copyright 2002 Carl Muhlhausen