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Bermuda: Wrecks, Wet T-Shirts and Hidden Treasures

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‘Down deep inside there’s a place in me I’m yearning to explore’ – Listening to the late Donna Summer’s sexy dance tune playing on the radio stirred some fond memories. Down Deep Inside was the original soundtrack for the 1977 underwater adventure flick, The Deep. I had been way too young to watch the film when it was first released, which I might add had been given a 15 rating probably due to English actress Jacqeline Bisset’s opening scenes wearing nothing more than a skimpy bikini bottom and a thin wet t-shirt. Looking back this was quite risqué for the 70’s.

The movie, based on American author Peter Benchley’s second novel, turned out to be one of the top 10 grossing films of the year (thanks to Miss Bisset’s cleavage). The basic storyline follows the underwater exploits of Nick Nolte as David Sanders and Jacqeline Bisset as Gail Berke on the island of Bermuda. The loved up couple are seen exploring the remains of a sunken shipwreck. While digging about on the seabed they find a number of items including an old table fork, padlock, cigarette lighter, Spanish medallion and a small 7.5 cm glass vile containing an unknown substance.

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stu 7 DSC_0534a-small (3)After the dive they search for more information about their ‘finds’ at the local library. David sees a photograph of local treasure hunter Romer Treece played by Robert Shaw (aka shark hunter Quint in the film based on Benchley’s first book Jaws) and thinks he would be a good source of information. Mounting mopeds David and Gail head for Treece’s lighthouse located on St David’s Island at the north eastern tip of Bermuda. Treece is not really interested in helping them out until he catches sight of the small glass vile. This turns out to be a morphine ampoule from the infamous wreck of the Goliath, a WWII military ship that was carrying medical supplies and munitions. Over the years 5 divers had been blown up by the live ammunition stacked inside her holds and nobody had ever seen an ampoule. The island had recently experienced one of the worst storms in 10 years which must have repositioned the wreck and opened up her cargo holds.

Just too make the story even more interesting, the Goliath happens to be sitting smack bang on top of an old Spanish Galleon full of priceless treasure. Henri Cloche, a Haitian drug dealer played by Louis Gossett Jr, is the bad guy. He finds out about the huge stash of 98,000 morphine ampoules and intends to get his grubby hands on the merchandise by any means foul. Meanwhile Treece aided by David and Gail set out to retrieve the treasure and blow up the drugs. The second best bit of the movie is seeing Cloche’s head being crunched by a monster sized moray eel lurking inside the Goliath’s holds. There are also plenty of sharks, voodoo, underwater explosions and speargun fights; this old movie really is quality Sunday afternoon entertainment.

teddy tuckerPeter Benchley’s novel was actually based around the true life exploits of his good friend, scuba diver and treasure hunter Teddy Tucker. The role of Romer Treece was basically an extension of Teddy’s real character. Benchley even managed to find a small role for Teddy in the movie (watch out for the Harbour Master!).

For the past 50 years Teddy has been involved in wreck research, salvage and excavation. At the grand old age of 87 he can still be found scuba diving off Bermuda. Many of the local wreck discoveries are attributed to Teddy’s diligent work. Bermuda is known as the wreck capital of the Atlantic with more than 300 historical wrecks scattered around the coastline. Most of these sites are above 20 metres so divers have plenty of time for exploration with minimal risk of decompression.

stu 5 lighthouse_1 (3)The Deep was shot on location in Bermuda. Romer Treece’s lighthouse is still on St David’s Island. Unfortunately it was closed during my visit so I couldn’t climb the spiral stairway up to the lamp room and admire the sea view. The majority of underwater footage was taken on the wreck of the Constellation and the neighbouring wreck of the Montana located off the north-west coast. I took a taxi ride over to Dive Bermuda, a PADI 5 star IDC centre, and made the arrangements to dive on the 2 wrecks. Dive Bermuda’s manager, Kevin Luton, paired me up with ex-pat Alan Pearce. Sadly there was no sign of any bikini clad women wearing wet t-shirts so I had to make do with Alan in my photographs.

The 4 masted Schooner Constellation set sail from New York on July 19th 1943 bound for Venezuela. She carried 2,000 tons of general cargo including building materials and 300 cases of Whisky. The ship began to take on water so diverted to Bermuda for repair work. On July 31st she hit the reef and sank while trying to find the harbour entrance. All crew members survived the ordeal. A salvage company managed to retrieve some of the cargo and sell it at public auction in Hamilton, the capital, but a considerable amount remained undisturbed on the seabed. The Navy also got involved but they only took the 300 cases of Whisky!

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stu 14 constellation_snooker_slate (3)stu 17 constellation (3)We jumped into the water and dropped down onto a massive pile of 20 kg cement bags. There must have been thousands lying over the seabed. Alan disappeared behind part of the wooden hull and pulled out 2 small glass bottles that must have been part of the cargo. They were quite plain looking designs so probably weren’t carrying anything particularly special. Most of the overlying super structure had long since disintegrated. I couldn’t see any swim throughs or cargo holds to explore. In fact it didn’t look anything like the wreck used in the movie. Alan pointed at a rectangular shaped piece of rock which on closer inspection turned out to be a snooker table slate complete with scalloped corner pockets. I passed over the cement bags and down to a pile of glass windows all stuck together. Inquisitive Parrot fish, Trumpet fish and Sergeant Majors followed us through the wreckage. Maximum depth was around 12 metres so there was plenty of ambient light and the underwater visibility topped 30 metres.

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The morphine ampoules were not just a fictitious storyline. The Constellation had actually been carrying a large consignment of medical supplies. Before the dive I was shown a variety of ornate looking glass ampoules that had been found at the wreck site. They were all different shapes, sizes and colours. I was told that the ampoules had been filled with different drugs like iodine, penicillin, insulin, adrenaline as well as morphine. I peered underneath the wreckage and wondered if this was where Jacqeline Bisset had been filmed with the first ampoule in her hand. We passed over some wooden remains held together with jagged metal pins. I stopped briefly by a row of chemical drums and wondered what they had been carrying. I made a mental note to check out Teddy’s new treasure book. There was a complete chapter on the Constellation with details of her entire manifest. Then we were on the wreck of the Montana.

stu 11 drug_ampoules (3)

The 60 metre long paddle steamer/gunboat Montana was used as a Confederate blockade runner during the civil war. She made frequent runs from North Carolina to Bermuda and then across the Atlantic to England. In December 1863 the ship was returning from England with a full cargo when she hit a reef and sank off Bermuda. I’m not sure if any scenes from The Deep were filmed on the Montana but the wreckage was far better suited for penetration shots. Alan guided me over to the skeletal remains of the giant paddle wheels adorned with soft and hard corals. The bow was the only overhead section I could find. I managed to fire off a few action shots of Alan peering into the hold before the silt, disturbed by our exhaled bubbles, rained down on top of us. As we made our way back to the surface my thoughts returned to the monster moray eel that had munched on Cloche’s head. I wondered if a family descendent was lurking somewhere in the shadows below. I had kept a wary eye open but saw nothing. Even the sight of my camera hadn’t stirred a reaction.

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stu 10 DSC_0073a (3)stu 9 DSC_0090a (3)Dive Bermuda’s boat skipper, Heinz, told me that the best time for treasure hunting is after a storm front has passed. The sandy seabed can shift around dramatically revealing parts of wrecks never seen before. Heinz told me about the paddle steamer Marie Celeste. The ship was well broken up with only the bow, paddle wheels and boilers proud of the seabed. A huge storm hit in July 2011 uncovering bottles of wine and other rare artefacts.

Maybe the legendary Teddy Tucker hasn’t found all the shipwrecks around Bermuda. There could still be an uncharted Spanish galleon lying on the seabed just waiting for the next big storm to uncover her priceless cargo. All it would take is a young couple on holiday, scuba diving, another wet t-shirt, and who knows, fiction could well become reality.

stu 16 constellation_bottles (3)

Stuart has spent the past 26 years taking pictures and writing stories for diving magazines and other publications. In fact, this equates to more than a year of his life spent underwater. There have been plenty of exciting moments from close encounters with crocodiles and sharks to exploration of deep wrecks and more recently rebreathers. He lives in Poole, Dorset and is very much an advocate of UK diving.

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Nauticam announce NA-A7C Housing for Sony a7C Camera

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Sony’s latest full frame mirrorless camera, the a7C offers the underwater image maker one of the most compact and travel friendly full frame systems available on the market today.  The a7C features Sony’s latest stellar autofocus and a much improved battery life thanks to its use of the larger Z series battery. The BIONZ X processor delivers superb low-light performance and faster image processing. For video shooters, the a7C features internal UHD 4K capture in the wide-dynamic range HLG image profile at up to 30p.

Nauticam has housed more mirrorless cameras, and more Sony E Mount cameras than any other housing manufacturer. This experience results in the most evolved housing line with broadest range of accessories available today.

Pioneering optical accessories elevate performance to a new level. Magnifying viewfinders, the sharpest super macro accessory lenses ever made, and now the highest quality water contact wide angle lenses (the WWL-1B and WACP-1) combine with the NA-A7C housing to form a complete imaging system.

Nauticam is known for ergonomics, and an unmatched experience. Key controls are placed at the photographer’s fingertips. The housing and accessories are light weight, and easy to assemble. The camera drops in without any control presetting, and lens port changes are effortless.

NA-A7C features an integrated handle system. This ergonomic style provides exceptional control access, even with thick gloves, with ideal placement of the shutter release and a thumb-lever to actuate the AF-ON button from the right handle.

Nauticam build quality is well known by underwater photographers around the globe. The housing is machined from a solid block of aluminum, then hard anodized making it impervious to salt water corrosion. Marine grade stainless and plastic parts complete the housing, and it is backed by a two year warranty against manufacturing defects.

For more information in the UK visit the Nauticam website by clicking here.

For more information in the USA visit the Nauticam website by clicking here.

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BLUE EARTH – Future Frogmen Podcast Series – The Next Generation of Ocean Stewards: Lauren Brideau

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A series of conservation educational podcasts from Future Frogmen, introduced by Jeff Goodman.

The Next Generation of Ocean Stewards: Lauren Brideau

We have a new host, Dr. Colleen Bielitz, and today we’ll be interviewing a recent college graduate as part of our once-a-month episode that focuses on students: the next generation of conservationists, researchers, and activists.

What are the next generation of ocean stewards doing to protect our Blue Earth? Join us as we find out by speaking to Lauren Brideau, a recent graduate of Southern Connecticut State University. Lauren started as an undeclared major but soon found her calling, now she is part of a research team conserving life below water.  She is a prime example that if you want to defend our oceans and the creatures that depend on the sea to survive, now is the time to become part of the solution.


Richard E Hyman Bio

Richard is the Chairman and President of Future Frogmen.

Born from mentoring and love of the ocean, Richard is developing an impactful non-profit organization. His memoir, FROGMEN, details expeditions aboard Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s famed ship Calypso.

Future Frogmen, Inc. is a nonprofit organization and public charity that works to improve ocean health by deepening the connection between people and nature. They foster ocean ambassadors and future leaders to protect the ocean by accomplishing five objectives.


You can find more episodes and information at www.futurefrogmen.org and on most social platforms @futurefrogmen.

 

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